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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Luxembourg and Trier, Germany

Last weekend, we did a quick tour around Luxembourg and Trier, Germany.  The trip got off to a rough start.  This will be humor at my expense, so be kind!  I had to get the train by myself.  First time since we've been living here.  Well, I had to get up at 6 AM to get there in time, so I was already not in my right mind!  One of many excuses.  Anyway, I took the two metro lines and got off at the train station, Gare de L'Est, and headed to my train.  My ticket said Luxembourg, 8:40, car 13, seat 52.  So, I needed to find the track number.  I looked on the screen and saw track 4, headed over there, where there was one train waiting, found my car and my seat and sat down.  I happily emailed Jennifer from my phone: 'On the train!' A little while later, as the train started moving, I looked at my phone's clock.  8:25.  I instantly knew something was terribly wrong.  A train never leaves 15 minutes early!  So, I asked to guy next to me "Luxembourg!?", and he sort of nodded, then said, "Strausbourg."  !@#$&%  Holy #*$*$ !   So, I hopped over him, grabbed my bag and started making my way up the train.

In the very next car were two nice rail officials sitting in a sort of office-cabin thing.  I breathlessly showed the young woman my ticket and said 'I'm on the wrong train!'  She took a look at my ticket, raised her eyebrows, grinned, and said, 'Yes.'  'Are there any stops?!' , 'No', 'How can I get to Luxembourg from Strausbourg?'  She pulled out her special pocket train computer and figured a route in less than a minute. 'You'll take a train to Metz and change to a train to Luxembourg.  You'll get in four hours later and it will cost 37 euros.'  Ah, well, worse things could happen than having a 2 hour trip turn into a 6 hour trip!

My only guess as to how I managed to mess this up is that every platform has two sides, and there was only one train on this platform.  Maybe my train wasn't even there yet?  Who knows.  :)  Anyway, I used the mobile phone most of the way, and was able to read and write email, as well as read my copy of Don Quixote, so I was relatively content.  (Oh yeah, did I mention that I'm reading Don Quixote on my mobile phone?!  I highly recommend reading books on smart phones and reading Don Quixote, which is totally hilarious.  Amazing humor can travel that far in time.)

Here's a picture of the train station I was never supposed to see.  It's cool how they've added this modern exterior glass and steel shell to the old train station building.

It's kinda grey and dim because, as it has been almost every day for the last several weeks, it was raining.

The next morning, we hit the road with our rental car and drove north from Luxembourg City in sunny (!), cool weather, through lush green hills, farm land with fields of solid bright yellow, and quaint little towns.

Our destination was a huge restored castle called Vianden.  It was used by the Counts of Vianden for about 500 years, built up from around 1100 to 1600, then fell apart for a few centuries when castles went out of style.  In the 70's and 80's, used drawings from those years to restore it in the 70's and 80's.  Now, it's where they take all the visiting dignitaries, and film some movies.  There was one made by John Malkovich and one with Patrick Swayze.

Some cool armor in the castle.  Must have been a pretty rich and powerful owner.  

Queen of the castle.

Later that day, we passed through the Ardennes and stopped at a museum about World War II.  It had a lot of interesting stuff, including tobacco cans, rifles, maps, tank shells, photos of all the officers on both sides for the Battle of the Bulge, and manikins with every variety of  American and German uniform.   There was one spooky thing that really caught my eye:

The name on the box is "Gasbettchen", which means "Gas Crib", in German.

Next day, it was off to Trier, Germany.  This was the center of power for the entire western half of the Roman empire around 250-300.  That included what is now France, Spain, and Germany.  And that was only the western half!  They left behind an incredibly highly sophisticated city, of which only a little is preserved.  That 'little' includes a five story high city gate, a reception hall about 250 feet long by 80 feet wide by 100 feet tall, an amphitheater, and a massive barracks for 1000 troops and their horses.  There's a model in the museum that shows how the city was when it was at its peak: surrounded by a wall with four huge gates and hundreds of two-story stone and plaster houses with courtyards on straight roads laid out in a grid.  Incredibly modern looking.

After lunch at a cafe, we also went to the Trier museum, which has one of the best collections of huge Roman mosaics.  They have several that are about 20' x 20'.  I think they used to be floors of wealthy Roman's houses.  This one and some others used a motif of different colored ropes twisted together.  Love it.

The facial features are a little crude, but it's pieces of stone, what do you expect!?

This one is a masterpiece.  It's about 20 feet high.  It's mesmerizing.  

They also have "recently-built" churches in Trier (only 500 years ago or so).

We were able to make it back to Luxembourg City from Trier in under an hour and hop our TGV home to Paris that night.  This time, Jennifer made sure I got on the right train.  :)

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