Even if I had not seen the sign post designating my entry into Luxembourg, the differences between the small country and France we’re almost immediately apparent. For one, entering the country on the Southern border put me into the fringes of the city of Luxembourg itself, but the economy of Luxembourg contrasted the industrial area of France of where I rode from. Historically, once a fortified medieval city, Luxembourg is now somewhat of a tax haven for banks, and the cleanliness and quality of the streets showed it. The city center itself remains pedestrian-only zone, and the periphery of the center is scattered with contemporary office buildings. On the top of my list for projects to visit in Luxembourg was the Pfaffenthal Lift, a beautiful piece of public infrastructure that connects the city center to the lower historic region of Luxembourg within the river valley. Doubling as an observation deck, the lift is cantilevered out over the Alzette river valley and looks out over medieval buildings and onto the contemporary developments of Kirchberg.
From Luxembourg, I was onto Neuss, Germany, to see the Hombroich Museum as recommended by a friend. With a few days to get there, and a weather forecast that took camping out of my itinerary, again, I train hopped my way to Liege, Belgium to see the second stage of the Tour de France come through. After paying 2€, I took a train to Troisvierges on the northern border of Luxembourg. I was told Belgium trains were not friendly to bikes, so I attempted to endure the rain to Liege, but after 15 miles my will was broken. Luckily, the train attendant understood my circumstances as I shuffled my bike into the passenger car to finish the route towards Liege.
Apparently for Belgium, Liege has a similar reputation to what Reno has in the United States. This, of course, is my interpretation of my host’s words on his little city with large ambitions. As another city that faced a lot of destruction from the conflicts of war, Liege exhibits a heterogeneous mixture of architecture from different era’s. By taking the train, I had made up a day, and explored as the tour rolled through. For me, the most impressive thing was seeing how it quickly the tour overtook the city, including the flow the spectators, and as if it never came, left Liege as a ghost town in the evening.
To make up for my detour to Liege, I had a 70 mile ride to get to Neuss the following day, and forewent my typical route building process to choose the most direct way. Prepared for a long day of improvisation, I took on steep neighborhood switchbacks, footpaths, trails, and gravel double-track as I rode through three countries on my way to Neuss. After almost losing my phone on a dirt path in Belgium, I emerged into what could only be the smooth roads of the cycling holy land in the Netherlands, and marveled for the next 20 miles into Germany. Even small country roads put the cyclist on the same hierarchy level as the car. Germany has almost as many cycle paths as the Netherlands, but the quality varies greatly, as I discovered by riding almost entirely on the access roads that break up parcels of agricultural land.
Finally, in Neuss, I spent the next day at the Museum Insel Hombroich, just outside of Dusseldorf. Founded by the art collector Karl-Heinrich Müller, Hombroich is a museum that blends the threshold between art, landscape, and architecture. The website has a much more thorough explanation. I was captivated as I spent hours walking the property and experiencing the galleries hosted within the pavilions by Erwin Heerich. With each pavilion sharing the same material palette, it was an interesting experience to see how each one uniquely responded to its purpose and placement in the site. Following Insel Hombroich, I walked across the road to the former missile site that was repurposed by Müller. As another architectural experiment, it was incredible to see structures in the same landscape designed by architects such as Tadao Ando and Alvaro Siza.