Wednesday, November 18, 2009

1000 Years in 100 Minutes (Luxembourg)


Since 963 when Count Siegfried first built a castle on a rocky outcrop overlooking a sharp bend in the Alzette River, various European powers have battled for control of the tiny state of Luxembourg. At times, the Burgundians, Spanish, French, Austrians, Prussians and Germans have all held sway over this scenic nation wedged between France and Germany. Despite a tumultuous history of almost permanent siege, this pint-sized nation has survived to modern times and now is one of richest per capita countries in the world. Luxembourg boasts excellent walks including the city-based Wenzel Walk and a superb nature walk in an area called Little Switzerland.

The delightful and well-signposted Wenzel walk (either guided or self-guided with a pamphlet) in the main city of Luxembourg and named after a 14th century duke captures elements of this history and culture, leading past ramparts, fortresses, tunnels, towers, bridges and walls, intermixed with bustling streets and panoramic views. The narrow valley gorges plunge sharply and deep from the rocky plateaus of the city, connected and spanned by various bridges and viaducts, ingeniously protecting and guarding this challenging terrain.

The walk starts at Bock Promontory and the scant remains of Count Siegfried’s Luxembourg Castle that started this rich history. The view from this point includes the Alzette river slicing the ancient district of Grund into two. Jacob’s Tower includes an audio-visual display describing the history. Underneath the Bock are a warren of tens of kilometres of damp tunnels (Bock Casemates) that allowed soldiers access to different parts of the city without surfacing and held provisions in past times. The various invading forces extended and added to these fortifications throughout the years and were utilised as recently as World War 2 as bomb shelters. Accessible for less than two Euros, they make for an eerie passage with a combination of small natural openings, weak electric lights, twisting staircases and occasional dead ends. These remarkable fortifications earned Luxembourg the title of Gibraltar of the North and have earned UNESCO heritage listing.

Some defensive openings to allow for guns or cannons offer stunning vistas of the Luxembourg countryside, the picturesque Old Town or river valleys.

The walk leads via the Corniche lined with stately pastel-coloured historic houses, through old protective city gates, over a medieval footbridge to the impressive Wenzel Walls and its moat. These fortifications were part of a three-ringed system of walls guarding the prized higher parts of the city and major crossing of the river.

The walk finishes near the city’s oldest parish Church of St Ulric with a walk along the green waters of the Alzette and the remains of an old lock system that could be used to dam the rivers as an extra obstacle for invading forces.

Descriptively promoted as 1000 Years in 100 Minutes, the Wenzel Walk, in under two hours, unveils part of Luxembourg’s historic battles for domination and the ingenious defensive fortifications built to protect this strategic historic city.

Note
The tourist office has an excellent self-guiding brochure.

Map (without red lines): © Service des Sites et Monuments Nationaux / Luxembourg City Tourist Office

14 comments:

Shannon OD said...

Love this "Cliffs Notes" version of the city - that first shot looks incredibly green and lush! I can't say that this city was on my list of travel places until now, but it looks like it has a fascinating history :-)

Nisha said...

The country is so small, it's like a toy compared to its neighbours. :-)

rainfield61 said...

The walk must be very interesting, passing through tunnels, facing dead ends, seeing historical houses, what a nice walk.

Vera Marie Badertscher said...

I never dreamed that Luxembourg is so gorgeous. I'll have to make a special effort to get there. Thanks.

GMG said...

Hi Mark! From Sydney to Luxembourg, great trip!! Did you learn that currently some 30% of the labour force in Luxembourg are Portuguese? Amazing...

Waiting for you at Blogtrotter, which is firmly back to an amazing building... ;)). Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Anil said...

I'm always astonished to think these small nations survived until today! I have some friends who live there and tell me during the working hours it becomes part France part Germany. At night and on the weekends it's Luxembourg.

Mark H said...

@shannon OD: I guess they are a bit like notes. That's how I write them in my notebook.

@nisha: Small but the pride in the country is evident everywhere your go.

@rainfield: More to see than on many walks

@vera: Stunning country hidden away out of the limelight.

@GMG: I'll check your blog out.

@anil: These tiny countries seem to survived more by good fortune and clever negotiation at times. I am surprised how many sprinkle the European continent, each with their remarkable histories.

1ondoncalling said...

Luxembourg sounds like a great place to visit!

I am planning to see Malta this winter. Maybe I should go to Luxembourg first?!

Donna Hull said...

You've captured Luxembourg's beauty with your photos and description. This would be a great walk. I've added it to my list.

BarbaraW said...

Nice tour via your post. I'd just love to go here. I'd walk for days.

Heather on her travels said...

Somehow I would have expected this to look like Switzerland but it has it's own landscape - with those cliffs and lush greenery

John said...

It amazes me how many smaller countries have survived in Europe over the centuries.

Mark H said...

@john: That surprises me too. Countries like Luxembourg, Andorra, San Marino and Liechtenstein must have carefully manouevered the treacherous political paths of survival over the centuries to leave truly great small countries today.

Where to stay in Bangkok said...

The country is small but have a lot of thing which can be visited and enjoyed

 
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