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Visiting the House of Victor Hugo, Vianden, Luxembourg: remembering first a tourist and later an exile
A founder of cultural tourism
Victor Hugo's (1) travels were somewhat complex; from prosaic — if I should even use this term — to downright exciting.
His visits to Vianden, Luxembourg, managed to fall into both these categories.
In the 1860s. the celebrated French writer paid a number of visits to Vianden as a tourist, correctly predicting that the picturesque village on the Our River, with its imposing, historic fortress on a nearby hill, would in future years attract many more tourists. Indeed, Victor Hugo is today regarded as somewhat of a pioneer of cultural tourism.
In 1871, however, Hugo's visit came about because he was by then persona non grata in neighbouring Belgium. Hugo lived by his words and he was basically unwilling to remain silent about conditions in France; the Belgian government of the day found him to be an embarrassment, which is why he came to Vianden again, this time as more of a refugee than a tourist.
Once France's republican system of government had been reestablished, Hugo was able to return to his own country and on his death in 1885 his funeral in Paris was a grand affair: it is estimated that 2 million people attended the funeral procession. (The Belgian government need not have worried... )
Actually, Victor Hugo was a specialist at being in exile, and had somewhat of a flair for annoying his hosts. During the reign of Napoleon III, Hugo sought and obtained refuge in the Channel Island of Jersey, only to annoy the authorities there by defending critics of Queen Victoria. His decamping to neightbouring Guernsey, however, passed off wihout serious incident.
Hugo's stays in Luxembourg also gave opportunities for his skills as an artist and a number of his paintings of the Our Valley and elsewhere have survived.
Victor Hugo's House (French: Maison de Victor Hugo ) in Vianden is situated at 37, rue de la Gare . This house, with its riverside location, overlooking the Our, attracts many Hugo aficionados since the 1930s, when the Museum was created.
It is known also that during one of Hugo's visits to Vianden a threating fire arose, and the writer quickly slipped out of literary and political dissident mode in order to throw himself energetically into the use of a fire bucket together with the villagers.
Writer, artist, awkward exile, fire-fighter: Hugo thus left a whole range of impressions among his hosts at Vianden, Luxembourg (as he was wont to do wherever his wanderings took him).
November 19, 2012
(1) The works of Victor Hugo (1802-1885) were prolific. Some of his more famous writings include Les Misérables , 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' (often referred to in French as Notre Dame de Paris ), and Ninety-Three (French: Quatre-Vingt-Treize ). His poetic lament 'À Villequier ' for his daughter Léontine is regarded as among the most moving poems in French. His wide travels spurred many published observations.
Also worth seeing
In Vianden itself, its restored Castle on a hill attracts many visitors; there are some striking examples of church architecture.
Falkenstein Castle , Waldhof-Falkenstein, Germany (distance by road: approx. 10 kilometres): an imposing, Medieval structure overlooking the Our River.
How to get there: The nearest large international airport to Vianden is Luxembourg (Aéroport de Luxembourg ), at Findel (distance from Vianden : 51 kilometres), from where car rental is available. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised to 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.
Other of my hubpages may also be of interest
- Visiting the town of Vianden on the Our River: among the most picturesque localities of Luxembourg
- Visiting Vianden Castle, Luxembourg: Medieval fortress painted by Victor Hugo
- Visiting Bivels, Luxembourg, on the Our River: shadows, colours and borders blend
- Visiting Waldhof-Falkenstein: memories and illusions from Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
- Visiting Oberbillig, Germany: its fortunes tied for centuries to its Mosel Valley neighbour Wasserbi