Sunday, October 9, 2011

September in Luxembourg, Part I

the Schueberfouer
The month of September has been absolutely crazy for me! After spending my first three weeks in Luxembourg mostly around the house and only popping out for the occasional drink or coffee to try and meet people, I came back to Lux after two weeks in the Netherlands and met so many cool people my first couple of weeks back that I've barely been home since, except to work of course.

Work has been good, things are much better now that Pepi doesn't hate me anymore, and getting into the routine of working Tuesday, Friday and a weekend day has meant I can plan what to do on other days. I've had coffee with Kerli quite a few times since we came back from the Netherlands, and I've also had drinks with Monica often, one of the first friends I made in Lux.

the Schueberfouer
We got back on Sunday, and on Monday night I joined some Couchsurfers for a Pub Quiz at one of the english bars here - we totally sucked, but it was a good night! That Wednesday I went to the Schueberfouer, the fun fair of Luxembourg City. It runs for 20 days, and has been held for the last 671 years - so it's older than New Zealand! The modern version is a mix of craft and food stalls, beer houses, and games and rides, with attractions and vendors coming from all around Europe.

Gebaakene Fesch
I went up the ferris wheel to get a bit of a look over Lux, and went on the bungy ball thing, something that I saw outside my office in Wellington everyday but never went on. I also seemed to eat non-stop there, trying Gromperkichelcher, a kind of potato fritter that is a traditional Luxembourgish dish, crispy Luxembourgish waffles with strawberries and cream piled on top, and chocolate dipped fruit kebabs, although I couldn't quite bring myself to try Gebaakene Fesch, a huge fish deepfried whole.

view from the ferris wheel at the Schueberfouer
On Thursday night I went to my second Internations meeting. Internations is a network targeted at expats who have moved cities for work. Because Luxembourg has a huge number of people coming here for work, often on contracts of anywhere between 3months and 4years, Internations is really big, they have a meeting every month attending by a couple of hundred people. I enjoyed this event more than the last one I went too, and near the end of the night I met Alex, a French IT engineer. We've been kind of casually seeing each other since, starting with drinks at a bar with live jazz and lunch in the park the following week.

Me and some couchsurfers, Steve, Anna and Seb
That week I organised a Couchsurfers meeting myself at a bar in the centre of the city. About 15 people turned up and we had a good time, just chilling and joking around. The night was notable because I met Steve, an Irish-born, Luxembourg-raised IT consultant who offered to solve my illegal resident status by marrying me! We seem to have pretty compatible senses of humour and get on well, and he had Anna, a German student spending September in Lux for an internship, staying at his place as well. I had met her previously and really liked her, so the three of us headed out for a roadtrip around Luxembourg on Sunday.

They were both a bit under the weather when they picked me up on Sunday afternoon, Steve still wearing last night's suit, and we messed around for a little while trying to find petrol, food and beer (EVERYTHING in Luxembourg is closed on a Sunday) before we headed out to Echternach, a huge man-made lake close to the German border. The weather was quite bad at this point, so we jumped back in the car and headed to Larochette, a small town of less than 1500 people that has a wee castle. It's a really pretty place amongst some hills, with several bars where bikers stop in during their weekend trips. We stopped there for a beer and a quick look around, and then drove through Diekirch, home of of one of Luxembourg's beers.

We then went to Vianden, another small town that has an even cooler castle, built between the 11th and 14th centuries by the Counts of Vianden. It turned into a ruin in the 17th and 18th centuries, was inhabited by Victor Hugo in 1871, and after the Duke of Luxembourg finally gave the castle to the state in 1977 they finally started restoring it. Its huge and really impressive, it really looks like something out of a fairytale. There's a chairlift up the hill to it from the village, but we were a bit late and it was already closed, so we just walked around the town a little bit, I think it's one of the most beautiful places I've been too in Europe and my photos don't do it justice!

We kept on heading north, aiming for the top of Luxembourg and stopped in the middle of nowhere somewhere so that we could walk across a bridge to Germany - there was only a couple dozen houses on each side of the river, and you'd barely notice that you were in a different country. Both Steve and Anna were laughing at my excitement over this, but I still can't get used to the idea of simply being able to walk across a bridge to another country! By this point it was starting to get dark and we decided to stop for dinner. We found a small restaurant attached to a camping ground, again in the middle of no where, and headed inside to find a really fancy interior!

Anna, Steve and I in the middle of no where in Luxembourg
We had the set menu of smoked trout in mustard soup, some kind of pork with Kartoffel knoedel (German potato balls), and dessert. The food and wine were amazing, it was really awesome to go to what looked like a pretty dodgy restaurant but have such an amazing meal. I quite like Luxembourgish food, it seems to be a good mix of the German style of decent potions and a substantial amount of good meat, with the French style of nice sauces and better accompaniments. So by this point it was quite late and we headed back for one last drink at a bar near Steve's place before they dropped me home. It really was an epic day, I love when you do something completely unplanned but it works out so well, and both Steve and Anna are so funny, we were laughing all day!

dinner at Steve and Anna's
That week Alex took me "salsa dancing" on Tuesday (i.e. we spent ages driving around lost only to eventually find the bar and discover we had the wrong day. We ended up listing to a random old not-quite-jazz-but-I-can't-remember-the-right-word band back in town) and then real salsa dancing on Thursday. The cuban bar in the suburbs that we went to on Thursday night was really cool, I enjoyed the chance to practice my spanish and laugh at my terrible attempts to dance salsa!

Then on Friday I had dinner with Anna and Steve at their place. Steve cooked fajitas, I made speculoos cheesecake, and Anna picked up some wine. Again, we just had such an awesome time drinking and joking around, until suddenly it was 2am and I ended up crashing at their place, which led to the events of the following day...

More photos are here.

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