Fri Sep 21, 2001 | day 11
Unlike Paris, I did not know what to expect when I arrived into Luxembourg around 8p last night. During the three hour train ride from Paris, I pulled out my 5 pound travel bible, Lonely Planet's "Europe on a Shoestring," and studied about the small country located on Frances Northeast border.
I was still quite ignorant on the country by the time my train reached Luxembourg City, the capital of Luxembourg. In the train station, I found an ATM. I put in my card and gave me the option of receiving f1,000, f2,000, f5,000, f7,000 or f10,000. I hesitated, wondered what the heck an "f" was, and then chose f7,000. Turns out I just got about $250 for a one-day stay! (Note to self: find out exchange rates BEFORE entering country.)
In no time at all, I found the Hostel, looking more like a coffee shop with its eclectic travelers sitting and popular American music blasting in it's lobby. This would be my first experience in a hostel.
For the rest of the evening, I talked with two Canadian girls and we exchanged traveling tips. At midnight, I smiled as I lay down on the soft bed in the dormitory, the first warm and dry bed I have had since I left Los Angeles. Not even the orchestra of snoring dorm-mates could spite my happiness.
This morning, I awoke to a spectacular city. The Hostel was located right under the arches of an impressive Medieval bridge, one of two in the city, which spans the narrow valley. The city of Luxembourg sits high atop, and combined with the old walls and barracks that surround the city, you could feel the importance and defence that this city once had.
After a brief stop in the tourist office, I began my quest for information about the city - not by attending museums, but by exploring the city with my eyes. It's narrow roads, ancient walls, bell-ringing churches, and bustling life. Not the same bustling life found in Paris, but a life found in the pages of a medieval fairytale. And best of all, very few tourists were around.
The highlight of my day came when I found my way through a fence and into a 500+ year old tunnel. I emerged on the other side to find a large archaeological dig in progress! My heart leaped! I stood there and admired the monumental dig (about the size of a football field) and the archaeologists working on it.
Pushing away the feeling of trespassing, I introduced myself to what appeared to be the site organizer and told her that I taught archaeology to kids in California. I expected her to tell me i didn't belong here and that I should leave before she called the police. To my surprise and delight, she invited me on a private tour of the dig and the artifacts that they have found!!! I have never been so happy since I arrived in Europe!
The archaeologist, Mrs. Bis-Worch, was a German-Luxembourgian who has been working on the site since May. In her thick German accent, she led me through the site of a 13th century church. We stood at where the entrance of the church once was and I got a clear picture of what it must have looked like. "Bis," as she liked to be called, showed me into a building where they kept the artifacts. Now this wasn't any makeshift building made to store the countless object they have found. Oh no! This was a building built in 1826 and, according to Bis, was one of only two of its style in all of Luxembourg! This city drips with history.
Inside the building, she showed me a few boxes filled with artifacts. She showed me the skeletons (and skulls!) of the people they found buried on the outer walls of the church. She explained that they were buried there and not inside the church because they were not baptized. It is said that the water from the rain will baptize the dead buried near it's walls.
I thanked her and walked away from the dig in awe. It was such an unbelievable experience to have visited a European archaeological dig in progress - an activity I have been dreaming of doing for many years!
For the remainder of the day, I walked everywhere around the city taking it all in, like a good cup of coffee. Every half hour, the bells of the city would ring echoing down to the river 600 feet below the ancient walls. Around 1pm, it started raining, but never more than a heavy mist. It fell quietly and gently, as if respecting the age and history of the city and its crumbling landmarks.
Tonight I will catch a north-bound train into Belgium. I hope my next destination holds as many pleasant surprises as this one did.