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Stopping over in Luxembourg ... tranquil now, turbulent once.

Squeezed between Belgium, France, and Germany, the tiny Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is often just an unplanned stop-over forvisitors. Though surprisingly verdant and deceptively tranquil, its history has been anything but calm. For centuries, this 1,000-square-mile country has served as battlefield for its often-contentious neighbors, as well as for other powers--from Roman legions to the infantry of the Battle of the Bulge. With its 1,500 years of military history, from ramparts and castles to well-tended rows of 20th-century crosses, Luxembourg is well worth visiting on any European trip.

Start with the city of Luxembourg

The capital city, in the southern part of the country, is the country's hub--and a sort of geographic divider as well. To the north, forests of conifers and English oak and swaths of bright yellow broom spread over the hills. The area to the south, including the Moselle wine country, is flatter and more developed. The city grew from Roman times around Count Siegfroid's dauntingly fortified castle--known, during the Middle Ages, as the Gibraltar of the North. You can tour its elaborate tunnels and casemates (about $1 U.S.) from 10 to 5 March 1 through October 31. On summer nights, the fortification is illuminated. An excellent way to see the fortress and learn (in English, through headsets) about the city's turbulent history is by taking the 45-minute train hour on the Petrusse Express, which starts under the north end of the Adolphe bridge. Titled Luxembourg Life, the tour is offered daily from Easter through October; fares are $5 for adults, $4 for children under 12, and free for those under 4. Just 2 1/2 miles east of the city, at Hamm, is a somberly impressive collective memorial: the Luxembourg American Cemetery, with the graves of 5,076 American soldiers who lost their lives in the Battle of the Bulge. Their commander, General George S. Patton, is also buried here, at the end of his troops.

Country excursions: more military monuments, historical museums

We suggest some detours to country towns of unusual historical interest Vianden, 28 miles north of the capital, holds the largest and central European castle west of the Rhine, a formidable structure of high-quality Roman and Gothic architecture that dates from the fourth century (and is now under restoration). Looming on the skyline, it dominates the town. Its museum contains historical room settings and models of the castle's configurations through various periods. The museum is open 9 to 7 daily, May through August. Hours vary seasonally; be sure to check ahead. Diekirch, 7 miles south of Vianden, was once a Roman settlement, and its invader-colonizers created art in a characteristic medium, the mosaic (the Roman Mosaics Municipal Museum is open May to October). The medieval church that gives the town its name, Diet Kirch, was built on Roman foundations. Diekirch has an excellent historical museum with many displays involving the Battle of the Bulge. The dioramas are powerful and evocative--especially a large scene of the nighttime crossing of the Sure River by American infantrymen on January 18, 1945; you'll feel as though you're there in the snow, alongside the stricken soldiers. On the edge of Diekirch, in Patton Park in the hamlet of Ettelbruck, a 9-foot statue of Patton stands near a Sherman tank from the Battle of the Bulge and a plaque to Patton and his men placed by Patton's son, himself a general in the U.S. Army. On July 8, Ettelbruck celebrates Remembrance Day--in honor of Patton's liberation of Luxembourg--with speeches, a parade, and a dramatically low flyover by U.S. jets

What about accommodations?

You can get a free copy of Hotels and Restaurants in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg 1990 simple by writing or calling the Luxembourg National Tourist Office, 801 Second Ave., New York 10017; (212) 370-9850.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:May 1, 1990
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