“Simple but fun.” It is with these words that people often describe their dream vacation. These people look for these qualities in destinations suggested by friends, relatives, or travel agencies, but never find them.
by: Erika Grace R. Lapitan
In Search Of the True Meaning of FUN
They are unaware that it is what you take with you to a place, and not what you find at your destination, that makes travel appealing.
This is seen best in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, a country characterized by a fusion of Romanic and Germanic cultures across Europe; its very history shows that its appeal comes from different peoples coming together, a tradition continued by its burgeoning tourism industry. Its edifices and world-class attractions just add to the experience.
With all that said, let me introduce you to Luxembourg, a landlocked country in Western Europe bordered by Germany, France, and Belgium, all countries from which it draws its cultural influence. It is the only remaining grand duchy in the world, being headed by a Grand Duke. Luxembourgers, as its constituents are known, speak three official languages: Luxembourgish, French and German. Its capital and largest metropolitan area is Luxembourg City.
Hit the Water
Luxembourg is rich in natural wonders, and one of its best known is the Alzette River, a 73 kilometer-long tributary coursing through the different towns of Luxembourg, and even through France and Belgium. It was once used to provide protection during the different wars and crises the country has suffered in the past.
Kayaking is one of the many things you can do down Luxembourg’s waterways, but what sets the experience apart from other places are the different bridges constructed along the rivers, which accentuate the rivers’ natural beauty.
One of the popular bridges built within the country is the Adolphe Bridge designed by Paul Séjourné and Paul Rodange, and completed in 1903. Patterned after Philadelphia’s Walnut Lane Bridge, it was named after Grand Duke Adolphe who ruled the country from 1890 to 1905. Locals affectionately refer to it as the “New Bridge” despite the fact that it has stood for over a hundred years.
Another bridge named after a prominent ruler of the country is the Grand Duchess Charlotte Bridge, also known as the Red Bridge due to its red paintwork. It was designed by Egon Jux, a German architect in 1957; construction started five years later in 1962 and ended in 1965.
Lastly, there is the Passerelle, or sometimes known as the Luxembourg Viaduct. It spans over 290 kilometers with 24 arches, and rises 45 meters above the Pétrusse valley floor. Built between 1859 and 1861, the bridge once connected the city center to the railway station, but now carries road traffic and pedestrians. It was constructed by engineers Edouard Grenier and Auguste Letellier. Locals call it the “Old Bridge”, in relation to the Adolphe Bridge.
Dukes, Duchesses, and Other Things
A trip to Luxembourg will not be complete without visiting Neumünster Abbey and the Grand Ducal Palace, as these two places are so emblematic of the country’s history.
A cultural center and public meeting place for the locals, Neumünster Abbey is located in the Grund District south of Luxembourg City. It was built by Benedictine monks after the abbey situated atop Altmünster Plateau was destroyed in 1542. It is now an exhibition gallery and a venue for the performing arts, but in the intervening years, it served as a barracks for the Prussians, a police station and prison during the French Revolution, and once again, a state prison during World War II.
Moreover, the abbey permanently holds a collection of works made and curated by the sculptor Lucien Wercollier, which is open for public viewing.
While Neumünster Abbey is a favorite among travelers, the Grand Ducal Palace is also worth seeing, as it is the official residence of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and also the place where he performs his duties as head of state.
The Palace’s history dates back to 1572, when it was first used as the city hall of Luxembourg. During the Second World War, much of the palace was ruined when the Nazis used it as a concert hall and tavern. Today, the palace is opened for public entry exclusively during the summer.
Savings State of Mind
Have an amazing stroll along the pathways of the Hôtel de la Caisse d’Epargne, headquarters of the State Savings Bank of Luxembourg and learn the evolution, innovation and transformation of the building over 140 years of service and banking tradition.
The structure was designed by architect Jean-Pierre Koenig in 1909 using the French Neo-Renaissance style of architecture. Its 46 meter tower is its most dominant feature. Although the first building was finished in 1913, its first annex only began construction in the same year, and a second annex followed in 1933.
Made You Look
Even with all the things that can be seen and admired in the city of Luxembourg, nothing can quite match the experience of seeing perhaps the most iconic landmark of the country.
The great spectacle Luxembourg calls its own is the Notre Dame Cathedral in Luxembourg City. Built during the 17th century, the building possesses a combination of Gothic and Renaissance architecture which contributes to its unique status as the only cathedral in Luxembourg. It began construction on May 7, 1613, originally as a Jesuit church, under the leadership of Father François Aldenard.
Among its many features is the statue of St. Nicholas in front of the entrance. The statue was brought there when Empress Maria Theresa of Austria gifted the church to the city of Luxembourg in 1778 and renamed the church “Saint Nicolas et Sainte Thérèse”. However, on March 31, 1848, the church received the name by which it is known today under the orders of Jean-Théodore Laurent, an apostolic vicar.
Another feature of the cathedral that cannot be easily missed are its three looming towers – the west tower holding the bells, the east tower, and the central tower characterized by a wide, pyramid-shaped base and a narrow peak made of copper. The west tower is part of the church’s original construction, while the east tower and the central tower were only added when the building was enlarged in 1935.
The cathedral’s crypt is the burial place of some members of the Grand-Ducal Family, including past Grand Duchesses Marie-Adélaïde, Marie Anne of Portugal, Charlotte, and Joséphine Charlotte of Belgium.
Despite all I have said and all the information I have provided, I am but one person having the best time making a place that may appear simple to any observer, come to life through my experiences. So now is your time to go to Luxembourg and see for yourself if the place really is fun for you. If you find it lacking, well, there are always other places to visit and enjoy.
Before you set out on your journey, I leave you with these words: no matter when and where you go, the best souvenirs are always memories, and you will have the best fun when you turn simple places into big things.