Bonjour and Guten tag!
I’ll admit that it is an ambition of mine to visit every country in the world. However, I try not to be of the mindset of ‘ticking a box’ and moving on. I remember being told about a man who was attempting to visit every country in the world within a year without flying. A lovely and novel idea, but I believe you would miss out on so much. Where do you go in America, for example? Do you miss out on seeing the Statue of Liberty because you’re hot-footing it across a border? Do you ignore the seals and sights of San Francisco because the bus to Mexico leaves soon?
I like to achieve or do something in a country before I say that I have visited in. I find it difficult to state proudly that I have been to Mexico when I popped to Tijuana on an afternoon trip with my family from San Diego. Did I really experience Mexico? I went to Egypt for 12 hours, yet saw the pyramids, bartered in a market in a market and saw a belly dance that would make any young teenager slightly uncomfortable. I say I have been to Egypt.
The point of me saying this is that there is more to travelling than simply ‘travelling’. I will admit, however, that my philosophy gets tested with certain countries or principalities – mainly the ones that are really small. So if I said that I was going to Luxembourg, a perfectly legitimate response might be…why? I wouldn’t have been able to tell you, instead optimistically retorting: why not?
Actually, there is a reason. Before going, I knew NOTHING about Luxembourg aside from it being a small country with a royal family and a royally rubbish football team. We thus derived ten questions which had to be asked to locals during our time in Luxembourg, NB we only got seven questions answered, the ones that are starred may have involved my good friend ‘Internet’.
1) **WHAT IS YOUR SIZE AND POPULATION?**
My answer would have been ‘small’. Alas, Wikipedia can do this better, and reliably informs me that Luxembourg is 998 square miles – smaller than the smallest state in the U.S.A, and the 179th biggest country in the world.
2) *HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A COUNTRY?*
The answer we were given was ‘since 1945’. However, it has been a Kingdom before that, and declared independence from the French Empire in 1815. Bad year for the French, that.
3) WHAT IS A NATIONAL HOLIDAY IN YOUR HOLIDAY?
June 23rd. Possibly to do with question 4, though I can’t honestly remember. The three ladies in the bank did discuss its reasoning for a little while.
4) WHAT IS A FAMOUS EVENT IN YOUR COUNTRY’S HISTORY?
As I keep referring to question 4, it seems that Luxembourg’s liberation from Germany in 1945 was a very important event.
5) WHO IS YOUR MOST FAMOUS PERSON?
“No idea,” said the man in the tourist office. I would have thought that this would be the very popular royal family, whose palace can be seen below. Guards were obviously on a break when we arrived! Alas, we were told the most famous Luxembourgian is actually J.C. Jay. Not a rapper…but the Prime Minister.
6) WHAT IS YOUR NATIONAL DISH OR DRINK?
Cue more headscratching in the tourism office. Eventually we were told Kachkeiss, a cheese, could be the national food. We didn’t find it, primarily because we couldn’t locate a supermarket. Shops close very early in central Europe, which caught us out on this day, resulting in a dinner of a croissant and crisps from a petrol station. Luckily I had earlier located and devoured the mouth-watering waffles I had hunted for in Belgium, so wasn’t particularly peckish. The beer is called Bofferding, and seemed fairly average.
7) WHAT IS YOUR NATIONAL SPORT OR PASTIME?
Collecting nice cars could have easily been the answer here. I do also faintly remember Luxembourg embarrassing Great Britain at tennis in the Davis Cup. However, we were told that nine-pins is something that the locals enjoy to watch and participate in. Though the amount of time it took the girls to make a decision suggests that it may not be the universal choice.
8) **WHAT IS YOUR COUNTRY’S OLYMPIC RECORD LIKE?**
Well, they compete. Wikipedia tells me they have competed at 28 Summer Olympiads since 1912, winning a solitary gold in 1952. Take a bow, Josy Barthel. Interestingly, a runner in the 1930 Olympics won a medal for France, but was later found to have been born in Luxembourg.
9) WHAT IS YOUR BEST ATTRACTION?
Luxembourg City, the capital, is an appealing if slightly artificial place to visit, particularly when the sun glistens off the grand castle perched imperiously over the valley. Its narrow alleys have many treats hidden within them, but most will weave their way back to one of the open, bright plazas. The answer we were given, however, was the sturdy stone fortress that surrounds the centre of town, and with good reason.
10) **WHAT’S AN INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR COUNTRY?**
I’ll take this question. The most interesting thing I learnt was that, at least for a day trip, Luxembourg is a lovely and worthwhile place to visit!
Love you all