Sunday morning we shot through Belgium and arrived in Luxembourg (Belgium is being saved until last). Our first impressions were so much space and a love of pink – in every hamlet and village pink paint abounds on houses, restaurants and even the odd garage. The other thing that struck us is we have hit autumn – in the space of a few hours drive the trees are in shedding leaves like there is no tomorrow.
Our first stop was just outside Ettlebruck at Dietsch. A gigantic campsite next to the river but only five or six vans and a couple of caravans there so we had roughly 30 pitches of space each between us, or we should have. Not sure what’s with people who need to pitch next door, acres of space but three nights running vans came in and parked either side of us.
Monday morning dawned cold, damp and grey, we got the bikes out for a ride to on yet more brilliant cycle paths, all off road – so good that despite the cold we continued onto Colmar (home of a Goodyear factory – weirdly good smell) before retracing out steps into Ettlebruck for a warming coffee stop – they even gave us blankets at the pavement cafe.
Being slightly confused with what language we should be using we asked the waitress, she said any will do, people speak French, English, German or often Portuguese!
The way ahead – blankets at all cafes
The town was liberted by the US in 1944 but re-taken by Germany in the December during the Battle of the Bulge. No less than General Patton himself led the the troops into retake the town again a couple of weeks later for the final liberation from the Nazi occupation. With so much fighting taking place the town has very few older buildings, lots of post war apartments, shops with the occasional ally-way of pre-war houses dotted around.
Pink painted buildings abound
Breaking a habit we went been to Luxembourg city for a day. We used the local train which ran hourly, 40 minutes each way, a double decker train and €4 each – worth it for the journey alone.
Luxembourg Luxembourg (ie the city bit) is ranked 1st in terms of safety out of 221 cities across the world. Not surprising in a lot of ways as its very small, most people seem to be office folk and maybe because it was raining cats and dogs there were very few tourists around. That said there are more than enough historic buildings to visit, we saw the Ducal Palace but sadly the castle was under wraps as scaffold covers a large part.
For a small city there is a fair bit of up and down hill to get around. There are two deep gorges running through the city, both over 230 ft deep, most of the city is built high on the cliffs each side leaving the bottom of the valleys at parkland and open green spaces. We braved the rain and headed for the Bock, a natural cliff at the edge the city that contains the ruins of a castle and miles of tunnels.
It is an easy city to walk in a few hours, the old town has a good shopping area with all the household names but the rain meant we weren’t really that interested. Wet through we gave up after a lunch stop and headed back to the campsite.
We decided to move along to the border region and arrived in Echternach, a small town on the German border, literally – cross over a small foot bridge and you are in Germany – less than 20ft between them over a small river. The town was founded back in 698 AD by a Brit, none other than St. Wilibrord from Ripon (another Yorkshire man!). An impressive Basilica stands in the centre of town where Wilibrords tomb is housed in the crypt. The town was very much what we thought all German towns would be more like, medieval walls with towers, cobbled streets and tall houses – most of the town was badly damaged in WWII but has since been completely restored.
Another of the must see here is Vianden, a small village but with a whooper of a castle perched on the hillside. Built in the 11th century it was left to fall into disrepair in the 1800’s. It was only recently in 1997 that the Grand Duke gave the castle to the state and restorations were completed. The other main claim to fame is the annual ‘nut fair’ where local walnuts are on sale together with walnut cakes, walnut confectionary, walnut brandy and walnut liqueurs – it on this Sunday so we may go back.
Whilst in the village, joy of joys, we came across a chair lift which climbed over 450 ft up a sheer cliff. We did, as you do – bloody nightmare. It started off fine, then crossed the river, followed by the main road and if that wasn’t bad enough your feet are dangling in the tree canopy all the way. Strangely enough no people coming down, just seats with beer barrels and crates!
When we got to the top it was a bit of a let down, no views of the castle as the trees have grown way too high over the years. To use the loo they want another 50 cents of your money and for the photo they took of you terrified on the way up another €6. I was going to walk down it was that bad going up, to be fair the down trip wasn’t as bad.