By Miranda Metheny
I’d always thought about Luxembourg as a sort of gimmick country. Absurdly small and absurdly rich.
We planned a weekend there mostly because it sounded funny and it was within striking distance. Another country we could cross off the list.
Over that short stay, Luxembourg won me over, truly and completely…
Are we sure we’re still in Luxembourg?
We arrived at the central train station on Saturday evening, and needed to find our hostel asap. The Luxembourg City hostel itself had been booked, so I’d booked one I presumed to be nearby because a) This was Luxembourg we were talking about, how far could it be? and b) It had advertised itself as being only a 1.50€ bus ride from the center of town.
Turns out, I was sort of wrong. The bus ride was cheap because all transport in Luxembourg is cheap — just a euro fifty to travel by train or bus as far as you think you can get without leaving the country. We all sat on the bus expecting a ten or fifteen minute ride, and grew increasingly nervous as the city lights faded far behind us. “Are we sure we’re still in Luxembourg?” someone asked at one point. And no, I wasn’t.
Our town, Bourglinster, turned out to be a solid hour away, and during that hour we saw far more of Luxembourg than I would have thought existed. There were forests. Neighborhoods that wouldn’t have attracted a second glance in America. Old stone buildings and tiny shrines tucked into cliffside caves. Even open fields with tractors rolling lazily by. Luxembourg is small, but it’s not insubstantial. It’s much more like a miniature version of say, Belgium, than a city-state comparable with Monaco or San Marino. So, our hostel was much further out than we’d ever expected, but none of us were disappointed in the least. Our hostel was a delightful old building that was part of Bourglinster’s castle complex. We ate dinner at the only restaurant in town, a place so local that we were the only guests not part of a big birthday celebration otherwise filling the place.
In the morning, we had planned an early start and were surprised to find our plans thrown off by it being a Sunday — there were only three busses running to the city the whole day, and we certainly needed to be on the first one. Suddenly finding us with a few hours to spare, we hiked up the hills above town for some nice views and laughs. I couldn’t have been happier with the chain of miscalculations that brought us to Bourglinster — it definitely beat just making a pit stop in the capital for the story and the passport stamp.
This isn’t a city… it’s a fortress!
A little behind schedule, we finally made our way to Luxembourg City. From the central train station there’s a decent half hour walk to the historic section of town. This is pretty normal in Europe, and normally it’s a somewhat gradual transition from concrete apartment blocks and the like into older buildings with a bit more character, until finally you run headlong into the town hall or the cathedral. But Luxembourg is a little different.
There’s no mistaking the historical part of the city, because you go around one last corner and you don’t see a city but a fortress — a citadel on a hill whose moat is spanned by stone bridges defying imagination. It takes a minute for your mind to adjust to the scale of what lies before you, just like eyes adjusting to a darkened room. Then you start to notice the details — the train rolling over the distant bridge like a model, the plazas and churches and rivers that fill the moat, the caves — no, the windows — in the sides of the hill itself.
We’d had some rough plans for elsewhere and later in the day. Wordlessly, these were abandoned as we stared at Luxembourg City, sprawling before us in it’s multilayer splendor. This was a day in itself. We crossed the bridge and started wandering…