Monday, May 29, 2017

Luxembourg, Luxembourg

While not one of Europe's micro countries, Luxembourg is one of the smaller nations in all of Europe.  I had been there when I was 12, but I actually have zero memory of it. I thought maybe when I went there, it would spark some memories... but, nope! 

Luxembourg is about the size of Rhode Island and is squeezed in between France, Belgium and Germany.  Until 1437, it was a County headed by a Count.  After this, it was a Duchy, ruled by a Duke until 1815 when the Congress of Vienna made it a Grand Duchy where it entered into a personal union with the Netherlands.  It gained full independence in 1839 but unfortunately it's realm was cut in half as a large chunk was given to Belgium. Luxembourg is currently the ONLY Grand Duchy in the world.

As you can see, Luxembourg has slowly been shrinking since 1659! 

(By Spanish_Inquisition - LuxembourgPartitionsMap_english.jpg, GFDL,

Before I explain... what in the WORLD is going on with my thumb!?  I have weirdly crooked body parts.  Anyway, this is me on the highest bridge in Germany!  I've been on it before, but never had a picture on it.  You know I love me some superlatives!

To save a little money, Todd's awesome boss Dan and his wife Kim welcomed us into their home in Kaiserslautern to stay Friday night.  They have the most beautiful home!  And made the most incredible dinner!  (I hereby give them superlatives for that!) and their son Leo was so nice to the kids and even let them play video games with him.  This is the view from their backyard (which they admit was the game changer when they bought their house. I can see why!)  This is Burg Hohenecken. It's thought to have been built around 1200.

This is the sweetest dog, Indy in their beautiful back yard.  Funny story... Kim is actually from Dearborn County, Indiana!  (Which is where my dad is from!)

On the road again mid morning on Saturday.  Todd and the kids are about to get another country!  The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg!

Luxembourg = not a cheap country.  In fact, after we got back from our weekend, I told our landlord Dietmar that we had been in Luxembourg for the weekend and he said, "That's where the rich people go!"  We already knew this, so we brought bread, ham, chicken, cheese and mustard in a cooler and made sandwiches for a picnic lunch at the American Cemetery in Luxembourg.  (Before you go crazy... we ate OUTSIDE of the cemetery in the parking lot and several other families with small kids were doing the same).  We had chips and orange peppers and Oreos and applesauce and had a grand old picnic!

We even met a friendly (?) little caterpillar!  Isn't he lovely?

The Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial is a 17 acre site containing the graves of 5,076 service members (mostly men, one woman) who died during World War II.  Most of their lives were lost during the Battle of the Bulge. General George Patton's Third Army was headquartered here, hence why many of them (including General Patton) are buried here.

"In proud remembrance of the achievements of her sons and in humble tribute to their sacrifices, this memorial has been erected by the United States of America."

Believe it or not, there are so many soldiers in unknown graves.

"Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms, known but to God."  I can't get over these.  What is the story with these boys?  How could nobody claim them?  Did they not have mothers?  Did they not have any family?  Did they not have friends?  They had no one who cared enough to search for them? Were they burned or disfigured beyond recognition?

Such sadness on a beautiful day.

The Star of David was used for those of the Jewish faith who were buried here.  These brave men died fighting for a cause you KNOW they absolutely believed in.

 I really loved the old military vehicles they were driving around in before the ceremony.

 A great and tragic story about Day Turner, Medal of Honor recipient. The citation went like this:  "He commanded a 9-man squat with the mission of holding a critical flank position.  When overwhelming numbers of the enemy attacked under cover of withering artillery, mortar and rocket fire, he withdrew his squad into a nearby house determined to defend it to the last man.  The enemy attacked again and again and were repulsed with heavy losses.  Supported by direct tank fire, they finally gained entrance, but the intrepid sergeant refused to surrender although five of his men were wounded and one was killed.  He boldly flung a can of flaming oil at the first wave of attackers, dispersing them, and fought doggedly from room to room, closing with the enemy in fierce hand-to-hand encounters.  He hurled hand grenade for hand grenade, bayoneted 2 fanatical Germans who rushed a doorway he was defending and fought on with the enemy's weapons when his own ammunition was expended. The savage fight raged for 4 hours, and finally, when only 3 men of the defending squad were left unwounded, the enemy surrendered. Twenty-five prisoners were taken, 11 enemy dead and a great number of wounded were counted. Sergeant Turner's valiant stand will live on as a constant inspiration to his comrades.  His heroic, inspiring leadership, his determination and courageous devotion to duty exemplify the highest tradition of the military service."  Tragically, Sgt. Turner died exactly one month after this battle.

Natalie found a solider who shared our last name. He was a Corporal who was from Minnesota. He was born in July 1920, entered the Army in February 1943, and was killed in action in Luxembourg in January 1945.  Just a kid at 24 years old.

The American flag at half staff. 

American and Luxembourgish flags dotted each of the graves, along with a single red rose.

Hard to believe this is one out of many (e pluribus Unum) American cemeteries in Europe.

