Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Luxembourgaventures 2: lying green arrows and students

Here's a rough exceprt from my travel journal about last Saturday:

My goal Saturday was the Bock Casements which are a series of tunnels that were part of the fortifications before the fortress on top was dismantled when Luxembourg declared its neutrality in the late 1800’s. (That didn’t last too long as they were invaded in both WWI and WWII.) It was only 2 Euro to go in. I grabbed an English language brochure and explored.

I got lost at first trying to outflank a Russian tour group. Then realized the tunnels pretty much ran in a straight line, making getting lost difficult. At one end, I went down a spiral staircase I wasn’t sure we were supposed to. It had been off in the corner of a chamber out of the way, but it was lit. I figured they wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of wiring all the lights if it weren’t part of tour. And yet as it went down and down I couldn’t help but wonder if I was about to spend the rest of the weekend trapped in some small tunnel trying to suck moisture off the rocks fur sustenance.

A quick glance at my brochure at the bottom reassured me as did the glowing green arrows embedded in the floor indicating an exit lay ahead of me. I continued forward to another spiral staircase, only this one lead up. It was on the map, and lit, so I continued up and emerged into another tunnel where I ran into an Italian couple who were obviously wondering if they too had wandered off the reservation. I trudged on past them, around a corner, and right into a dead end. Really it was just a piece of plywood blocking the tunnel. Around it I could see the debris of some work going on up ahead.

Normally this wouldn’t have been any great source of consternation were it not for all those green arrows embedded in the floor clearly indicating there was an exit in this direction. I mean, if something had gone wrong and we were forced to follow the arrows to find our way out we would’ve all been screwed. As it was, I turned around and went back.

Throughout my stay in the casements I kept running into a German family whose kids kept playing on the fake model cannons in the gun placements. Somehow fitting.

I left the casements and intended to go back to the hotel, but got sidetracked by the Luxembourg City Museum. Not so much worth it, though fortunately I got into it cheap. When I first got to the ticket counter no one was there. I considered just going in but was ultimately glad I didn’t as the security guards posted along the way would most likely have stopped me.

Instead I looked around the shop for a bit and when I returned the counter was staffed. The man asked me in a thick accent “Adult or Student?” After I said “Adult,” he looked at me expectantly and said “Student?” So I said “Yes. Student,” and saved a couple Euro.

The museum was neat architecturally but not so much from content. The lower levels were all about the city’s history. Mildly interesting buy confusing to navigate (somewhere I missed a couple hundred years unless nothing happened in that time in Luxembourg) and mostly stuff I knew already from reading my guide book.

The top floors were housing a temporary interactive exhibit on faith. The highlights of which were the USB drive you wore around your neck labeled “believer” or “non-believer” that you inserted in places to customize your experience and the gigantic room sized elevator, which was part of the building not the exhibit.

Most of the afternoon was spent at a smokey pub drinking beer and posting Luxembourgaventures 1. The beer here is good, being so close to Germany. (The wine here is good too being so close to France. Luxembourg has both a wine region and a hops region for beer.)

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In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.