Luxembourg City, Luxembourg – April 2013
I wander the cobblestone paths of the old city, urged along by a vicious, cold wind. Spring is late this year in Europe. Blossoms have managed to appear on the trees. They hold their ground defiantly against the gray.
The owner of my chambre d’hôte in Brussels snickered when I told him that I wanted to take a day trip to Luxembourg. It’s a boring city, he said. The people are odd. I shrugged and said that I’d heard good things about it. I usually take long day trips when I travel. It’s one of the few European countries that I haven’t been to. He nodded politely, but the amused expression remained. My defense was weak, and my resolve wavered.
I come from a land of strip malls, tract homes, and one language. A vast expanse of uniformity. Ever since I’ve lived in Europe, I’ve felt like a kid in a candy store. In just a couple of hours, and often less, one can be immersed in a different culture. Different cuisine, architecture, language, history. Even tiny Luxembourg has its own language.
I have the opportunity to see it all, so why shouldn’t I?
Luxembourg is the richest country in Europe, and one of the richest in the world. In spite of this, the streets are free of Porsches and Rolls Royces. The local people flash no bling. The architecture is austere and uniform. The locals are not quick to smile, but it seems more of a protective barrier than hostility. An instinctive response to being surrounded by more intimidating forces. I suppose that one could say that the city doesn’t have much character. I’ve always been more intrigued by reserve than exuberance.
During my meanderings, I cross the paths of quite a few tourists. In spite of the wind and gray, we are all smiling. I linger for a while in a tiny park that overlooks Grund, the lower town. Sounds of the street fair below drift up on the wind. The whole country must be down there, judging by the number of people in the streets. I sit on a bench and rest my aching feet. I’ll head back to the ornate, friendly realm of Brussels in an hour or so. For now, I enjoy the blossoms.