A Day in Luxembourg

May 09, 2020

Where ever you go in Europe, you will not fail to experience the fusion of the modern and the heritage; the old and the new. And this can't be more true than in Luxembourg.

Whilst most of the western European countries hold on tightly to their history when it comes down to their architecture, there will still be pockets of newly constructed built that can't help but stand out in contrast to their centuries old neighbours. In addition, modern public transportation weaves in and around these historic buildings; a testament to the new era that the world finds itself in, and yet they somehow blends in to the daily European life.

In Luxembourg, it was similar, and yet, very different.

The capital city's centre boasts a fairly typical mixture of old European architecture with modern technologies. The shops are modern on the inside, yet set into buildings with a long history. In fact, if you don't pay attention to the buses, the lights, and the signs, you can convince yourself that you're seeing Luxembourg as it was in the time long past.

The train station is equipped with the standards of modern technology one becomes accustomed to in Europe, but on your way out into the street, the high ceilinged foyer of the baroque building will remind you of those grand palaces or churches, complete with its stained window glass.

But I digress, so far I haven't told you anything you wouldn't see or know if you've been to any European city.

I went to Luxembourg after a 16-hour journey with very little sleep from Greifswald to Trier (see my vlog exploring Trier), to visit an old friend of mine as a little end-of-semester trip, just before the COVID-19 outbreak massive spread in Europe. We went to take the 1,5 hour trip to Luxembourg mainly to accompany my friend to the University of Luxembourg Belval campus, where she's undertaking a semester of the ERASMUS exchange student programme.

The campus was vast, and, surprisingly for me, ultra modern. I'm used to German universities, where most campus buildings are set into the classical style of buildings when the university was first founded, with exception of the new built campuses. 

In Belval, however, it's plain to see that the buildings are newly constructed with modern planning, though it makes use of an old factory site (with a real life factory building serving as a research site). And admittedly, it was extremely fancy on the inside as well.

University of Luxembourg's Belval Campus
The German campus cafeteria, the Mensa, offers (relatively) cheap meals for students, with different menus each day. The food quality is mostly not terrible, but the meat and fish are (almost) always incredibly dry, and the seasoning has only two standards : overpowering, or non-existent. So imagine my surprise when I went into the Luxembourg's version of campus cafeteria, where pizzas, steaks, and salmons are cooked to order, with a multitude of sauces and sides available, on top of an extensive salad, appetizer, and dessert bar. No, I wasn't kidding, a dessert bar with actual desserts instead of simple mousses, or pudding! They serve mille feuille, for goodness' sake.

The steak and fries fresh off the grill served at the University of Luxembourg's cafeteria

But the standard only went up when I took a tour of the campus' "learning centre" (really, it's a library), where they can borrow laptops on top of the computers available on every level, a tablet at the end of each book's row for searching literature, and group cubicles with a TV screen and digital writing pads. Most surprising of all, they have a "relaxing room" where students can lounge around and sleep on bean bags when they're tired from a day's learning. I feel like an amish kid who has never known the existence of technology before, as I walked around the building with wide eyes of disbelief, instead of someone who has enjoyed a well-facilitated education in a first world country. Everything just looked so fancy compared to anything I've experienced before.

University of Luxembourg Belval Campus Learning Centre

From Belval, we made our way to Luxembourg city, where made my way by the Eich Gate to went up the Pfaffenthal Panoramic Elevator, where the sweeping view of the Alzette valley was breathtaking. Afterwards we made our way back to the city centre, checking out the Adolphe Bridge from the Constitution Square on the way back to the train station.

The view of the Alzette Valley from the Pfafenthal Panoramic Lift 
The Alzette River seen from the bridge between the Eich Gate and Tours Vauban

The lower deck of Pont Adolphe (Adolphe Bridge)

Admittedly, my trip to Luxembourg was extremely short, as I was exhausted from travelling, and the moody February weather didn't help matters. Shortly before dark, we went back to Trier.

Though I have been to other city-state such as Singapore (where modernity simply exploded in your face and coexist with heritage in the niche-y background blended into everyday life), and the Vatican (arguably the centre of tradition and history yet with state of the art security), Luxembourg wasn't what I expected, and hopefully someday I can explore a little bit more of this intriguing city.


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