Portuguese in Luxembourg

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This year Alejandro and I decided to visit Luxembourg. This country has fascinated us ever since we watched an episode of Madrilenos por el Mundo in Luxembourg and saw how well people live there and how beautiful this small country is. Luxembourg also has a huge Portuguese community and I truly felt at home there!

 

LUXEMBOURG

Interesting facts about Luxembourg:

Luxembourg is the only Grand Duchy in the world. Which means they have a Grand-Duke and Grand-Duchess, instead of a King and Queen.

Foreigners account for nearly half of Luxembourg’s population. Portuguese represent 16% of the total population and make up the biggest group of the foreigns.

Luxembourg is the richest country in the world, according to the projections for GDP per capita for 2019. Luxembourg has the highest minimum wage in the EU: 2,071 EUR per month.

Nearly half of Luxembourg’s workforce commutes to work in Luxembourg from another country. Most non-Luxembourg nationals traveling across the border are French, Belgians and Germans.

Luxembourg is home to many stunning castles. Several castles have been preserved and restored, and are very much worth visiting.

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We’d been meaning to visit Luxembourg for quite some time, as it always felt to us like a fascinating little place in the middle of Europe where we could even see ourselves living in a few years time. This year Ryanair opened a direct new route from Malta and we saw it as a sign and decided to book a trip right away.

We stayed at Melia Luxembourg for three nights and paid a total of 310 euros. The room was very comfortable and it was at a walking distance from the historical city centre. There was also a free gym and sauna.

Next our hotel there was a big park and an old fort with a lovely view. One thing we loved about Luxembourg is the amount of green and nature you see everywhere. Even in the city centre, next to monuments, you can find always a park or a small forest.

We explored the narrow cute street on our way to the city centre and took a lift to go up, as Luxembourg is surrounded by valleys and stands tall on top of a hill. The views from the lift were breathtaking as well.

Once we got up there, we started by visiting the Old Quarter. The Old Quarter in Luxembourg is the perfect place to kick off a trip to this delightful country and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The center was surrounded by graceful ancient fortifications that once were known as the Gibraltar of the North but were destroyed in 1883. Nowadays you will find tree lined cobbled streets as well as lush parks and gardens. As you wander around you can check out scenic bridges and winding alleyways.

We stopped at Place d’Armes. In this square there’s the Cercle Cité Luxembourg, which is an early 20th-century palace and former government building, now used for exhibitions & events. There was this piano on the street, for everyone to play, and this random guy started playing Queen songs and was truly amazing! We stayed there a bit just listening to him play. In this square there was a street market, where people were selling second-hand things.

We continued walking and saw another nice street market in the square where the Monument of Remembrance is located. This monument has a golden statue on top which is the symbol of the city. There we met a dutch guy who’s married to a Portuguese woman that was selling Portuguese Delta coffee and pastéis de nata. He even had chocolate pastéis de nata, which were divine!

This street market was really close to the Notre Dame Cathedral, so we went there to check it out. This cathedral was built in the 17th century by Jesuit priests. One of the signature features here is the north gate which is baroque in style and is covered with pretty stained glass that dates from the 19th -20th cent.

As well as traditional structures you will also find modern pieces of sculpture as well as a famous statue of the Madonna and Jesus in miniature form that sits over the altar. It is also famous for its crypt which contains graves of members of the Luxembourg royal family and which is guarded by two lion statues.

After that, we decided to cross the valley through the main bridge and check the other side of the city. The views are incredible. And on the other side we saw all the Portuguese banks and shops. I really felt at home!

On this side of the city we had lunch in a Vietnamese restaurant called Nhân Nhân. We went to this place out of despair, as we were starving but it was already 3pm and all the places had stopped cooking meals. It was an amazing choice, the food was unbelievably good. Totally recommend it.

Once we were done with exploring the other side of the city, we took a bus and went back to the old town. Over there we visited the Palais Grand-Ducal, which is the official residence of the Grand Duke and royal family of Luxembourg and is one of the most stunning feats of architecture in Luxembourg City. It dates from the 16th century and mixes a range of style including romantic touches and medieval and Gothic designs.

