Sunday, March 27, 2016

Hello Châteaux: Castle Ruins in Dudelange

Samschdeg, 26 Mäerz.

Since arriving in Luxembourg last September, there have been a handful of cities and towns that have been on my 'must-visit' list because of their political significance (Schengen), their museums (Clervaux, Diekirch), or -- let's be honest -- their castles. Dudelange was NOT on this list.

Located just a fifteen minute drive from Esch-sur-Alzette and only a few kilometers from the French border, the town of Dudelange boasts a population of just under 20,000, a history as an important industrial center, and little else ... or so I thought. While aware that Dudelange was home to castle ruins, I knew little about the castle itself and assumed that it would pale in comparison to the châteaux forts in the north of the country. In fact, until today, the most exciting thing for me about Dudelange was its official Luxembourgish name: Diddeleng.

However, today's visit to Dudelange and the ruins of its medieval castle has forced me to consider that there may be more to this town than meets the eye!

This plaque imagines the castle in its 15th-century heyday. 

With Catherine, my fellow Fulbrighter and castle-exploring buddy!
My first surprise was learning that the castle ruins at Dudelange are not actually located within the town itself. Rather, they sit on the top of Mont St. Jean, a heavily-wooded hill that rises 400 meters above the town of Dudelange. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

"We Have a Zoo?!": The Mid-Year Discovery of the Escher Déi'repark

Samschdeg, 26 Mäerz.

As you all know by now, Luxembourg is a pretty small country. Still, I would never presume to know all of its secrets after only six months. (Case in point: today's delightful discovery of Dudelange Castle!) However, my adopted city of Esch-sur-Alzette is a slightly different story. Despite being the second-largest city in the country, Esch is a pretty small town and after half a year of residency, I've come to feel like I know it pretty well. Need to know about the bus routes? The local schools and churches? The most punny hair salon? I got you. (By the way, it's called "Ryan Hair" and if that doesn't make you roll your eyes and laugh despite yourself, then I don't know what will.)

Although I've heard rumors from my housemates about the existence of a small petting zoo in the municipal park above the train station, I didn't really know what to expect. (The descriptions had pretty much been limited to: "There is a ... you know ... zoo. It has ... you know ... Bambi?") So you can imagine my surprise when, after a full six months of living here, I finally discovered the Escher Déi'repark.

The Déi'repark is somewhere between a traditional zoo and a petting zoo. The animals include typical farm animals like chickens, sheep, goats, and horses as well as slightly more diverse options like deer, Highland cows, and raccoons. In total, there are approximately 140 animals at the park. Visitors to the animal park, which is free and open year-round, can interact with the animals through the fence and even feed them!

As you can imagine, this park is a game-changer. In the words of fellow Fulbrighter, Catherine: "You mean I could have been relieving stress by petting baby animals ALL YEAR?!"

Friday, March 25, 2016

Castles and Casemates and Cities ... Oh My!

Freideg, 25 Mäerz.

After visiting Rachel in Scotland last month, it was only fair that I return the favor. She came and spent a week of her spring break in the Grand Duchy.

In addition to an impromptu afternoon trip to Rodemack, our adventures included: hiking the Mullerthal-Consdorf trail with my housemates, attending classes at the University of Luxembourg Belval Campus (very new) and my local high school (very old), exploring Luxembourg City and touring the Bock Casemates, hiking from Berdorf to Echternach, and climbing all over visiting the castle ruins at Esch-sur-Sûre. Rachel even took advantage of her time in Luxembourg (and my time in the classroom) to visit Brussels and Trier!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Rodemack, la Petite Carcassonne Lorraine

Sonndeg, 20 Mäerz.

If you know anything about me and my travels in Francophone Europe, you know that there is nothing that I love better than a picturesque village. Cosmopolitan cities and sweeping seascapes are all fine and dandy, but there is nothing that warms my heart more than a tiny, historic village perched on the side of a cliff or nestled in a quiet valley. And while Europe seems to be full of such lovely little spots, it is the Plus Beaux Villages de France that hold a special place in my heart. So imagine my delight when I discovered that Rodemack, one of France's 153 most beautiful villages, was located just a stone's throw from the Luxembourgish border!

Today we took advantage of a free afternoon -- and dry, if not particularly sunny, weather -- to make the thirty minute drive from Esch-sur-Alzette to Rodemack and see what this little village had to offer.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Ein Wochenende in Deutschland: Snapshots from Düsseldorf and Cologne

Meindeg, 14 Mäerz.

