With the 71st anniversary of VE Day rapidly approaching, I thought it would be appropriate to write about my recent visit to the American Cemetery and Memorial on my recent visit to Luxembourg.
While the main purpose of my trip was to try Couchsurfing, I also wanted to explore Luxembourg City. Ironically, the country’s top rated attraction on TripAdvisor belongs to another country.
I’d already put off going until the final day of my trip thanks to some ropey weather the day before, and I was rewarded for doing so with clear blue skies and bright, beautiful sunshine.
It was pretty fortunate, actually, because finding the place would have been a lot more taxing with less-than-favourable weather.
That’s because of a long and dangerous walk into what felt like the middle of nowhere, which is where the cemetery is situated.
Still counted as being in Luxembourg City, it didn’t really look that far away on the map. The closest train station was Cents-Hamm, and I was staying right by the central train station in the country’s capital.
So it made sense to go via rail and then walk the rest of the way. It sounded like a good idea, and it was according to Google Maps, just under half an hour from the destination station to the memorial itself.
So I got off the train and followed the map. It took me on a 60 second walk up a hill and then to a wide two-lane road.
I looked down at my map, then up at the road it was trying to lead me down. There was no footpath, only hard shoulders, big vehicles and high speeds. I ended up heading down there, the crash barrier my only defence between an arctic truck and my face.
To make matters worse, the grass verge was on uneven ground, built upon poor soil for walking. But this was travelling, nothing is ever going to be a breeze. I figured I’d be all right unless I saw a police car.
Eventually the wide two ended and I found a footpath. The maps took me along the side of, and then under a motorway, but it didn’t feel right.
Construction workers were doing something with the nearby railway, the footpath led onto a road which looked like I could have been in the Lake District, and I was seriously wondering if this was the right way.
But it was a little adventure and I was seeing some new things, so I decided to stick it out to the end of the route, and it didn’t let me down.
This long, country road I’d been navigating eventually rose upwards and to the right. Up ahead I could see a coach park, and eventually these blue gates, with twin gold eagles perched atop, came into view. It was undeniable that I was about to walk into American territory.
As I passed through the gates, the first thing that came into view was the unmistakably large memorial, with the words ‘In proud remembrance of the achievements of her sons and in humble tribute to their sacrifices this memorial has been erected by the United States of America,’ engraved on its side.
If that wasn’t an already impressive tribute to the American troops that served and lost their lives in World War II, what waited around the corner was just as stunning.
A field was filled with pristinely cut, green grass, home to marble crosses and a star of David for each Jewish service member.
The remains of 5,076 American troops are located there, including the grave of General George S Patton, best known for his leadership of the US Third Army in France and Germany following the Allied invasion of Normandy in July 1944.
The site also has a chapel inside the memorial, with a bell that rings out on occasion.
As I walked around the site, it was pretty sobering. It is crazy to think that if it wasn’t for the sacrifices of these men, that I may not be able to enjoy something like travelling like I do today.
While I don’t agree with war, because it would be much better if differences could be settled diplomatically, you have to have great respect for those that left their families behind to fight the battle against the perceived evil.
It’s a shame that there is even such a thing as the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial. But there really isn’t a better tribute that could have been given.
After looking around the place and reflecting for close to an hour, I decided to make a move and headed back down the road I came.
I eventually got back to the city centre, went back to the airport and headed home later that day. For some people around 70 years ago, that was something never realised.
May they rest in peace.