Three days in Luxembourg. The National Holiday falls on the solstice. It celebrates, well, the National Holiday. Nobody could tell us if it meant anything in particular, except that it wasn’t always scheduled in the middle of the summer as it is now. Even in late June, partygoers are still bundled in rain jackets and scarves. It is a wet country, and this is a particularly wet year. The language of Luxembourg? Luxembourgish, German and French, officially, as well as some Dutch and English. The cuisine of Luxembourg? German, French, and Belgian. The people are Luxembourgish, although in French they are called Luxembourgeois. Luxembourg claims the highest GDP of any country in the world. They still have a monarch, the Grand Duchy, who appears in shop windows all over the cities and is very well dressed. Luxembourg is home to piss beer–Diekirch and Bofferding; some big names in cycling– Frank and Andy Schleck, for example; and some of the friendliest and most contented people anywhere. Some of the obvious questions about Luxembourg have been answered by our brief trip, although much remains a mystery. One thing is certain: the Luxembourgeois know how to throw a party.
Diverting from the GR5 along the Our River at Vianden, we follow rural roads and urban cycling routes to the big city– Luxembourg (City). It has been a wet summer, which brings a bounty of life and an excess or surface water. The country is very orderly.
A party requires a party dress. Fourteen euro at a discount clothing store next to the supermarket scores a lightweight packable number. Joe Cruz calls this hobo-chic. In this case, a little more chic than usual. Bikepackers need not sacrifice style.
A pleasant place to live and travel, for sure. Luxembourg is calm. Enjoying a dry moment in the park before the festival, we enjoy a picnic of baguette, cheese, and Bitburger. Bitburg, Germany is less than a day away by bike. It is always fun to shop for food in Europe. It is always amazing to see what Lael pulls out of her seatpack. Eggs, arugula, wine, odorous cheeses, and saucissons are common fare.
The city lives on a hill above the Alzette River.
How to throw a party. Invite the Duchy and his wife, for sure. Sit him down with a bunch of his friends and parade the entire country in in front of him.
Kids with drums and torches.
Relic firefighting equipment, including a wagon with a barrel of water on it, dating from the 1700′s.
Must have music. Invite Canadian, English, and America bands to headline the festival. Everybody loves Celtic-Canadian-Mexican-English folk-pop-rock-world fusion. Flutes and fiddles get people in the mood.
And when the party is over and the sun begins to rise, it is time for a quick dash out of the city. Fifteen kilometers later– including an elevator, lots of stairs, some wrong turns, and finally, empty roads– we arrive in the countryside, on a dirt road, at our temporary home.
Awaking the next afternoon, we shoot for France. Instead, we encounter a professional cycling race. More beer and sausage. The Schleck brothers were on hand. We spectated.
Again, escaping towards France, we encounter another festival celebrating the National Holiday in Kayl. More quaint than the party in the city, we linger to sample Luxembourgish food– German spätzle, French (Alsacienne) tarte flambé, and Belgian gaufres.
Dodging rainclouds, we make one last camp in Luxembourg, only 4 km from the French border.
In the morning, we connect local mountainbiking routes intertwined with abandoned iron mines. Feels much like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to me– beautiful, rusty, and abandoned.
Luxembourg uses unique signage for their national routes, including the GR5/E2 route we had been following. Arriving in France, we resume our hunt for red and white signage– a familiar and welcomed sight.
Quickly, we find changing soil and terrain– the region’s terroir–to stifle our forward motion by bicycle. Clay rich soil makes for a particularly tacky type of mud. Considering other routes…