Visiting the Castle at Esch-sur-Sûre, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg: Keeping Watch Since Approximately 773
Hills, stones and meandering river: unchanged for many centuries
There was an ecclesiastical official at Echternach Abbey. He (it almost certainly was a he) recorded that the feudal owner of property at a place known as 'Hesc', was giving the structure. complete with serfs, to the Abbey. This occurred in about the years 773-774. A hilltop structure at this place, for centuries written 'Esch', continues to overlook the meandering Sûre River in northern Luxembourg. The owners — ecclesiastical and secular — have changed repeatedly over more than 1000 years, but the local topography is of course unchanged. A craggy structure, though considerably altered, continues to cast its shadow over the winding Sûre River, amidst the hills of this fascinating, small country in Europe.
A square tower is known to have been built in the 10th century. For centuries, the castle was the seat of the Medieval counts of Esch. In the 15th century, the castle's fortifications were considerably strengthened, although in the 16th century — accelerated in the 17th century — the castle began its decline. However, with the walls being so sturdy, and with space in this small town being at a premium, a number of residential properties incorporated some of the castle's walls; this arrangement continues to the present day.
Thus, town and castle, dramatic topography and stone, seem to be thrown together in picturesque and historic Esch-sur-Sûre. This surviving Medieval settlement almost reminds me obliquely of the concept of Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, Pennsylvania, where rock and residence, nature and domesticity, are forged together in an intimate way.
Visitors might not only think that the town and castle are striking; the very name Esch-sur-Sûre has an intriguing redolence. Well, actually, this is for very practical reasons. Luxembourg's second largest town, situated on the border with France in the southern part of the Grand Duchy, is also called Esch. To distinguish them, one is called Esch-sur-Alzette, and the other Esch-sur-Sûre. But the complexity does not end there. Esch-sur-Sûre is of course the French version of the name but in trilingual Luxembourg, Esch-Sauer is the form used in both Letzebuergesch, designated the national language, and German. But even then, it gets more complex, because the Sauer River rises in neighbouring Belgium, in the Walloon-speaking area, where it is known as the Seure (1).
(1) Indeed, the border village of Martelange, through which the Sûre River flows, is actually quadrilingual.
Also worth seeing
Near Esch-sur-Sûre itself is a large, artificial lake, which attracts many summer visitors.
Clervaux (distance: 36 kilometres) has interesting ecclesiastical architecture, an imposing castle, and Battle of the Bulge associations.
How to get there: The nearest large international airport is Luxembourg (Aéroport de Luxembourg ), at Findel, from where car rental is available. For North American travellers making the London, England area their touring base, 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.