So, my latest post comes to you fresh off the back of a lovely weekend in Luxembourg. It all began when some of us from Nottingham wanted to meet up, but we couldn’t work out where. With me being all the way up here in northern Germany, Jade being in the south, and Louise in France, we couldn’t come up with one place to go, so I suggested maybe Luxembourg (sort of as a joke, actually). And so Luxembourg it was.
Unfortunately, Louise couldn’t make it in the end, but she was with us in spirit (and in paper cut-out, as you will see a little later!).
(NB- Jade also has a blog- you can find her post about our weekend (and many other topics) here-http://lookmumimstillalive.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/luxembourg-of-all-places/)
My journey began on Friday morning, when I left for my first of two flights. Hamburg to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Luxembourg. Three hours of waiting for my connecting flight in Amsterdam included lots of people watching and frustration at the poor Wi-Fi, as well as seriously considering buying a pair of clogs, and spotting this book:
The UnDutchables. Of course.
I arrived at the hotel in Luxembourg a few hours before Jade, and we headed into the city centre the following morning for a look around.
I have to say at this point that I need to thank my parents for buying me a nice warm jacket while they were here for my birthday. I would probably be frozen to the ground somewhere in Luxembourg if they hadn’t! So, in short, it was cold, my dear Reader.
And, when it’s cold, you might think that the sensible thing to do would be to stay indoors. You would be right, that is indeed the sensible thing to do.
Instead we went on a walking tour of the city. You know, outside and stuff.
Our tour guide was wonderful. He may have had a bit of an issue with spitting while talking, but I quite literally brushed it off, and enjoyed listening to his expertise. He was a native Luxembourger called Robert, and I would say he was probably pushing 70. More impressive still, was that he did the tour in German, French and English (in that order). So what should have been a 2 hour affair in fact became a 3.5 hour walk in a freezer. Jade and I proclaimed ourselves German for this tour, so stood on Robert’s left for most of it, where he asked all the Deutsche to stand.
As a native Luxembourger, he knew so much more than we could have found out otherwise, from statistics such as there being 110 bridges, to showing us rare old photos of the city during the turbulent past it has on occasion endured, in a little folder he had with him. He was so sweet; I just wanted to give him a hug, really.
This, my dear Reader, is where the ‘sick bridge’ aspect comes in. Pont Adolphe is Luxembourg’s postcard bridge, if you will. But, as Robert told us, in three languages, no less, all is not well with the beautiful bridge:
‘Die Brücke ist krank’
‘Le pont est malade’
‘The bridge is sick’
As you can hopefully see in the photo, there’s another blue construction behind Pont Adolphe, which, when finished, will take all the traffic which currently runs over the old bridge, while Pont Adolphe can be reinforced with titanium.
This bridge is visible from a little platform where a monument stands for all those lost in both World Wars, as well as the war in Korea. Robert did add as well that Luxembourg doesn’t have an official army per se, but that it is comprised of volunteers. Currently, there are 1000 of them.
The goddess Nike stands atop the monument holding an olive-branch crown and is a brilliant figure in gold, and if I understood Robert correctly, then she, as well as the two figures at the base of the column, were hidden beneath the surface of a football pitch when Luxembourg was invaded in the 20th century, and dug up a few years after the Second World War. It was a strange sort of feeling being there during our Remembrance Weekend.
The view from behind the monument is, as mentioned with Pont Adolphe, quite spectacular.
Now, going back to the topic of language, I have come to the frustrating conclusion that, no matter how proficient you may be in French or German, Luxembourg will still confuse you.
Officially, the three languages of the little country are Luxembourgish, German and French, and so you may think to yourself, dear Reader, ‘well hey, I speak French/German. I’ll be home and dry. Home and dry!’
You’d be wrong.
