In the land of trees, bees and expensive cars live a very proud people. Despite (and probably due) to Luxembourg’s frequent change of ruling country, the Luxembourg people have fought very hard to preserve their culture. Luxembourg city is a lovely place to take a stroll in the summer.
The picturesque Adolphe Bridge, built in 1903, by Grand-Duc Adolphe.
The monument of Dicks and Lentz, erected in 1903, is a symbol of Luxembourg's pride. While the monument is dedicated to these two men, they are actually not the most obvious parts if the monument. The charging blacksmith on the left represents Luxembourg's past in mining and steel. To this day, the largest steel manufacturing company is headquartered in Luxembourg. On the column above him is inscribed the Grand Duchy's motto:
Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sin
(meaning "We want to stay what we are"). On top of the column rests the symbol of the Grand Duchy: a lion holding the family crest.
Once you have appreciated all of the obvious elements of the monument, you can really take the time to appreciate the relief of Dicks (1823-1891) and Michel Lentz (1820-1893) on the base of the monument. These two men were the first poets to write in Luxembourgish, the country's official language (alongside French and German). Additionally, they are the creators of the country's national anthem.
Across the Dicks and Lentz monument is the Cercle Cité, the cultural center of Luxembourg. What's interesting about the building is the frieze on top. It represents the handling back of the charter of freedom in 1244 by Countess Ermesinde.
The monument and the Cercle Cité are located on la Place d'Armes. The square is also known as Jan Pallach square, in memory of the Czechoslovakian who set himself on fire in 1969 in protest to the communist rule in his country.
The equestrian statue of William II is located on the nearby William Square. It is of William II, who was both the king of the Netherlands and the Grand Duke of Luxembourg from 1840 to 1849. He is one of the most loved dukes of Luxembourg as he was often in the country meeting with the people and because he was one of the most liberal dukes of the country. He introduced Luxembourg's first parliament in 1848. He is from the House of Orange-Nassau; the family crest can again be seen on the side of the statue. A copy of this statue can be seen in The Hague, given that he ruled both countries.
Every Wednesday and Saturday, on the William Square, there is a farmer's market. Currently there is a lot of construction taking place on the square and in the city. Luxembourg is creating all new tram lines and will make all public transportation free in 2020.
Until 1817, this building was the town hall of the city. Today, it is the Grand Ducal Palace is the residence of the Duke. The Duke and his family no longer actually live in the palace though. One of the reasons is that it is located next to a lot of the bars of the city, causing a lot of commotion at night. However, when the Duke is in town for work, a flag is raised on the flag pole above the building. During almost two months over the summer, the palace is open for visits during the week. (Random fact: during the German occupation in WWII, the palace was used as a tavern and a concert hall.)
These heads face the Grand Ducal Palace. They symbolize the idea that the people are always keeping a watchful eye on the Duke and what he is doing. As recently as 2008, the people (through their parliament) managed to change the constitution in order to have more freedom from the Duke. Until 2008, the Duke had final say on which laws were passed. Since the change, the Duke is still required to sign off on all the new laws but no longer actually has the power to say yes or no to the new proposed law.
The country's motto can be seen all around the city. This shows the pride that the Luxembourgeois are very proud of their identity and their ability to remain independent despite their prime location and the constant threat from the neighboring countries.
The St. Michael Church is the oldest church in Luxembourg. It was built in 1688 to replace the chapel of the Counts of Luxembourg (built in 987).
Stained glass windows of the St. Michael Church.
Luxembourg was actually founded only a couple years before the chapel of the Counts of Luxembourg's completion. It was founded by Count Siegfried in 963. As Count of Ardennes, Siegfried owned Upper Lorraine and wanted to find a way to protect them. So, he decided to buy a small fortress owned by monks of the area in exchange for land in what is now northern Luxembourg.
On the document of the sale of the land, the fortress is referred to as Lucilinburhue, which is the origins of the name Luxembourg.
Remains of the original fortress.
Some of the original dukes of Luxembourg starting with Siegfried. Most notably, Henry VII was the first Holy Roman Emperor from the Luxembourg family. He was also Duke of Luxembourg and King of Germany.
The Bock casemates were built in 1745 by the Austrians to protect their land. The idea of the casemates was to serve as a covered area from where to shoot cannons and defend the city. They performed their job successfully as the city was never taken by force (but did however change hands multiple times due to treaties and sieges). The city's impenetrable nature has given it the nickname of "Gibraltar of the north". The tunnels originally ran for 23km and went 40 meters deep into the rock.
