In this part of Luxembourg the River Sauer forms the border between Luxembourg and Germany. Cross the bridge over the Sauer in Echternach and you are in the German town of Echternacherbruck. There is little of interest in Echternacherbruck (other than a very large campsite with the longest riverfront) but Echternach appears to have slightly more going for it. It is reputedly the oldest town in Luxembourg.
This is the second time that I have appeared somewhat dismissive about places we have visited on this tour (earlier it was Wiltz and now Echternacherbruck) and that is perhaps unfair. The fact is we get to see so many absolutely amazing places on these European tours that it is all too easy to denigrate those that don’t fulfil all of ones expectations. Such comments on my part need to be kept in perspective particularly when we are making only a short visit. Henceforth I will endeavour to be a little more objective.
We parked the Van up on the German side of the river for the night; I did my usual recce while Vanya caught up with her Spanish lessons and; in the evening, we both went into Echternach (that’s Luxembourg) for dinner and drinks.
During my recce I found two churches worthy of mention in Echternach, one being the Basilica of St Willibrord which was constructed in the 1950’s on the site of an earlier Abbey dating back to 700 (Willibrord was an English monk from Ripon who worked to Christianize the Frisians, became the first Abbot and ultimately went on to become Bishop of Utrecht) and the other being the parish Church of St Peter & St Paul (where Willibrord is now buried). The Basilica impressed me most with it’s simple, elegant lines inside and out and a lovely stained glass window.
There’s not a great deal to the town; a small square, a pedestrian throughfare coming off the square (where a number of cafe bars can be found) and a few narrow sidestreets but all was fairly quiet while we were there.
We ate (I ate) the largest plate of deep fried calamari at a small cafe bar on the pedestrianised street and then we settled at a bar on the town square for the rest of the evening and chilled.
There’s another timely reminder for me; the truly great moments are not just about where you are or what you see, they are about what you make of them. Okay, no more self chastisement.
We were supposed to head east from here towards Dresden but during the course of the evening Vanya has persuaded me that we should head south down along the Rhine Valley. We’ll see what that brings over the next few days.
Situated close to the German border in the north east of Luxembourg is Vianden; an absolute gem of a place; a fairytale little town with a fairytale castle. With less than 1,800 people it could easily be overrun with tourists (stay away weekends) but it is very much worth a visit.
A cobbled main street, the Grand Rue, leads gradually up from the town bridge through candy coloured cottages, cafe bars and a few small hotels to the castle (and beyond). It is an easy walk but for those unable or not wanting to walk up, there is a chairlift which will take you to a viewing platform above the castle and you can then walk down to the castle. Be warned, however, the chairlift is not for those uncomfortable with heights.
Perched on a small hill overlooking the town, Vianden Castle was put together between the 11th and 14th centuries (and properly restored in the 20th century with some additional Gothic touches) and it was owned for four hundred years until 1820 by the Dutch Royal Family. I read somewhere that the castle looks like the castle out of Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and it really does. I paid the 10 Euros necessary to go inside the castle and within it is unlike any castle I have previously visited – it’s wholly enchanting.
Vianden is a small town and you don’t need more than half a day to see it all but one place perhaps worth visiting in addition to the castle is La Maison Victor Hugo. This is where the renowned author Victor Hugo lived for a while during 1871. The house now serves as a small museum and exhibits a range of artifacts which belonged to him during his stay. Look, it’s not a great museum but I am a fan of Victor Hugo (remember the post on Montreuil sur Mer?).
We crossed the border from Belgium and stopped at the first campsite we saw, Camping Kaul, which proved to be a top site and one that we would have been happy to stay at for longer but as for the town of Wiltz… forget it. We walked it all and despite having a population of 5,500+, it appeared deserted (and this at a time the town is in the middle of it’s Summer Holiday Festival – there were signs all over the town advertising the festival and we even visited the outdoor music hall to see what was going on – nothing! ). Sorry, Wiltz.
And then the evening improved. As we made our way back to the campsite we happened upon a small but surprisingly noisy little bar owned by a Luxembourg-Romanian who was entertaining a few friends from the Balkans (well, the guy I first spoke to was from Montenegro and the owner of the bar subsequently confirmed that his customers come from all over the Balkans). We were made to feel most welcome and the owner charged me “mates rates” for the alcohol we drank. Yep, there’s nothing wrong with the people we met in Wiltz.