One of the few downsides to traveling is that I spend many days back home daydreaming that I am in those places I’ve long since left behind, such as … Luxembourg! Yes, Luxembourg, that tiny nation nestled between Belgium, France, and Germany. It charmed me in a way I was not expecting. Now I wish I could board my private jet, a la Doris Buffett, at any time I needed a little peace and quiet. I would zip off to spend a long weekend writing in the countryside of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Here’s what I found there on my first visit, which was the second stop on a road trip I took from the Netherlands a little more than a year ago.
Luxembourg’s citizens are very well educated; their literacy rate is at 100 percent. The three official languages of Luxembourg are German, French, and the native language, Luxembourgish – and school children are raised to be fluent in all three languages. The country is filled with family-owned farms, wineries, and ancient castles and forts. It is the home of light, refreshing beer Bofferding. (I found a Bofferding glass abandoned in the street that I washed and took home!) Luxembourg enjoys a very stable economy; in fact, as of 2009, it was the richest country in the world (using Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita data). (This Wikipedia page cites the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, both of which put Luxembourg at #1 for 2009. The CIA World Factbook placed Luxembourg at #3 behind Lichtenstein and Qatar, but used estimates from various years for each nation.)
We arrived in Luxembourg City from Brussels and headed through the bumpy roads and narrow streets. I noticed that we appeared to be in some sort of valley with mountains, forests, and castles rising on all sides. We drove around and around until we reached our hostel, which was large and sparkling clean. Our hostel stood in the shadow of a tall train bridge. To get to the city proper, we had to climb a very steep hill next to the bridge. How my friend did this in flats, I’m not so sure. It was worth it … just look at these gorgeous views. You can see why the national motto is: “Mir welle bleiwe wat mir sinn” (“We want to remain how we are”) … the buildings all retain their original beauty.
Sadly, the ancient fortress we could see looming above the valley is only available for underground tours during the summertime. It was first built in the 900s!
Luxembourg’s head of state is Grand Duke Henri Albert Gabriel Félix Marie Guillaume, who resides in the Grand Ducal Palace with his wife and family. The heir apparent to the crown is his eldest son Guillaume, who is about my age (29). And according to the tabloid OK!, younger brother Felix is one of the “near-perfect princes still up for grabs”! Hopefully he enjoys a more private, paparazzi-free life than Prince William and Kate Middleton currently do.
The palace is lovely and we could walk so close to it that I probably could’ve leaned over and touched it! It was rainy and cold and as we walked by, the Grand Duke himself saw us shivering and invited us inside, where we had tea with him and his wife, the Grand Duchess Maria Teresa … Oops, there goes my imagination again!
The city was quiet on this rainy, chilly weekday. We ventured across a large square where there were several bistros and bars and more people. Dinner was at Bananas bar, which was adjacent to another Chi-Chi’s restaurant! You’ll recall I saw one in Belgium too! The bar was decked out in awesome old signs and ads. I had the Taz LuxemBurger (“Does this place look like Hamburg ???” asked the menu) with Arrabia’taz sauce (a play on the Italian Arrabbiata sauce – garlic, tomatoes, and chili pepper) and it was exactly the kind of warm filling meal I wanted. Then we spent the rest of the night drinking Bofferding!
On our way out we stopped to get gas, and suddenly heard a siren. The police car that sped by was a BMW with neon orange markings! Here’s a user-submitted picture at Wikimedia Commons of a similar one. Man, think how unsuccessful all those speed traps would be on I-81 with these guys trying to hide in the bushes.
We left Luxembourg after a filling hostel breakfast with some really delicious baked bread. We listened to a free 2-CD set the hostel offered, which had pop, metal, and hip-hop tracks by various Luxembourgian artists. I loved it! We didn’t love the roads though. Leigh’s GPS led us through the countryside on our way to Koln (Cologne), Germany, where we seemed to forever be stuck on roads that looked like THIS:
Poor Leigh was not a fan! As we found ourselves traveling through an extremely rural area full of farmland and wind turbines, Leigh became concerned that the GPS had lead us astray. We pulled over in the first small village we found, but there was nobody around! We made it to Germany, but not until more hours on the road than we’d bargained for!
It’s true there wasn’t a whole lot to do in the city. This is not a tourist mecca, but it has many wonderful things to offer and is a true place of beauty. Things I’d like to see on my next relaxing visit to Luxembourg include the Valley of the Seven Castles, the wineries, and of course, a tour of the casemates! Visit in the summer to get the most out of your stay.