J&D's Travelog



Nov. 30 - Dec. 2, 2009

Map of the Canary Islands

We took a week off to visit D’s parents in Germany. Much like our visit to Nürnberg last year, we wanted to take a few days to see something new and give D’s folks a short break from hosting duties. This time we didn't want to wander too far from home, so we decided to visit the neighboring country of Luxembourg. Despite the fact it is only a 90 minute drive away, getting there by train takes a couple hours and is actually quite convoluted unless you take the final leg by bus.

The Luxembourg old town sits on a promontory overlooking the Alzette and Petrusse valleys.
A view of the Alzette valley

Luxembourg's city hall or hotel de ville sits aside the Place de Guillaume II.
Luxembourg's Hôtel de Ville

This home served as Gestapo headquarters in Luxembourg and its cellar was used to torture resistance fighters.
Villa Pauly

This gate dates to the 11th century  and is one of the few structures left from Luxembourg's extensive fortifications.
Three Towers Gate

This ancient passage leads from the fishmarket to the palace.
Rue de la Loge

The Gelle Fra or Golden Lady is a monument dedicated to soldiers who fought in World War I.
Gëlle Fra

The Dent Creuse or Hollow Tooth sits atop the Casemates du Bock and is all that remains of the castle built on this location.
La Dent Creuse


While one of Europe’s smallest nations at just under 1,000 square miles, Luxembourg is also consistently one of Europe’s richest with traditionally strong steel and banking industries. Nestled between Belgium, Germany, and France, it has German and French as official languages as well as Luxembourgish – a German dialect. The origins of the city of Luxembourg date to the Roman occupation of the intersection of two trading routes on a promontory that overlooked the Pétrusse and Alzette rivers. After the fall of the Roman Empire and the subsequent division of Charlemagne’s kingdom, the Roman fort Lucilinburhuc (from which the name Luxembourg is derived) built on the Bockfiels was acquired by Count Siegfried of the Ardennes. Siegried fortified the site with a castle in 963. Over the centuries, further defenses were built as control of the area passed between the Burgundians, French, Spanish (who began building the 14 miles of tunnels in the Bockfiels), the Austrians, the Dutch, and the Prussians. In addition to the tunnels, Luxembourg had three lines of defenses, a citadel, and more than 20 forts earning it the nickname of "Gibraltar of the North".

After the defeat of Napoleon, the state of Luxembourg was given autonomy but a land swap with Prussia established rule of the territory by the Netherlands which granted it status as a Grand Duchy under William I. The Prussians however kept a military presence in the city of Luxembourg. As Prussia’s influence in the area grew, the French attempted to enter into a deal for possession of the city resulting in heightened tensions and the threat of war. The Treaty of London in 1867 diffused the situation by reaffirming the rule of the Netherlands over the Grand Duchy and pledging Luxembourg’s permanent neutrality. To this end, the Prussians withdrew, and the fortifications were demolished over the next 16 years allowing the city to expand its borders. It was not until 1890 that Luxembourg became an independent country with Grand Duke Adolphe as its sovereign and Luxembourg City as its capital.

In a more recent chapter of Luxembourger history, the nation was a founding member of the European Union in 1957. A plateau northeast of the city known as Kirchberg now hosts the European Court of Justice and the offices of the European Parliament among other key buildings. We took a bus across the Red Bridge and hopped off at the visually impressive Luxembourg Philharmonic and to Fort Thüngen which once defended Luxembourg from the other side of the Alzette River. A walk along the old ramparts provided panoramic views of the old city while we were serenaded by a cacophony emitted from randomly placed loudspeakers representing some sort of Euro-modern audio art. We followed a path up the hill through several construction sites which prompted disapproving looks from a number of workers. It seemed that several new massive office buildings were under construction indicating that the EU might not be feeling the same economic pinch as the US. The European Parliament building itself was little more than a shiny collection of offices but it was the point at which we could catch the bus back to town.

