Once upon a time in Luxembourg: Retrospection of a journey

Luxembourg. No matter how you look at it, briefly or carefully, it will always appear as a tiny, little spot on a map (yes, also with the zoom!). However, if you look at it the opposite way, from Luxembourg to the “outside world”, you might just realize how much Luxembourg – that tiny spot – is a real paradise, a tiny spot perfectly engraved between ancient and modern days.

Probably, for every place we live, there’s a personal paradise, something worth being narrated and remembered when we will be in a another corner of this world.

Having decided to live abroad, far from my birthplace, I experienced something – and I ask myself if this is  something every expat and every person far from home experience – we often tend to search for similarities between the new place and “our” old place, with every little thing that we are used to call “home”, instinctively. Maybe this is due to the need to face the new route we chose, the gap between the known and the unknown, the distance, and even the “missing home”, a natural tendency to look for closeness (real or presumed) with our native home.

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I have to admit something. As a Sicilian, I had some serious trouble finding similarities between Luxembourg and my first home, on several points, those kinds of things we breathe so deeply to impress them deeply inside. An example? The climate of course! There’s a special aspect, I suppose to be linked to my Sicilian origins, and that is the importance of the “meteorological concern” and the very strong link between mood and climate. It’s really hard to compare the Luxembourg weather conditions to those of Sicily, or those of the south of Italy. In other words – the sun, the blue sky, the stars composing infinite combinations in the sky, so beautiful, so romantic – now forget it!

In Luxembourg, the variable sun-rain is more a permanent feature than a variable, but when you’ve lived in the south of Italy, you tend to think that the sun doesn’t have that kind of an antagonist, able to obscure it for most of the seasons. Or, in Luxemburg, there is a strange meteorological phenomena: the alternation of sun-rain many, many times in one day (and sometimes the brief appearance of a shy rainbow).

And then, obviously, the snow. I lived in a place where the snow is a kind of mysterious event, so here in Luxembourg I had the chance to experience the balance (with full shopping bags, just for the event!), in the snowy streets of the cit,y and I discovered that some special licenses should be required in similar arduous conditions.

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However, even the “climate chapter” has some unexpected similarities with my native home: it’s a constant feature also in Luxembourg, a topic of discussion to chat with people about and to use when you are short of words with your interlocutor or just to break the ice (just to stay within the subject!).

Maybe the only difference is that in Luxembourg people “complain” for the opposite reason, if it’s not cold enough, or if it’s hot for to many days, since people here are able to sweat when it’s 15 degrees outside. For me it’s quite different, after all I’m used to face much higher temperatures, but those sweet and timid 15 degrees have more of an effect than the very typical 35-40 degrees of Sicilian summers. In Luxembourg you learn to appreciate the sunny days, an attitude we all should rediscover – just stop taking things for granted, and getting unused to every little thing.

But slowly, I’ve also learnt something else. There are some places able to sparkle with an absolute lure, a unique charm, even without the sun, even with the snow and in every other season. I think that Luxembourg is one of these places, beautiful with the sun but lovely with the snow, alluring in autumn and irresistible in spring. You just need time to realise it, like with an old photograph that you will love more and more with time, day by day.

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There is also something else that I’ve learnt to appreciate in Luxembourg: change. Luxembourg is the proof that “incomplete” is just what is not yet started, and not something started to be left halfway or unfinished. Actually, Luxembourg is a huge open construction site, everywhere is building site under construction, projects, short and long term changes. Here we soon learn  that “une ville qui change, c’est une ville qui avance”, and Luxembourg doesn’t advance, it runs. It’s a city investing in the future, a tiny spot able to compete with giants when needed.

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Definetely, another greatness of Luxembourg is the cultural diversity. The number of foreigners is so huge that sometimes I thought it would have been easier to know a Luxembourger in Sicily than in Luxemburg! Luxemburg is a stunning melting pot of sounds: French, Luxembourgish and German are the official languages but, if this isn’t enough, just having a walk in the city you’ll bump into an incredible mixture of different languages thanks to the many communities settled in the Grand Duchy (Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian…).

Many people asked me if and what I will miss from Luxembourg. Probably right now I have the privilege of seeing things from a different angle compared to those who stay, or those used to the daily routine. Generally, when you distance yourself from things, you immediately acquire a better view. Well, the things I’ll miss are the same I’ve written about, but also something more.

Luxembourg has been laughter and tears, thoughts, inspiration, full moments and less full ones, it has performed the perfect scenario of “my four seasons”, the personal one, my “home with wheels”. Hard not feeling the lack of your home, no matter if it’s the second or the third one. I think that I will bring many things with me for the next journey, so many that I could not list them all. Anyway, I’m sure to bring the awesome view of a park I used to walk through to reach the city center – depending on the season, it was a green expanse or a snowfield but either way, I always met dogs running wild. Voilà – dogs! In Luxembourg dogs all seem to have the gift of resembling my dogs back in Sicily – bust most of the time it’s just for having 4 paws! Incredible but true, I’ve discovered such a mysterious power far from home!

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I will also bring with me all the discoveries and also the unexpected words in Sicilian dialect coming out of my mouth so easily when the bus drivers sped off while I ran and the bus stop turned into a mirage.  I’ll bring with me the autumn colours and the astonishing flowers everywhere in the city, the flawless window sills and gardens, the light conversations with people of every nationality and the curiosity to learn more about habits and customs, unknown until that moment. I’ve even met the exact alter ego of my grandmother here, nice to see her again, even if only for a moment.

And I’ll take with me the “Italian days” at Auchan, bringing me close to my home flavours, but also new tastes such as the “Flammekuchen” and the delicious creations of Oberweis! I think that Oberweis and Cathy Goedert won a place in my dreams for a while.

And finally I’ll bring with me the greetings and all the goodbyes, giving me the feeling that it is time to go. I know that some of them will be more engraved than others, as will the faces, the experiences and the whole journey. And I’ll bring the faith that there is always something you learn from a journey.

Saint Augustine said: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page”. Let’s turn a new page. I’ve just read a great one. Nice to meet you Luxembourg!

 

Text and photos by Silvia La Rosa, October 2016

Next Silvia will be reporting from Sweden

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