There was a neat flyover of a World War II era plane.

Flying over in remembrance.

The Air Force Honor Guard and the half staffed American flag.

Lt. General Richard Clark, Commander of the 3rd Air Force at Ramstein places a wreath.  He's in the dark hat on the far left.

Even the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of the Kaiserslautern-Ramstein area got to place remembrance wreaths.

The Air Force Honor Guard shot off these big guns, making me jump.  Natürlich.

One of America's most famous generals, General George S. Patton, Jr. is buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery. He was commander of the Third Army in France and Luxembourg after the allies invaded at Normandy in 1944.  When he died following a car crash in Germany in December 1945, he was buried here in Luxembourg because he wanted to be "buried with [his] men."

After we left the American Cemetery, we drove into the city to our hotel in the Kirchberg area.  We normally like to stay in AirBnB apartments but Luxembourg is pretty expensive, so we opted for a Novotel instead.  Kids eat free breakfast with a paying adult, and although the breakfast is 20 Euros, Todd can pretty much eat 20 Euros worth of food!  I just had him bring me a pastry and a coffee both mornings so I didn't have to pay. I'm not much of a breakfast person!  After we checked in, we hopped on the (free for today) bus into the city.  Notice all of the orange hats in the picture above.  It was the weekend of the ING night marathon so the city was very crowded on this particular evening!

I always say, I don't know much about architecture but I know what I like!

Since it was already late and the kids had stayed up SO late the night before in K-town, we stopped for some burgers at Snooze.  Diekirch is one of the beers of Luxembourg.  A nice light beer on a hot day!

"They wrapped my burger in a burrito!"

After dinner, we had to walk back to the hotel... which wasn't an easy walk because of the marathon going on.  At this point, all of the buses had stopped running and many of the streets were closed.  As we were walking back through the city, the kids spotted this.  (Queue eruption of laughter). 

I saw on Google maps that there was a Laduree in the downtown area.  MUST. STOP.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect 200 Euros.  Everyone got two... not sure Grant really appreciated this expensive treat, but I know Natalie and I did!  We opted for a rose macaron and a lavender macaron and they were DIVINE! 

Water table set up at the finish line.  It was so hot. I felt so bad for these runners!

Walking across the Grand Duchess Charlotte bridge, you get a really neat view of the Bock Casements. 

Fort Niedergrünewald.  We didn't have time to explore this one! Maybe next time!

Seriously, they looked miserable.  This is only a little past 4km into the 42 km and people were already walking.

This guy won the half marathon!  His name is Cosmas Mutuku Kyeva.  He finished in 1:11:03.  Impressive!

After a hearty breakfast at the Novotel, we headed out for another day in Luxembourg. The Secretariat of the European Parliament is here in Luxembourg, right next door to where we were staying. Plenary sessions aren't held here (they are held in both Strasbourg and Brussels) but this is the home of the administrative division of the European Parliament, headed by the Secretary-General (currently Klaus Welle).

Our first stop was the Casemates du Bock.  We ditched the car and took the bus, which drops you off pretty much right at the Casemates.  Score!  The views are insane!  In 963, a local Count (this was when Luxembourg was a County... hence the Count) built a fortress/castle up here which was added on to and modified over the years to become known as the "Gibraltar of the North."  The Casemates are a series of tunnels that were underneath the fortress and originally, they were 23km long.

St. Jean du Grund church sits right in the floodplain on the Alzette River.

"You guys, don't move and I'll do a panorama." 

Hamming it up in Luxembourg.  Grant's captain hat that he bought in Venice sure has come in handy!

Just below the Casemates du Bock, they have nice gardens along the Alzette River, across from the church.

This is the view to the north from the Casemates.  You can see the Grand Duchess Charlotte Bridge we had been on the evening before.

The Huelen Zant, or the "Hollow Tooth"  It's a part of what little remains of the old fortifications that were razed in 1867 when Luxembourg's independence was once again solidified by the Second Treaty of London.  The Prussian troops left, and the fortification was torn down within about 16 years.

Inside the Casemates du Bock.  It was a warm day and thankfully it was nice and cool in there!

Looking north-northwest out of the casemates.  These little caves that were open to the outside housed cannons to fire at the enemy.

Hard to imagine what the fortress ON TOP of these casements would have looked like!  The word casemate is defined by as, "a vault or chamber, especially in a rampart, with embrasures for artillery."  You can see these vaults very clearly here.

The casemates were dark enough to require the light from my cellphone in some parts.  Other areas had plenty of natural light.  Some parts had floor lighting but that actually made it harder to see because you would stare at the light on the floor and that made the dark parts even darker!

"Mommy, take my picture here in this hallway!"

The water well was 47 meters deep!  Todd had to take this picture. I'm terrified of heights, as everyone knows!

Views back to the St. Jean du Grund and the rest of the casemates.

Grant, please do not climb on the cannon.

It appears as if we are spelunking here.