One of the things that I miss the most about the United States is my family and friends my car. (Just kidding, fam!) While I am a huge fan of public transportation for many reasons (including environmental impact, cost, and the fact that you can nap while going somewhere), there is something so liberating about hopping in a car and just hitting the road. Need a bathroom break? Want to make an unexpected detour? Decide to extend your trip or head home early? No problem -- you are the driver and you make the rules.

So this weekend, I took advantage of housemates with cars and hit the open road for a weekend excursion to Düsseldorf and Cologne with Vicky and Lucie, two of the newest additions to my student residence. While western Germany isn't exactly Francophone Europe, the trip was too fun not to share with you!


Friday, March 4, 2016

Lessons in Luxembourgish: Literally!

Freideg, 4 Mäerz.

Well, folks, it has finally happened. The day that some predicted, but that many -- including myself -- thought might never come. That's right: I have finally started learning Luxembourgish.

Last semester, as you might remember, I took a weekly German course through the University of Luxembourg Language Center, or ULLC. At only ninety minutes per week, the course was neither particularly challenging nor time-consuming, but it gave me the opportunity to keep working on my German. (And, because yours truly passed German B1.3 with flying colors, I even got a nifty little ULLC certificate!) This semester, the only German class being offered at my level was a weekly conversation course ... which sounded intriguing until I remembered that I currently LIVE with three native German speakers and that my entire life could be a German conversation course, should I choose! However, in a lucky turn of events, the university is offering free introductory courses in Lëtzebuergesch and my housemate, Dikra, and I decided to sign up. (A translation/summary of our WhatsApp conversation about the matter: "OMG TAKE LUXEMBOURGISH WITH ME." "OMG YES OKAY WHEN YES.") And that's how I wound up spending every Wednesday evening at the Limpertsberg Campus, copying down vocabulary words and repeating obscure phrases and giggling over the fact that, in Luxembourgish, cadeau is spelled Kado. (Like, seriously?)

So, what have I learned so far? Well, to begin with, we have tackled some greetings.
Moien = Hello!
Gudde Moien = Good morning
Gudde Mëtteg = Good afternoon
Gudden Owend = Good evening
Gutt Nuecht = Good night
Awar an nach e schéinen Dag! = Goodbye and have a nice day!
Luckily, while French people must constantly be aware of the exact time of day in order to avoid the unpardonable offense of wishing someone a "Bonne soirée!" when it is still journée,  Luxembourgers can get away with saying "Moien" at all times. In fact, it is only the conductors on evening trains who I have ever heard say "Gudden Owend."

On our first day of class, we also learned how to introduce ourselves. You know, to all our Luxembourgish friends.
Wéi heescht Dir? = What is your name? (formal) 
Ech heeschen Elisabeth. = My name is Elisabeth.
Wéi ass Ären Numm? = What is your name? (formal) 
Mäin Numm ass Elisabeth. = My name is Elisabeth.
Remember how one of my very first posts about learning Luxembourgish talked about the similarities between German and Luxembourgish? Introductions are a great example of this linguistic proximity. In German, you ask "Wie heißt du?" (or "Wie heißen Sie?" if you're being formal); in Luxembourgish, it's "Wéi heeschs du?" (or "Wéi heescht Dir?"). A German would answer with "Ich heiße..." while a Luxembourger would respond with "Ech heeschen..."

As you continue, the similarities only continue. While a German friend might inquire "Wie geht's?", a Luxembourger would be inclined to use the following expressions:
Wéi geet et? = How are you? (How is it going?)
Et geet mir gut. = I'm doing well. (It's going well.)
Et geet tipp topp! = Great! :)
Et geet guer net gutt. = Really bad. :(
Sometimes when learning a language in a classroom, you are taught words and phrases that are a little outdated or silly sounding ... and don't realize until later that you have been speaking like a very quirky old woman. So naturally, when hearing someone describe their state of wellness as "tipp topp", you might be tempted to think that this, too, was une expression démodée. Except that in this case, it's totally not. Luxembourgers say "tipp topp" ALL. THE. TIME. And I love them for it.

If it seems like I am already studying hard ... it's because I am! Although the course I am taking is technically free, we were asked to fork over a rather hefty 34 euros for the textbook called Schwätzt Dir Lëtzebuergesch? (This means "Do you speak Luxembourgish?" and the answer is a resounding NO.) On the plus side, this financial investment is quickly translating to a strong sense of academic devotion. If you spend 34 euros on a book, then you are going to USE. THAT. BOOK.

Stay tuned for more exciting updates from the land of A1.1 Luxembourgish, including my answer to the all-important question: "Why learn Luxembourgish?" But for now, Äddi!