I crossed the France-Luxembourg bordered in late June on one of the fast connecting train from Paris. I have always been curious about this country so I opted to fly back to London from here in order to spend a day in this country – the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. A little gem!
Luxembourg is a landlocked country, surrounded by 3 powerful neighbours Belgium, France and Germany. The country is only 2,586 squared km, among the smallest countries in the world, with its half-foreigner 600,000 population. 3.5 time bigger than Singapore and 10 time less populated than Singapore, the country is among the least populated. Most of people in Luxembourge live in its neighbour countries and commute in for works – think a big city with all the suburbs abroad!
2. How politically powerful?
Luxembourg is one of the 6 founding countries of the European union, among the 3 capitals of the EU and sit the European Courts of Justice. Over the course of its history, the country has seen, suffered and survived many diplomatic and warfare bullying despite its neutrality from the Prussia empire, the Netherlands, Belgian and French empires to Germany across World War 1 and 2. The Duchy of Luxembourg started and still headed the country from 15th century till nowadays and it’s indeed known respectfully for having its gay Prime Minister and his husband in the political scene.
3. How rich?
Very. Luxembourg ranked 2nd in the world on GDP per capita.
4. How pretty?
Again, very. I only visited Luxembourg City which is a little out of ordinary. I was amazed at the city famous fortification system. Literally the city was made carving out of rock, making it one of the most powerful fortress in Europe. The city was divided into Ville Haute (Upper City) inside the fortress and Ville Base (Lower city) outside the fortress waterway. Nowadays you can reach Ville Base on foot through a number of lifts, the most famous of all is the Pfaffenthal lift, a gorgeous public infrastructure. The masive glass lift car take you over 60m above the historical district of Pfaffenthal. Looking down is quite a thrill. I have a video of the ride on my instagram. In the past, I guess people has to go through some secret gate along it’s 23 km underground system.
Being so high up, carved basement is another fun feature of many old houses within Upper City. As I found my way around both upper and lower levels, I was amazed at how subtle the city has been able to syncronize the old and the new making though hundred year-old project part of the city commute system, like a little watch tower is now used as a free information centre to public (no guard at all) or the connecting way through small tower bridge take you to the base of the fortress. The city host some of the most prestigious museums and galleries in Europe as well.
5. How green/sustainable?
In a country where the GDP per capita reach over 100k USD a year (higher for the resident of Luxembourg city), anyone (residents or visitor) would pay only 25-50 Euro for a month of city public transportation depending on how many zones you cross. As a visitor, I pay 4 euro for the whole day. The price is typically 2-3 times in other European countries. And so everyone take buses and train! I noted on one of the bus that most of the buses are hybrid – run on both electric and diesels and it would switch to electric within the city centre boundary, to the smallest alley!
(*Update on 7 Dec 2018: from Summer 2019, all public transportation will be free in the whole country to even promote public transportation more in the government’s effort to reduce pollution and time waste on traffic! Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/06/world/europe/luxembourg-free-mass-transit.html)
City bike (Veloh), car sharing service (Carloh) are everywhere in the city. Even book shares are in place.
6. How is the food?
The food scene in Luxembourg certainly has the heavy French influence (that’s a very good choice as compared to the poor salty cuisine of Germany). I had lunch and dinner and my 3rd beuf tartare in a 4 day trip was fantastic.
7. Last but not least – How is the people?
People who lives in Luxembourg city seem rather calm and humble in my view. They are mostly quiet, elegant and very polite. I don’t see the flash of wealth anywhere. On my way back to the train station, I saw an interesting sight – along a main shopping street a Cartier store next to a random phone shop, the kind you would see in any China town. There is seemingly no difference treatment for luxury brands.
As a Vietnamese saying goes “Empty vessels make the most noise”.
The people of Luxembourg, with their strong full of dignity history, their wealth and their graceful way of live are truly charming.