I come from a 'Burg. So naturally, it makes sense that I end up in a few 'Bourgs while abroad. It was also my dream to finally finish off the the "Lux" of the BeNeLux countries, with a trip to the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg. Luckily for me, it decided to snow--a lot--over the course of the entire day. It was as Luxembourg should be, snowy and picturesque. Only trying to climb up all the hills and avoid dieing on medieval steps while wearing very thin, very lite, and very un-snow worthy boots was a challenge. Note to self--when traveling to Luxembourg, prepare for what you want.
Castles on a hill, underground caverns that have had many different functions, but are now cheap tourist attractions (and a UNESCO Heritage site of course) and overly helpful people, that is what Luxembourg City is. Every time I pulled out my map, people wanted to know if I needed help. I don't know if I look Luxembourgisch...in fact I am unsure as to what one looks like...but by god, they were nice. I guess growing up on that hill surrounded by forests and brick walls can do that to you. A new face gets you all excited. Or maybe they just wanted my business...which would not be unheard of in the richest per capita country in the EU. Anyways, the City showed me a grand day. With snowed covered pines and frozen fortifications everywhere, along with a nice hearty plate of pork and beans with baked potatoes (their national dish), I was feeling really good. One of the most interesting parts was the Bock Casemates which are essentially catacombs that are were storage areas, which were then bunkers during the many sieges that fortress Luxembourg has seen. What is not okay about them is the severely uneven floors, pitch black hallways, and steps which, while internationally protected have been so worn down that they are more of a ramp than step. For someone wearing shoes with very little traction cover in ice, it was a harrowing experience (normally I would be fine with it, but c'mon I have a marathon in a couple of days!)
Luxembourg, for being essentially a micro-state, it pretty neat. I mean the place was dismantled by the Great Powers because no one could break its defenses (like Fort Thueringin above). That takes some ingenuity, and by god they have turned it around into a gold mine. Surprisingly decent beer, hearty food, a nice blanket of snow, and a tidy little mountain capital city...all in about 6 hours...can't beat that!
Luckily, one 'Bourg is one the way to another 'Bourg--Strasbourg. Technically the same thing that is in Brussels, only once a month the European Union decides to due business there because of Treaty obligations. At least it is in a very, very cool city. I agree with any city that has a plethora of canals. I also agree with any city who has a monumental cathedral (if you need any evidence of this, please reread 2011's trip to Cologne). Lastly, I agree with any city who is known for their fattened goose liver and white Alsatian vin. Yes Strasbourg, you won many points.
This behemoth to the left really gave the Kolner Dom a run for its money. Not only is it, yes, offer center, but there is not one inch that is not adorned with something. Spire, gargoyle, guy on a horse, demon thing, it is all there. Not only that, but the inside houses an ancient astrological clock. Me and a a bunch of Italian school students watched as 12.30 rolled around, and a wooden Jesus blessed some apostles, and the whole "this is time, it is ticking down, but don't worry because it'll all be fine and dandy in the end" deal was the theme. However, I thought that having it as a personal alarm clock would be fantastic.
The interesting thing about STR (the abbrev. of Strasbourg) is that is French and German. The area has French cuisine but drinks German wine, eats dainty pastries but houses down big, deep pots of stewed meats and cabbage. So, naturally, it is my type of place. The pasty block that you see on the left is foie gras. It is a specific type of European goose that is specifically fattened to specific qualifications to produce one hell of a piece of liver. It is nutty, fatty, and sweet, and when you mix a little bit of berry and chive on there, it is pure heaven. For 20Euros--as an appetizer--it is heavy on the wallet, and the waistline. But in the Alsace region of France, if you do not get it there, where they have perfected the entire process, then shame on you!
Possibly the only thing I find more picturesque than a snowy castle in Luxembourg is anything that sits on a canal. Where water and man-made stone meet, I have a love-affair. In STR there is definitely no shortage of that. Everything was different, yet uniform, all very old looking, and they took great care into making the new building blend in with the original surrounding, unlike that other European capital...yes, you Brussels...that make for a very harmonious scene. The winding, tight streets, the toll of bells, the sound of the streams, it was so peaceful. Especially the area of Petite France which is literally out of a storybook. A little village on a bunch of little islands, all medieval and such. Something that is routine here, but to us Americans, it is an entirely different world. Drinking in pubs that had people in them dieing from the bubonic plague just makes a meal historically satisfying.
Yes the 'Bourgs treated me right. Good food, nice towns, and I maxed out my camera. Can't say anything bad about that. And all on one train line. A great way to spend a quick three days-from impenetrable castles to lazy canals, separated by only a couple of hours and the occasional train blockage!