Before heading off, I did a bit of reading on what Luxembourg was all about. Here are some facts. Luxembourg is a small land-locked country between Belgium, France, and Germany on all 3 edges. Its strategically central geography has been desired by many countries in Europe. Georges explained that throughout Luxembourg's history, nearly every European country has invaded it
. He joked that even Canada has once invaded his country (lol, as if). Luxembourg also used to be a much larger country, but each of its 3 neighbors has claimed its share. The most surprising thing is that with a population of only 500,000, Luxembourg fought to remain its own country instead of being absorbed into its adjacent giants. The national language is Luxembourgish, a mixed dialect of German descent. However, French is the official administrative language, and understood by all. German is also widely understood and spoken by the majority of the population. Furthermore, well-educated citizens also speak fluent English. Yes, most citizens can speak at least 3 languages, if not 4.
Perhaps the most surprising thing you will learn about Luxembourg is that despite its size, it is the richest (highest GDP/capita) country in Europe, and consistently ranks in the top 3 richest countries in the world. A successful steel industry, along with an international banking sector (akin to Swiss banking) has boosted the country’s economy, allowing for a very high standard of living.
From Strasbourg, I took a 2 hour train to Luxembourg city where I was greeted at the gate by an old friend. Although I was happy to see him, I was saddened to see that he had since shaved off his epic travel beard
. We spent that first day exploring his entire country excluding Luxembourg city. We visited a historic hill-top castle, went to the Family of Man exhibit (the largest collection of human photography originally housed in New York’s photography gallery), and drove through the picturesque countryside. We returned to his modern-style apartment, had a BBQ of horse meat sausages on his terrace overlooking a horse ranch. It’s moments like this that I think to myself: "Thank god I’m not a vegetarian. This horse meat is delicious."
The next day we headed over to nearby Germany to visit his girlfriend and watch the football game. Germany won 4-0 against Argentina that day and the whole town was definitely in party mode; I got to bask in their happiness and glory. The following day we went into Luxembourg city for an all-day music festival showcasing local Luxembourgish bands with Ben Harper as the headliner. And on my last day in Luxembourg, I asked Georges to give me a bike so I could ride the countryside roads for a few hours. Nothing too interesting that day except I realized how out of shape I was
From Luxembourg, I am heading off to Belgium for 2 days – 1 day in the quaint town of Bruges, and 1 day in the capital city of Brussels.
As I sat on the train towards Belgium, I thought to myself that it’s been quite a while since I’ve had a real solo adventure. I was heading into the land of beers and I knew I owed it to myself, and to you, Reader, to not leave Belgium without some kind of (drunken) adventure. So here was the plan – for anyone who has ever watched a movie, you will know that the solitary man sitting at the bar, making small talk with the bartender as he sipped his stiff drink contemplating life was always the coolest guy in the room. For one night, I was going to be that man. I have never sat at a bar alone and decided to see how this one plays out. I will pick out an interesting bar in town, sit at the bar table, try to engage the barkeep in some interesting conversation as he wipes his countertops and drink a different beer with each glass until something interesting happens. Let’s see how I did.
2 years ago, I went on a short backpacking trip through the Yukon. On that trip, I met Georges, a backpacker from Luxembourg who was doing a year-long trip from Alaska down to the tip of South America (I later saw that he also found his way to China and took the Trans-Siberian back home). As he passed through Vancouver on his trip, I invited him to stay at my place with the agreement that if I ever came to Luxembourg, he would have to host me for a few days! Well since I was in Europe, I thought it was time to cash in that coupon.