Sunday, May 15, 2016

To Germany and Back Again: Hiking in Vianden

Sonndeg, 15 Mee.

Ever since coming to Luxembourg in September of last year, hiking has become one of my favorite ways to spend a weekend. I first went hiking in Vianden way back in November, when we took friends visiting from Belgium to hike and see one of the country's most famous castles. Because of the cold, we only did a section of the trail and I've been dying to go back ever since.

Before Madeleine heads back to the USA on Tuesday, we decided to squeeze in a visit to Vianden to revisit the trail and check out one of the Grand Duchy's most scenic spots!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

That Time I Climbed a Blast Furnace

Sonndeg, 8 Mee.

Last night was Nuit de la Culture in Esch-sur-Alzette. To celebrate, the city hosted free concerts and art exhibitions all night long. The coolest event was definitely the evening visits of the hauts fourneaux in Belval.

The blast furnaces, which sit smack dab in the middle of Belval, are a striking reminder of Luxembourg's long history of steel production. They include Blast Furnace B, which was the last operational furnace in the country before it shut down in 1997. Today, both furnaces are considered national monuments and have been incorporated in plans for the former industrial site. You can visit the hauts fourneaux throughout the year, but admission hours were extended and the usual 5€ admission fee was waved on Nuit de la Culture.

As the sun set over Belval, we grabbed our cameras, strapped on our safety helmets, and headed up!



Although I'm not the biggest fan of heights, the views from the top of the blast furnaces were definitely worth the climb. (And yes, it's a climb -- not an elevator ride.) I can't believe that it's taken me eight months to check out this corner of Belval, but I am so glad that I did!

Want to read more about this year's event? Check out coverage from the Luxemburger Wort.

Friday, May 6, 2016

An Afternoon in Darling Dinant

Freideg, 6 Mee.

After stopping in Bouillon, we continued on to Dinant. Located on the Meuse River in the Belgian province of Namur, this historic city is known for its steep limestone cliffs and crunchy gingerbread cookies (which, according to both Wikipedia and myself, are the hardest biscuits in Europe). When we arrived, the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and all of the city was out to enjoy the beautiful afternoon!

Bonjour, Bouillon!

Freideg, 6 Mee.

Yesterday, as you probably know, marked Ascension Thursday. (Also Cinco de Mayo, but that's a story for another day.) As you might not know, Ascension is an official jour férié in Luxembourg ... meaning no work or school.

Although I've spent what feels like a lifetime on the train between Luxembourg and Brussels, I have not spent much time in the region of Wallonia itself. To take advantage of our time off and to get to know our northern neighbors a little better, my housemates and I decided to take a quick day trip to Belgium! We spent the day in the towns of Bouillon and Dinant. Our first stop was Bouillon, a historic town located just a few kilometers from the French border!

Bouillon is, by all accounts, pretty darn old. A castle has existed on the site since at least 988, which is -- just for context -- one thousand and one years before Taylor Swift was born. For most of the Middle Ages, the château fort de Bouillon belonged to the Ardennes-Verdun dynasty. The most famous of these lords, Godfrey of Bouillon, inherited his title from a childless uncle in 1082 and then sold the castle in order to finance his involvement in the Crusades. (As people did in the eleventh century, you know.)

Given its strategic proximity to France, Bouillon was nicknamed "the key to the Ardennes" by military strategist Vauban. He fitted the castle with state-of-the-art artillery and defense systems in the seventeenth century. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Bouillon belonged to France, to the Netherlands, and finally to Belgium. Click here to read more about the history of Bouillon.