Or: 33.00 for a Starbucks latte?!
So, to get from Dublin, Ireland to Luxembourg, I had to fly on a corporate account, which limited our options, so I had to fly to Copenhagen, Denmark and then to Luxembourg itself. This was a nice way to tour Denmark before moving to our destination. Denmark, from what I could see, was really beautiful. It was much sunnier than Ireland, but I also hear the temperature varies a lot more, so it can be much colder. A colleague told me that if you’re flying from Dublin to somewhere, and you need to do a layover, Copenhagen is much better than Heathrow or Charles du Galle airport in France, and I think he’s right. It’s slightly further away, but a much nicer, more relaxed airport. They even had a Lego store right there, since Legos are originally Danish.
Denmark does not use the Euro currency though. Ireland, like most of the EU, uses Euros, and that’s what I’ve used for months. So, when I bought a Starbucks latte in Copenhagen, the price was 33.00! I was completely shocked, until the clerk (who spoke flawless English) told me that was in Danish Kroners (DKK). From what I can tell, Danish Kroners are about 10:1 euro, so 33.00 Kroners is like € 3.30, which is a lot more reasonable. The catch was that the lady could not give me change in Euro, so she gave me change in Kroners. I had three 100 DKK bills in my hand, which looked like a lot, until I figure out that this was more like €30. Remember 1 euro is like 10 DKK. On the way back from Luxembourg, I decided I would be shopping at the Lego store for Baby with those extra Kroners, so it won’t go to waste.
As for Luxembourg, it was another short flight, and a nice landing at the Luxembourg airport. My colleague who has come with me travels to Luxembourg often and was surprised by how much the airport had changed. Luxembourg had modernized their airport very recently, and it looked great. However, I noticed something right away: the main language used in Luxembourg is French, not English. For some crazy reason, I thought people in Luxembourg spoke English fluently the way they do in Denmark or Germany, but that’s not quite true. People in Luxembourg will often know some English, but it doesn’t seem to be something they use often, so they really prefer French. They really use French for most all communications, and I know three or four phrases in French: please, thank you, my name is… and sorry.
That’s a decent start, but I’ve had to use French so far a lot since coming here. We ate at an outdoor restaurant, and my colleague, whose Irish and speaks no French, and I had to order half-french, half-english. I noticed some American tourists here who didn’t even try to speak French. They just did the typical American thing of talking loud and complaining. Being American myself, I found this really embarrassing. My 4 phrases of French did help quite a bit, so if you’re traveling to Europe please learn some basic phrases of French at least. Don’t use a translator. Spend an hour or two of your life just memorizing the same phrases over and over until they become rote. It helps so much.
Anyways, Luxembourg is a really pretty place to be. Our hotel is right in down Luxembourg (the capital, same name as the country), and we can see the Grand Duke’s castle right there in the middle of the city. I’ll post pictures when I get back home. Luxembourg city is actually built on the sides of a steep valley called the Grund with a lot of bridges over it. The whole country has really beautiful forests, and forest roads, so driving from Luxembourg Airport to downtown was a nice drive through European countryside. In the medieval days, Luxembourg city was probably a great place to defend due to the valleys and castle built high above.
Luxembourg in general is quite different than the UK which I just visited or Ireland which is now my home. This really feels like the heartland of Europe, while the UK and Ireland are more like a separate region. It’s weird being in a place like this, because I know that the Roman, Celts, Barbarian tribes, and such all lived here at one point or another. It’s also weird being somewhere that has been the sight of wars for many, many centuries, even in modern times like WWII.
Anyways, that’s Luxembourg on my first day.
Update: Pictures can be seen here.
P.S. As I am trying to gradually become a vegetarian in the last few weeks, I found that Luxembourg and much of central Europe is a difficult place to do this. Not impossible, but the cuisine has been centered around meat consumption for many thousands of years, probably due to climate and such. So, my colleague here, who knows I am trying to become vegetarian, warned me that there isn’t much in French cuisine that is vegetarian. Another Seattlite he knew who came here was also vegetarian, and apparently ran into some challenges. If you are a practicing Buddhist, just keep that in mind before visiting. There are some really great foods here, but most are not geared for a Buddhist diet. Still, the cream of tomato soup I had was really, really good. Much better than the out-of-a-can stuff I would eat back home.