Close to the Palais, we saw the Place Guillaume II. This square is known for its spacious open areas that used to be the location of a Franciscan convent. However, when we went there we didn’t see any open spaces, as some construction works were going on and because there was also a food market happening there that weekend.

In the middle of the square there is a famous statue here of William II on horseback who was the King of Holland and the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and also the Town Hall. We also randomly found a nice park with lots of colourful flowers close by.

We stopped to have lunch in a Portuguese restaurant called Resto Cafe Bodega. I ate octopus and drank our national beer Super Bock. Again, felt super at home. At the end I started speaking the the owner and she was very lovely.

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All the Portuguese people we met there were very lovely – they made me proud 😉 Pretty much all the businesses we saw on the streets were owned by Portuguese people, I was amazed! From fancy restaurants to tobacco & convenience shops. And all of our drinks and food products were available in all supermarkets. Crazy!

During our stay, we went to visit Alejandro’s friend from Venezuela – Anghelina. She moved to Luxembourg two years ago, and already has her life in order. She’s working at Amazon and just had a baby and bought a house. She told us that living there is amazing – the quality of life, salaries, services, etc.

We had dinner at her house with her family, and ended up sleeping in her couch, as we got a bit tipsy and lost the last buses to go back to the centre. She lives in a place called Esch-sur-Alzette. According to her, this place is pretty much ‘owned’ by Portuguese people. Even in governmental institutions, things are written in Portuguese as well, as if it was an official language 😮 

When we woke up the next morning we went to explore this city a bit. It’s really close to the French border. Then we took a train to go back to the centre and rest a bit at the hotel.

Later that day, we visited the Walls of the Corniche, which look over the city down onto a valley. This is also the spot where the Gate of the Grund is located which was built in 1632 and there are a range of houses and other curiosities in the area such as St. Michael’s Church and the Abbey of Neumünster which has a famous pipe organ as well as a ‘black virgin’ from the 14th century.

After that, we visited Bock Cliff, known for its cannons and its fortifications. It is here that the Casemates du Bock are located and we went to explore them. These are a series of underground passages in a 17 kilometer long tunnel, initially carved out of the rock by the Spanish between 1737 and 1746.

Being a shelter for more than 35,000 locals and thousands of soldiers during the WWI and WWII, the Casemates is known for its historical importance in Luxembourg. Consisting of atmospheric passages, different levels and impressive rock stairways, the historic tunnel of Casemates is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For our last day in Luxembourg, we decided to take a bus and visit a different city – Echternach. This city sits on the banks of the pretty River Sûre which is also on the border with neighboring Germany. The town is famous for a few of its festivals such as an international music festival that is run from May to June as well as a dancing procession that has been held here for centuries on Whit Tuesday. In the town itself you will find old fashioned houses, winding streets, and medieval architecture that hark back to another era.

If you visit the town of Echternach then make sure to check out the Benedictine Abbey which dates from the seventh century and has an adjoining museum. It is made up of four buildings and a central courtyard and the basilica here has a huge amount of religious significance throughout Luxembourg. One of the reasons for this is that it contains a crypt with the sarcophagus of St. Willibrord which is made of white marble and the vaults here are covered in colorful frescoes that were painted in the 10th century.

The next day, we flew back to Malta. We definitely enjoyed our trip in this small but interesting country! It is definitely worth a visit.

 

 

Charming Germany

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One month after we visited Berlin we went back to Germany, this time to visit Cologne, Düsseldorf and Bonn. That European old charm that Berlin lacks, these cities definitely have it.

Cologne

Interesting facts about the city:

The city is home to the headquarters of the most significant national and regional TV and radio companies, and the country’s largest university. Cologne is also second in the world after New York in terms of the number of galleries.

From time immemorial, it’s been one of the biggest European transport centers: on average, it’s crossed by 8 trains every minute.

Cologne has one of Europe’s oldest perfume factories. The Cologne Museum offers its visitors to buy a bottle of the world’s most famous cologne – the Eau de Cologne (which gave birth to this type of perfume). The famous perfume was initially a medicine against the pox.

