We had one day left with the Boyd family and we were going over options for the day. We listed a few local things like the animal and tree top parks but the appeal of getting a fourth country in during their 10 day trip prevailed. Fil chimed in with a “what’s there to do in Luxembourg” to which my travel researching self laid out the day we could have. I won, and off we went.
An hour later we parked at the American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg. The last time I was here was for a Memorial Day ceremony and I remembered how impactful the experience was. The visitor center was open so we were able to go in and read about each of the men buried there who had received a Medal of Honor. I saw a sign for a children’s activity and asked the attendant for one. It was a binder with a few pages of activities. Each one told the children where to go in the cemetery to find a specific grave. At the grave they would be posed with a question like “what is different about this grave marker” to which they would write their answer on the worksheet. Upon completion, the attendant said that since their printer was down, they would mail a certificate to the children. Everett dutifully completed his worksheets and it provided a great backdrop for us to walk around the cemetery. Here, the kids are looking up at a memorial as Everett writes his answer to the question posed.
On Fil’s many staff rides to the cemetery he was made aware of a German cemetery nearby that we also visited. The difference between the American and German cemeteries was vast. First in size, the German cemetery was much smaller. But more surprisingly, at the German cemetery each grave marker listed at least two names. It just did not sit right with me that the men were not honored individually.
Education for the day out of the way, we hopped into the city for some lunch and exploring. In Europe many restaurants are not open all day like they are in the states. Instead they have set hours for lunch and dinner… and at almost 2:00 we walked into a pizza place and were told by the waiter to order quickly, the kitchen was closing. I think we were all pretty satisfied with our pizzas… except Sara. Her vegetarian pizza had eggplant on it, which was maybe one vegetable too many. 😛
We walked through town past the Palace of the Grand Dukes, which was under guard. These guards had quite the duty walking back and forth across the front of the palace with their sharp march. Nearby while Sara and I souvenir shopped, the men and kids went into an English book store. Fil made Brock’s day by getting him a big book about tractors.
Onward to the Casemates du Bock!
The Casemates were much more interesting than expected (and I was pretty interested from all the research I had done already). Perched high on a cliff overlooking the old part of Luxembourg City, the castle was first built in the year 963. Over the centuries the castle was destroyed, rebuilt, improved, expanded, and turned into quite the stronghold.
The casemates, a series of underground passages, was considerably enlarged in the 1700’s and are what remain today to explore at your own leisure. In their heyday these tunnels were used to house hundreds of soldiers during an invasion and were equipped with at least 25 cannons. Because of the power and strength of these casemates, the fortress became known as the best in the world, next to Gibraltar, and picked up the nickname Gibraltar of the North.
The fortifications were finally demolished in 1867 at a cost of 1.5 million gold francs. 17 kilometers of the casemates were spared and in 1933 opened to become a major tourist destination. Armed with a not very clear map, visitors are left to wander the passageways at their own pace. Here are some pics of our wanderings:
We left the casemates and walked le Chemin de la Corniche, which is known as the most beautiful balcony in Europe. We enjoyed spectacular views, even with the grey skies, and were quite happy with the ending to the Boyd’s epic visit with us here in Europe.
We have been here so long that sometimes we take it for granted. The fact that we are only one hour from France, Luxembourg, and Belgium is incredible. We have been able to learn and grow so much over the years that we sometimes forget. It just seems normal to us now. Thank you to our friends for reminding us how lucky we are. But more so, thank you to them for being the amazing people we love. We missed them immediately, and we plan to visit them after their next military move… to someplace just as exotic as Europe. I think it is more so true in the military, but friends certainly become family and the Boyd’s are just that. Love you all!