As I sit watching the shoppers come and go from the different stores at the City Concorde, one of the major shopping centres in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, I can’t help but admire the beautiful kaleidoscopic picture it all presents.
It’s my first time in the only remaining sovereign grand duchy in the world and it’s love at first sight. Or shall I say love before sight?
Yes, visiting Luxembourg has been an unchecked item on my list for a long time.
I pinch myself. I’m here at last!
Women of all ages in their trendy clothes, carefully made up faces, and heels that click and clack away as they walk briskly in and out of shops, with smiles on their faces.
Have I also added that a good number of the women are accompanied by men, old and young alike? Well, that doesn’t escape me.
I think it tells of a people not afraid to share their hearts and lives.
Even the infirm are also up and about, each with the nature of aid they need to live active lives.
And most of them exude tempered affluence. I will later discover that Luxembourg has one of the world’s highest GDP per capita.
It’s indeed a nation of records.
It’s not only the seventh smallest country in Europe, it’s also one of the continent’s least populated with a population of 660, 809 as at 2023.
This is less than the population of Agege Local Government of Lagos State in Nigeria which was estimated at 683,600 as of 2022.
Ironically, Luxembourg also has the highest population growth rate in Europe.
It’s capital, also called Luxembourg, is one of the four institutional seats of the European Union, a status it shares with Frankfurt in Germany, Brussels in Belgium and Strasbourg in France.
Another feature that strikes me is how friendly most of them actually are, and when you reckon that almost half of the population are foreigners, it isn’t hard to conclude that living conditions here are generally decent.
Of course, not a few have attributed foreigners’ attraction to this small but mighty country to its favourable tax laws.
Now, when I think of it, its magnetic pull starts right from the border towns of the country as we drive from Frankfurt through Wiesbad in Germany to Grevenmacher where we stop to have some snacks after driving for almost three hours.
The first restaurant we enter, Mr. Goufy, with its amiable personnel sets the tone as they serve the weary and cold travelers with smiles and more.
Another feature that strikes me is how friendly most of them actually are, and when you reckon that almost half of the population are foreigners, it isn’t hard to conclude that living conditions here are generally decent
I’m pleasantly surprised to see advisories in German, though always also accompanied with French.
A great opportunity to continue to practise my ever-blossoming German language, I enthuse silently.
But that hope would soon fizzle out as I discover that while German language is one of the three national languages in Luxembourg, French appears to be the preferred choice in stores and other places alike, followed closely by Luxembourgish.
Most of my “Sprechen Sie Deutsch” (do you speak German), was often rebuffed with a “Non, je parle Français” (No, I speak French).
From the shops, we cross the Adolphe Bridge by foot, and end up at the Constitution Square, where we meet Gëlle Fra translated in Luxembourgish to mean ‘Golden Lady’.
We are attracted first by the pockets of crowd, mostly tourists, and the accompanying bustling at the square.
Then as we approach closer, behold the ‘Golden Lady’ herself in all her goldenness.
Standing in the middle of one group of tourists, mostly Asians and Arabs is a man, probably a tour guide, giving a brief talk on the Square’s main attraction.
According to him, the Golden Lady, in reality, is a bronze representation of the goddess of Victory, Nike.
She sits majestically atop a 21-metre-high obelisk and the entire structure called officially called The Monument of Remembrance, comprise the goddess and two soldiers at the broad base of the structure.
While the goddess is holding out a laurel to the two soldiers, one of them, on a chair, is looking at his fallen compatriot who died in battle.
It will later dawn on me that we chose November 11 for this visit to Luxembourg.
Most students of history will remember that World War 1 was officially declared over at 11.am on November 11, 1918.
That was the hour and day the Armistice was signed in Compiègne, France between the German and the Allies declaring a cessation of bloodshed after four years of intense fighting in the continent.
I find it exciting and also rewarding to be at Luxembourg City on that day, especially as I admire the five beautiful freshly made wreaths placed that at the Monument’s base to commemorate the day.
The people never forget, really.
Being an autumn afternoon, the sun is leaving fast. Darkness follows on her heels. So, we have to leave the square, reluctantly.
And so, we take a long walk round to the other side of the square where our car is parked.
It’s cold, its windy, but also beautiful with golden leaves adorning most trees and lawns in preparation for winter.
As we begin our journey back to Frankfurt amid the darkness that has finally fully taken over, I can’t help but remember the saying about great things showing up in small packages.
That’s so true of Luxembourg.