If it’s Sunday, it must be Luxembourg!  Today, we will be visiting the second of the countries on this itinerary that will be new to me.  We tied Up in Piesport took a bus ride to the capital of Luxembourg, one of the world’s smallest nations.  The country has only 500,000 people and measures only 999 square miles!

Like Brugge, Luxembourg is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It was first ruled by the Romans, followed by Charlemagne, the Austrian Hapsburgs,Belgium and the Netherlands.  Since 1443 the capital, Luxembourg City, has been occupied seven times.  Although declared a neutral state in 1867, the country was invaded twice by the Germans (both World Wars).  After liberation, Luxembourg ended its neutrality in 1949 and joined NATO and the European Union.

Today, Luxembourg is ruled by the Grand Duke, however, the government is a constitutional democracy.  The Grand Duke signs all laws, but has no veto power.  We were all quite surprised to hear that the prime minister has no security.  His office was pointed out during our walking tour and we could have stepped right up and knocked on the door, if it had not been a Sunday (it was closed).  Other than two security cameras, there is no security at all.  The prime minister goes to restaurants on his own and is commonly seen during his lunch hour doing shopping in the local stores- completely alone!

Luxembourg is a very multicultural country; one in every four is a foreigner.  And, citizens speak French, German, and Letzeburgesch, a German dialect.  The government is conducted in French, the newspapers are in German, and the schools teach both languages, as well as their local dialect AND English.  (And, Americans are lucky if they can just learn English correctly…)

Luxembourg is also one of the most industrialized countries and a leading producer of steel.  It also has the highest yearly income among nations.

Each day, 150,000 commuters arrive to the capitol city, from out of the country, to work; more than the 93,000 that live in the city.

One interesting fact to me is that filmmaking has become such a big industry here.  In 1988, the government introduced a tax shelter scheme that cut costs of production up to 30%.  The news spread that Luxembourg was one of the cheapest countries in the world in which to shoot a film.

Today, we walked the city with a local guide, then had time on our own to explore, before meeting the boat in Tier.

We made two stops after our walk around.  Our first was at a café, to share a piece of chocolate torte- DELICIOUS!  The second was unplanned; we were stopped by a couple of passengers from our boat to join them for a local beer.  This turned out to be a fun and relaxing way to end our visit to Luxembourg!








European River Cruise Itinerary- One Week Until Departure!

After my last lengthy post, I thought I would give you a break with a shorter one!  I only have one week to go before my upcoming river cruise, so I will have to return to posting excerpts of my past travelogues at a later date.  Instead, I thought I would post the itinerary for my upcoming trip.

My third European river cruise with Vantage Travel (and my mom as my travel partner) begins with a three-night pre-cruise visit in Bruges and Ghent, Belgium. Next, we join the River Navigator, in Amsterdam, for a 16-day river cruise. Finally, we will wrap up our adventure (and photography/ chocolate buying trip) with a post-cruise visit to Basel, Bern, and Lucerne, Switzerland.

The following is our itinerary:                                                                                              August 20, 2011 – Fly to Belgium for pre-cruise extension                                            August 24 – Arrive Amsterdam / Embark ms River Navigator                                         August 25 – Amsterdam                                                                                                   August 26 – Cologne, Germany                                                                                      August 27 – Cologne and Cochem                                                                                August 28 – Piesport (Luxembourg)                                                                               August 29 – Piesport and Trier, Germany                                                                      August 30 – Trier and Berkastel                                                                                       August 31 – Rüdesheim                                                                                             September 01 – Rüdesheim and Mainz (for Heidelberg): Depart for Speyer in the evening September 02 – Speyer and Rastatt (for Baden-Baden): Depart for Strasbourg, France, in the evening                                                                                                                      September 03 – Strasbourg                                                                                    September 04 – Strasbourg and Breisach, Germany                                                        September 05 – Breisach (For Freiburg) and Basel,Switzerland                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         September 06 – Basel                                                                                                              September 07 – Basel/ Disembark ship / Begin 3-night Lucerne extension

I have been doing some research on our cruise stops and it sure looks like it is going to be a fascinating (and gorgeous) cruise!  If/when time permits, I will blog along the way, so stay tuned!

Meanwhile, If any of you have any chocolate recommendations for these countries, please let me know!  As I posted earlier, I collect wrappers and labels of chocolate from around the world.  And, I also savor each and every chocolate I purchase, so I seek out the best!  (See “CHOCOLATE!” for a complete list of what I have already collected.)