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03 May 2020 - Day 22 – Luxembourg and Clervaux

On Sundays the cathedral in Luxembourg opens for tourists at 10am, so my objective was to get there enough beforehand to be able to walk its exterior. With breakfast not included, I was off and heading back up the N50 using a viaduct over the stream and park below, reversing my stroll after dinner last night. Off to my right was the eternal flame of the Monument National de la Solidarité Luxembourgeoise and several National Judicial buildings. Turning right onto Rue de la Congrégation,

I walked up to L’Èglise Protestantante du Luxembourg, the Evangelical church in the city. The doors had just been open, so I got a quick inside shot of the nave before congregants entered.

The next left headed me over to the apse and east side of the cathedral. Walking north, I came to the north façade, walked past it and what appears to be the reused cloister and diocesan offices, all the way to the corner. Continuing south to the original roadway I’d walked (which I’d dubbed the ringroad,) I could then approach the west face and the main entrance. The cathedral is surrounded by many structures making exterior shots difficult. Standing at the entrance, I joined about a score of fellow tourists awaiting the dismissal from the Mass inside. As the first congregants began to exit, many swarmed to get inside, but I waited patiently to give those heading to breakfast and home a chance to leave.

La Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Luxembourg has a main aisle running north to south, where the main altar and apse are located. The primary entrance is on the west side, at the crossing or transept. The higher spire sits over the center of the crossing, while two shorter towers point at the south end of the nave. Inside, tall stone columns bearing surface designs stand tall, supporting the arches which support the roof. Stained-glass windows filter natural light into the floor space. A former Jesuit church, Pope Pius IX elevated it to cathedral status in 1870. [Sanctuary and organ photos from Wikimedia, taken by Benh Lieu Song.] The crypt contains the remains of some of the twentieth century dukes and duchesses of the Grand Duchy.

My 11am tour rendezvous point was situated 7 minutes away. Out to the roadway, two blocks further on, I turned north on Rue Chimay which took me by many dining establishments and the city tourist office. A zig-and-zag to the left at the intersection of Rue du Cure, I was at Square Jan Palach and in front of the Monument to Dicks et Lentz the suggested 10 minutes prior to the 11am start. I spotted the red umbrella. A walking tour of about 3km and 2 hours, our guide was a charming young man from Slovenia named Drago. He came from Maribor, where I had visited in 2017, so he was impressed that I’d been to somewhere in his home country other than Ljubljana.

Drago started by asking if anyone knew the purpose of the monument. All bearing blank stares, he explained that this commemorates the two nineteenth century poets who wrote the national anthem, and he then proceeded to recite it off, in Luxembourgish (a variation of Dutch.) "Ons Heemecht” is the national anthem and translates as "Our Homeland". Dicks is a penname for Edmond de la Fontaine. Square Jan Palach was named to commemorate the 1968 self-immolation of a university student during Prague Spring.

As we progressed eastward, Drago asked each of us our origin and why we were in Luxembourg. (He is a graduate student in bio-chemistry.) One couple from Ottawa were the only other folks from across the pond, with most of the group from Ireland and Britain. Our first stop was the Palais Grand Ducal, the royal residence of the Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Theresa of Luxembourg. An impressive 4-story tan stone faced building; I was most taken with the ironwork of the grills on the first (European) story.

As we walked past the Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art, Drago strongly recommended that we return and actually visit the large collection of fine and decorative art, archaeology and coins. Our next destination, just a bit further, was l’Èglise Saint-Michel, or Michaelskirche, a small 17th century church built on the city’s oldest religious site. The first building was 987, with the current dating to 1688. We heard about several legends associated with the church.

Next on the tour itinerary was the fortress castle Casamates du Bock, which includes a complex of underground tunnels and galleries. These diggings were begun in 1644 when the Spanish ruled, and were used during the Second World War as bomb shelters. However, the fortress was begun in 963 and overlooks the oxbow in the River Alzette. The views from this promontory are stunning. And it was here that Drago insisted that we get a group photo, with St Michael’s in the background.