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In March, only one month after visiting Berlin, we decided to visit Germany again – this time Cologne, Düsseldorf and Bonn. Since all three cities are located very close to each other, we stayed in Cologne and moved around by train.

We stayed at Chocolate Museum a-partments CologneCity. We paid €184 for three nights (€61 per night). It was very nice and central, only 12 min walking to the Cathedral.

Speaking about the cathedral, it is very impressive. The Cathedral of Cologne – the main symbol of the city – has been under construction from 1248 to 1888 (more than 600 years!) and it’s the third tallest cathedral in the world.

The Cathedral of Cologne is the final resting place of the Three Kings, whose remains are stored in a reliquary, which took artisans as many as 10 years to make. Furthermore, the cathedral also guards St. Peter’s Staff and his pyx. The world’s largest functional bell, called Peter, can be found in the belfry of the Cologne Cathedral. It weighs 24 tonnes.

Close to the Cathedral, we also visited Cologne’s Old Town, with its narrow streets with pubs and bars and its colourful old houses. Next to those houses, we visited the church Gross St. Martin as well.

The city is also home to the Chocolate Museum of Lindt, which not only acquaints its visitors with the history of this delicacy’s manufacturing process but also invites them to get a taste – degustation takes place on the museum’s roof. This museum was right next to our apartment. We didn’t do the tour but visited the shop and bought some nice chocolates for us and for our friends.

On the other side of the street, we also visited the Mustard Museum & Shop. We could try for free different and exotic mustards that Germans eat with their sausages, pretty much like curry. My favorite was the garlic mustard. Alejandro liked a citric one, that tasted like orange.

We also visited the Heumarkt on our way to the commercial streets of the city. This nice square is where Cologne’s Christmas market takes place every year. The Schildergasse and Hohe Straße are the most popular shopping streets in Cologne. We spent some time there, doing some shopping.

One thing I recommend you to do if you ever come to Cologne is to cross the famous Hohenzollern Bridge by metro and pay to go to the top of a building called KölnTriangle, where there is an observatory deck from where you can see the whole city. The tickets only cost €3 per person, so it is well worth it.

After seeing the panoramic city views, we crossed the bridge on foot back to the city center and saw all the love locks that couples left there over the years. I’ve seen many bridges in different cities with locks, but none with as many as this one!

Cologne has a top-quality array of cultural attractions. It is home to over 40 museums and more than 110 galleries. We didn’t have time to visit any, but I do recommend you visit Ludwig Museum. This museum includes works from Pop Art, Abstract and Surrealism, and has one of the largest Picasso collections in Europe. It holds many works by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

Another thing you should do while in Cologne is to try Kölsch, their local beer. Compared to any other German beers, it tastes sweeter and more refreshing than any other German beer.


Düsseldorf

Interesting facts about the city:

There are 400 advertising agencies in Düsseldorf, including three of the largest in Germany. With international agencies based there too, it makes the city a hotbed of creativity.

Düsseldorf’s Altstadt (Old Town) is often referred to as ‘the longest bar in the world’ due to the concentration of over 300 bars and clubs in the relatively small area.

The custom of turning cartwheels is credited to the children of Düsseldorf, who celebrated with them on 14 August 1288. Today, an image of the Düsseldorfer Radschläger (‘boy who does cartwheels’) can be found on many souvenirs and landmarks around the city.

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We spent a day in Düsseldorf. We paid €11 to go by train, a trip that takes about half an hour. Düsseldorf is in constant competition against Cologne. Both towns hate each other and compete whenever possible and in every matter possible against the other one.

Other reasons include rival football and ice hockey clubs, mostly in the lower leagues recently – only Köln has a team in the First Bundesliga at the moment. On the other hand, Köln got a shock when it didn’t become the capital of NRW – let alone Germany – after WW2. Düsseldorf instead became the capital of the state they are both located in.

After we left the train station, we walked along Königsallee, which is noted for both the landscaped canal that runs along its center, as well as for the fashion showrooms and luxury retail stores located along its sides.

