Travel: Why Luxembourg has much more to offer than its financial empire
It is famous as a tax haven and for its army of investment bankers. But there's so much more to Luxembourg than its financial empire.
In the capital, Luxembourg City, there are ancient buildings which are steeped in history.
A few miles away nature trails lead you through unspoilt countryside.
And despite its claim to be one of the world’s richest nations, seeing its contrasting sights need not cost a fortune.
Hotel prices in the capital are a lot less than those in London, and you can eat some fabulous food in both gourmet restaurants and family-run bistros.
I recommend you try their national dish – bouneschlupp – a soup made of beans, potatoes and bacon which tastes a lot better than it sounds !
Luxembourgers are a friendly, cosmopolitan people, who have their own language but learn French, German and English at school.
Nearly 600,000 of them live in a land which is 51 miles long and 35 wide, bordered by Belgium, to the west and north, Germany to the east and France to the south. A three-day pass costing 28 Euros gave me free access to the country’s efficient service of modern trains and buses. It also provided admission to a host of tourist attractions.
Among them was the history museum which explained events that led foreign armies to attack the city built on a rocky promontory above a canyon.
A warren of secret passages, which you can explore, also enabled defenders to rain arrows and rocks on its attackers. After Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815 the territory was disputed by the Dutch and the Prussians. A compromise was reached leading to the creation of an independent Grand Duchy.
Despite its neutrality, Luxembourg was invaded by Germany in both world wars. General George Patton, who liberated the country at the end of 1944, is commemorated by a statue in Ettelbruck .
At his request the general’s body was buried after the war in a military cemetery near the airport alongside his fallen comrades who died during the Battle of the Bulge.
I passed the statue on my journey to Vianden, in the Ardennes region, where a castle and palace were built between the 11th and 14th Centuries on the foundations of a Roman fort.
It fell into disrepair but was transferred to state ownership in 1977 and restored to its former glory.
The highlight of my trip was a visit to the Mullerthal Trail, in a region known as Little Switzerland. From my base in Scheidgen, I was led through diverse landscapes along well-marked tracks.
As we squeezed through narrow gorges in the sandstone rocks we glimpsed three wild boar piglets before they scurried away. You can explore more than 60 miles of hiking trails here with accommodation ranging from luxury hotels to forest campsites.
If you stop at Beaufort to visit the ruins of a 12th Century castle and a Renaissance castle next door, buy a bottle of cassero (black currant liqueur) as a locally-produced souvenir.
For more info contact Luxembourg for Tourism at https://www.visitluxembourg.com and for more on the Mullerthal Trail click on https://www.mullerthal-trail.lu. A standard double room at the four-star Hotel Bon Repos, Scheidgen, where Alan Hart stayed costs 95 Euros a night. An en-suite double room at the Ibis Budget Hotel, near Luxembourg Airport, cost him £102 for three nights.