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A fortress city

Luxembourg is a fortified place. It sits at the confluence of two rivers, each of which sits in a deep valley. The natural defences have been significantly enhanced over time, producing a devilishly complex of bastions, demi-lunes and counterguards.

On our way to the stupendous MUDAM, we spent the morning walking up and down the various fortifications which remain. We spent a long time trying to trace the trace italienne, to untangle each historical layer.

What we really needed were some maps.

Of course, this is always easier from the comfort of your living room, but it is also a lot of fun to trace our walk on the maps, and to see how things developed over time, for this fortress city, which itself evokes the epitome of fortifications, Valetta and Gibraltar. From a Roman watchtower, to a Holy Roman castle, the walls started springing up in earnest around the early 16th century.

Over time, as the city was traded, captured, recaptured and the defences strengthened, undermined and bombarded, thee result was staggering.

Of course, the needs of a modern financial and bureaucratic hub are different, and most of the defences have been demolished, or, as in the breathtaking development of I.M. Pei’s MUDAM (of which CIA has written about eloquently and at length), converted into something new. But the remains are all impressive.

We loved walking around the old walls, and it’s always amazing thinking about the interactions between landscape, people, and history. It is important not to take the connections implicit in a place for granted, and all the more important to share the connections you find.


Photos by CIA and PJD, Luxembourg, Easter, 2012.

Maps were borrowed from, with thanks to:

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  1. Luxembourg, why not?! | foldedcranes

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