RyanAir failed us.
Our last trip reawakened our wanderlust, so we decided to take advantage of the long Memorial Day weekend by hopping a flight … anywhere. After all, it’s not a holiday in Europe, and everyone knows you can find amazing deals here on discount airlines.
Except, not always. It turns out those fares need to be booked months in advance, and Germany lacks websites dedicated to open-ended, last-minute travel. We were “stuck” staying local.
Which is nothing to shake a stick at. With France, Luxembourg, and the German wine-growing regions all within an hour or two, there’s lots to choose from. We opted to visit Luxembourg City, a first-time trip for both of us.
The terrain in Luxembourg is similar to what we have here, and it even shares half of the winding Moselle River, whose steep fronting slopes produce nice Rieslings and other whites. Most of the population (not yet half a million) is agrarian, so except for the main city (a banking and EU government hub) expect to see small villages and open terrain laced with hiking trails. As we drove we passed a strange highway overpass practically overgrown with trees and shrubs: a wild animal crossing!
In the South everyone spoke French, though German is a second official language. In fact, Lonely Planet likens Luxembourg to a “mini Paris.” That might be a bit of a stretch, but it sets the scene.
The city is built high on a promontory protected by two deep gorges on either side. Throughout the centuries, that provided the fortress with a secure advantage from invaders, but also meant it was coveted by nearly all the ruling empires surrounding it, from the Spanish to the French to the Prussians. Apparently, it was demolished and rebuilt an astonishing 20 times in 400 years!
When it was finally declared a sovereign country in the mid-19th-century, it was granted neutral status because of its tenuous position between superpowers France and Germany. Yet during both WWI and WWII, Germany invaded. It’s no surprise that afterwards Luxembourgers said, basically, “screw neutrality!” and joined NATO.
Nowadays, the old town (a UNESCO world heritage site) is full of pretty French-influenced buildings with great views, a large pedestrian area with outdoor cafes and the best shopping in the region, and some neat architecture that blends antique with modern (it got a facelift in preparation for being the European Capital of Culture in 2007). Check out the evidence with our slideshow (click in the middle on the right hand side to advance):