Our time in the country of Luxembourg was brief but a pleasure. It was quickly decided to be our first stop to visit our 8 month pregnant friend as it’ll be at least a year before we can see her again and meet her daughter. We had been to Luxembourg last year for her wedding but mostly just saw Luxembourg City, this time she showed us more of the countryside.
You may recognise the name, at least people with international visas will. The Schengen Treaty was signed in the town of Schengen where Luxembourg meets France and Germany in 1985. It happened in the river on a boat which still runs today as a ferry. For those who don’t know, it is the treaty which removed borders within the EU, allowing free travel between countries. The UK and Ireland are the only countries which refused to join, meaning we still have passport checks to enter the Schengen area. There are statues and information boards commemorating the event and a large area is covered by flags of all the Schengen countries.
It felt very European walking around all the flags in the hot sun with Germany visible just across the river. No UK flag of course. There was a monument designed specifically for people to add padlocks to and it was separated by country to see the number of visitors from each. Again of course no space for UK.
The 21 degree weather forced us into a cafe where the only viable option was to refresh ourselves with a glass of cremant, Luxembourgish champagne. The hills around us were covered with vines, reminding me of wine country above San Francisco. It had taken us nearly 45 minutes to reach the south of the country, and almost 20 minutes of that was stuck in traffic in Remisch where the Germans nip across the border to take advantage of the cheap petrol. Despite the country being small, the countryside and accents still change in the different parts.
A half an hour drive east of Luxembourg City we visited the town of Echternach on the German border. Here the people were more likely to be native Germans who work across the border. Apparently the population of Luxembourg almost doubles during the week from people coming from France and Germany to work.
Echternach is a quaint old town. It was founded by St Willibrord, an Irish saint, in the 7th century. A huge basilica was built in which his tomb resides. The old simple stone casket is surrounded by an ornate cover and in a room behind a locked gate. I’m not religious but the buildings and art fascinate me. It’s always a bit shocking to see a man nailed to a cross and this sculpture of Jesus was particularly gruesome, it being only half of him. I liked the stain glass windows though, very modern and bright leaving a rainbow pattern of light in the stone around them.
We were staying in the city centre with a bakery just round the corner. We ate a lot of pastries, good bread and cheese. We had just missed bretzel Sunday where the tradition is for the men to buy a bretzel for their girlfriend or wife, and in return if she likes them she gives chocolate Easter eggs. This is reversed in a leap year. Luckily for us the bakeries where still selling bretzels of all flavours. We also had traditional hard boiled eggs painted gold for Easter!
On Sunday the weather was even hotter and we visited a food festival near the train station. Packed full of young trendy people we were feeling a bit out of place with our boring grey walking trousers and comfy tshirts. Some beer, ice cream and friends got us past that.