Relative to our previous walks between stops, our next target, La Pasarelle and the (other) fortress was a little half kilometer hike. Following the arc of the river and the overlook, we headed in the direction of my hotel, to the point on the ringroad where the viaduct was. As it turns out, the term Pasarelle refers to this bridge, the viaduct, that spans the valley caused by the Pétrusse stream. We walked a bit of the perpendicular road to get pictures of the arches of the viaduct and the ruins below.

Reversing directions, we again crossed via the viaduct to visit the cathedral. Unlike my earlier approach, we passed the Kadish monument (Holocaust Memorial and site of the first Luxembourg synagogue built in 1823) before turning to the courtyard before the cathedral entrance. As noon Mass was underway, we didn’t enter, restricting the narrative to the west façade.

Onward along the ringroad we came to the Monument of Remembrance, known as the Gëlle Fra or “Golden Lady”. It is the country’s memorial to their volunteers who gave service to the Allied powers during the two World Wars and the Korean War. At 21-meters, the granite obelisk is topped with a gilded statue of Nike, goddess of victory. #Luxembourg was under German occupation during both world wars. There are two bronze statues of soldiers at the base, representing one who dies fighting in France with the other sitting and mourning.

The tour was pretty much over, with Drago offering to walking folks back to the starting point, and perhaps lunch at the Hotel Le Place d’Armes. Along with several others, I tipped Drago for an excellent tour. Reversing directions, I headed back past the Park Inn to the train station. I wanted to catch a train to the northern part of the country to visit an old abbey church. Snagging a croque monsieur (ham sandwich on a baguette) from a vendor in the station, I hopped on the train to Clervaux.

During my research, almost every source claimed a single cathedral in Luxembourg. However, I found that reported the abbatial cathedral of Saint-Maurice et Saint-Maur de Clervaux as having a cathedral role from 1937 to 1946, the period of German occupation. I wanted to check it out. An hour ride, I left at 2. Arriving, it was a quarter hour walk to the abbey complex.

Entry into the church is from the north side, walking into the wider north aisle with two chapels. The nave has the grand organ to the west, with the sanctuary set in the choir with a rounded apse. The Benedictine abbey refers to the building as a basilica. No one in the building could confirm or deny the Gcatholic reference, but documents stated the abbey was not part of any diocese. Plus the order had fled in 1941, returning in 1947. Perhaps it should be on the Gcatholic basilica list, which only has one location in the country, closer to Trier. The altar and choir are very simple, with white walls housing small abstract stained-glass windows in the outer apse arch. The abbey offers a museum of religious artwork, mostly medieval and early renaissance period.

Frustrated with indecision, I made the walk back to the station and caught the quarter-to-five train back. Heading to the hotel, I decided to write a bit before heading out to find dinner. Downloading my tour and trip pictures to the laptop, I was surprised at how many I’d taken on this partially cloudy and cool day.

Having travelled in Europe a bit, I know that it is often difficult to find an open restaurant on a Sunday evening. Google Maps indicated there were a number within a 10-minute walk, but most seemed to be pizza or Asian. So I checked with the front desk, and they recommended Le Strogoff. Situated at the corner of Avenue de la Liberté and Rue Jean Origer, I only had to streets to cross.

With a glass wall fronting to the street and a wall of mirrors opposite the entrance, the place looked large, but came to feel cozy. Perusing the bar, I was delighted to find Suze, an aperitif from Pernod that I’d fallen in love with on a trip to Pau in southwest France. For a starter, I opted for the “fried delight”, a paper cone of fried bits of lightly battered veggies and fish that just hit the spot. Getting a glass of Alsatian white, my entrée was shredded chicken on fettucine, with a touch of a stroganoff sauce. It too was delicious and I was on a roll. My waitress came to ask about coffee and dessert, and enticed me to try the crepe caramel, several small sweet thin pancakes topped with caramel ice cream and garnished with berries. I declined the coffee, as I knew I would never sleep for the buzz.

Returning to the room, I finished this posting, and settled in for a little reading, as my Monday looked to be much less complex.

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