June 20, 2014, Luxembourg- I arrived at Luxembourg-Ville’s Central Train Station around 4:30, on this overcast, but cool, Friday afternoon. It being rush hour, the streets were filled with people in suits needing to be somewhere, yesterday, tourists looking for hotels, street people looking for coins and observers of human nature, like me, taking it all in. This is one of Europe’s most densely-populated countries, and one of its most expensive- sort of a land-locked, French-speaking Rhode Island. It quickly became one of my favourites. I happened upon Luxembourg as it revved up for the Grand Duke’s Birthday, the country’s National Day.
After some twenty minutes of navigating, on Luxembourg-Ville’s excellent bus system and on foot through the city centre, I found Place Guillaume II, and my hotel, Le Vauban, named for the great military commander of Seventeenth Century France, Sebastien de Vauban. He broke the siege of Luxembourg, in 1684, making the Grand Duchy a nominal satellite of France, until 1697, when it passed again to the influence of the Holy Roman Empire (the conglomerate of duchies and small kingdoms which occupied what is now Germany). The back story of all this is that France and Spain were fighting in what is called the War of the Reunions, mainly over which royal family, the Bourbons or the Hapsburgs, would control the Rhine, the Danube and their tributaries. These included the Moselle and the Alzette, which flow through Luxembourg. The fortress city overlooked the Alzette, making its strategic value quite high.
Anyway, here is Hotel Le Vauban. Many people in the hospitality field in Luxembourg come from elsewhere, and many commute from Arlon, and other nearby towns in Belgium. “Florine”, our maid, came from Guinea. Our desk clerk, “Marco”, is from Portugal.
Place Guillaume II is named for Grand Duke Guillaume II, who ruled during the mid- 19th Century. Prior to then, it was a Franciscan monastery, until the French Jacobins chased the monks out, in 1797. Thus, the place, in Letzebergsch, is called Platz Kneudler, or Place of Knots, after the knots tied in the sashes worn by Franciscan monks. Letzebergsch is a dialect of Middle German, spoken only in Luxembourg, and is the country’s second language, after French.
Guillaume II overlooks his square, which is the centerpiece of many national celebrations. Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra would perform here on Saturday night, as you will see.
I spent a couple of hours walking around the government district, just east of the Place. Here is the Chamber of Deputies, where Luxembourg’s Parliament meets.
The government buildings, and nearby Luxembourg Cathedral, are tightly packed, and thus easy to defend.
Here is the front of Notre Dame de Luxembourg.
I was very much taken by the city’s affection with cones.
L’Eglise Saint-Michel honours the Archangel.
All is not stone and plaster, however. Luxembourg has three grand parks: Ed Klein, Pertrusse and Kirchberg. Below is a smaller park, between Place Guillaume II and Hamilius Bus Station.
At Place d’Armes, preparations were being made for the weekend’s festivities. This totem pole is an indication of the country’s, and the region’s, fascination with indigenous cultures of other nations.
As with any great event, balloons were here in abundance, as well.
As the daylight faded, around 9:30 PM, I headed to Place de la Gare, to see what was happening in the business district.
There was a carnival in full swing. When was the last time you saw an old-fashioned carnival, in the middle of a national capital? This was just awesome, seeing families and delighted children having clean fun together. I thoroughly relished the Red Hot sandwich and limeade, from a Portuguese sausage vendor.
With this as a greeting, I headed back to the hotel, knowing that breakfast on the patio would soon signal another lovely day. Great things lie hidden in small packages, and in mini-states.
NEXT UP: Old Luxembourg