Old Quarters & Fortifications (Luxembourg)

Many cities have pathways dedicated to pedestrians & cyclists. Some cities may have bridges and tunnels for them. How often have you heard of elevators, as a means of public transport for pedestrians & cyclists????? You may have seen a road branching into 2 or 3 in different directions; but have you seen a road branching into 2 or 3 to different altitude????? Welcome to Luxembourg.I was given a map at the hotel reception and I was told to go to Parking Saint Espirit near Palais de Justice and take the elevator there and I'd reach Chemin de la Corniche and that messed up my mind majorly! Like on a map, those 2 had a few 100mts between them and I was supposed to assume, that's straight vertical line which is technically invisible on a map?????If you're an Indian, the best way to describe Luxembourg City is to compare it with Kerala. If you're not, try to picture this - the whole city in on hills & plateaus; so everything is in multiple altitudes. To understand the topography of Luxembourg, we need to have a peek into its history. The history of Luxembourg begins in 963 CE when, Sigeffroi, the count of Ardennes, saw this piece of land in the cross roads of 2 trade routes, which had a small rock in front of a large rock. This originally belonged to Anglican monastery under St.Willibrord. He exchanged this land using another land, with the monastery and built his fortress on the small rock. Its made a lot of defense sense! This was protected by the large rock on one side and was a vantage point with a perfect view of all 3 other sides. 'Lucilinburhuc' in local language meant small rock and in course of time it became Luxembourg! Today's Luxembourg City is the large rock, small rock, their valleys and river and all around. So yes, the city is in multiple levels and altitudes!!! The fort built by the count was taken over by Burgundians & Habsburgs in 15th C CE and later Spanish in 17th C CE. By 18th C CE, the Austrians took over and everyone, expanded and strengthened the fortress a bit more and in course of time, this became one of the most expansive forts of modern European history. However after the World Wars, after the Congress of Vienna and Treaty of London in 1867, the fort had to be dismantled in exchange of providing independent status and EU support. While most of the fortifications, especially the high walls, were removed, when the entire fortification was brought under the wings of UNESCO, the remaining portions were declared as protected.The first site we visited was the Palais de Justice from where we had to take the elevator. However just the view from here is sensational (or so we thought, coz that was our first view!). Our next stop was Grund, which was the lowest level that the escalator would take you to. This is the lowest level of the fortification where almost everything is intact. Today its a quiet neighbourhood and most of the fortifications are private houses or privately owned shops. However strolling through this area and looking high up at the fortifications and bridges is a very different feel when compared to the valley views for atop. Grund is not a single building, but a locality.While a elevator ride would take you to the famous view point at Chemin de la Corniche, a walk would really help to understand the topography and you'll get to see several other views! That said, walking this is not difficult, but not very easy. While its hardly half a km, it feels more because its an upward hike, but totally worth it. Just next to this is the Casemates and very close by is the Église Saint-Michel, the oldest church in Luxembourg city. More about these places is coming up in my next few posts. Stay tuned.From everywhere here the fabulous stone bridge is visible. Its called the Passerelle aka Luxembourg Viaduct aka Old Bridge. This is the old bridge built in 1859 to connect the railway station. The new bridge would be Adolphe Bridge which has a spectacular architecture.Again, with the topography of the city, it is confusing about the distances between places as when you see it on a map. From St.Michel's church, Neumünster Abbey is just across the river, if you see on a map. But, St.Michel's church is high above on the hill and Neumünster Abbey is down below in  the valley!!! And yeah, Neumünster Abbey was our next stop. A short walk downhill and then, a walk through a staircase of the fortifications took me there! More about this site itself is coming up in a different post.The Abbey is sitting on the banks of river Alzette and the bridge across the river itself is a part of the fortification. To view the bridge, with its perfect 2 arches, from atop Corniche was a pleasure and to get down from there and walk atop this bridge is the perfect wrap to walking around Luxembourg. The city has some quirky, bright yellow concrete benches here. Make sure to set aside a atleast 15 minutes to sit here and enjoy the view of the fortifications from below beside the beautiful river. While all of these are almost in one side of the river (except Abbey which is on other side, but still, very close to the rest of the sites), bang opposite to all this is the Fort Thüngen. This was built by the Austrians in 1732 as a part of their strengthening & expansion of the fort. Today this fort houses multiple museums including the most important Musée Draï Eechelen which tells about the history of the fortification of Luxembourg! The best way to explore & understand Luxembourg's fortifications would be to go on a both the Walking tours of Wenzel and Vauban. The two concentrate on either sides of the river with a very mild overlap. But doing the 2 would give you a very comprehensive idea of Luxembourg's fortifications. Do keep in mind, that they are not wheelchair or stroller friendly and each of it takes 2.5 to 3 hrs.To Stay:Hotels and B&Bs are available at all price points, all over the city. Here's my review of Novotel Luxembourg Centre where I stayed.Do keep in mind that Luxembourg is costlier than most European cities. So, very cheap accommodation is almost unavailable. For eg., Ibis Budget in Paris is around €45 while here its €60!To Get There:All the sites are walkable from Luxembourg Central. Ofcourse, an mentioned earlier, there are elevators & the very recently launched Funicular that help pedestrians move across all altitudes. The city is also well connected by buses and tram.Guided/Self-guided tours: Wenzel Walking Tour, Vauban Walking Tour (the map of the walking tours are downloadable). While Wenzel Walking Tour is ticketed, the price also includes entry to Bock casemates.On Google Maps: Luxembourg Central, Palais de Justice, Saint Esprit Elevator, Grund, Chemin de la Corniche, Bock Casemates, Eglise St.Michel, Passerelle (Old Bridge), Neumünster Abbey, Adolphe Bridge, Fort Thüngen (Musée Draï Eechelen)P.S: I was invited by Luxembourg Tourism to experience the city for review purposes, however the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.

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