The Monkey visited Luxembourg during his whirlwind long weekend trip from Antwerp in May 2002 (he also visited the Netherlands and Germany that weekend). Having heard that the capital, Luxembourg City, was one of Europe’s most beautiful, the Monkey was keen to see what the fuss was about. The city didn’t disappoint…
This shot gives some sense of the special setting of Luxembourg City. The Monkey is in a small square in the city center, which sits atop a promontory called the Bock, overlooking the Pétrusse River valley that wends its way through the city. The valley’s quiet nature makes for one of the finest urban parks in the world. At the right is the Pont Adolphe spanning the Pétrusse and the park to reach the Gare neighborhood atop another rocky outcrop opposite the Bock, where the copper-topped tower of the State Savings Bank stabs the sky. In the distance at the left is the Viaduct, which also crosses the Pétrusse and dates from 1859.
The Monkey sits on some of the massive defensive walls that helped earn Luxembourg City’s reputation as “the Gibraltar of the North.” Some of the city’s defensive structures were built by Louis XIV of France’s greatest military engineer, Sébastien Vauban, after his successful siege of the city in 1684. In the valley below is part of the scenic quarter of the Grund, the lower town, where cafés abut the lazy Pétrusse and Alzette Rivers and locals come for the nightlife. More of the walls are visible in the background where the rock of the Bock rises, crowned by the old city.
The full name of this country, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, explains its political structure as well. In the modern era, Luxembourg was engulfed by Napoleon’s French Empire, then subsumed by the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, before eventually re-achieving independence in 1830. Here, the Monkey visits the Grand Ducal Palace, where the current Grand Duke, Henri, lives and works. The Palace was built as a city hall in 1572, but after serving various roles it became the seat of the Grand Dukes in 1890.
The Monkey takes a break on a picturesque cobblestone street that descends from the upper city to the riverside Grund quarter. It’s a pleasant place to wander amid old buildings, and one can gaze up at the city walls from their base and imagine the difficulties faced by attacking armies in trying to take Luxembourg City.
The Monkey inspects the workmanship of the Pont Adolphe, named for the Grand Duke reigning when the bridge was built between 1900 and 1903. At the time of its construction the Pont Adolphe featured the largest stone arch in the world, with a span of 85 meters (over the two largest arches) and a height of 42 meters. Today the bridge is something of a symbol of the city, and it remains a marvelous feat of engineering.
Part of the nigh-impenetrable defenses that protected the Bock’s citadel were the casements, an almost unbelievable series of tunnels and alcoves carved into the rocks beneath the city while it was under Spanish control in the mid-17th Century. All told, they measure some 23 kilometers in length! The residents, their horses, and their supplies and weapons could descend into this subterranean labyrinth to ward off sieges (because the citadel was built on a promontory, the locals still reserved an advantageous position above their enemies while in their “underground” casements). Here the Monkey checks out a cannon inside the dark and eerie Casements du Bock.
The Monkey prepares to wow the people of Luxembourg City with one of his carnival stunts, and from deep within the casements no less.
Another view of the Monkey in Luxembourg City, one of the most interesting settings for a city in the world.
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