Clervaux, Vianden & Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
From the Netherlands, we travelled through Belgium to reach Luxembourg, one of those tiny countries that most people know nothing about (us included). On the way we passed actual hills – we hadn't seen any variations in the terrain in well over a week. While I cherished the undulating countryside, the van had appreciated the flat Dutch section. Our petrol light was glaring at us for much of the trip, but we ignored it until the very end. We had heard petrol was cheaper in Luxembourg and after surviving several nail-biting ordeals, we put our faith in the Prince. He didn’t let us down.
Our first stop was the petite town of Clervaux, consisting of one street lined with stores, an abbey and a castle. Blink and you miss it. After parking the van, we walked uphill through a misty forest to reach Clervaux Abbey. It ended up being surprisingly massive. There didn't appear to be anyone around but the church was still open for us to wander through. The guide book told us there were views from the top of the hill; all we saw was dense forest.
Leaving the Abbey, we strolled down to Clervaux Castle, a small, bright white building sitting slightly above street level. The Castle is famous for its Family of Man photo exhibition, which was one of the main reasons we stopped here. But bad luck hit us again - it was closed for renovations. Frustrated, we instead took a quick stroll along the main street, but nothing was open and the place was deserted. Clearly this was not the right time to be a tourist in a small town.
The next day we awoke to a blanket of thick fog, which stayed with us the whole day. We made our way to Vianden, barely being able to see 100 metres in front of us the entire time. Vianden was a pretty town, similar to Clervaux in that it consisted of one main street and there wasn't a whole lot going on. It seemed these towns had shut down for the winter. I visited a Chateau de Vianden up on the hill, which probably offered decent views but all I could see was grey. The Chateau contained a few reconstructed rooms (not really our thing), plus countless photos of the Luxembourg family and famous people that had visited the castle. There weren't many tourists around. I didn’t blame them.
Next up was Bourscheid, to visit yet another castle, although this one was just ruins. In the end we didn't go in, as the main attraction was the views, of which there weren’t any. So instead we headed to where we were sure there was something worth seeing: Luxembourg City.
The name was a little misleading – it was more like a large town than a capital city. But stores were open, and it felt like slightly less of a ghost town. Danny's number one priority here was tax free shopping, and that’s what he did as soon as we stopped. He wasn’t very successful – all he came back with was two beers. Shopping wasn’t on my to-do list, however I did splurge on a small bottle of Luxembourg sparkling wine (we drank it later. It was okay). I settled for wandering around the main sights, following a path on top of a hill that overlooked a valley and part of the city/town. It would have been spectacular on a sunny day, but even through the haze the views were still the best we had seen in this country. My walk ended in a large square full of government buildings, all bright white and positioned at odd angles. Other than that there was nothing else that captured my attention.
At the tourist office we learned that only two campsites were open in the whole country (in summer there are about 100), so we picked the closest one and drove towards it. It grew dark while we were driving, and naturally Garmin directed us along the back roads. By the time we arrived the fog was so thick we couldn't see more than five metres ahead of us. At first glance the campsite looked shut, which was a disheartening sight, but thankfully someone came out to greet us at the office. We ended up being the only people in the gigantic park. The main amenities block was closed (apparently it was too big to clean when there were no customers) so we were given a personal bathroom. I had no idea what they were used for during regular operation, but they were fantastic. Large, private heated rooms with a spa bath, shower, toilet and bidet (not that we had ever used one of these, or desired to). It was hotel quality, but on a grander scale. I think we picked the right campsite.
I was eagerly looking forward to having a shower in our hotel-like bathroom the next morning but, once again, I missed out. Everything was operated with an electronic key, and no matter what I tried I could not get the hot water to flow out of the tap. Maybe all those long showers I took as a teenager were giving me bad shower karma. Of course, Danny had a perfectly hot shower that lasted for 10 minutes. I don’t know how I keep missing out.
The lady at reception recommended a two hour walk in the forest right behind the caravan park, informing us that it was the best in Luxembourg. Although it was still overcast and foggy, we decided to give it a go. Our hopes weren’t high as we started out along the flat, unremarkable trail, but it ended up being outstanding. Danny thought it was the best walk we had experienced in Europe, although I think he was swayed but the copious amount of mushrooms around. It was absolutely freezing, climbing up and down hills on makeshift paths, but the stunning scenery distracted us from the bitter conditions. The area was filled with pine and deciduous trees, the latter turning the forest into a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges and yellows. Giant boulders dotted the landscape, requiring us to clamber over or squeeze through the natural obstacles. Fallen leaves carpeted the ground, hiding the dirt underneath and the route we were supposed to be following. But we didn’t care – it was like a giant playground that we couldn't get enough of. This was easily the highlight of Luxembourg for us.