So, imagine this, the lady at reception only speaks French, but the bus driver speaks German. The street signs are in Luxembourgish, but the ‘please press’ button at the traffic lights is in German. Indeed, the menu at a café is also in German, but the waiter takes your order in French. In fact, if you listen to a conversation between two Luxembourgers, you’ll hear German numbers, French sayings, and then some sort of phlegmy sound which I can only assume is Luxembourgish. If you go to this picturesque country, prepare to have a small breakdown or anxiety attack every time you’re about to speak to someone; expect the unexpected, my friends.
Also I should add that neither Jade nor I could get any 3G access in the city at all. So, if you happen to have some sort of niche 3G fetish (there must be someone out there who does), then Luxembourg, beautiful as it is, is not for you.
On our way round, we came across the statue of Duchess Charlotte, who is a pretty big deal there, I have to say. Here she is:
Upon reflection I realise that it looks like I am doing a seriously poor impression of her stance. In fact, I was sort of pointing at her, although this was the furthest I was prepared (and indeed able) to move my arm, given how cold it was. Tights were a bad choice.
Another important historical figure who was mentioned was none other than Goethe, possibly Germany’s finest and most famous literary figure. As it turns out he stayed in the city for a while, and lived next to a fabulously eerie little walkway which leads up to the palace. It is, quite aptly, called Passage du Palais. (See, French again.) In the picture below you’ll see a cross made from arrows. This was put above houses to protect the people inside from the plague when it struck.
Well, dear Reader, I haven’t googled how that worked out for them, but my guess is not well.
Once through the passage, however, you are greeted by the absolutely gorgeous palace, which is guarded by one of the army volunteers.
That more or less rounds up the first and only full day we had there, but I will add some photos of other things we saw on our shiver round the city at the bottom of this post.
On Sunday we had a few hours to have another wander around, and our first stop was to the Chocolate House. Louise was there, too.
Our tour guide had said that this place did the best hot chocolate in town, and I’d certainly agree with him. You choose a flavour (there are over 40 different ones, it takes a while to choose!), which is in the form of a lump of chocolate on a wooden spoon, then you go upstairs where you’re given a mug of hot milk, and you stir away to your heart’s content, and are left with a ridiculously yummy, artery-clogging cup of chocolaty goodness.
While we sat in there, we noticed that there was a cow-theme in the Chocolate House. I’m not being rude about the clientele, I actually mean that there were lots of pictures of cows on the walls. I have thus concluded that Luxembourg is famous for its cows, or something.
We then had a stroll and managed to find a series of parks throughout the city, which were beautiful. There was even a tribute to some of the country’s most successful cyclists (Luxembourg’s famous for that, too), one of whom was the first non-Frenchman to win the Tour de France.
Thankfully we didn’t have to pedal back to the hotel to get our bags (it’s very hilly there), but instead caught the bus back, and then Jade and I parted ways and I braced myself for two flights back to wonderful Hamburg.
If anything odd was going to happen to me on my return journey, I assumed that it would happen in Amsterdam. I mean, it’s Amsterdam, after all. But no. It was Luxembourg which said a very puzzling goodbye to me instead.
I, as usual, beeped when going through the security checks at the airport, and so stood with arms out and legs apart as the lady patted me down. When she got down to my legs she knelt down, and then she lifted up my dress, had a look underneath, and then let go of it.
THIS IS NOT OK.
I was so shocked that I didn’t have time for a reflex slap (sorry to let you down, Bev), but instead walked away quite red-faced and completely confused. I mean, we were in the middle of the scanning area. I don’t understand.
My theory is that there are so few people in Luxembourg that people panic when inundated with travellers, and thus react by lifting up people’s dresses. That can be the only explanation. There was a rainbow while I was waiting for my flight though, so that improved my mood!
Eventually I made it home to my little flat here in Hamburg, and placed my new snow globe on my little table.
Another country off the list!
PS- It also became apparent to me this weekend that I haven’t actually given any details about how my favourite word ‘moin’ is pronounced. It’s ‘moin’ like ‘groin’. I do apologise to all northern Germans, but this was the only way I could think of putting it. It was either ‘groin’ or ‘loin’, and ‘loin’ lent itself to loins of the burning variety, so I thought it better to leave that one.