Poor Todd.  He has this problem everywhere we go. 

The random blue and purple lights made the casemates look really cool inside.  The deeper you went into the casemates, the more stairs and nooks and rooms there were.

The kids wanted to explore and lead the way.

Lots of super narrow stairs.  Some green moss, too!

The stairs to nowhere!

Long empty hallways are kind of my jam right now.

After our visit to the Casemates du Bock, we went out in search of a park to eat our picnic lunch in.  But first... the Grand Ducal Palace! It's the official residence (and workplace) of Grand Duke Henri and his wife Grand Duchess Maria Teresa. Interestingly, during World War II, the Nazi's used the palace as a pub and a music hall!

Todd always takes a nice panorama!

We stopped in the park below the Monument of Remembrance to have our picnic.  Unfortunately, since the marathon had occurred the day before, all of the trash cans in the park were overflowing.  I know Luxembourg probably isn't always like this, but it was pretty gross.  So we kept walking until we were near the Casemates de la Petrusse (another set of casemates similar to the Bock) and found a ledge to sit on to eat our picnic lunch.  Good enough!

Lunch views of the Adolphe Bridge, which was built in the very early 1900s.

After lunch, we stopped by for a quick look at the Monument of Remembrance, also known as the Golden Lady. It's a monument to the thousands of Luxembourgers who served during WWI, WWII and the Korean War.  The monument was erected during the first World War, but was taken down by the Germans in the second World War.  The Golden Lady remained missing until she was found in 1980 under the seating area at the nearby national football stadium!  WHAT!?!

One soldier is dead and another is mourning him.  Of the 3,700 men who fought for France during World War I when Luxembourg was occupied by Germany, about 2,000 (or well over half) of them died.

Cool Fortress. Check.  World War I and II monument. Check. Time to see a church!  We stopped at the late gothic era Notre Dame Cathedral as it is the only cathedral in all of Luxembourg.  It was built in the early 1600s but expanded in the 1930s.  It's where members of the royal family get married!  They had this beautiful (what appeared to be a) heart floating from the ceiling that we all really liked.

The stained glass in the Notre Dame Cathedral was incredible.  I am a big fan of stained glass ANYWAY (hey, I'm a sucker for colors!) but it was really detailed and in excellent condition.  Interesting though is that the stained glass in the nave of the church was very different in style from the stained glass around the alter.  In the nave, it was very realistic.

Although hard to see, the stained glass behind the alter was much more modern and a bit more Picasso-esque.

Thanks!  We need it! 

The kids had to really behave if they wanted to go to the famous Pirate Ship park (or Park de Monterey) in the afternoon.  That meant no complaining about visiting churches, no whining about the heat, and no fighting with each other.  They would be rewarded with a couple of hours at the park, and Todd and I would be rewarded with these!

The park is very big and there were tons of kids there on this sunny, warm day.

The little snack bar had a water spray mister that you could stand under to cool off.

And of course... it was hot enough for popsicles!

Knitting club was going on at the park!

This things was pretty cool!  (Is it weird I kind of wanted to play on it??)

Because the kids got to bed so late the two nights prior, we decided to head over to the Barrio Grund for an early dinner.  Just strolling the streets of Lux, here.  Not a ton of color to their buildings!

Oh, why hello there Grand Ducal Palace.  So good to see you again.

Since the standard for the Luxembourg Grand Duke wasn't flying, I assumed the Grand Duke wasn't at home.  This guard continued his march back and forth in front of the palace, however.  We saw pictures on the internet of two guards marching... so perhaps when the Grand Duke is in residence, they have two?

Quiet Lux street.

Grant, oh Grant!  What will we do with you?!?  Here we are at the Chemin de la Corniche, otherwise known as the world's most beautiful balcony!  Now that's a view!

Grant decided that the graffiti behind us needed to be peeled off.

The Chemin de la Corniche without my posse in it.  Really beautiful!

Because you wanted ONE MORE picture from the Chemin de la Corniche.  The Casemates du Bock are on the left, "beneath" (in the photo) the newer skyscrapers that are actually back in the Kirchberg area.

 We couldn't find the elevator to go down, so we just walked and you get lovely views of (poor floodplain management along) the Alzette River.

If you travel with kids, paper and pens, crayons or colored pencils are a MUST.  They help keep the whining down to a minimum!

After dinner at Oscars, we tooled around the Barrio Grund area.  Lots of ruins still exist along the Rue Munster.  I liked that this nice, newer building appears to have been built right in the middle of the ruins!

Once a stable or a carriage house, perhaps.

I'm sure they had to put these gates up to keep people out of here!

A built out restaurant deck over the Alzette River in the Grund area of Luxembourg.  I wish we had more time to explore this area because it was quite a bit more charming than the rest of the city!

We finally did find that elevator, thankfully because the hike up from the Grund would have been tough on the already-exhausted kids.  Once we walked out of the building that the elevator was housed, I spotted some color! 

Thanks for a great weekend!  Until next time, Luxembourg! 

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