As a German, going abroad means that you will be confronted with the Second World War. It is a law of nature: The only lasting imprint we seem to have left on the world is the dictatorship of the mid 20th century.
I am not here to complain, though. After all, we do the same to people from all other nations. For instance, anyone from Luxembourg will be confronted with the fact that their country is tiny. And filthy rich. You wonder which one is better.
A while ago, I had this idea to take a BeNeLux trip. Visit Max in Luxembourg, see Lilia in Brussels and then venture into Holland. That plan ultimately turned into a BeLux trip after I had to cut out the Netherlands for several reasons. But it also gave me more time in Brussels and in Luxembourg, more time to explore if all the stereotypes were true. And maybe enough time to remember a colleague’s words: “It would be okay if I died without having seen Luxembourg. But I wouldn’t mind a visit either”.
Luxembourg must get that kind ambivalence a lot, wedged between Germany, Belgium and France. It seems like something you can cover in a day. And 24 hours into the trip, Max did in fact remark that I had “seen most of the country”. And really, the sterotypes kind of seemed to make sense.
Recently, I interviewed an architect for my work and talked to him about something he had one said: That he was interested in “things that very often don’t seem appealing, high-brow, or very tasteful at first sight”. And that is exactly what we ended up seeing: The stuff that is much more fascinating than the capital city.
We saw the first American-style mall in Europe, owned by an illustrious company named Cactus, visited and abandoned steel plan in the Southmost city. Little things. But what made these things interesting was that they were often the only one of their kind in the entire country. In Esch-sur-Alzette, the football stadium looks like a small-town pitch; but it turns out that Real Madrid once played on this field. The shopping mall is known across the entire country. And yes: You can meet the entire government in a matter of 10 minutes.