Then we walked all the way to the Embankment Promenade. The sun was out and it felt like the whole city had decided to come for a wander at this promenade on the right bank of the Rhine. The view is very nice. You can see some houses on the other side of the river and the famous Rhine Tower. This tower is the tallest building in Düsseldorf. Next to this promenade, we visited the St. Lambertus church.

We met our friend Nicole in Burgplatz, next to the riverside. She’s German and lives close by. We met her in Malta, as she is dating a Venezuelan friend of ours and is currently traveling back and forth between the two countries because of that. She took us to this cozy coffee place called Rösterei VIER.  We drank cappuccino and ate banana bread, which was very good.

This coffee place is right in front of the Old Town Hall. This building’s architecture is amazing, super cute. It is located in the Marktplatz. The square is edged on all sides by rows of buildings that are listed monuments, all facing one of Germany’s most feted equestrian statues.

Later on, Nicole took us to a bar called Kürzer, where we tried the typical beer from Dusseldorf, that competes against Kölsch, the one from Cologne. This beer is called Altbier and it is darker. Even though Nicole prefers Kölsch, this one was our favorite.


Bonn

Interesting facts about the city:

Haribo is a German confectionery company known in the whole Europe for their gummy bears. The company was founded in 1920 in Bonn by Hans Riegen and its name comes from an abbreviation of Hans-Riegen-Bonn. The famous Haribo Factory Shop is located in Bonn and there are thousands of jelly beans. Colorful candies will make your day!

It functioned as the provisional seat of government of reunited Germany until 1999, when the government moved to Berlin. Some government functions remained here.

Bonn is the birthplace of the famous classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven, born in 1770. His birth house is now a museum.

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On our last full day in Germany, we decided to take another train, this time to visit Bonn. Just like Dusseldorf, it took us only half an hour to get to Bonn. This is a good day trip, as the city is very small, and you can see the main places in only one afternoon.

The first thing we saw as we entered the city center was the Bonn Minster. This is a Roman Catholic church in Bonn. It is one of Germany’s oldest churches, having been built between the 11th and 13th centuries. At one point the church served as the cathedral for the Archbishopric of Cologne. However, the Minster is now a minor basilica.

We then strolled around the commercial streets that lead to the market place and did some shopping there. While we were shopping, we saw a gate called Sterntor. It was built around 1244 at the end of the Sternstraße and was part of the medieval city fortification. At the end of the 19th century, the former city fortification gate was demolished, in order to improve the traffic flow.

Next to these commercial streets and to the market place, there is the Old City Hall, built in 1737 in Rococo style, under the rule of Clemens August of Bavaria. It is used for receptions of guests of the city, and as an office for the mayor.

Bonn is known for being the birthplace of Beethoven. Beethoven’s House is located in Bonngasse, also near the market place. The museum is actually an annex of two buildings; the street-front facade and the building around the back in which Beethoven was born and grew up.

In low-ceilinged rooms at the back are captivating artifacts from his time in Bonn up to 1792, like his baptism entry or original portraits of his family. The front building delves into his move to Vienna and has hand-written sheet music, instruments played by Beethoven, ear trumpets for his deafness and even his death mask. In the city, there is also a large bronze statue of Ludwig van Beethoven that stands on the Münsterplatz.

We continued walking and headed down to the riverside, to see the boats. When we came back to the city center, we passed in front of Kurfürstliches Schloss, built as a residence for the prince-elector and now the main building of the University of Bonn.

It was a very short visit, but we definitely enjoyed our time there. Close to Bonn, there is a very nice castle called Schloss Drachenburg. We didn’t have time to visit it. I recommend you go there though.

We came to Malta more tired then we left, as we walked a lot during these few days in these three different cities. However, as always, it was worth it. It felt good to be out of our normal daily routine again.

Another brick in the wall

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We traveled to Berlin, Germany, for Valentine’s Day this year. It was an interesting trip, with lots of different activities, like a Twenty One Pilot concert and a football match.

BERLIN (GERMANY)

Interesting facts about the city:

There are more museums in Berlin (180) than rainy days per year (106).

