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Visiting the Hollow Tooth: striking ruins with panoramic views in Luxembourg City

Updated on November 6, 2013
Flag of Luxembourg
Flag of Luxembourg | Source
Luxembourg Fortress: "Huelen Zant" - Remains of one of the two towers of one of the gates of the fortress
Luxembourg Fortress: "Huelen Zant" - Remains of one of the two towers of one of the gates of the fortress | Source
Marie-Victor, baron de Tornaco (1805 - 1875), Prime Minister of Luxembourg from 1860 to 1867
Marie-Victor, baron de Tornaco (1805 - 1875), Prime Minister of Luxembourg from 1860 to 1867 | Source
Map of Luxembourg
Map of Luxembourg | Source

Remembering a neutralism which didn't work

"The what?"

The Hollow Tooth. Or, Dent Creuse in French, if you prefer. Or Huelen Zant in Létzebuergesch, designated the national language of the the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

So what happened for these small, but prominent ruins in the capital city of the Grand Duchy to be called the Hollow Tooth? Well, the term is sometimes used to indicate a break in a line of buildings, whether through dereliction or demolition or whatever. (Rather like the idea of an incomplete set of teeth.)

What happened was that someone called Siegfried in the year 963 built a great castle in Luxembourg City. It was so good, and so effective a defence, that even 900 years later the European powers who were party to the Treaty of London in 1867 agreed that it should be demolished and Luxembourg (like, at the time, neighbouring Belgium) was to maintain for over 70 years the in hindsight illusory policy of neutrality. Luxembourg's head of government who signed the Treaty of London was the splendidly named Marie-Victor, Baron of Tornaco (1805-1875). A Prussian garrison which had been maintained in Luxembourg City for several decades, duly went home (1).

Unfortunately, Baron de Tornaco's vision of Grand Ducal neutrality didn't work. In both 1914 and 1940, neighbouring Germany invaded Luxembourg, with disastrous results on both occasions (2).

There is actually not all that much to see of the Hollow Tooth ruins themselves. The demolition team which made the former Luxembourg fortress unusable did such a good job that thee wasn't much left by way of ruins at its Montée de Clausen entrance. So the local authorities decide to 'mend' what was left, just a little, and so what we have at the so called Hollow Tooth is a partial, 19th century rebuilding of part of the entrance, in order to make it look more genuine! But what is especially impressive is the panoramic view from the Hollow Tooth around the city, with the Alzette River valley below.

So when you think of the Hollow Tooth, think of the word 'from' rather than 'to': it's especially worthwhile seeing the views from this oddly named piece of unwanted, Medieval real estate.

November 8, 2012


(1) It was quite commons for some of the smaller states in Europe to host garrisons from regional powers, ostensibly in order to keep the peace from a balance of power perspective. Luxembourg acquired its Prussian garrison after the Treaty of Vienna. Interestingly, in the Principality of Monaco (the territory of which until 1861 was 20 times the size it was subsequently) there was a Sardinian garrison, Sardinia then being a regional power. The Principality of Andorra was in fact approximately a condominium between France and Spain.

(2) After World War Two, Luxembourg became a partner in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with Germany, its former enemy, as an ally. Today, a number of the USAF's transport airplanes are registered in Luxembourg.

Also worth seeing

In Luxembourg City itself, visitor attractions include the Adolphe Bridge over the scenic Pétrusse Valley, the Grand Ducal Palace, the Cathedral, and the former ARBED building.


How to get there: The nearest large international airport is Luxembourg (Aéroport de Luxembourg ), at Findel, from where car rental is available. For North Americans travelling via London, England, airlines flying to Luxembourg include Luxair (from London Heathrow Airport and London City Airport) and CityJet (from London City Airport). Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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