Casemates, Castles, And The Battle Of The Bulge

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April 21st 2018
Published: April 22nd 2018
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Spring Is In The AirSpring Is In The AirSpring Is In The Air

The peaceful gardens in Luxembourg near the elevator into the Valley Of Pafendall.
It’s our last day in Luxembourg and not much is happening. Preparation for the trip to Paris, a walk in the heatwave (23°c) that Luxembourg is experiencing, and thinking about returning home are the main priorities.

In the past few days we have been taking in the sights and the sites of Old Luxembourg , Vianden Castle, Clervas Castle and the Gardens Of Chateau de Ansembourg. Two days ago , Tim, Sue and I visited the old settlement in the valley surrounding Luxembourg called Pafendall. This literally means the Valley of the Monks and is the oldest residential area of the city. It dates back to the 11th Century when the Benedictines had a large monastery there and controlled most of the valley.

Over the years the various occupants of the city included the French who shared a border with Luxembourg, and the Spanish who controlled the city for 160 years, and many additions and improvements were made to the walls and fortifications that made Luxembourg one of the most impregnable countries in Europe. After being declared independent in 1867, it was decided that the embattlements and fortifications should be dismantled to prevent Luxembourg engaging in battle with its
Retirement Home Luxembourg StyleRetirement Home Luxembourg StyleRetirement Home Luxembourg Style

This 1885 establishment was donated by a benefactor to be used for aged care living. It has lovely gardens, outdoor exercise areas and compression very favourably with anything in Australia.
new allies.

Luxembourg is built on rock, and an area called the Bock was established as its first line of defence. A series of tunnels called the Casement, with openings facing the valley was dug out of the rock and extends 23 kilometres through the Bock. It had cannons positioned at the openings that could fire 3 rounds an hour and more than a thousand soldiers were housed within, ready for battle at any one time. It was considered a hardship posting and was used as a punishment for soldiers. Conditions were harsh and stale air filled with powder fumes and the damp, cold conditions brought sickness and death to many.

Today The Casements are largely an historic tourist attraction but could be used as bomb shelters in time of war, as they were during WW2., Our visit on a sunny spring day was far from a punishment. We entered Pafendall via the 100 metre elevator and were enjoying the medieval charm of the village, passing sweet scented , colourful gardens sheltered from the busy noise of Luxembourg overhead.Tim showed us through Pafendall and we had lunch at the very upmarket hostel, well, upmarket for a hostel, where Tim stayed in his early days in Luxembourg rooming with a few crazies until he requested a move in the middle of the night and was shifted in with another one. Hostels are hostels.

Sue and I did the Casement tour ourselves,in a small group of 6 guided by an historian who helped it make sense to us. It was eerily quiet, very cold and damp, and even with the benefit of modern lighting and ventilation, you could imagine the days spent by soldiers manning their posts and trying to survive.The exit from the Casement was via a spiral staircase cut into the rock that allowed passage for one person only. If you met someone coming the other way, someone had to turn around. It was about 140 steps.

After a rewarding salted caramel waffle cone, we caught the No4 bus back home. The first time we caught the bus alone in Luxembourg Tim walked us to the bus stop and told the driver what tickets we needed in French. I’m confident that, with our combined 122 years on this planet, we could have bought our own. I felt like a prep kid catching the school bus for
The Glass Elevator From Pafendall.The Glass Elevator From Pafendall.The Glass Elevator From Pafendall.

The view glass floor and walls make this an all encompassing view, but not for the feint hearted.
the first time. I’m just grateful the fare wasn’t tied up in the corner of a handkerchief.

The following day, consisted of a lovely drive though the luxembourg countryside visiting castles,some of the more important sites of the Battle of The Bulge from WW2, and finishing with a revisit to a very regal garden, one month after seeing its grey and twiggy vines and trees freezing in the last of the snow, anticipating the spring warmth and new growth.The weather this day was 27°c and the green countryside was very similar to the Otways in Victoria or the Bega Valley hinterland in NSW. The hills seem to be sown with pastures that were occassionally freckled with bright golden daisIes. The only livestock I saw was a small herd of French Limousin cattle, a pure white breed of beef cattle, which might explain why most of the meat advertised seems to be America, British or occasionally AustralIan. It is very expensive and we probably don’t appreciate how good we have it. That is of course, unless you don’t eat meat.

Touring castles always manages to put a perspective on your place in history’s time line and people who reach old age are not really old at all, even in dog years. Vianden and Clervas featured early in the Battle Of The Bulge and both towns and their castles suffered heavy damage from German forces. It was one of Hitlers’ last gambles in an effort to turn his losing position in Europe to his favour. The element of surprise was the key to his plan and the small but important delays inflicted by General Pattens troops were a major factor in his failure. Many memorials commemorating the battles and acknowledging the Americans as liberators are located in town squares but the many war graves located on the edge of French and Belgian villages highlights the sacrifices made by these men so far from home.

To round out our last day touring the Luxembourg countryside we revisited the Gardens of the Chateau de Ansembourg, a very noble estate located about 20 minutes drive from Tim’s place. The transformation was astonishing and the pink and white espaliered blossoms on vines and the new green buds on topiary mazes and individual plants, mirrored on opposite sides of gravel paths, would give pleasure to a grinch.

My last and most expensive commitment for the day was a visit to a doctor to see what can be done about this ‘ thing’ that ails me. I’m sure no one on the planet has ever been this ill and she will no doubt have to troll through old, heavy, dusty medical books to isolate the cause; or it might just be a cold. Well, €79 later ( for a full examination) and €49 of drugs and I now know what it’s like to have a financial enema, European style. As long as it’s OK for the flight I’m not fussed and at least I’ll get some value from travel insurance.

Additional photos below
Photos: 27, Displayed: 26


The Military BarracksThe Military Barracks
The Military Barracks

Built by the Prussian rulers
A View Of The Casement OpeningsA View Of The Casement Openings
A View Of The Casement Openings

They used to be the size of a cannon barrel but were enlarged when the embattlements were dismantled as part of the demilitarisation of Luxembourg.
Vianden CastleVianden Castle
Vianden Castle

Set in a valley and built into a rock. It was virtually invincible until modern warfare took its toll.
American Tank At Clervas CastleAmerican Tank At Clervas Castle
American Tank At Clervas Castle

This is the last surviving tank from the defence of Clervas and sits in the Castle grounds. It hid behind a house at the castle gates and popped out to shoot a few rounds before repeating the process until it was damaged and had to retreat.
A Sight For Sore EyesA Sight For Sore Eyes
A Sight For Sore Eyes

This Ape went on 2 wheels as it rounded the bend and was certainly a sight for my sore eyes.

23rd April 2018

I think these are your prettiest pictures so far Steve. I had to go to a hospital casualty section in London before they would let me fly. Cost nada. Americans in Europe aren't appreciated enough by many Europeans I feel. Yes they can be annoying but if it was not for them in WW2, things would be very different. Luckily, Aussies are generally liked though.

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