Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Castles - Vianden, Luxembourg

I had been there once before, and it wasn't my fault I didn't remember it. We had flown in our Midwestern naivety to a tiny place most Americans don't even know is a country. I wasn't scared of flying then, those 19 years ago. They rushed us around so many places that it was impossible to develop any real memories during our first weekend in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

They stuffed us in a bus and drove us to three castles in various states of decay in various parts of the country and we must have stayed somewhere overnight, but I don't remember it. I only remember feeling a sense of awe at seeing my first castles and having fun climbing around one that had not been restored. The one in Vianden had been transformed into something usable again, and when choosing which one to bring Chris to, that was the deciding factor.

The city of Vianden is a quaint town where tourism must be the only industry. We took a train from Lux City to Ettelbruck and a bus to Vianden, two of the few tourists traveling through Luxembourg on a weekday in April. While it was nice not having to deal with the tourist hordes, most of the town had yet to open for the season. We were lucky to be there on an unseasonably sunny day; then again, sun is unseasonable in any season in the Grand Duchy.

Victor Hugo stayed in the house on the left.

Yes, you have to trek up to the castle. I'm sure there are taxis or shuttles in the summer months, but this wasn't a summer month. Part of me wished it were summer so I could have a beer at one of the taverns on the way up. I let Chris take his time and entered the castle before him.

The castle dates back to the 11th century but fell into ruin at one point. Restoration efforts took place in the late nineteenth century. Good thing, as the anti-Nazi resistance in Luxembourg used it successfully defend against the Waffen SS in the Battle of Vianden late in the war. Restoration resumed in the sixties, and today it is used for events throughout the summer months. A couple of movies have been filmed there - one with John Malkovich, though I don't recall the title. Victor Hugo took up residence in the town during his exile from France, and they make a big deal about that. 

The castle is owned by state now, but the former owners, the House of Vianden, are related to Queen Beatrix of Nederlands and the British royals, reminding us that the entire history of Europe is one big, incestuous drama.

When you enter the castle, you'll find a museum with armor, weapons, and even stocks that were used as punishment. By this point in our trip, we had seen a lot of armor, but it never ceases to amaze me that people actually wore that stuff to fight in. It must have gotten into my brain; last night I had a dream that US Marines were guarding some wedding wearing full knight armor. It was, as you suspect, quite weird. I'm sure Carl Jung would tell me that the armor represented some kind of psychological defense, but I think it's because I wrote half of this post yesterday.

The views of the Ardennes mountains and the city of Vianden from the top are spectacular.

You can see the old city wall below

This chapel is currently undergoing restoration

Inside you'll find that many of the rooms have been restored to look like what they would have hundreds of years ago, including not only furniture but even a table set with actual food on it (not pictured.) My favorite part was the kitchen, especially the real spices they use to show what food was like.

Bed looks super lumpy and small

My favorite part


Vianden is one of those places most people have never heard about, let alone visited, but it is worth the trip. I suppose the same can be said for all 999 square miles of the country. If it weren't for that fateful day when I went on a college visitation tour with a student guide who would not stop talking about how she was spending the next semester in Luxembourg, I may have never set foot in the country. Or Europe, for that matter. And I would not have been on that tour if I hadn't attended a Miami University informational meeting just to get out of my high school physics class. Strange the way things work out.

No comments:

Post a Comment