Tag Archives: Luxembourg

Luxembourg is more exciting than you may think

The third country on our Grey Wave adventure was Luxembourg – the smallest we’ve visited on this tour. Since I’ve recently devoted a separate post to Luxembourg, and our stay was rather brief, I won’t devote many words to it. Save that its probably the closest place to the Dutch border where you can buy wine from the tap, and that I’ve been here a few times already in the autumn and am amazed how bloody spectacular it is.

I've caught sight of the local royals departing the palace.

I’ve caught sight of the local royals departing the palace.

Picture-perfect European scenery in Luxembourg.

Picture-perfect European scenery in Luxembourg.

The city of Luxembourg is mostly built on, in, above and around massive fortifications

The city of Luxembourg is mostly built on, in, above and around massive fortifications

The wife has infected me with her fascination for leadlight, I'm afraid.

The wife has infected me with her fascination for leadlight, I’m afraid.

The rain has gone, but the nights were becoming bitterly cold. It was time to make the big leap southward. I’ll spare you the nail-biting guessing period of not knowing where we went – it was France, of course, but a rather special part of France. Details coming up soon.

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Is Luxembourg the biggest microstate or just another small European country?

Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City are usually counted as European microstates. As you may know, I don’t consider Monaco and Vatican City as “countries” or “states”, since they don’t have their own football team, which I view as the basic necessity to be considered a country. On the other hand, Faroe Islands and Gibraltar are members of UEFA, so naturally I do count them as a microstate, too. But some people, including authors of books about microstates, consider Luxembourg a mircostate as well. In addition, Iceland, Montenegro and Cyprus are sometimes considered microstates, although having been to Iceland I don’t know how you can call anything about it “micro”.

Luxembourg is the odd one though. While the “real” microstates in Europe are really tiny, all of them being smaller than 500 km square, Luxembourg is more than 2500 km square, bigger than all the others combined. You can’t really walk through it in a day, like you can do in Andorra or Gibraltar (well, OK, walking 50 km across Andorra is going to be tough but I am sure it can be done). In addition, Luxembourg has a population of about half a million, which I find rather big for a “microstate” (same applies to Malta, but its an island so other rules apply). On the other hand, Luxembourg, as well as the other countries on the list, participates in the Games of the Small States of Europe. So sportswise, Luxembourg considers itself small enough to play in the “Little League”, but does it make it a “microstate”?

Most Dutch only know Luxembourg as the place to buy cheap gasoline on the way to France. I filled up there, too, and gas is seriously cheap there (its about the only thing that’s cheap in Luxembourg). But I’ve been to Luxembourg on other occasions as well, and I think, eventually, I wouldn’t call Luxembourg a microstate. And the reason is – it has what other microstates don’t have. The thing about microstates is that they are rather uniform – they are just not big enough to have a variety of landscape, culture or climate. Luxembourg is diverse. There’s the capital, which has the vibe of a big city with all the banking going on. There are the wooded hills of the Ardennes, which, compared to the rest of the BeNeLux are about as densely populated as the Sahara. And of course there’s the wine-growing valley of the Mosel, which is absolutely charming. As a holiday destination Luxembourg is pretty ideal. Its small enough to get around easilly, big enough to have a little bit of everything and even if its a bit expensive, you can shop for cheap groceries just across the border, like all the locals do.

The biggest of the tiny countries, or the smallest of the small countries, Luxembourg is absolutely worth a visit.

Luxembourg City

Luxembourg City

Castles on every corner in Luxembourg

Castles on every corner in Luxembourg

Great hiking, too

Great hiking, too

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BeNeLux – first bite of Europe

In a previous post, I’ve divided Europe for travelling purposes into “bite-sized” regions, areas you’d be able to thoroughly travel in several weeks. I’ll start with the BeNeLux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) – the most bite-sized region, consisting of three of the smallest countries in Europe.

  • Why go there?
    No, not just because of Amsterdam. Nor only for Brussels. Outside the crowded and expensive capitals a whole world of classic windmill landscapes, plenty of cheese and Trappist abbeys breweries awaits. The short distances of the BeNeLux mean you can enjoy museums in The Hague, modern architecture in Rotterdam and shopping in Antwerpen in one day. But why would you rush? Take your time in the “low countries, pay attention to small Medieval cities like Delft, Ghent and Brugge, enjoy nature and peace of mind on the pristine beaches of the West Frisian Islands or the rolling forested hills of the Ardennes. Well, OK, do yourself a favour and visit Amsterdam, but leave the best for last.
  • What’s it best for?
    Travelling with children – safe, small, plenty of entertainment – the BeNeLux is ideal for introducing kids to Europe.
  • When is the best time to go?
    April and May are the driest (on average), the tulips fields are in blossom, and it’s festival season. This year make sure you’re in Holland on April 30th! It’s going to be a hell of a party.
  • How to get around?
    The railway grid is dense and connections are excellent, and parking costs are sky-high. Take the train.
  • Why is it best to avoid?
    Real wilderness is hard to come by here, and the prices are spiky.
  • Where to go if you just have one week?
    Go to Limburg, the hilly area where the borders of Germany, Belgium and Netherlands meet and greet in a common dialect. In and around the cities of Maastricht, Liege and Aachen you’ll find the best of the German, French and Dutch culture as well as great cycling and accessible hiking routes.

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