If You Restore It, They Will Come
Cities / Towns Visited: 5
Countries Visited: 3
Steps Taken Today: 12,951
Steps Taken Around the World: 470,785
Our morning started much the same as the previous one; we awoke to blue skies and sunshine, we ate breakfast, and caught the train to Ettelbruck, but this time we took the bus in the opposite direction. Destination: Vianden. As we hopped off the bus the first obvious difference to Bourscheid is that the town of Vianden is much larger, and obviously designed to handle the tourist trade, with cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops lining the fairytale like cobblestone streets. The town may be ready for the present day logistically, but it still looks like it’s torn from the pages of a history book, and towering above it all on its slate cliff plinth was our attraction for the day, Vianden Castle. Unlike the day before, this castle is fully restored with gleaming alabaster coloured towers and deep grey stone fortifications. Its almost saddening to see the effect restoring a castle has in a community, Vianden is thriving under the influx of curious tourists, whereas Bourscheid remains a blip of a town with castle ruins barely visited by anyone other than the few brave souls who dare to venture there. Is seems, so much, to echo the classes in modern society; those we offer less opportunity to, in return are less able to offer opportunity to those around them; yet those we deem worthy of investing in, are able to provide well for those in their community. Imagine if we could invest equally in everyone, imagine what good that would do the world.
Now what is the best way to get up to this elevated monument, you may ask? Why chairlift of course, and on a day like today who wouldn’t want to swing 50 metres in the air above a river and then over a forest with nothing protecting you from death or disability other than a a few scraps of metal and a wire? If you try not to look down too much, and don’t think about the finer points of your transport, it truly is a stunning way to arrive at the top of the mountain, with beautiful views of Vianden all the way up, and a cool breeze brushing gently over you. We alighted the lift, and after taking a moment to enjoy the panorama from the viewing deck of the cafe at the summit, we started our winding walk along the path, through the trees. As you near, the forest thins and the castle shows through, standing alone, the silhouette so reminiscent of something from a Disney movie you almost expect to be faced with a dragon and a screaming princess at any point.
As we walked through the arched gate of the walls, and attained our audio guide, we were excited to see what this historic building had to show us. The first section was a walk through the knights hall, displaying old weapons and armour from medieval times onwards; then a room displaying the Roman ruins used as the foundations for the current castle and models of how the site has changed over the centuries (kudos to the Romans for making such strong foundations that seemingly every noteworthy castle, palace, and church is sitting atop them). From here we meandered through beautiful arched Mediterranean style open air walkways, and into the chapel which has been restored and painted in the original colours it would have had when it was first constructed. Its so rare to see churches and chapels with any semblance of wall covering that it’s easy to forget that at one time in history almost every one was intricately painted and decorated.
We continued on to the next set of rooms, which have been restored and furnished to display what they may have looked like during their heyday. The dining room where the lord of the castle would have entertained guests; the tiny bed, which makes sense when you remember that they used to sleep sitting up as they believed it to be healthier; to a grand hall used for entertaining in which hung huge tapestries depicting biblical scenes and Roman gods. Fun fact, and another one that makes sense but I’d never really thought about, all of those tapestries you see in massive stone buildings, they weren’t just for decoration, they were essentially large sheets of insulation, to absorb and hold what heat they could, in a location that I can only imagine gets unbearably cold in the icy winters of Northern Luxembourg.
Unsurprisingly my favourite room was the kitchen, with its almost torture like pot racks, menacing butchers block, and sorcery inspired cauldrons and herb cabinet, it was easy to imagine the bustle of a handful of cooks scurrying to feed the upper classes just a few rooms away. Just through the door there stood the plunging depths of the castles well, and it’s only water source, with the winch system which had only been rebuilt earlier this year.
After wandering around the fortified walls, the last stop on the tour is the cellar, decked out with old barrels and the kinds of wooden tables and chairs you can visualise loud, bearded men in tunics cheering and clunking together tankards in a drunken stupor. It’s the only room of the castle that didn’t require any restoration, with its walls partially hewn from the mountain itself, save the very earth crumbling, it will likely continue to exist indefinitely.
Full of extended knowledge and having fed our deep need for castle visitation we wandered leisurely back down the mountain via the ancient city walls, their stoic medieval remnants somewhat lessened by the strange choice to build medieval weapon based play equipment alongside them; think jousting horse and catapult. When we reached the town we decided it best to feed our bodies, having already fed our minds, and chose the relaxed looking restaurant on the rivers edge. After sharing a traditional Luxembourgish dish of smoked pork with a bean stew, and a pork schnitzel with mushroom sauce, we managed to pay and scurry back to the bus stop in time to catch the hourly bus back.
Our day ended much the same as the day before, and while we ate our hostel meal and worked on our blogs I took time to, as usual, reflect on our adventure for the day. It was interesting to visit the two different castles on back to back days to see how different the outcomes can be when things are either nurtured or neglected, and I think that poignantly translates to many things in life, especially our relationships. If you nurture them, they will continue to grow and retain their beauty, they will offer strength to those around them, and protection to those in need; if you neglect them they will crumble, they will collapse down to their bare bones, and even those will erode over time. Be mindful of how you treat those in your life, be them stranger, friend, family, or partner, as how you treat them directly affects the path of both of your lives. Do your best to build up others, or we will all fall to ruins in the end.