Saturday, June 11, 2005


G. D. Luxembourg: City of Evil

It’s beautiful. Don’t go there.

Luxembourg is a small country about the size of Rhode Island, nestled between Belgium and Germany, with one major city, it’s capital, also called Luxembourg. Official name "G.D. Luxembourg," for “Grand Duchy.”

It may be the most beautiful city I have ever seen. I can’t be sure, because I spent most of my time there cursing it ("G.D. Luxembourg" or just "f**king Luxembourg"). Luxembourg is an evil, evil, despicable city.

Luxembourg has every architectural and physical feature you’d want from a charming, old-world city: grand baroque monuments and buildings, broad boulevards, narrow cobblestoned streets with quaint 18th century facades, a river, beautiful bridges, towering brick viaducts, and a huge cliff faced by a medieval wall.

The food was good, the people were nice.

So why is Luxembourg an evil place?

Have you ever been so badly lost while driving that you felt the very streets were involved in a sinister conspiracy to abuse you?

The trouble began when B and I were unceremoniously forced off the autoroute – the country’s main multi-lane divided highway – about ten miles outside the city. There were no warning signs, just a sudden barricade that gave us no choice but to drive off the exit ramp onto an unmarked country road in the middle of woods. No signs were specially placed to mark the apparent detour to the nation’s capital – just a couple of directional signs to obscure small towns like “Boumfucque” or something.

We followed the winding road through gorgeous but ominous woods and small towns for about 20 minutes, choosing random directions at several forks in the road. We had a baguette in the car, and I was seriously considering crushing it and dropping a trail of crumbs in case we needed to find our way back.

Finally, we reached something that looked like an outer suburb – a kind of 20th arrondissement (for those of you familiar with Paris) or Yonkers-type place. But again, no signs pointing to “Centre Ville” or anything helpful like that.

How we got in the city center remains a mystery. But the fun was only about to begin.

Map of Luxembourg City.

For the first fifteen minutes, I swear, there were no street signs. None! Then it seemed like street signs started appearing on the sides of corner buildings rather than signposts. But when I saw signs saying “rue Henri” seemingly on three consecutive side streets, I naturally concluded that in Luxembourg, the sign of the street your on faces you – perpendicular to your direction – kind of like LA.

Okay, this makes a certain amount of sense, except that it soon seemed inescapable that the street signs were faced parallel to the line of traffic.

Then the one-way streets began. Seemingly straightforward routes to our destination – a restaurant called "Brasserie Mousel" – were turned into “can’t get there from here” paradoxes by one way streets. At one point I turned left onto a wide boulevard – for no reason other than to contradict B (with whom I was by now contemplating a six month trial separation), who said to turn right. The four lanes of cars all coming at us on this one way street did not madly honk, but simply went about their business and tried to drive around us like a river flowing around a rock.

In Luxembourg center, streets change names every six blocks or so. Perhaps one could cope with that but for the fact that none of the names seemed to be on our city map. When we would finally find ourselves on a named street listed on the map, with a major landmark for orientation (“okay, we’re on Ave. Franklin Roosevelt with the river on our right, so we must be heading toward the park”), we would, seemingly impossibly, hit landmarks that could only be reached by going in the other direction.

I’m not one to blame my tools when getting lost, but for the first time in my life I had an abiding conviction that our map was just wrong. We were lost near city hall, lost in outrageously picturesque and narrow cobblestoned streets, lost in long outskirt roads.

I’ve found my way around by car or on foot through the skewed streets of Lower Manhattan and the labyrinthine streets of London, Paris, Berlin, Marseilles. I’m pretty good at applying myself to map problems and after two false moves at most, locating my position and direction. I was sure at least six times in Luxembourg City that I had at least figured out where I was (if not how to get where I wanted to go). I was wrong every time.

Luxembourg was conquered by the Germans in World War II, and probably by Napolean and several times throughout European history. I guess the street plan and street signage of the city of Luxembourg have been specifically designed to repel invaders. The idea is that if a foreigner enters the city, he will drive around in a lost stupor until he is dead.

After about ninety minutes of anxiety mounting toward terror, we stumbled onto our restaurant. I have no idea how we did that. It was as if the evil labyrinth that is the soul of the city decided it had had enough fun with us, and just spit us out in the right place.

I’d like to prove how demonically beautiful Luxembourg City is with photos, but I didn’t take any. You have to understand: B and I were fighting for survival; stopping to snap some scenic photos seemed, at the time... well, a bit frivolous.

Perhaps this one will do. It was along the Mousel (aka Mosel) River, right near our restaurant, when we finally stopped the car.


Take my word for it, this is the comparatively ugly part of town.

Don’t go there. I plan never to return to Luxembourg City unless I am leading an invading hoard. I could see going back to Luxembourg for conquest rather than tourism. I would put its traffic administrators to the sword, and then round up ten thousand of its inhabitants, blindfold them, spin them round and round, and then order them to go find the Brasserie Mousel. I might enjoy that.


Luxembourg sounds on par with Prague, also a city with some sort of dislike of having adequate signage.
I spent something like an hour driving in and around Prague at around midnight trying to find my hotel, only to be thwarted by minor details such as a lack of signs showing the names of streets.
In the end we found the place, but this was mainly achieved by way of one of the people I was travelling with actually walking ahead of the car, allowing him to look into side streets and on bus shelters so as to help him identify where we were. It was.. interesting.
everything you ever wanted to know about luxembourg
Luxembourg is not a city, it's just a fat village, with some local shops, for local people.
Thanks for the hearty laugh! I guess I'll have to drive around with tourist's eyes and with a map once, as if I didn't know my way around, to see what you mean... but then i felt equally lost in the States, where in some places, there weren't even signs to tell you what *village* you were in, let alone to tell you in which direction the village you wanted was in. Or where directions included such obscure statements as "at the second soy field, go north"... (obscure to my ears, me perpetually not knowing where north is, and never having seen a soy field in my life)
I hope you'll come back though, and then ask for directions, most of us speak at least a little English!
All the best
Simone - from beautiful Luxembourg
I came across your website by chance and was stupefied when I read your title - Luxembourg: City of Evil. I was even more astonished when I read on and figured out that the ONLY problem you encountered were related to trafic signs!! Apparently you were treated nicely by the people there... I understand that your post was meant to be funny however some people (like myself) might be offended by the strong language you use to describe a country that might have its defects in terms of trafic signs I agree but overall receives its tourists and foreign residents in a warm welcoming way.

Pascale from Biissen (a small village in Luxembourg)
Luxembourg is also the headquarters of world famous porn site Manwin/MindGeek strangely enough. I've also heard it's one of the most affluent, if not, THE most affluent cities in Europe and even the world. Hmmmm. Some sort of cartel there I'd bet---
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