The 22nd April came and I did not suffer from a ridiculously early internal wake up call so took to the streets at a decent hour (after a breakfast beer or two obviously) and it was time for a decent wander round. It transpired to be another absolutely wonderful day. This totally unscripted trip was just getting better and better, there is undoubtedly something to be said for this style of travelling. Let me tell you first about the Hotel Yasha where I woke up.
Whilst looking about on the websites I was using whilst booking ahead on this trip and which cater to the more budget end of the market one place had suggested itself almost immediately, the Hotel Yasha. It appealed to me for price and also it’s proximity to the train station. I like to walk to my lodgings when I have been travelling rather than start trying to mess about with public transport I don’t know or taxis that may well attempt to rip me off. Location wise it was absolutely spot on and literally five minutes walk in a straight line from the front door of the station even with my admittedly light luggage.
As I alluded to in the previous instalment, the location is a bit of a double-edged sword. Whilst it is brilliant in relation to the station that puts it in an area that is a little bit lively to say the least as you pass at least one strip joint in that short journey and you can see a sex shop a little further on. I find that the environs of major railway stations tend to be like that. If you go out, especially after dark there are sundry “ladies of negotiable affection” on street corners and small groups of young African men who will offer you drugs. The local bars can be a little colourful as well. I should stress that I became very fond of the area in the short time I was there as it is just my kind of place and I mention this purely for the benefit of those who may not be so self-confident in unfamiliar surroundings after dark. I never felt threatened, especially not in the hotel itself with 24 hour reception and so on.
The hotel is very much in the Low Countries style i.e. there is nothing to speak of on the ground floor in the way of communal areas but rather it is built above commercial premises. I walked up to the desk along a pretty nondescript passage enlivened only by a few travel posters which suggested to me that the establishment was Turkish run which later turned out to be the case. It is built above a rather good Turkish restaurant owned by the same people and which is will feature later in this journal. I should mention that food smells from the restaurant were never an issue.
I spoke to the very friendly lady on reception who apparently had limited English but disappeared and reappeared about a minute later with a man (her husband I believe) who had perfect English, confirmed my reservation and allocated me my room. The friendliness was to be a feature of my stay there and the various staff were never short of local information or even just a cheery greeting as I came and went, even when I used to wake the poor old night porter up at some appalling hours! On the day I left, they were quite happy to stow my kit for the day even after I checked out as my train was not until the evening. I am a firm believer that any business is only as good as the staff and Yasha keeps the bar high on that score.
Upstairs I went and found out I was facing the front which could have potentially been a problem on a street that is so busy especially at night but, as with the chance of food smells from below, it was never an issue. Considering I was paying not a lot more than I had been paying in hostels in the region I was very well pleased. Although I had only booked a single I had a double and the bed was more than enough for my somewhat lanky frame. As an added bonus it was fairly firm which I know may not be to everyone’s taste but certainly suited my pretty messed up back.
The bathroom was pretty small and of the shower only / no bath variety but I prefer showers so again it suited me nicely. There was piping hot water at a good pressure on demand at any hour, a TV, decent little writing desk area and even a safe.
The room was made up daily and kept immaculate. It was absolutely ideal and to be so central in what is not a budget city I thought it was a complete bargain.
Let’s go for a walk.
I only had one problem the whole day and that was with an absolutely vertiginous bridge over the gorge that seems to bisect the city. I genuinely felt queasy walking over it and, later in the evening, got a taxi home as I really could not face it again. Yes, I know it is pathetic but I cannot do exposed heights and the sight of young couples taking “selfies” there literally made me feel unwell.
Having navigated the bridge, what I did find was a most beautiful old town, largely spared apparently from the depredations of the Germans in the last World War. For those who have not visited the region, this is pretty unusual as the Germans destroyed just about everything and finding a medieval city more or less intact is a real bonus.
I shall intersperse this narrative with some of the many images I took which I trust will give you a sense of how appealing the city is.
Although I love walking and was quite happy to do my exploration on foot, there were a couple of alternative means of transport available. There was the “tourist train” which visits all the major sights.
There is also a point to point bicycle hire system similar to the one we have in London that is nicknamed “Boris Bikes” after Boris Johnson, the then Lord Mayor, who brought them in.
