The Christmas markets of Luxembourg City were one of the first things I wrote about upon arriving here, so I felt compelled to bookend my one year anniversary by celebrating them again. They begin popping up around the end of November, so as not to sicken residents of the season months before it even arrives (see US shopping malls for comparison). They decorate a city which tends toward the grey and gloomy this time of year with light and activity, they fill the streets with festive shoppers long after normal shops have closed, and they have introduced me to the wonders of gluhwein and gromperekichelcher (which has taken most of the year just to learn how to pronounce).
This past weekend, we experienced our first Luxembourg National Day. Though the date is the Grand Duke’s official birthday, it is not technically anyone’s actual birthday. The date for the celebration has actually changed several times since the 19th Century, with the current date of 23 June set in stone in 1961. The only frame of reference for this celebration I have as an American is our own Fourth of July, but that isn’t entirely accurate. While both holidays share country pride and fireworks in common, there was an entirely different feel to this weekend’s party.
There is a lot of potential here for quick, last minute side trips; we deciced to take advantage of that and the great weather this past weekend. We went with friends to experience the Moselle Wine Festival, which involves several towns along the Moselle River in both Germany and Luxembourg. Though the experience was not precisely what we had expected, we definitely had a great adventure, drank some excellent wine and cremant, and even made some new friends!
The Bock in Luxembourg City is the former site of the Castle of Lucilinburhu (built in 963), and what eventually became Luxembourg City sprouted up around it. The Bock casemates are composed of a vast latticework of tunnels built into the rock itself, and were built gradually over a century (1644 to 1746). Used as a fortress by the Spanish, the French, and then the Austrians (everyone in Europe it seems at one point had a claim on this bit of land), the caves were also used as a bomb shelter during the second world war.
Less than an hour north of Luxembourg City is a collection of castles; the most significant of those–at least as far as attracting tourists–is Vianden Castle. My partner and I had originally planned a picnic with friends the day we were to visit (the surrounding countryside is gorgeous), but the weather was still hovering in the 30s. So the picnic was eaten in the car with the heater on full blast. Regardless of winter temperatures, this was well worth the drive and the short hike up to the castle.
These shots were taken during a walk my partner and I took through the Grund area of Luxembourg City. We took the walk before the snow hit us about a week ago, so things are greener (and much less cold) in the photos than they are currently. I still try to get down there and take a walk whenever I’m feeling stir crazy, as the views and trickling water are quite relaxing. I hardly even notice the cold.
We arrived back in Luxembourg City 27 December, eager to relax but also to allow my parents to experience the city where we actually live. The Christmas Market was still active in City Center, we wanted to try another bus tour, my parents wanted to see some of the old churches, and we wanted to check out the Museum of Art and History. We were disappointed that the Casemates du Bock were not open to the public in the winter, but ended up stumbling upon them anyway. The next week was considerably more laid back and less frenetic, but just as enjoyable as the trips to London and Paris.
I now have a new top 10 Christmas memory (I’d say favorite, but that seems premature): walking around with my partner, in the snow, at the Christmas market here in Luxembourg City Center. I know I tend towards cynical sarcasm at times, but here I am being utterly sincere. It is too beautiful for words. So here are the photos instead:
My flight across the Atlantic was a new experience for me. I had only ever flown domestically up until then, and those flights were only ever 4-5 hours at most. Furthermore, in my old age, I have come to dislike flying. It never bothered me until fairly recently; in high school, I won a trip to Washington D.C. in an essay contest, and was absolutely giddy with excitement as I boarded that Delta flight. In college, one of my fraternity brothers had his own plane–a scary single engine two-seater with nothing but a big gear stick for a flight instrument. I willingly got into that Buddy Holly plane and marveled at my college campus far below. Now, instead of being giddy with excitement, I am mainly thinking about how quickly the flames will engulf me as the aircraft I’m in drops out of the sky at 500 miles per hour.
Luckily, they make this drug called Klonopin that has the power to make anyone giddy–even if they’re falling out of the sky at 500 miles per hour. So I was set.