Luxembourg: The Dreary Duché
WHEN YOU WALK THROUGH A STORM…
In order to reach Brexit Britannia I would first need to negotiate France and if I was doing that, I might as well do it a different way and make Luxembourg my 50th country. So after a pit stop in Lyon I finally made it to this mysterious little duché (whatever that is) caught between France, Belgium and Germany.
Of course it should have been Bali and I was trying not to think of that wasted scenario. As my 50th country and 110th city it should have been a celebration, it should have been memorable but will only live in my memories as somewhere I’m grateful I don’t have to return to.
Have you ever heard the term ‘it never rains but it pours?’ Well from the outset it was a big mistake. I mean it had to be done but otherwise was nothing less than a nil pwah and more than a grand merde! With no response from the tourist board, the YHA or the IBIS budget, the stage was set for a non event.
People say the French are rude but I’ve never had a problem with them. Luxembourg on the other hand was a different story assuming the clowns I encountered were local. The rain had begun before the bus came to a halt at a nondescript square adjacent to the train station. No border crossing (even Andorra had these at both ends).
The early mistakes were mine. In a rush from the rain I didn’t pay enough attention to things like station info; is it information for the trains or tourist info? What bus where? Do I go to the airport or seek out the YHA?
I do neither and call at a pizzeria. The first and only words I’ll hear are: “We’re out of salami” as I order – or try to. As he runs through the others available I’m already walking or again trying to. My main bag, the heaviest one, is now on three wheels and the doors in Luxembourg are stiff!
Next a cafe across the road. The young assistant tells me they are firmé (closed) and I can only order through a window hatch and eat on the damp and gloomy street as darkness falls. Again I grab my bags to the sound of “bye, have a nice evening.” I think she was trying to be sarcastic.
I ask a hotelier, who resembled and sounded like Hanson from Scary Movie 2, about rooms but he offers a dry €85 euros. With darkness now pretty much fallen outside, I try a new approach; whether he can do a deal on two nights but the emotionless ferret says 85 times 2. I didn’t wait to see if he had little hands or was about to serve guests turkey.
Approaching Barcelona the possibility of needing a plane ticket to enter the airport terminal concerned me. In Luxembourg this is a necessity. The building is closed overnight to anyone without a ticket. Most of the budget hotels are based out at the aerodrome and said to be cheaper than the centre. In the end I never get there.
THE SINKING FEELING (AGAIN)
With no other choice I advance down the hill hoping I don’t slip on some stray debris like fallen twigs or such like, to the YHA from Hell who can’t be bothered answering a mail or much else. More stiff doors. With the exception of a free breakfast they are worse than Lyon’s Hostel Flaneur! It costs €25 euros for this place.
If there’s anything I’ve learnt from Andorra, Hong Kong, Monaco et al, it’s that these little enclaves charge the hilt purely because they can in the name of exclusivity. Something I’ll bear in mind for Liechtenstein, San Marino, Guernsey and Jersey.
The happy go lucky receptionist (my turn to be sarcastic) says they are full the next night and I get the feeling she is lying but who knows with deadpan delivery being order of the day in this neck of the woods. If anything it makes things simple, I’ll leave in the morning, if I can survive the night. I should have known better and gone to the airport.
Bed sheets with holes in, same crappy push button shower (though there is a lift and a locker) check out at 10am is way out of line with any reasonable code of hospitality in any country I’ve been. When she asks if I want to stay I can only say I’m too tired to go elsewhere which is true having lugged my bags around in the rain. Expect zero empathy.
THE VALLEY ROAD
As for geography it’s closest parable is probably Edinburgh. Another factor in my dislike of the place. A viaduct traversing a dramatic gorge (you can see it in most of Luxembourg’s promo pictures). Lots of forts, spires and moist cobblestone roads resembling the old town, less so the Royal Mile or St Giles. Tucked away in its own corner of the valley floor lies the hostel.
It is the morning after and I’m thinking I should just cut my loses and get to Brussels. There’s no time to shower and certainly no time for a towel to dry before I’m out and crawling uphill back the way I came toward the station. Close to my destination a jumbo rises into the misty morning; it must be CargoLux.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
The train station is both old and traditional with a modern glass facade. The staff are probably as good as it gets though not without flaws. Behind the glass is a fussy little man with a beard who is a bit upset my timetable has brushed his precious microphone creating a crackle of disturbance.
I barely manage half a day in the dreary duché, don’t even open my big bag and in hindsight realise my mistake in not going to Laos and Indonesia as planned. The positive? Knowledge. I saw a glimpse of the Camino, Madrid, Bilbao and Lyon. I’ve done and dusted two over priced enclaves; a principality and a duché. I can’t wait to see Bali.
Oh yeah another thing, the hostel shuttle bus only goes Monday to Friday. Comedy comes for free at the YHA.
PLAYLIST AND CREDITS
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Rain Rain Rain – Roxy Music
You’re Walking – Electribe 101
And it Rained All Night – Thom Yorke
Not That Funny – Fleetwood Mac
Hanson photos from Scary Movie 2 courtesy of Miramax.
Luxembourg montage by Visit Luxembourg.