Luxembourg, Luxembourg - A country hidden by a large dog - CycleBlaze

August 20, 2019

Luxembourg, Luxembourg


Lower Luxembourg
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TO live in a city that has the same name as the country may seem convenient. But I'm sure it's not.

You'd be forever explaining, wouldn't you? Especially to people who don't know where Luxembourg is in the first place.

We had just a five-kilometre ride to get to Luxembourg, Luxembourg. The fact that the campground is considered somewhere else and not the city itself shows how small the place is: Toytown for a Toy Country. Lego Luxembourg.

The city stands  on a river with neither a king or queen but a duke. It's part of the country's discomfort that it also stands on a hill, making it a fortress attractive to the neighbours, all of whom have barged in and pushed out whoever had usurped the country before them.

I don't follow the reasoning but when Luxembourg built its first railway station, it built it of wood so it could be knocked down at the first sight of invaders. Maybe they hoped they wouldn't realise and that they'd carry on through their country and into someone else's.

In one of the peace settlements that turned Luxembourg into the prosperous place it is now was a clause that the city had to reduce the size of its defensive walls. Again, I don't follow the reasoning for a country more subject to being invaded than doing the invading itself but, equally, I'm not going to go through all the agreements to work out why.

Lower Luxembourg - note the crane, the national bird
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Luxembourg cathedral
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Old defensive positions and the long network of underground corridors show Luxembourg's history
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The thing that most strikes us is that people are so polite. And honest, presumably, because when we left our bikes outside a hotel, the receptionist said: "This is Luxembourg so they'll be perfectly safe but you can bring them in if you like."

If you stand near a pedestrian crossing, traffic will stop. It gets embarrassing if you hadn't intended to cross the road because you get into a theatrical "After you... No, please, after you" performance before the driver, disappointed, goes on his way.

Drivers follow cyclists contentedly until the right moment comes and then they'll pass with generosity of space.

There must be poverty in Luxembourg, because there's poverty everywhere, but it's not obvious. You need money to live here, so maybe that's the reason. The average wage is spectacularly high and house prices follow, so I think a third of Luxembourg's workers travel across the border each morning and after work.

It tells you something that Jean-Claude Juncker, who's now president of the European Commission, used to be Luxembourg's minister of the middle class. Not the poor or the stinking rich but the comfortably off.

There are tourists everywhere, although in well-mannered groups that befit the country, and in Toytown proportions. Several cyclists on laden bikes have ridden past as we sit with ice cream and cold drinks.

There are cranes everywhere, because the city is building a tramway. The French for a crane, une grue, works for both the thing and the bird, as it does in English. So the joke is that the country's national bird is the crane.

Actually, there's real indecision about national symbol. The flag is like that of the Netherlands, horizontal red, white and blue stripes. But the blue is paler in the hope that people see the difference.

That it is so close to the Dutch flag - another part of everybody having a go at invading - irritates people. So instead of one national flag, they have two, the other alternating blue and white horizontal stripes with a rampant red lion wearing a crown.

It goes along with Luxembourg having a royal palace unfenced from passers-by in which the duke and his family don't live. They have their own house out in the countryside and they come into the city only to hold diplomatic tea parties.

Successful map hunt
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We like Luxembourg, though I think a full day will be enough. We'll head westwards towards Belgium after this, although not after all to Brussels. We've been to Brussels before and, apart from its spectacular square and a métro station named after Eddy Merckx, there's not a lot to put yourself out for. So we're going to Dinant to celebrate the birth of the saxophone and then to Charleroi and then back over the border into France for the train to Paris.

It seems strange to be talking already about going home. It won't be for a few days and we still have two national borders to cross. But, yes, the end is nigh.

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Scott AndersonSorry to hear you’re heading home already, Leo. I’ll have to change my morning routine. Can’t you arrange an extension?
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2 years ago
Leo WoodlandYes, sad, but a life of eternal pleasure is not for me... Thanks for riding along
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2 years ago