Just over a year ago, I returned from this beautiful country into this new world of lockdown, at home, covered, paranoid, and scared world.
This is a throwback to my time in Luxembourg last year before everything became crazy and traveling became difficult…
Cashier: “Luxembourgish, maybe French, maybe German, more Luxembourgish”
Me: “Merci” as I take my coins, smile, and leave the smile.
I have a bag of rice in my right pocket, gloves and hair wax in my left pocket. My breast pockets, facewash, hand lotion, lipstick, credit card, coins, and mobile phone. In my hands, I carry broccoli, new earphones, a hair removal gadget, and a notepad. This will be my 2km journey, walking with my broccoli like it was a bunch of flowers. Spontaneous shopping has led to many of these predicaments, but I will not aid in buying plastic shopping bags.
The available bags are massive and only add to the big pile of ‘reusable’ shopping bags pile every household has. When walking down the street you notice that every house also owns not 1, nor 2, but at least 5 orchids on their windowsill. Beautiful orchids that carry up to 10 flowers per pot.
Before booking your ticket and packing your suitcase and go out to travel to Luxembourg I will tell you in all honesty that Luxembourg is small, not too touristy, and not cheap. The clean streets, the cobblestones and the lack of cobblestones give you an old-world feel with the ability to walk into the new world at any time you want. You also do not have to walk very far to see the lush green fields that surround the towns and cities of Luxembourg.
Here are some facts about Luxembourg:
- The capital city of Luxembourg is Luxembourg.
- The whole name is The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the only Grand Duchy in the world.
- The locals speak Luxembourgish, German, French, and mostly understand English.
- There is a big Portuguese culture in Luxembourg.
- About half of the people that work in Luxembourg do not live in Luxembourg.
- Radio Télévision Luxembourg, or RTL, is Europe’s largest TV, radio and production company.
- 65% of the agricultural grounds are used for dairy farming.
- The red bridge in Luxembourg city is known as the suicide bridge.
- From March 2020 public transportation is free, the first country in Europe.
- There are 130 castles in one of the smallest countries in the world.
- In Luxembourg, it is custom to give three cheek kisses when you greet someone. Something I never get used to and I do not particularly like, so I stick out my hand and people probably think I am rude.
What is there to do in the country of Luxembourg?
- Take the valley of 7 castles or just any of the approximately 130 castles in Luxembourg.
- Visit the Grund in Luxembourg city where there are several pubs and patisseries.
- Visit the beautiful towns like Vianden, Larochette, Wilts, and Clervaux.
- Go visit Trier (Germany), Bastogne (Belgium), or Metz (France) for a day.
- In summer go hiking or biking and visit national parks.
- Go wine tasting, Luxembourg is known for its white wines especially.
My time in Luxembourg
Luckily I have family in Ettelbruck that I visited. This has been my second time in Luxembourg. Both times I have landed in Luxembourg I never seem to get my luggage at the airport. The first time I received my luggage the same evening, the second time I was not that fortunate. I received my luggage almost a week later and was refunded for the undies and toiletries I had bought while waiting for my luggage. Once returned my lock was broken off, but I was refunded for the lock too. If only the person who broke my lock off had taken out my wet clothes and hung them to dry that would have made my first week a lot less stressful.
Being here for three months I wanted to find work to contribute to and to learn more about the ins and outs of Luxembourg.
Turns out that Luxembourg is in no need to hire illegals to work for little or no money. I didn’t try to work illegal; I was going to do all the required paperwork but it never got to that. The language barrier seems to be a problem in the towns but in the city, there is a lot more English spoken. I did a trial day in one of the most popular bars in the city, and I am still awaiting their call. At least, for my troubles, the sous chef gave me a 50 Euro note. It was a really good feeling.