Let me introduce you now to some of the more interesting places I visited.
Whilst on my fairly aimless wander round Luxembourg City to see what could be seen I came upon the very pleasant Place du Theatre which is a delightful public space boasting numerous cafes and bars although it was still a bit too chilly for al fresco drinking for me.
What caught my eye immediately was the group of life-sized statues you can see in the images representing a troupe of medieval dancers and musicians and, if I am not mistaken, even a fire-eater. The impression of movement was quite striking and I half expected them to start dancing and playing at any moment.
Obviously my favourite was the lute player as that is the nearest thing to a guitar which was not in general musical use at that time. I swear the stance rendered by the sculptor was straight heavy rock. That could be Scott Gorham or Zoltan Bathory. I know it was a Saturday afternoon when I visited but the place was literally teeming with people and the biggest problem was to try to get an image without people draping themselves over the statues or posing in front of them. It took me quite a while to get the images I did so I do hope you think it was worth it.
Although I did not look particularly hard I could find no indication as to who the sculptor was and even months later after diligent internet searching I am still none the wiser. If any reader can assist me I would be most grateful. Whoever they are, they are to be congratulated on a fine piece.
Statues can often be a bit sterile but I really did enjoy these.
Close by the statues I came upon a phenomenon that I had not seen before either in Europe or even further afield. In the middle of the busy square was something that I can only describe as looking like a chiller cabinet in a shop but instead of milk, eggs, cheese and the like it was full of books. I really had to go and investigate.
As best I could understand it, and I do hope I have this right, it was a book exchange. From what I could make of the notice on the front (which was helpfully in English as well as Luxembourgoise) the idea was that you just took a book, read it and brought it back or swapped it for another one. What a simple and brilliant idea and most heartening in it’s trust as I know exactly what would happen to such a device in London but it appeared to be totally untouched. For a reasonably major European city that surprised me a little but it did hearten me.
As far as I can tell you do not need any sort of token or card to access the Bicherschaf as they seem to be called and I would certainly have been tempted were there any English language books and if I had been in a position to return it which I knew I wasn’t as I was constantly on the road at that point but I did thoroughly mentally applaud the idea, what a brilliant concept.
After another very short stroll I chanced upon what I now know to be the Eglise St. Alphonse and something just didn’t look quite right about it. Certainly I am no architect but it seemed to me that with the length of the building the twin towers were, frankly, a little stubby. It was only much later whilst researching the building that I found out the reason. When the Church was being planned in the mid 19th century the Prussians ruled here and for some reason, probably to do with Lutheran doctrine, they refused the original plans with much taller towers.
Still, this slightly architectural quirk was not going to stop me investigating and I have mentioned often before here on various sites that I am drawn to places of worship like a moth to a flame. I do not know what it is as I am an atheist myself and I do not mind which God(s) are being worshipped there, I just find them fascinating.
Having only been consecrated on the day of the saint for which it is named in 1869 it lacks the grandeur of some of the fine older cathedrals in the region but it still has a certain charm and I did rather like it.
I was particularly drawn to the stained glass which is a particular favourite artistic medium of mine, be it sacred or secular. There are some fine examples here with many of the principal saints depicted and St. Andrew with his distinctively shaped cross is particularly noticeable. There must have been a good number of worshippers / visitors here earlier that day as there was a sea of votive candles burning.
Again, I return to another travel mantra of mine which is that I learn so much about places not merely by visiting them but by researching reviews like this afterwards and what I learned about Eglise St. Alphonse is that it is very much an international Church. This stems back to the 1950’s when a small Coal and Steel Union was formed which, after many changes, has led us to the Federal States of E aka the EU comprising nearly 30 nations, soon to be one less. Obviously the spiritual needs of those coming in from all over the Continent, not to mention further afield, needed to be cared for and St. Alphonse became the centre for international Roman Catholic worship. There are large English, Italian and French speaking groups but also those from much further afield with notable contributions from countries as far apart as the Philippines and Malta. Apparently a recent survey showed worshippers from no less than 50 countries attending a Sunday morning mass. In these days when Christianity is in fairly terminal decline in my country I found this very impressive. It is not my gig for sure but it is impressive nonetheless.
