I’ve been wanting to come to Luxembourg for aaaages. My parents both used to live here, in fact it’s where they met, and my mother, in particular, paints a very fetching picture of it. I got off the train hoping to instantly love this cosmopolitan yet dreamy little city, and instead thought to myself, “Oh look, there’s an H&M, and a Claire’s Accessories, and Subway … huh, this looks like any city centre high street in the UK”.
Oh I spoke too soon. Within minutes I was taking a shortcut to the hostel along cobbled paths (which sound so much nicer than they actually are to walk on, especially when one’s luggage is on wheels, I am concerned the poor luggage won’t make it as far as Halloween, damn I should have got a rucksack) past castle walls and turreted clock towers, under enormous arched bridges, through small tracts of leafy woodland, and alongside the river Petrusse.
If at this point you’re thinking, “Gosh, that’s a lot to take in on a short-cut,” you are quite astute, because it was not a short-cut at all. It looked like a short cut on the map, but no, it was a circuitous, excessively hilly route, and whilst I was determinedly appreciating the splendour of Luxembourg, I was also quite cross by the time I arrived at the hostel.
Sine I’m on the subject, referring to Luxembourg as ‘hilly’ is wildly inaccurate. It is a tangled mass of cliffs with drops in between and buildings on the top and the bottom and down the sides, connected by steps, paths and bridges all over the place. The city appears to tumble down from the sky like an intricate MC Escher landscape. It is stunningly beautiful and quite trippy on the eye, and amazingly there are people jogging all over the city! Which begs the question why are there not a plethora of Luxembourgian Olympians? This place is an ideal training ground for athletes. Amazingly there are also plenty of city bikes for hire and they’re very popular…who are these people that can defy gravity and cycle up near vertical slopes?
I wonder how Luxembourg got built. I’m sure history will tell us that it started as a hilltop fort – and I did stumble across the ruins of an old fort today on a hilltop now I think about – that simply grew and spread as more people came to the fort. Until other hilltops had forts and palaces on them too, and then people simply started building in the spaces in between, and started putting in paths.
Imagine Cedric and Basil discussing real estate one day, and imagine it with Birmingham accents if you can, because that’s what they sound like in my head.
“Do you know what Cedric, this is a lovely little spot you’ve picked out here.”
“Aw thanks Basil, me and Mabel love it. She picked it out to be fair.”
“Oh aye, Mabe’s always had a good eye, and these views are stunning.”
“Good for fending off marauding invaders too you know Basil, a man’s got a think about these things, that’s what my Mabel reckons anyway. It’s become quite the hobby for Mabel. She’s done out the armoury ever so nicely, and she’s cracking on something terrific with the archery. She hit a bloke in the thigh last week from 200 yards.”
“Yeah our Brenda told me about that. Shame it was the postman, not a real marauder.”
“Aye I don’t think we’ll be getting any packages delivered up to the door anymore.”
“Still, it was a great hit. You can’t be too careful, and practice is practice.”
“You’re so right Basil, that’s exactly what I told Mabel. She was dead upset at the time, but she seems better now. She started firing at the shepherds again yesterday.”
“Me and Brenda’d love to move round here, but this hilltop’s all full up now.”
“Oh aye, it’s a very desirable location, but the hilltop across the gorge is completely free at the moment. You could have a lovely little fort up there, with a couple of terraces, and a turret. You could dig down too and have a dungeon for the marauders.”
“Cedric that’s genius! And then if Brenda gets a bit too heavy handed with them and they don’t make it, we could turn it into a wine cellar instead.”
“We’d be neighbours. The kiddies could burn stuff together, and Bren and Mabel would love being so close.”
“Oh she would, she would. I know it, she really would, them girls love having a natter. There’s just one problem, Brenda’s hip can’t take them cliffs no more. And I know they’ve got the new fangled stairs and stuff but I think it’d still cause her problems.”
“Easily solved Basil, easily solved. We’ll build a bridge. Yeah it’ll be brilliant, our Sandra’s new bloke is in bridge building. We’ll get all the lads down for a few weeks to help out, they can stay in the castle, Mabel won’t mind.”
“Well if she does, remember to hide the arrows.”
I could see it happening that way.
So anyway, I arrived in Luxembourg, took a short-cut, got to the hostel, thought to myself, “Hmmn, it’s only 1 o’clock in the afternoon. I’ll have a quick lie down, and a shower and then I’ll go out and spend the afternoon sight seeing.”
I woke up six hours later, had a shower and went for a night hike around the town centre.
If I was ever to have a clandestine affair, which is unlikely because whilst other people’s secrets are quite exciting, keeping secrets of my own is tedious. If it’s something so special that it has to be a secret then it’s far too exciting not to tell someone else!
Agh, got side tracked. As I was saying, if I were ever to have a clandestine affair, I would have it in Luxembourg City. The town centre is around 200 years old in some parts, so very romantic, and it is chock full of tiny side streets that are calling out to couples for covert kissing. I can picture myself in an expensive perfume advert, laughing infectiously – with a tinkling laugh like a babbling brook, not the explosive donkey noise I make when I find something properly funny – as some tall, chiselled jaw adonis, wearing a good quality woollen Winter coat and scarf, spontaneously grabs my hand and pulls me into the shadows for a stolen embrace.
SO different from the reality: a slightly slurred voice, most likely mine, demanding, “Look you, come ‘ere, ‘n giss us a snog.”
The city is beautiful by night, and again feels very safe. Every new street has the potential for adventure, that tiny lane might lead into a huge piazza with fountains. Those spiral steps could take you into a castle courtyard. Go up that dark path over there (no really, I promise I’m being safe, mother) and you’ll find an eternal flame burning. It’s gorgeous, and by day all the inky dark patches are revealed – woods, rivers, parkland, fortress ruins, and makes it gorgeous and new all over again!
Talking of inky dark patches, I visited the contemporary museum of art – ver, ver, ver good, the current exhibitions are all to do with physics which I rather like. There were some incredible pieces, but my standout favourite was a fountain with a cherub spouting water out of an urn into a pool below. From far away it looked like any old, pretty fountain, but as you got closer you could see that the water was actually black ink. It’s supposed to be some expression of how words in literature being free moving and falling back into the ether … I didn’t understand that at all, but it looked really cool, the kind of fountain that Death might have in his garden.