My diet has changed a bit since I have been here. Raclette a semi-hard cheese was something I enjoyed a few times. I think it’s a brilliant concept, everyone makes their food to their liking and no one can complain. Though Raclette is a Swiss tradition it is an enjoyed one in Luxembourg. Wine Sausages (Weinzossis) are also something you must try, served with mash and a creamy mustard sauce! Portuguese pastries that are generous in size, attractive and delicious is a very common thing to find. It is dangerous to walk in the streets of Luxembourg, especially when you have a weakness for chocolate, croissants, hazelnut, macarons, custard pastries, gateaux, chocolate, biscuits, bread, chocolate… Crime wise it might be safe, but pastry wise my friend, you are in danger! As I am writing I hear the church bells and smell the chocolate croissant that I am heating in the oven… Chocolate, ‘Food of the Gods’.
I was in luck; my cousin and his girlfriend went away to the Black Forest in Germany and I had the pleasure of looking after their three cats. The cats seemed to get attached to me, or maybe just like a warm lap. When it wasn’t raining, I walked into the forest. It was quiet, there wasn’t anyone there. The streets of Larochette look like a film set. Small cobbled streets, quaint cafés, not many shops, a few restaurants, and beautiful nature. This small old market town is mainly visited for its natural beauty and trails, but the castle is also an attraction. I walked around the castle ruins that are found on the hill from Larochette and can be seen from the streets.
At midnight on Good Friday, there is a dragon that comes out of the well to protect the gold that he had accepted while still in the form of a man.
He accepted this gold as a treacherous steward of the castle who allowed the enemy to storm the castle. In this invasion, a woman jumped down the well with her infant in her panic. The enemy saw her action as bravery and saved her and threw the steward into the well and left him for dead, along with his gold.
The housesitting app had to lead me to Mersch, another town in Luxembourg. Castle seems to be a bit of a strong word for the ‘Castle of Mersch’, but across from it is the Mersch Dragon Fountain, which symbolises St Michael, the Dragonslayer, patron saint of the church of Mersch, which only the one tower remains of the St. Michael Church. The three fountains represent a confluence of Alzette, Mamer, and Eisch.
The humps represent movement and the valley of seven castles which starts in Mersch.
I think that my idea of castles is different from the reality of it. Nevertheless, Pettingen castle ruin was worth the walk. In summer it would be an ideal picnic spot and could even serve as a beautiful venue. After seeing this castle, I decided to take the train to see the Grand-Chateau d’Ansembourg and the Chateau Hollenfels. By train, it takes about 40/45 min and the walk between the two castles is only 20 min. There’s also the Medievil Castle in Beaufort. I might just take the train to Clervaux castle… or all the other castles I can find a gare (train station) close to. This would have been a lot cheaper if public transport were free while I was here.
The city I spent most of my time in. The centre of the Grand Duchy, very accessible, beautiful, and a lot more happening than in the other smaller towns. There is always movement here. The town also has speakers in the streets to share music with everyone walking or standing around and locals conversing. I find this strange, but I think it is nice to have a background track playing as you walk amongst the many sculptures in the town.
Luxembourg, like Germany, celebrates Carnival. Not quite to the extent that Germany does but on 23 February you put on your costume, tend to the streets, and join in the festivities. I was told that there are sweets that will be thrown to the crowds, so naturally, that is my cue to go, never mind that I love to wear costumes.
My aunt had also given me the idea of taking an umbrella to catch myself all these goodies! With parades and floats (and sweet treats) this is an event I don’t want to miss. Thursday before Carnival Sunday women cut off men’s ties and in return kiss them. Really? This sounds like fun, I do however believe that there may be men that do not appreciate this fun tradition but to that, I say “Tough… cookies!”
The tradition dates back to 1824 when women were fed up with working hard and waiting for their men to come home from Carnival parties. As a stand and demanding authority, they stormed into the city hall, stole the key and formed a committee called Beuel Ladies’ Committee. Since that year the Thursday before Sunday Carnival is known as Weiberfastnacht.
The last event I will enjoy in Luxembourg before I head back to South Africa is Buerbrennen. The first Sunday after the carnival is the celebration of ‘burning winter’. This is, of course, my cue to leave. I love winter and would not want to do anything to see it go but I feel like it is in a way a good, symbolic way to end my time here. Goodbye to the woes and worries that made me run to Luxembourg and new birth to spring and my new life and found knowledge and love from my family that had made it possible for me to have experienced all of this.
Until you read again!
Blog post by Anel du Preez.