Lucky Luxembourg

Our annual European pre-Christmas winter warmers trip was to Luxembourg. Direct flights from Edinburgh with Ryanair (of which more later) opened up this possibility.

It was impossibly Christmassy. Every square seemed to have a market and the Gluhwein was certainly flowing.

There was even a speciality beer bar.

And traditional entertainments.

Around 120,000 of the country’s population – a fifth or so- live in Luxembourg City, which is laid out in classical style. For the curious traveller bus travel is €4 anywhere in the country, and free at weekends, soon to be extended to seven days a week.

The more charming older part of the city lies underneath the fortifications, a small network of winding streets.

Home to the European Court of Justice, the European Investment Bank and other institutions. 70% of the city’s population are foreign nationals, forming the basis of its prosperity. We didn’t travel into other parts of the country – choosing a day in Trier, over the German border instead – but the city itself feels hyper-wealthy (there’s not much evidence of counter culture) and very international, not least from the myriad of languages spoken.

It’s not a particularly exciting beer destination but does have its high spots, the best we found being Craft Corner, near the station.

It runs a small brewery at the back with a 60-90 litre capacity so one of their own beers is usually on. In this case it was Hankey the Christmas Brew, described as a 5.5% spicy winter sour, but really more like one of the seasonal beers at home, with liberal use of cloves. They also brewed a “wet hops weizen” which was an undemanding wheat beer.

Madame Luna got stuck in to the ports, four varieties, all deeply warming. In between times she had an astonishing arctic smoked beech tonic from Finland.

You expect to see plenty of gins in bars these days but ports less so. I asked the host if this was because 18% of people in the city are Portuguese. He contemplated my stupidity for some time before replying “no, I just like port.”

We tried several beers on offer. I kept returning to Todd the Axeman, a 6.5% APA from Denmark’s Amager Bryghus. Craft Corner described itself as a “gastro bar” but confined its food to huge plates of meat and cheese. It is a fine beer bar.

The standard national fizz is Bofferding though their Christmas special was more than drinkable.

As we boarded our plane home Ryanair returned us to the lounge. Nine hours later we flew home. It took some Sherlock-esque skills to find out why but it turned out there was a problem with the door. Rather than have it fixed locally they flew two staff out from Stansted. There’s an EU regulation that requires airlines to pay €450 compensation in such circumstances and this they duly did.

Next time I am going to fly with these guys. They don’t take short cuts.

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