Friday, 27 July 2012

Luxembourg & kniddelen

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was the next substantial stop on the north bound run - Janine and I spent a day on the motorway, running between Chamonix and there, and although we enjoyed the countryside views, there just isn't that much you can say about the junk food that is the lot of the long distance driver.  It is an amazingly verdant area - there are very few towns or villages visible in the southern side so you approach through fields and countrysides. Luxembourg itself is a deceptive mix of old and modern, until you get near to the centre, and get a sudden glimpse of the river gorge that runs right through the centre of it. 

The heart of the old town is based around 'Lucinburhulic' the original fortress, started in 963. Over time  it was grown and morphed, eventually ending up as a Napoleonic style fortification built on and through the cliff face, albeit mostly dismantled as a result of the Treaty of London in 1867. The internal 'casements' are however still there, and have been pressed into service in numerous ways since then. In WWII the population of Luxembourg sheltered in them from the bombings, and the remains of the 'sand loos' are still visible, complete with reminder to take your sand with you into the loo. The stench of humanity in such a confined space must have been pretty unpleasant. Other parts of the casement have been made into telephony and electrical hub rooms, and still others are the gold vaults of the national bank of Luxembourg - sadly we were not allowed to tour that part of the casements! Some of the original guns have survived, and one is still standing guard in solitary splendour, whilst the others have been removed to the central museum for preservation, away from the damp mizzle that lines the tunnels.

Luxembourg is also home to the largest stone bridge in Europe - it's quite imposing, reaching as it is across the breadth of the valley. Our guide blithely informed us that as a part of the plans to modernise the city, the bridge is soon to be completely dismantled, strengthened, and since they've got it down and in pieces, widened, and replaced back up 'exactly' as it was before.

In the heart of the city, you find the Cathedral - an interesting architectural experience for a religious building of such prominence, as it is predominantly 1920s and 1930s built. There is also, for some unknown reason, just outside the Duke's palace, a large herd of blue plastic sheep. A somewhat sheepish attendant tried really hard to persuade me that it was bringing world  peace, goodwill and an end to just reminded me why I have little patience with a lot of modern art.

Lunch was an exploration of Luxembourg cuisine - I decided to go for Kniddelen with bacon and cream. Kniddelen are essentially dumplings, and whilst it was a very flavoursome dish and I'd recommend it for a winters day, it sat rather heavily during the rest of our trogging around town!

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