The city has half a million foreigners who hail from 185 countries. Every day, 435 people move into Berlin.

Berlin Subway systems’ (SBahn and UBahn) combined length equals 473Km. Add another 120Km of tram lines and you have one of the most impressive public transportation systems in the world.
Currywurst has been called the city’s “culinary emblem” thanks to its popularity, and about 70 million servings are consumed every year in Berlin!
Berlin has more bridges than Venice – around 1,700 – and more waterways than Amsterdam, Stockholm and Venice combined. The most famous and instagrammed bridge is the Oberbaumbrücke.
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Alejandro and I flew to Berlin with Ryanair and flew back to Malta with AirMalta. We decided to stay in a flat with kitchenette in order to save some money by avoiding eating outside everyday. The place where we stayed is called Citadines Kurfürstendamm Berlin Aparthotel. We paid €293 for four nights (€37 per person, per night). The apartment was nice and the location was amazing as well, close to the famous Kurfürstendamm, which is the largest and most famous shopping street in the city, with around 200,000 square metres of shops and restaurants.

We walked around that commercial street and went crazy with the huge Primark shops they have in Berlin. At the end of this street, there’s the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The original church on the site was built in the 1890s. It was badly damaged in a bombing raid in 1943. The present building was built between 1959 and 1963. The damaged spire of the old church has been retained and its ground floor has been made into a memorial hall.

We also visited Alexanderplatz, which is a large public square and transport hub in the central Mitte district of Berlin. One of city’s the most visited squares, Alexanderplatz is the site of many attractions and sights in Berlin.

We were walking around the city when we saw a nice street market in Hackescher Markt square. There, I saw this family selling Portuguese pastries called ‘Pastéis de Nata’. I missed them so much! 😀 In Malta unfortunately there are no Portuguese food places so I take every chance I get to eat food from my country. We spoke with them a bit – he is Portuguese and she is Brazilian, and they are planning on opening an actual Portuguese cafe soon.

On our second day, we went to see the Museum Island. This is the name of the northern half of an island in the Spree river in the central Mitte district of Berlin. It is so-called for the complex of internationally significant museums, all part of the Berlin State Museums, that occupy the island’s northern part. In 1999, the museum complex was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

On Museum Island, there is Berlin Cathedral. This place has a long history starting as a Roman Catholic place of worship in the 15th century. The current building was finished in 1905 and is a main work of Historicist architecture of the “Kaiserzeit.” The Berlin Cathedral has never been a cathedral in the actual sense of that term since it has never been the seat of a bishop. We paid €7 to visit the interior of the cathedral and to go up to the rooftop, to see the view.

After that, as we were walking around the museums of Museum Island, wondering whether we should buy a ticket to see at least of them, a nice couple approached us and offered us their ticket, which was valid to visit all museums until the end of the day. They were leaving and didn’t need the ticket anymore, so they just offered it to us. We were lucky! 😀

Since we got this free ticket, we decided to visit some museums. The first one we visited was Pergamon Museum. This museum houses monumental buildings such as the Pergamon Altar, the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, the Market Gate of Miletus, reconstructed from the ruins found in Anatolia, as well as the Mshatta Facade.

After that, we went to visit the Atles Museum (altes means old). One of the most striking buildings in Berlin, the Altes Museum houses a vast range of ancient artefacts from the Greek, Roman and Etruscan eras.

Last but not least, we went to the Neues Museum (neues means new). Exhibits include the Egyptian and Prehistory and Early History collections, as it did before the war. The artifacts it houses include the iconic bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti.

After seeing all these museums, we were tired. However, since it was Valentine’s Day, we went to a concert of the famous band Twenty One Pilots. The concert took place in the famous Mercedes-Benz Arena, close to the East Side Gallery. We paid around €60 for the tickets, per person. We listened to their biggest hits, like ‘Stressed Out’ or ‘Heathens’ and had fun. Twenty One Pilots is not exactly our cup of tea or one of our favorite bands or anything, but we decided to go because of the date. Alejandro didn’t like the concert that much, but I enjoyed it.

