Luxembourg

Easter weekend was coming up and my shoulder pains were slowly growing a bit less. Fysiotherapy and pain medication. No root cause solutions, but to be pain free was (and is) a big relief!

I told my wife we should go away for the weekend, spend some quality time together. “We will!”, she said, “I reservated a holiday house in Luxembourg and that’s where we will go!”

Luxembourg? Yes, that tiny little country situated between France, Belgium and Germany. Once a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but that was 175 years ago. On the day of our arrival to Luxembourg they actually celebrated their independence from the Netherlands. “A sad day?”, I asked one of the Luxembourg people I met. “Most of us actually think it calls for a celebration!”, was the answer I got. History is in the eye of the beholder.

Luxembourg is a small, yet stunning country. The Ardennes mountain range, forests, castles … There is so much to see, for sure we will go back!

Around 480,000 people live in Luxembourg. On third of wich in the capital, also called Luxembourg. Most of the people speak Luxembourgish or Luetzeburg (hope I spelled that word correct!), a language close to both German and Dutch. Most also speak German and French and English. A rich country, by the look and feel of it, where people look to be content with what life has to offer them.

On the first day we travelled from Holland to Luxembourg. Due to heavy traffic, the 210 mile trip took over 6 hours. We made a stop in Belgium to eat those famous Belgium fries. And I am happy to say they still taste as if they have been wrapped in old newspapers for a week or more! O sweet memories! It is so good to know that some things do not change.

We spent the night in Larochette, a beautiful medieval city with two castles. The ruins of two castles, actually. I enjoyed a few Diekirch Premium beers. Nice, light and slightly bitter. It somehow reminded me a bit of Kölsch beer.

Next day we visited the capital and walked the city. Nice & Neat. And with immense walls and fortifications. Great for shopping, if you like shopping.

On the way back, I entered a likker store and had the owner explain me the Ins & Outs of drinks Luxembourg style. He told me Luxembourg is mostly famous for its wines. Also, in the tradition of Elzas and Lorraine, quite some fruit brandies are produced. Plum, cherry, strawberry and raspberry, and some apple and pear brandy as well. I ended up buying a bottle of aged plum brandy.

How it tasted? Pretty good. Bottled at 43%, which is perfect for a fruit brandy. A bit of late heads present, but that makes sense in a fruit brandy. The taste of plum definately there. With some wood on the background. The only problem I had with the drink is that it was sweetened. Now, like a gram of sugar per liter may tip the balance from sour to sweet, without disrupting the actual tastes too much, but this fruit brandy felt as if they over shot with the sugar. Closer to 10 grams per liter for an allmost “liqueur like” aftertaste. Too sweet for my savour.

The next day we visited a part of the country known as “little Switserland” and climbed so many hills, my calfs still hurt. Well, that does draw the attention away from the shoulders, I must say! Later that day we visited the medieval market at the city of Echternach.

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Old 60 liter Distillery at Echternach

I found out that a lot of folks make their own drinks. Not in a hobby style approach, but to market and sell them regionally. There is quite some knowledge on herbs and on how to make interesting liqueurs. That’s the good news. The not so good news is all of these drinks are made with GNS they buy at a big refinery.

We tasted a few of the home made liqueurs and liked the “Drachen Pipi” (yes, Dragon’s Piss). Even though the man who made it did not want to give up his recipe, he did tell me it includes black pepper, chili peppers and ginger, and one other ingredient I couldn’t place or translate.

How it tasted? Very sweet to start with, then a hint of ginger (fresh!), to finish with the hot bite of chili pepper. An outstanding drink! The way in which it starts (sweet) and only after a few seconds gets hotter and hotter … a really nice and surpricing balance. My guess is, they macerated black pepper, ginger and chili for some two weeks at around 40 to 50% and then add water and sugar to bring the ABV down to around 20%.

Here’s a picture of both the “Vieille Prune” plum brandy and the Dragon’s Piss:

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The last day of our stay in Luxembourg we visited two more castles. First, we went to Berdorf. A mildly restored 11th century castle, with a well and a torture chamber, as well as a “tar nose”. That is, so I learned, a sort of stone funnel above the main gate. When under siege, the “tar nose” was used to spray boiling hot tar on the intruders … Must have been less than merry times.

Our time over there was merry. They were selling a “castle made” range of fruit brandies and fruit liqueurs. My wife and I tried the raspberry fruit brandy. Or liqueur. My wife loved it, I hated it. Too sweet! I guess sweetness sells, but … I didn’t like it. It was as if drinking syrup …

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Odin & Raspberry Brandy/Liqueur/Syrup

The second castle was even more impressive: Vianden. A castle that is now fully restored, yet dates back to Roman times. Here’s a picture of us standing in front of that amazing lay-out of buildings …

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Odin & Family

And after that … Well, after that we had to drive home, folks! A great trip it was. For sure we will come back one day soon! Luxembourg is a small country, but there is a lot to see and a lot to discover!

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