Vianden is a small town, with a castle, that clings on to the side of an eastern Luxemburgish hill. So precariously does it cling that it may one day fall into Germany, which is right next door. The locals have wisely prepared for this eventuality as they’ve all learned German.
I didn’t realise it was so close to Germany. My teenage son had always wanted to tick off Germany on his ‘countries visited’ list. When we returned home I showed him a google-earth image of where we’d been. He was somewhat peeved to see that if he’d spat from the castle ramparts then his gozza would have landed on German soil. Still, being peevish is one of the joys of spotty adolescence, along with being stroppy, sweary and ungrateful.
The Viandenburgers, which is possibly what they are called, have always cherished their Non-Germanic status and there was a Battle of Vianden in WWII in which they attempted to stress the point. They lost, and unfortunately the Allies were a little tardy in helping them out. As a result Vianden was the very last place in Luxembourg to be liberated from the nasty Nazis.
Consequently the town had to suffer the brutal unpleasantness of German occupation for quite a long time. The older locals remember it with some bitterness. I’m not sure whether the castle was what they were scrapping over, but it certainly took a pounding at some stage. There has been a long restoration campaign and up until a few years ago it was nothing but ruins with only the odd vampire flapping about.
This culminated in ITV sending in the ‘60 Minute Makeover’ team while the owners were out. So now it has a full set of MDF turrets for you to throw your ungrateful kids off.
We caught the castle on a good day as there was a medieval festival in full swing. There were plenty of entertainments including swordplay, juggling, market stalls, dog-unicorns and a scantily clad and very sexy belly dancer with a snake. I took a lot of video footage of the snake. Indeed I nearly got ejected for going back three times for more footage of the snake.
There were lots of things to buy and there was a particularly large queue for a man dressed in tights, with a bulbous codpiece, who was busy fashioning birds out of what looked like cow-dung. He’d then plonk the turdy-birdie on a stick for a beaming child to wander off with and hopefully not get confused with its ice-cream.
If you get bored of the castle then there’s a chair-lift in Vianden which takes you up to the top of a hill that’s even higher than the one the castle is perched on. One return ride is free with your Luxembourg Tourist Card. That’s about all you’d want, unless you’re particularly keen on having your life hanging by a welded joint that asks big questions of your faith in Luxemburgish engineering.
Before I got on the ride I asked if it ever gets stuck, thus leaving its riders dangling in mid-air overnight. The old chap in the ticket office told me that this doesn’t happen very often. By sheer coincidence it only ever happens when there are particularly big bus-loads of German tourists. Not that they bear a grudge you understand.