Saturday, July 10, 2010

Greetings from: CLERVAUX

My troubles in Luxembourg begins with my inability to make simple metric calculations.  For instance, at the farmer's market in the Place d'Armes, I asked for 375g of German speck, expecting a handful of slices and ending up with a solid block of pig.  It smells delicious but the small butter knife which the hotel lent me is insufficient to but through the tough, cured deliciousness.  (I later compounded this problem when, for dinner, I ordered a 300g hamburger and watched Germany beat Uruguay for third-place in the World Cup.)

Next, as Matthew and I bought our tickets for the northern town of Clervaux, I couldn't believe the ticket agent when he told me it would cost €3.  "How much?" I asked.  The clerk, clearly annoyed, held up three fingers.  If I were traveling on New Jersey Transit, €3 wouldn't have gotten me further than one stop, and Clervaux is nearly at the Luxembourg-Belgium border.  The town itself is rather sleepy -- when we arrived, the shops were closed for a two-hour siesta.  But I don't blame them:  the sun scorched everything in its path.  We sat under an awning for lunch and angled ourselves to avoid any contact whatsoever with sunlight.  When we couldn't bear it any longer, we each ordered a café glacé -- three scoops of ice cream, warm coffee, and whipped cream -- to stave off heatstroke.  It worked.

Our main purpose in going to Clervaux, though, was to hear the monks at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Maurice recite vespers.  Let your mind wander back to 1990:  the Berlin Wall falls; Margaret Thatcher resigns; Nelson Mandela is released from prison; and Iraq invades Kuwait.  Elsewhere in the world, a little-known German-Romanian band named Enigma releases their debut album MCMXC a.D, and their single, "Sadeness, Pt. 1," which mixes Gregorian chants with techno beats, becomes a worldwide smash and finds a special place in the heart of a certain high school sophomore Aurora, Colorado.

On our way to the abbey, however, we got lost.  We walked along a road up a hill and found, instead of an abbey, a daycare center.  A helpful young woman pointed out that the abbey was on the other hill, and that if we were going by foot, we had just missed the turn-off for the trail about a hundred yards back.  Thus, we began our walk through the woods -- pine needles underfoot, the smell of cow patties in the air.  Small markers indicated that this was a bike path of some sort; judging by the steep incline, it was the masochist's path.  Oh, it can't be that much further, I thought.  There's not that much hill left.  At best, it was another 100 meters of vertical ascent. 

Yeah, that conversion issue again.

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