The next morning we went to visit the Brandenburg Gate. This get is Berlin’s most famous landmark. It is an 18th-century neoclassical triumphal arch built on the orders of Prussian king Frederick William II. Built according to the plans of Carl Gotthard Langhans from 1788 to 1791, the Brandenburg Gate is modeled on the Propylaeum of Athens’ Acropolis. The monument is 26 meters (85 feet) high and 65 meters (213 feet) wide, with 12 Doric columns, six to each side measuring 15 meters (49 feet) in height.

I had booked in advance a tour inside the Reichstag building, which is located right next to the Brandenburg Gate. If you want to visit it and go up to the cupola on the rooftop, you should book it in advance as well, free of charge.

This impressive building is the seat of the German Parliament. It was constructed to house the Reichstag (“Imperial Diet”) of the German Empire. After its destruction by fire in 1933 and in World War II, much of the former structure was rebuilt in 1970, but with the decision to return the seat of government to Berlin from Bonn after reunification, the Reichstag underwent a complete renovation in the late 1990s.

We were given some headphones to hear the history of the city, as we climbed to the very top of the glass dome in circles. The view is very impressive from up there, one can see most of the city’s landmarks. I totally recommend this tour.

After the tour, we made a quick stop to see the Holocaust Memorial. This is a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. It consists of a 19,000 square meters site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or “stelae”, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. It was inaugurated on May 10, 2005, sixty years after the end of World War II, and opened to the public two days later.

On our way to the Topography of Terror, we passed by Postdamer Platz. The Topography of Terror is a free museum located both in and outdoors on the former site of the Gestapo and SS headquarters and the Reich Security Main Office.  These were the principal security agencies responsible for policing, forced labor and maintaining despotism under the Nazi regime. Nowadays, little physical evidence of its dark past remains on the site, as allied bombs damaged the buildings in 1945 and its remnants were torn down by 1956.

A visit to the Topography of Terror can be a truly chilling experience, as one must confront the evil that took over Germany while standing at the site of countless abuses against human dignity.

We ended the day with a visit to the famous Checkpoint Charlie. Checkpoint Charlie was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. After the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc and the reunification of Germany, the building at Checkpoint Charlie became a tourist attraction.

We also visited Charlottenburg Palace. One of Berlin’s most famous and best-loved sights – the rococo palace, built for Sophie Charlotte, Queen consort in Prussia.

We started our full day in Berlin with a visit to the famous East Side Gallery, the longest open air gallery in the world with a little over 1.3 Km. The East Side Gallery showcases over 100 murals from artists from all over the world on the remainings of the Berlin Wall. Perhaps the most famous is “The Fraternal Kiss”. The section was painted by 118 artists from 21 countries with 101 works.

The Berlin Wall was a guarded concrete barrier in and around Berlin, Germany, that physically and ideologically divided Berlin (in East Berlin and West Berlin) from 1961 to 1989 during the era of the Cold War. It was thrown up overnight, on 13 August 1961. When the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, its destruction was nearly as instantaneous as its creation.

After seeing the Berlin Wall, we went to a place called Gendarmenmarkt square, that houses several monuments: the KonzertHaus in the middle,and two identical churches on both sides – the French Cathedral on the right side and the New Cathedral on the left side.

At night we went to see a Football match – Hertha BSC vs. SV Werder Bremen. We paid €21 per person. The match took place at the Olympiastadion Berlin. The game ended 1-1, but we missed the last goal, as we were already walking to get to the S-Bahn. Even though our seats were not the best ones (we were siting too low, in one of the corners), it was still a very nice experience.

The next morning we returned to Malta. Alejandro was lucky that people from Air Malta didn’t notice that his name was wrong in the boarding pass, and he didn’t have to pay any extra fees.

This trip was a nice break from the routine. When we arrived in Berlin we were both super sick, but we were lucky with the weather there, and actually got well after only one day there.

Berlin is a city that is very alive, with lots of cultural events happening all the time, and with a very efficient public transportation system. Even though it is not one of the prettiest European capitals, as it was destroyed by the war and rebuilt in a modern style, it seems to be, however, a very good city to live in.