As I mentioned above, this church is not one of the grand places of worship like Aachen or Canterbury or wherever but it is not hard to find and it is definitely worth a look.
Naturally, all this sightseeing was making me a bit thirsty as it tends to do. I wandered back to the Place du Theatre where the wonderful statues were and where I had noticed one bar of the many on offer which was called L’Adequat. I have just found out that this translates as “adequate” from the French and it was certainly much more than that but interestingly it translates as “the right thing” from Catalan. I do not suggest for one minute that it was named from the Catalan although the attached website boasts no less than five languages spoken here as you might expect in such a very cosmopolitan city but it certainly felt like the right thing to me.
I wandered in to the bar where my pretty poor attempts at French were merely responded to in perfect English by the very friendly chap behind the jump. C’est la vie, I was never going to learn French at this rate. A large Bofferding was ordered, it being the local brew and very drinkable, and I took up station by the window to watch the comings and goings and which is a pastime I take great pleasure in.
The bar was modern and with a fairly eclectic policy regarding decor although it all worked very well. The roof decoration which looked like a cross between a band lighting rig and Kew Gardens hanging from the ceiling was particularly of note.
I was surprised at how quiet it was although this may be partially explained by my research for this review which suggests it does not open until 1800 on Saturday. I can assure the reader I was there at about 1500, I don’t wait that long for a beer! With the first one having gone down so well, a second was obviously called for and a bit more of a look round. The entire premises was spotless and apparently not long refurbished, the seating was comfortable and it was a very pleasant sojourn. I was paying a little bit more for my beer than in the slightly rougher area I was staying in down by the station but not ludicrously so and it was to be expected.
I would suggest that this is more brasserie than bar with food taking the centre stage and they were offering assorted cheeses and cold cuts when I was there but they were also promoting food in the evening which I think is their main business. They offer a set meal between 1200 – 1430 @ €13 which in this part of town is very good value for this type of establishment and they have specials on every night as well as a full a la carte menu (note they are closed on Sunday).
If I have one slight complaint about L’Adequat, and I may be mistaken here, it is that the “facilities” were down a spiral staircase which would make it a complete non-starter for a mobility impaired person. Even carrying a baby for a nappy change could be tricky. I have no idea if they have alternative facilities as I did not ask but other than the potential mobility issue this is a wonderful friendly bar in a superb location and highly recommended.
Eventually I dragged myself out of L’Adequat and despite having seen a number of excellent eateries I had not eaten all day. I just fancied a quick snack as I made my way back to the hotel. As I tend to do, I walked straight past the MacDonald’s as I really don’t like them and into the almost adjacent Quick Burger.
My alarm bells should have been ringing when I saw the place was almost completely deserted at just after nine o’clock on a Saturday evening and yet I carried on. I ordered a Giant burger and a beer which came up in about ten seconds flat which should have been another warning sign to me as Heaven knows how long the burger had been sitting there, it certainly was not freshly prepared.
I do love the concept of getting a beer with a burger which I think is most civilised and a practice I wish we would adopt in my country.
To the table then and opened the box which brought a bit of a surprise as the burger was encased not only in the standard box but in a cardboard ring the purpose of which I can only guess at but was probably to stop the salad disintegrating as it sat festering under the lights. Have these people never heard of the rain forest? How much wasted cardboard? Green it most certainly was not.
OK, the top of the bun looked vaguely edible so now for the acid test, what did it taste like? Having fished it out of it’s secondary holder I took a bite and regretted it as it obviously was not fresh and not particularly tasty either. If the idea of the cardboard ring was to protect the salad then it had failed miserably in it’s job. In the interests of fair reporting, the burger sauce was very tasty and the beer was pleasantly cold but those are the only positives I can find about this place.
Certainly at about €10 in this very central area of what is not a cheap city it is an inexpensive option for those on a strict budget but I would suggest that there are much better options available. Maybe a Big Mac might have been a plan after all.
I had a couple more beers in random bars and then grabbed a taxi for the shortish journey home as I really could not face walking over that bridge again and off to bed for another excellent kip which was becoming a very pleasurable habit.
It had been a great day and there is much more to come so stay tuned and spread the word!