Ode to Luxembourg (post-pandemic version)
Oh Luxembourg, I made it through the worst of the pandemic with you, and we will soon celebrate our 9th anniversary together. I never dreamed we’d last this long, but you have kept the spark alive so effortlessly.
In fact you’ve gone into overdrive since restrictions were relaxed, and there are literally hundreds of festivals and events this summer. It’s hard to decide what to do – should I rock up to Judas Priest at Rockhal or head to City Sounds tonight?
I am exhausted by your enthusiasm for life. But I love that you celebrate everything with Crémant, beer, bratwurst and a brass band – to mark anything religious, pagan, national, cows in a field, even a chicken crossing the road.
The pandemic has brought you firmly into the 21st century. I can file my tax returns online, have a smart meter, and soon I won't have to post my CNS claims either. I miss my stamped and signed certificate of residence, the new one is much plainer, but you still thoughtfully print hundreds of little flyers to fill my otherwise empty mailbox.
I have grown so much with you. Quite literally, due to your coronary-inducing, waistline-thickening cuisine. I can’t seem to get enough of your deep-fried potato cakes, your dumplings in cream and bacon, and your crème pat filled patisseries.
Maybe that’s because you know that one day I will walk or cycle off all those calories on the many hundreds of kilometres of hiking paths and cycling trails you have so generously provided. And when I do, I will never get lost, because you have thoughtfully put direction signs on every other tree.
And that is so much part of your efficiency, where roadside overgrowth is trimmed back, public pavements are scrubbed mercilessly, and every village has neatly manicured flowerbeds in full bloom.
As we kiss goodbye to the vestiges of the pandemic, and throw off our masks, even on free public transport, we can finally return to your quaint and unique tradition of three kisses on the cheek.
You’ve already reinstated your other lovely traditions such as bird-shaped whistles, burning straw men, hopping processions, driving tractors on a main road during rush hour, overtaking on a bend, cycling two abreast, and forcing people out of the motorway fast lane by getting scarily close.
And perhaps your greatest tradition – that there can be no lawn mowing or patio cleaning on a Sunday. The only noise to be heard is the sound of church bells. Luxembourg you were mindful before it was invented.
Before I met you, I had no concept of Europe’s rich history and the strategic importance you held. Now, when I stand before the fortifications built by military engineer Vauban, or marvel at how 50 cannon and 1,200 soldiers could fit into the Bock Casemates, I realise what a prized possession you have been throughout the ages.
I wonder if property prices were as eye-watering back then. But I know you will never sell the casemates to a developer, who will build a block of flats that makes no attempt to fit aesthetically with the rest of the Bock promontory.
From the very onset, you have accepted me as a monolingual who found it hard to learn other languages. You’ve listened tirelessly as I begin sentences in Luxembourgish, switch to bad French, and finish in barely passable English. You even gave me subsidised and soon-to-be free lessons in the three official languages of your country. And when all else failed, you translated all your public information into English.
I fell in love with you for your nature – which abounds here. Mighty but silent forests, fresh lakes in which to swim, birds of prey swooping over country lanes, and a pine marten that bit through all the cables in my car causing €2000 worth of damage.
But that’s OK, I was due to renew my car. It’s almost six years old, and you have taught me that the only acceptable old bangers on the roads are lovingly restored vintage models.
You are fiercely proud of your country, its heritage and customs, and yet you have welcomed 169 nationalities. But you will never change, because you want to stay what you are.
And I for one, hope you never change. I love that every village has its local firefighting crew, that my neighbour has a horse and two goats in her garden, that you make door wreathes in May, and burn giant wooden crosses to banish winter blues. I love that you have a special day to buy a winter coat, and that you continuously celebrate the fact Victor Hugo stayed in Vianden for two months.
I love the fact that pretty much anything goes here (even growing and smoking your own cannibis at home) – you’re open to it all – because you are who you are, and I sincerely hope you stay that way. Thank you for almost a decade of happiness together.
Happy National Day.