Once Luxembourg gained its independence in 1867 at the London Conference, it wanted to prevent being involved in any future military dispute. As a result, it decided to become a neutral country. In order to be neutral however, Luxembourg had to destroy all of its defense buildings and hand over its arms. Because destroying the casemates would result in the crumbling of the city, the loopholes were simply enlarged so that they could no longer be used for military purposes. Here, we can still see one of the original loopholes next to an enlarged loophole.
Out of this enlarged loophole, we can see the statue of Melusina. Legend says that after Siegfried secured his lands, he went in search of a wife. Melusina was the most beautiful woman that he had ever seen. So, he started to court her. He asked her multiple times to marry him but every time she said no. Persistent, Siegfried kept asking. Finally, she agreed but on one condition: that she be allowed to spend one day per week alone in the bathroom without having him interrupt her. Elated that she finally said yes, Siegfried agreed. After a bit of time though, curiosity got the best of him and he peaked into the bathroom. Horrified that her husband saw that she was a mermaid, she jumped into the nearby river Alzette and disappeared forever.
A close up of the statue.
The church visible on the other side of the river Alzette is part of the Abbey Neimënster. The Abbey once owned the lands on both sides of the river. Now, the right side is owned by the government. The gardeners of the city plant crops on that land that are then used to feed the hungry. The Duke also uses part of the land to grow grapes that would later be used to make wine for the city banquet.
At one point the Abbey (besides the church) was used as a military hospital and then also as a prison. It was renovated in 1983 and is now used as a cultural center.
The city of Luxembourg did not only have the city walls and the casemates to protect itself. It also had two extra layers of fortified walls. These walls were intended as extra protection but also as protect for the suburbs, where all of the fields and factories were.
At the top of the hill in front, there are three large buildings. Those were military barracks in the day. At any point before Luxembourg's demilitarization, there were anywhere between 2000 and 5000 soldiers in the city. These soldiers ate and drank for free. Considering that one soldier could easily eat one loaf of bread per day, it was not surprising that bread and other foods were often imported. At some point, bakeries and houses were using so much wood to cook food and to heat the homes that there were no more trees in the city.
Currently, those barracks have been turned into very expensive retirement homes.
Because the city is built on top of a rock, the closest source of water is 80 to 90 meters deep into the rock. For this reason, most of the businesses were down by the valley by the river. For the homes, wells were built. There were 9 wells in the city as well as wells in strategic locations like here in the casemates. The issue with well water is that it could only be safely consumed after it is boiled. Thus, instead of water, most people just drank beer. The first tap in the city was created in 1843.
The bridge grande-duchesse Charlotte connects the city center and the plateau of Kirchberg. Kirchberg is the new district of Luxembourg city. It is home to many big companies such as Amazon, as well as to three EU buildings: the European Court of Justice, the European Investment Bank and the European Court of Auditors.
View of Kirckberg and Vauban's fortress to the left. During Louis XIV's rule, Luxembourg was under French rule. To protect the city, Louis XIV had his military architect create a military fortress just outside the Luxembourg city walls. The remains are still visible today.
Robert Schumann's birthplace is located at the base of the Kirchberg plateau. (It is the small white speck under the right-most building on the Kirchberg plateau.) Schumann was born in 1886 to a Luxembourgeois mother and an Alsace-Lorraine father. Thus, at his birth, he was both Luxembourgeois and German (on his dad's side). When Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France, Schumann became French. Likely due to this cultural background, Schumann, a politician suggested that the production of coal and steel be unified under one cross-country power to make wars between France and Germany not only unlikely but impossible. Thus, in 1951 was born the predecessor to the European Union.
If you like fancy cars, Luxembourg is the place to be. Everywhere I turned, there was either a Lamborghini, a Ferrari or a Porsche (even in mini van form)!
In the background are the casemates as viewed from the valley, aka the lower city.
The is a free elevator that goes from the lower town (i.e. the valley) to the high town (i.e. the area within the city walls).
Erected in 1990, the monument of Grand Duchess Charlotte (1896 - 1985) stands in front of the oldest building in Luxembourg, the Ministry of State.
The Notre Dame Cathedral is the only cathedral within Luxembourg. In its crypt are buried some of the grand dukes of Luxembourg.
The Golden Lady was initially created in memory of the soldiers who died in WWI. It is known however for the story of how the statue was lost. During the German occupation in WWII, the Luxembourgeois were scared that the Germans would want to destroy their statue so the Luxembourgeois hid the statue to preserve their symbol of freedom. Once the occupation ended, the Luxembourgeois couldn't locate the statue. It was later found 35 years later, in 1980 in the basement of the national football stadium.