Marion - Chroniques d'une ardennaise
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100% Ardennes, between Belgium and France
The time I visited Bourscheid castle in the Company of victor Hugo
2 medieval hours
Perched high above the Eislek, in the Luxemburg Ardennes, Bourscheid Castle makes the area look like a small corner of the Provence. This mountaintop castle surrounded by greenery dates back to the year 1000 and overlooks the Sûre river valley.
Off we go to the Sûre valley
The majestic Bourscheid Castle dominates the Sûre river valley and, in order to visit this historical building, considered as one of the most precious architectural treasures of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg, we need to travel the winding roads snaking their way along the Ardennes massif and climb 150 meters above sea level to reach the rock on which the castled is perched. We are surrounded by nature everywhere we look and the landscapes are simply breathtaking, with just a few houses dotted here and there. We immediately appreciate the strategic location of the castle; it is hard to access and commands a stunning 360° view over the valley. Suddenly, it dramatically looms before us: the biggest castle in the whole of Luxemburg. Awed, we stand at the foot of the castle and decide to walk through its impressive gates! The first thing we notice are the many additions to the castle. As the centuries passed, the castle kept on growing until it reached its current size: a whopping 12,000m² with no less than 11 watchtowers and turrets guarding the castle walls
It commands a stunning view over the valley!
Visiting the castle with Victor Hugo
You enter the castle via the courtyard, the most recent addition to the building that was built after 1477. Standing here you can admire the drawbridge and four impressive towers that have recently been renovated. The castle has been partially rebuilt and takes us on a journey of discovery through its history taking us all the way back to the Roman era. For this wonderfully instructive visit, our guide is none other than Victor Hugo, the famous French writer (you know, the man who wrote 'Les Misérables'). The author visited the medieval ruins of the castle some time before us, on 20 September 1865. Today we discover the castle through his eyes so we can try and picture the castle in all its bygone splendour.
We start our visit with the huge bailey (i.e. castle outer walls) which was designed in the 14th century and finished circa 1384. From here, we can admire the keep that looms high above us and take in the stark contrast between the castle’s Romano-Gothic (also known as Early Gothic) architecture and the bailey we are currently standing on. Inside the castle walls several objects from the Middle Ages have pride of place. We can see the infamous pillory where prisoners used to be chained and subjected to public ridicule. At the other end of the courtyard formed by the castle walls, stands the House of Stolzembourg where the local Lord lived as of 1384. Stairs invite you to walk down them and at the bottom of the stair we timidly open the massive doors to discover a gorgeous gothically styled vaulted cellar, a genuine surprise! After admiring this stunning feat of architecture, we climb back up to continue our adventure from above….
A bird’s eye view from the top of the tower…
Now we get to explore the oldest sections of the castle and head for the bailey (the castle’s outside walls). From this level, each opening commands truly magical and awe-inspiring views of the lush nature surrounding us. We cannot resist temptation and take pictures of the landscapes from every possible angle as we continue to climb closer to the impressive dungeon. Our host, Victor Hugo, takes us to the highlight of our visit, which is also the oldest part of the castle under its current form. We now enter the Romano-Gothic part of the castle, that was built somewhere between 1000 and 1095. Here, we discover where the Lord and his family used to live: kitchen, drawing room, dining room…It’s difficult to imagine what these rooms might have looked like at the time, even if we catch a glimpse of an oven and a chimney every now and again. Once we’ve enjoyed a look around the castle, we would like to take a peek inside the castle apartments and for that we need to climb up higher and penetrate the infamous dungeon. We feel quite intimidated and are impressed by this part of our tour. It’s not every day you get to visit climb to the top of a more than a thousand year old dungeon!
Once we’ve enjoyed a bit of a workout and climbed every floor, the view that offers itself to us is absolutely amazing…Without a doubt; this is where you can enjoy the most spectacular view of the valley. We are suddenly overcome with a feeling of omnipotence, and for a brief moment we become the Lords of Bourscheid Castle looking down from our high tower. Alas, our charming reverie is over in the blink of an eye, as our guide beckons us to follow him back down the stairs, so it seems that our visit is about to come to an end.
Climb even higher!
Unwinding on a terrace with a breathtaking view
We cap off our visit by a well-deserved break on the castle terrace. Contently carrying a nice refreshing drink, we go and sit down in the corner of the terrace. Because the terrace is so high (rooftop) you enjoy spectacular views of its surroudings, so we sit back and relax while admiring the expanse of greenery that lies before us. We would have been quite content to sit there for hours, just quietly contemplating the view, but we heard that there is an even more impressive scenic lookout, up high in the mountain. We decide to hit the road once again, leaving this wonderful castle steeped in history behind us and head for a small campsite not very far from there and from where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the edifice. And, indeed there it stands, majestically and silent on the top of its rock offering spectators a sight to remember. And this is the image we will be taking back home and cherish forever, a beautiful memory straight from the Ardennes.
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