Nestling between Germany, France and Belgium, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is an enchanting little country of striking contrasts and a beguiling history sprinkled with Counts and dynasties. This fairytale haven is a land of verdant valleys, historic fortresses and picture-postcard hamlets. Based in tranquil Vianden, we ventured out to visit historic Echternach, ancient Trier and Luxembourg City...
Tucked-away near the border with Germany, this picturesque little village is towered over by an impeccably restored medieval castle. Lying in the valley of the Our River, it features relaxing riverbank walks and a chairlift up the mountain giving panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. After checking into the Grand Hotel de Vianden, we quickly unpacked then headed out to hop aboard ‘Benni’, the little land train for a forty minute circuit of the town complete with commentary from driver, Stefan. To find Benni, simply turn right as you leave the hotel and follow the footpath the short distance to the River Our. Turn right again before the bridge and you’ll see the “Benni” signpost where the train leaves regularly from 11am onwards. You can pay on the train or buy your ticket from the tourism office which is on the corner just across the bridge. Stefan whisked us up the winding cobblestoned street passing pavement cafes and quaint terraced dwellings with steeply sloping roofs and wooden shutters. We stopped at a lookout point offering truly stunning views of the magical castle. Here you will also find a tiny remembrance garden dedicated to soldiers who gave their lives freeing Vianden during the Second World War
On another day we explored the majestic castle. Constructed on the foundations of a Roman fort, it is one of the largest and most beautiful residences from the gothic and Romanesque periods. Once the seat of the influential Counts of Vianden, inside this enchanted fortress we found intriguing relics like middle-ages stocks, sumptuous bedrooms with four poster beds, lavish banqueting halls and an opulent chapel
Vianden Fact File
Benni l Le Petit Train - Ticket 6.50 Euros - departs regularly from the Our Bridge
Vianden Castle – 6 Euros (5.00 for senior citizens) open 10am – 6pm (closes earlier off season)
Vianden Castle Guide - available at the entrance 3.50
Grand Hotel de Vianden
This charming hotel is ideally situated and boasts excellent features including an outside terrace with a pretty sculpture of horses and cute cupids. There is also a conservatory, a comfortable lounge, traditional wood panelled bar and the Au Jardin de Hercule Poirot Restaurant where we tucked into delicious four course dinners served by friendly staff.
Owned by the Peverelli-Bruinsma family, it is bedecked with quirky objects d'art such as a leather saddle and a Singer sewing machine not to mention over 1700 hippopotamuses! From ornaments to stuffed toys, you’ll find the creatures everywhere. I had to ask owner, Bart why. “My wife wanted to collect something so I bought her a stuffed hippopotamus and said why don’t you collect hippos? Since then, I’ve only actually bought about fifty – the rest have all been given to us by guests.” Keen musician Bart who once played in a band also has walls adorned with photographs and paintings of legends like the Beatles, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. I noticed a photo of Bart playing guitar and asked his wife if Bart also sings. She rolled her eyes long-sufferingly saying “Yes, unfortunately...”
Travelling through the Mullertahl region, known as “Little Switzerland” we arrived at the captivating border town of Echternach, the oldest town in Luxembourg with over two thousand years of history. Architectural treasures include the Romanesque Basilica with its eight century Carolingian crypt, Benedictine Abbey and the St Peter and Paul Church. As we wandered the historic streets listening to the melancholic peel of the church bells we found an inscription about Echternach by writer Marcel Noppeney: “Adorable small town – tourism would have invented you if you hadn’t been invented before it.” Gazing around at the fairytale steeples and the baroque style architecture, we decided that we couldn’t agree more.
Founded by the Romans around 16 BC, Trier is Germany’s oldest metropolis. A city of culture and shopping, Trier is also a centre for the wine trade and a harbour town on the banks of the Moselle. Our Glenton coach glided into a space on Franz Ludwig StraBe next to a tiny kiosk where we picked up a city map. Remember to head first to the Puerta Negra, the imposing Roman city gate just five minutes away as here you will not only find the tourist office, but this is also where you can hop aboard the “Romer Express” land train or catch the double deck city sightseeing hop on, hop off bus.
The sun was shining when we arrived so we grabbed some take-away pizza and settled down on a bench opposite the glorious cathedral admiring its exquisite Romanesque facade and soaking up the historic ambience. Other points of interest in this ancient town include the fascinating Roman amphitheatre and the splendid palace with its ornate gardens.
Trier Fact File
Romer Express –9 Euros
City Sightseeing bus – 11 Euros
City map – 1.50 Euros
Sophisticated Luxembourg City
Our Glenton coach glided into La Place de la Constitution where a poignant ceremony was underway commemorating the anniversary of the end of WWII. We watched in silence as impeccably attired soldiers stood solemnly in line while a military band played a lament and local women wiped away their tears.
Our guide, Francois arrived and we set off on the coach part of our tour driving along the Avenue John F Kennedy past the JFK centre and the financial sector with its huge statue of a British banker complete with brolly and copy of the Financial Times. The walking part of the tour followed taking in places of interest like the impressive Cathedral de Notre Dame as well as the ornate Palace and the adjoining Parliament, both guarded by an armed soldier.
In this clean and classy city we found all the sights within easy walking distance of each other. So later we wandered back to the Bock Casemates, a honeycomb of rock passages carved by the Spaniards in the seventeenth century and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We roamed the dimly lit network of underground galleries passing menacing cannons and absorbing the foreboding atmosphere with its gloomy secrets of times gone by when Luxembourg was an envied fortress. Afterwards we headed back to the main square which is bordered by restaurants. We sat in the warm sunshine enjoying lunch and watching the sharp suited, laptop carrying entrepreneurs going about their business in this stylish and affluent city.