All of our friends who have already been to Luxembourg warn us before we set off that it’s an expensive country. Expensive, exclusive and smart.
The minute we cross the border from Belgium, we’re inclined to agree. The place exudes affluence, order and solvency. There is not a speck of litter to be found, and in one park we pass through, in the centre of the country’s capital, Luxembourg City, we understand why: there are more litter bins than people.
The good burghers roaming the designer streers are all immaculately dressed. Leathers and furs protect them from the biting continental cold. Their children are well behaved and well marshalled. Even the dogs are in neat overcoats.
After a scenic trip through the city centre on the tourist road train, the driver effortlessly negotiating hairpin bends on the precipitous route down to the bottom of the gorge and back again, we stop at a public toilet on one of the main squares. It is as immaculate as a manufacturing “clean room”.
Driving through the City’s outskirts en route to the Moselle Valley, I’m struck by the quiet luxury of the substantial houses. Expensive children’s play equipment is in every garden, smart cars on every drive. These Luxembourgeois know how to spend their money.
Luxembourg = Luxury
Next day, we stop for a couple of hours at Remich, a pleasant, spacious resort on the banks of the Moselle. As we park in one of the many immaculate free car parks, it occurs to me that the parking spaces are designed to accommodate very large cars. For once, our camper van does not protrude beyond the white lines. Affluence is assumed here: everyone is expected to drive a big car.
But we are not affluent, and as we cannot run to Luxembourg restaurant prices, today’s lunch is frites from a Friture van, parked discreetly in a corner of the car park. I translate Friture loosely for my daughter as a “chippery”. As I wait to be served by pleasant chefs, I notice how spotless their van is. One chef is carefully slipping a knife into a pork cutlet to make sure it’s properly cooked. I’m impressed: no risk of food poisoning here.
Child’s Play, Luxembourg Style
Along the riverbank are dotted tasteful, shiny new entertainments for children: playparks, mini-golf, go-karts, a traditional carousel.
The carousel’s music is not the usual brash hurdy-gurdy kind, but tinkling classics played on a silvery glockenspiel: Tschaikovsky, Handel and Bach. Laura takes a spin on an ostrich to the sound of Mozart.
Strolling on through the town, we realise that if we walk across the nearest bridge, we’ll be in Germany: the Moselle serves as the national border. As Laura has never been to Germany, she’s keen to go, so we set off. At the apex of this gently sloping bridge are two signs featuring the flag of the European Union (a circle of yellow stars on a royal blue background), each with the name of the country you are entering at its centre. Laura hops incessantly from one nation to the other, so that when we get home she’ll be able to say she’s visited each country lots of times.
Spot the Difference
After the obligatory photos, we continue to the other side. I’m not expecting it to seem much different, so I’m startled to find a grubby, litter-strewn parking area bearing a strident yellow “Parking Verboten” sign amid piles of rubbish. Just beyond, giving dubious new life to the now redundant border control huts, are down-at-heel businesses, half-heartedly plying downmarket trades: a bar, a kebab house (spelling “kebab” in two different ways on its signage, indicating an indecisive or illiterate proprietor) and, inexplicably, a shop full of garden gnomes. I wonder if they’re illegal in Luxembourg for making smart gardens look downmarket, hence their sale on the borderline. Perhaps after nightfall there’ll be a surge of Luxembourgeois making a dash for them, under cover of the dark.
As we stroll back across the water to Luxembourg, I notice that only the German side of the bridge bears graffiti. Even the abundant swans on the river are favouring the Luxembourg bank.
Alles in Ordnung?
I am perplexed. My memory of Germany, where I lived for four years as a teenager, is of Order with a capital O – well, Ordnung, to be precise. I cannot reconcile this bleak, shabby no-parking parking lot with that recollection.
As we head off up the Moselle, intending to cross the border once again at Trier, where the river drops the final le to become the Mosel, I wonder what other surprises might lay in store…
More musings about our trans-border travels will follow shortly – click the “Follow” button on the right to make sure you don’t miss them!
Other recent posts about our Easter tour of Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany: