Originally Written: September 6, 2018
If you give a Mom a babysitter, she will lose all her senses. If she loses all her senses, she will forget her purse at home. If she forgets her purse at home, she will have to make her husband turn the car around and go back. If she goes back home, she’ll also grab the passports she has forgotten but overlook the international driver’s license. If she overlooks the license, she will cause her family and friends to ridicule her relentlessly.
Such was the start of Alex’s and I’s big anniversary date day. Much to Alex’s surprise, I arranged for us to go visit Luxembourg without the children; the intent being we get to experience a local site as regular adults do. Not in our normal style, carrying toddlers on our back, throwing Goldfish or Veggie Straw into tiny hands, relinquishing audio guides to smaller and uncaring ears, desperately seeking out a restaurant that serves nuggets and fries.
No, on our 7th Anniversary, Alex and I were gifted some kid-free time, of which I started off on rocky footing. My mishaps only cost us half an hour, and before my friend could say “See you later” we had hopped back in our car and were driving along back roads to the country of Luxembourg.
Once you enter the town where Vianden Castle rests, you can’t miss it. The ancient structure sits atop a hill and overlooks the entire city. Navigating our way through the apartment-lined roads and finding parking was a breeze. It’s up there with Heidelberg for being one of the easiest places to visit via car.
My first impression of Vianden as we started our walk to the entrance was that of amusement.
It reminded me of Hogwarts.
With its tall towers and rocky bottom, images of the Harry Potter films kept flashing through my mind. Alex didn’t see the similarities, so I’m not sure anybody else would agree with me, but I was entertained by the notion and that’s all that mattered.
We climbed to the top, with me only a tiny bit out of breath by the time we reached the ticket booth. (Really, I don’t know what is worse: battling the FL humidity all the time or traversing the mountains in Western Europe.)
Entrance into the castle was 7 Euro per adult with an additional 2 Euros for an audioguide.
The castle had a very simple and easy to follow setup, where each room was labeled 1-20 and had signs with arrows indicating which halls to use. Once in a room, you simply had to key the room number into your guide and a brief synopsis would play through a loudspeaker.
The castle was spread out and we got to cover a lot of ground on the tour, more than I normally get to see with some of the other castle nearby. Another major perk to Vianden was that we did not need an actual guide to check out the rooms, meaning we got to explore at our own pace. I really enjoyed that, because some rooms I wanted to spend a lot of time in versus others where I only needed a cursory glance.
The grounds did involve a lot of going up and down steps, which I think is an important warning to folks. The route would essentially show us a lower room, take us outside for some stunning views, then lead us to the rooms above. Or vice versa. It was a lot of up and down, up and down.
Well worth the torture on my knees, though, when my impromptu workout yielded interesting rooms and fun facts.
Originally built in the Romanesque style, the castle continuously got additions to the place but those were built in the Gothic style. The result was a fascinating mix of curved windows and arched ceilings. Personally, it was fun to walk into the lower chapel and see the large pillars supporting the vaulted ceiling then stroll up to what was presumed to be a ceremony hall and look out those rounded windows.
The living spaces held my interest the most. How fun is to see a recreation of the furniture pieces people used in their day to day life hundreds of years ago? According to the audio guide, that bed was so short not because people were shorter back then, but because folks used to sleep sitting up. In their mind, the dead were laid to rest and that was the only time one should be lying flat.
I would like to interject myself right here and note that I never would have caught that tidbit of knowledge if the kids were with me. By this point in the tour, one or both of them would have been trying to swing on the chain rope or whining about how bored they were.
Vianden Castle fell to ruins after the last remaining heir passed away and the castle was abandoned. Almost every part of what we saw was carefully reconstructed using paintings and typical floor plans from that time period. Alex and I were able to walk along a gangway through one room that showcased some artificats unearthed during excavation, and then the tour ended in the wine cellar, the only sight the public could visit that has remained intact over the years.
Start to finish, the tour took Alex and me just under an hour to complete. Obviously, that number would have been a lot longer had the kids been with us, but I think there was enough to look at and admire to make it worth the 16 Euro we paid.
Hungry afterwards, Alex found the closest cafe on Google maps, and we decided to walk down to it and grab a bite to eat. We were kid-free after all! We could stop in any little cafe or bistro, grab a table outside, and simply enjoy the scenery as we nibbled on a light lunch.
We both thought it would be the perfect way to conclude our date. However, the cafe in question turned out to be a bed and breakfast called Hotel Aal Veinen that also served as a steakhouse.
Our “light lunch” turned into an extravagant dinner.
That being said, the food was outstanding. I haven’t found a decent steak anywhere in Germany except this restaurant, and everything set before us was fresh and delicious. Set under street level, the room was full of oak pillars, woodland animal carvings, thick wine barrels, and glass cabinets showcasing fancy wines. Alex and I were not looking for a romantic little meal, but that’s what we ended up with and it turned out to be a sweet conclusion to a nice day.
So far, every place we have visited in Luxembourg has produced a little gem of a find, and I can’t wait to return at least one more time before we move. Next, I hope to take the kids and Alex to the tunnels and let us get lost underground for a bit. If that day goes anything like Vianden, the waterfall, and the Christmas market, then I’m sure we’ll be treated to another fun and adventurous outing.