Sunday, October 4, 2009


I have arrived in Luxembourg!
over Luxembourg
The flights (Vancouver to Toronto, Toronto to Zurich, and Zurich to Luxembourg City) were all very pleasant.  There were no hassles, no irritations, just many hours of relaxation.
I arrived in Luxembourg City at 9 or 10 this morning. (Note: Luxembourg is 9 hours ahead of Vancouver Time). The only problem bag decided to take a later flight. No problem though, as the airline delivered it to my hotel about 10 hours later.
A few comments about Luxembourg generally. Most people have been perplexed or even irritated by my decision to come here on vacation, as they wondered why i wouldn't go somewhere else. All i can say is that I knew shamefully little about this diminutive country, but some preliminary investigation intrigued me.
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
For your own edification, here are some useful facts:
  • Yes, it is a country.
  • Yes, there really is a language called "Luxembourgish".
  • The country is 2586 km2 and has a population of 486,006.
  • It had the highest per capita GDP in the world, has a near 100% literacy rate and makes most of its money in banking.
  • It is 90% Roman Catholic (which explains the constant church bells.)
  • The National Dish is called Gaardebounen  smoked pork neck served with broad beans, potatos, and bacon.
  • They make wine and chocolate and some odd looking liqueurs.
  • It is one of the most forested countries in Europe and is home to deer, wolves, wild boar and an impressive collection of birds.
  • They have two flags.
  • It is the only Grand Duchy in the world. (I don't know why this is a big deal, but they are very proud of it.)
First impressions: Luxembourg is very green with a patchwork farmland and puffy forests visible from the airplane.  The were so many shades of green and gold and "yellow ocher" in the trees that it resembled a Bob Ross painting.

I caught the bus into the city, which cost €1.5 and took about 10 minutes.  The city is quaint and beautiful.  It looks more like a 'real" city than, say Talinn, but it is very charming.  There are many squares lined with the requisite cafes and cobblestone streets leading to churches and museums. Winding though the middle of the city is a narrow and deep ravine, which is reachable either by steep stairs or an elevator. At the bottom of the ravine is a serene forested park area along the banks of a river (scarcely, more than a trickle, really, but that call it a river.) The park is so beautiful and is full of bird song and that delightful smell that i shall simply call ''forresty".
view of Luxembourg City
I am staying at the Hotel Grand Cravat which is lousy with "faded elegance" (to borrow from a previous post).  The common areas are lovely, but my room is nothing special; it is however, very clean and stocked with all the amenities. The lack of charm in my room however is more than remedied by the hotel bar which is exceedingly gentlemanly and civilized, with leather chairs, stately draperies and painting of men in doublets and impressive moustaches. The best part? It is cigar friendly! Apparently you can smoke in any bar or cafe as long as they are not serving food. Huzzah!
Anyway, I spent the day exploring and becoming comfortable navigating around the circuitous streets. As it is Sunday today, all the of the shops were closed, but the churches and cafes were busy. I will not list every place I visited, but there were a couple of churches, some squares and I walked through the Petrusse Valley (the aforementioned ravine). I also visited the Bock Casemates, which are 17 km of tunnels carved into the rock walls of the ravine, built in the 17th C for defensive purposes. Betty Lou, you would have been both claustrophobic and suffering from vertigo. I, however, enjoyed it.
The Grund area in Luxembourg City
I also visited the Museum of the History of the City of Luxembourg because  they had a fascinating exhibit on murder and manslaughter. It was gruesome and academic and partly interactive. They even had a jar of prisoners' fingers! It thought it was neat.
I had Indian food for dinner (thank god for curry or I would surely starve in Europe).
More observations: There are many happy looking dogs of medium to large sizes. It is very clean. Although there are 3 national languages, most people I overhear are speaking French. I am relying on French with the odd mis-pronounced word of Luxembourgish thrown in for effect. People are serious but very nice. Bicycles are everywhere (no helmets, of course.)
Like I said, it was a quiet Sunday, so I will get a better sense of things tomorrow.

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