The European Parliament also has offices in Brussels and Strasbourg.
European Parliament


The Luxembourg national bank tower is one of the most recognizable symbols of Luxembourg.
Pont Adolphe and the National Bank


The 600 year old wall was built by King Wenceslaus to extend protection to the lower town along the Alzette.
Wenceslaus Wall


The 1,500 seat music hall was built by a French architecht and is surrounded by over 800 white columns.
The Philharmonie

The locals refer to this fort as the "Dräi Eechelen" or "Three Acorns"
Fort Thüngen

A statue of the Grand Duchess Charlotte dominates this square surrounded by government buildings.
Place Clairefontaine

Count Sigefried built a castle here in 963 on the site of a Roman fortification.
A view from the Bockfiels

Once the site of a Franciscan monastary, this square is known to locals as the  Knuedler for the knot in the ropes tied around the friars' waists.
Place Guillaume II

A chocolatier across from the Ducal Palace, offers special do-it-yourself flavored hot chocolate.
Hot chocolate break

Since 1890, the palace has served as residence to the family of the Grand Duke.
Grand Ducal Palace

These fried potato patties were ideal on a cold winter night.
Scoring some gromperekichelcher

The market is open all day and night from late November to Christmas Eve.
Luxembourg's Christmas market

The jumbo Negerküsse caught our eye.
Christmas confections

Marché de Noël

Entering the Place des Armes, we happened upon the city’s Christmas market. Although smallish as big city Christmas markets go with about two dozen stalls, it was a wonderful mixture of marché de Noël and Weihnachtsmarkt. The stalls to the outside sold the typical crafts, ornaments, and confections while the inner stalls selling food and drink surrounded a large canopied area for noshing with fellow revelers. We had already spent some time looking at the menus displayed outside of a number of restaurants, but they were a little fancier and more expensive than what we had in mind. Instead, we focused on the brasseries which tend to have simpler food and casual atmosphere. But here around the Luxembourg old town, we couldn’t find anything to meet our taste, so the Christmas market seemed like as good a place as any to have dinner. Many of the standards like red and white mettwürste, marguez, and frikadellen were there, but other treats such as raclette and fondue were also available. We split a plate of spätzle tossed with bacon and doused with cheese fondue then went back for something more. We ended up sampling true Luxembourger gromperekichelcher – deep fried shredded potato patties mixed with herbs and onions. Having already had our share of glühwein before leaving Germany, we washed down our dinner with Bofferding Christmas beer and a glass of Poire-Williams.

Besides the traditional glühwein, Christmas beer and Poire-Williams were also on offer.
The beverage center

Luxembourg's Christmas market has about two dozen stalls.
Craft stalls

Who wouldn't want a waffle from the dashing Jean?
Belgian waffles

First buried among the other soldiers, Patton's grave was moved to a new site to allow for large numbers of visitors.
Patton's grave

One of only 14 US military cemeteries on foreign soil.
The American Military Cemetery

It is a Jewish custom to leave a stone or pebble on the grave marker to indicate a visit.
Field of fallen heros

Military Cemeteries

On the outskirts of Luxembourg City near the village of Hamm is one of fourteen American military cemeteries located outside the United States. This particular one is best known for containing the gravesite of General George Patton. After a fatal car accident in 1945, Patton was laid to rest here among the 5,000 soldiers who lost their lives in and around the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge.

Despite some bad information off the Web on how to get there, we could only find a bus that would take us as far as the center of Hamm. From there it was only a mile or so to the cemetery, but road construction forced us to make our way through a highway exit roundabout and to trudge along a four-lane main road to find the entrance. The irony of risking our lives to visit a cemetery did not go unnoticed. Relieved to reach our destination in one piece, we spent a great deal of time reading the information plaques and strolled around the paths delineating the various plots. On such a gloomy day and only days before the 65th anniversary of the battle, the seemingly endless array of crosses and stars made for a meditative and somber mood.

Bolstered from our recent trek along Hadrian’s Wall, we decided to walk another mile or so to the German military cemetery in Sandweiler. The first of its kind on foreign soil, the German cemetery is somewhat smaller than its American counterpart. However, each stone cross actually represents four fallen soldiers, meaning that the total number of dead honored at Sandweiler is just shy of 11,000. At the foot of the large stone cross memorial centerpiece, there were flower arrangements left from the recent November 11th ceremonies. We were pleased to see that one of the large wreaths was attributed to the US Embassy.

The 11,000 Germans soldiers interred at Sandweiler were brought there from over 150 cemeteries in and around Luxembourg.
Soldiers buried four to a grave

Many of the German soldiers killed during the Battle of the Bulge were buried by the US Army.
The German Military Cemetery

Almost 5,000 German soldiers are buried in the large central mass grave at Sandweiler.
Mass grave memorial

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