My five-month stay in Athus has come to an end. You can read more about my experience working and living in Belgium and Luxembourg here. In this particular blog post, I go through the main things to see and do in Lux City, Luxembourg (as a country), Athus, Arlon and Trier. The »beauty« of living in any of these cities/towns/countries is that you’re very close to a bunch of other countries, which makes taking trips abroad easy (or at least it did before corona decided to make it difficult). Despite the pandemic, I managed to do a couple of day trips.
I chose to live in Athus because it was kind of convenient. The house I lived in was very close to the train station, and the rent was cheaper (500 per month) than in Lux. Plus, the landlord allowed my boyfriend and me to stay in one room together (for the 2 months we did so, the rent was 600). This is where the convenience of Athus ends, though. Supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi are kind of far, and you can literally see everything there is to see in the town in twenty minutes.
Why is Athus such a miserable town?
Athus is a small town of 7227 residents which was known for its steelworks factory until it closed in the 1970s. I realise we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and no place on earth is exactly fun right now, but honestly, Athus doesn’t seem like it’s ever fun. It’s just something between a suburb and a village. Most residents work in Luxembourg (you can tell from how empty it is and from a selection of beautiful houses and expensive cars). On the other hand, some houses are literally falling apart. Certain areas are very dirty, trash lying everywhere, especially close to the big industrial zones.
Before they closed all the bars and restaurants at the beginning of November, there were very few of them that actually worked (this could be a consequence of the first lockdown back in the spring, though). Also, nobody seems to pick up dog poo in this town. It also rains 70 % of the time, but this goes for all the other cities I mention here as well. On top of that, the rumour has it that Athus it dangerous, and I think it actually is. I’ve been followed three times, twice by the same man. It’s supposed to be full of drug addicts and drug dealers (which is connected to all the trucks and cargo trains that go in and out of the industrial area).
Is there anything to see in Athus?
I do have a favourite place in Athus: it’s an animal park, which was closed for most of my stay there because of Covid. They have different kinds of birds and some interesting-looking goats and sheep there. I was a regular visitor until they closed and became best friends with a tiny sheep (which I couldn’t find when they opened up again, she must have grown up). I know it’s not exactly vegan-friendly to like a park which is basically a small zoo with no entrance fee, but I’m not gonna lie: those animals gave me life.
Another cool thing is Saint-Etienne’s old cemetery and church; at least it’s cool if you’re into old cemeteries like I am. And then there’s river Messancy, along which you can run or walk (and feed the ducks) and a forest, which is pretty nice. Feeding ducks, birds and stray cats have become my favourite things to do there. Food-wise, Athus is home to two excellent friteries: Dewit and ALAIN. However, be careful if you’re vegan or vegetarian: Belgian fries are usually fried in animal fat. I had them in a random fast food place that fried them in vegetable oil (but I forgot the name, obviously).
Luckily, Luxembourg City is only a half-hour train ride from Athus, and it’s free! Luxembourg has had free public transport since last March (which must be the only good thing that happened that March), and the train station in Ahtus belongs to Lux’s railway system. This is honestly pretty amazing. I’m sure I’ll forget to buy a ticket at some point in the future, in some other country, because of it.
Luxembourg has 626 thousand residents and three official languages: Luxembourgish, French and German. Luxembourg City is small too: it has around 122 thousand residents. Every day, about 200 thousand workers commute to the city from neighbouring countries, almost tripling the number of people in the city (or at least they used to before the pandemic hit). There are 160 different nationalities in Lux City with the Portuguese being the largest group of foreign citizens. There are many EU institutions, banks and companies in Luxembourg, which attract many foreign workers.
Exploring Lux City
Luxembourg’s capital is manageable on foot. Lux city is a picturesque place with charming old buildings and long walking paths by river Alzette. The Old Town of Luxembourg is full of narrow streets and offers spectacular views of the stone bridges across the river, as well as the former fortress of the original city walls. In the centre, you’ll also find the Grand Ducal Palace, the official residence of the Grand Duke and the royal family, and other impressive buildings, such as Notre-Dame Cathedral and the concert hall of the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Luxembourg Viaduct offers panoramic views of Luxembourg City. You’ll get more of these if you visit the Pfaffenthal Panoramic Elevator, which is free and also includes a transparent platform on the top. If you have acrophobia, consider staying away. Another important sight is the Bock Casemates, a subterranean defence system made of kilometres of tunnels. When you get tired of old buildings, get yourself to Kirchberg, which is also the home of some of the EU institutions and a big shopping centre. As for museums, I only visited one: Casino Luxembourg, a forum for contemporary art. It was weird but interesting.
What to see in Lux as a country
Luxembourg doesn’t have any big cities (the biggest is Lux City, and it’s pretty small). It mostly has villages, which they refer to as towns, and actual small towns. There are no mountains, but there are many fields, forests, parks and villages with castles. One of the most famous natural sights is Mullerthal, where you can go for a hike and see the waterfall. As for the villages with castles, there’s Vianden, Beaufort, Larochette and so on. I’ve only seen these three. Mick Jagger has apparently been to the chairlift in Vianden, so that must be worth doing. Another important sight is the village of Schengen, where the Schengen agreement was signed in 1985.
Trier is the city in which I tried and failed to find accommodation for my internship (which I often regretted). I visited Trier twice, and it appealed to me the most out of all these cities. Maybe it’s because Germany feels more like home to me than Belgium or Luxembourg, perhaps because of the architecture or shops like DM and Muller, which we also have in Slovenia.
Trier has around 111 thousand residents and is a university city. It’s considered Germany’s oldest city; it was founded by the Celts in the late 4th century BC as Treuorum and conquered 300 years later by the Romans. Both times I visited Trier, the weather was good and there were lots of people on the streets despite the pandemic (but wearing masks). Trier’s streets are cute, and there are many interesting small shops. I had amazing pretzels and falafel there!
What you should definitely do if you ever decide to visit Trier is walk by the river Moselle, go up to the amazing viewpoint next to St. Mary’s Column (Mariensäule), see Porta Nigra (the largest Roman gate outside Italy), visit Karl Marx’s house (he was born in Trier), see Aula Palatina (the audience hall for Emperor Constantine’s palace) and visit the Trier Cathedral. Other interesting sights include the Imperial Baths, the Amphitheatre, the Electoral Palace and the gothic church Liebfrauenkirche. Most of these are just a short walking distance from Hauptmarkt, the marketplace of medieval Trier.
Compared to Athus, Arlon is wonderful, but just on its own, it’s honestly nothing special. It’s a town of 28,000 people, which has a huge, pretty impressive church (Saint Donat’s church). The streets are cute, and there’s a wider variety of shops, bars and restaurants than in Athus. However, we weren’t able to go to any bars or restaurants, and the town was kind of empty both times I went there. I haven’t visited any important sights in Arlon, I just wandered around, but the archaeological museum and the Jewish cemetery are supposed to be worth seeing. I bet you can also get good waffles there, but we didn’t because everything was closed.
- Lux City
- Athus (it shouldn’t even be on this list but anyway)
I regret not having been able to go to Brussels, Paris, Strasbourg, Frankfurt and so on. Throughout my five months in Athus, it was either not allowed to travel or it seemed pointless because everything was closed. It’s hard to sightsee when it’s cold and rainy, and you don’t even have anywhere to pee or warm yourself up. I’m sure I’ll visit these places at some point, I just doubt Athus and I will ever see each other again. Or Luxembourg and I for that matter.
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