“Luxem- Dammit Sean stop making up countries.”
I did indeed go to a place called Luxembourg, where the Luxembourgers live. The people there speak Luxembourgish and I am totally not making that up.
It is rather small. Though not notably small. It’s in an awkward spot of being too big to get into the cool European Microstate club with Liechtenstein, Monaco, Andorra, Malta, San Marino, and Vatican City. And those guys constantly make fun of Luxembourg’s big ass. But it’s still ridiculously sized for something claiming to be a country. Due to its awkward size and its location, nestled in Europe’s armpit between Germany, France and Belgium, Luxembourg’s national anthem is Stuck in the Middle with You by Stealers Wheel.
I may have made that last part up but I will not apologize for improving on reality.
Luxembourg used to be a bit bigger and had a bunch of people who spoke French, but they fucked off and joined Belgium because they were confused about which way France was.
Luxembourg is a Duchy, which means it is ruled by a Duke and must always be passed on the left hand side. A Duke is a man who is a big deal and who must only defer to a King, a Prince, or a Marmaduke, which is a very large dog who has land holdings.
Why is Luxembourg even a country and why haven’t those weird emo robots assimilated Germany and France yet?
Luxembourg began because a dude named Siegfried bought a hill from a German monastery and decided that it was a country. Over time, Siegfried’s descendants expanded the size of their country by moving road signs and fences in the middle of the night when everyone was asleep, until one day they had a fair amount of land. That’s how things worked back then.
Luxembourg has gone through a lot of owners in its history, like a used car that looks great but turns out to have a horn that plays I Touch Myself. After the Romans and the Franks, for a long time it was owned by Spain, but not Spain Spain, rather the Spanish Netherlands, which was a thing then. Then it was part of Austria, then France. At the Congress of Vienna in 1814 they were just handing out countryhoods because everybody was drunk, and both Luxembourg and Monaco caught a couple of these that they were shooting into the crowd with a tee-shirt cannon.
So why is Luxembourg a country? Shit happens. That’s why Luxembourg is a country.
Luxembourg is the second-wealthiest country in the world per capita. It has so much goddamned money that the buses there are free. Just free, hop on the bus, whatever, we don’t care. I mean, they’re free anywhere if you sneak on or pretend you have a bus pass, but here such shenanigans are officially sanctioned. I looked around at the people riding the bus with me into Luxembourg City from the train station. They looked fairly normal, not freakishly wealthy or anything. But then again we were the people riding the bus.
Luxembourg City is the capital of the country and also the only place in Luxembourg that I could find any information about at all. As far as I know the rest of the place is just one big mini golf course. I couldn’t find anyone in Europe who had actually been to Luxembourg, which was weird because it’s kind of right in the middle of everything. So it remained a bit of a mystery.
I figured the best place to resolve this mystery would be at the Luxembourg City History Museum, which details this history of those little metal ball bearings they used to put on cakes when I was a kid for some reason and we ate them. Those things were great, I’m tempted to try and find some as an adult so I can just eat them like Tic Tacs but I’m a little afraid they’ll turn out to be one of those 70s things we should never have been eating in the first place, but we just didn’t know any better back then. They were probably actual ball bearings softened by Chernobyl or whatever happened.
So the- No of course I’m kidding, the museum tells the history of Luxembourg City. Bo-ring.
I was the only person in the museum. The museum starts out with the requisite statues of old babies and priests and the Prince of Whogivesashit.
There was also this guy who I am 100% certain ended up as one of the ghosts in Ghostbusters.
But 90% of the old-time history floor of the museum was dedicated to the amazing impregnable fortress that was Luxembourg City! Three-dimensional maps in each room highlighted the city’s growth as the natural rocky promontory was fortified with walls and castles and forts and doodads that make it completely amazing and the absolute best fortress in the history of forts or resses, located at the strategically important crossroads of Europe.
The next 34 rooms illustrated in chronological order the 791 times the fortress was conquered and control of Luxembourg shifted to a neighboring Kingdom, country, province, or just some tourists who weren’t doing anything that weekend and decided to conquer Luxembourg while they were in town. All the while, the exhibits continued to gush about how effing amazing this fortress was, never quite seeming to connect the dots that maybe it wasn’t that great a fortress if it was constantly being conquered every other weekend by The Cure cover bands, a plumbers’ union and loose packs of stray dogs.
Rather than deal with that, the museum proceeded to play with its dolls.
Things got more interesting as we got into the 1700s and 1800s and got to see artifacts from daily life, like this child’s high chair...
The original Luxembourgian version of Guess Who…
Which turned out to be playing cards used to teach children about the social classes and who they weren’t allowed to talk to.
And a bicycle! I loved that somebody thought up this elaborate suspended seat for comfort before they thought to put some rubber on the tires.
One strange but fun room featured eyepieces mounted at various levels where you could peek in and view very old stereographic images of Luxembourg City from different eras.
This was neat but a complete pain in the ass to see into the ones that were mounted at kids’ eye level.
All of the itsy countries I visited in Europe seemed like they were just some kind of Illuminati dude’s private poor people hunting ground pretending to be something else, but Luxembourg really seemed like that. A couple of exhibits dedicated to secret societies seemed to admit as much under the guise of “Look at all these fun clubs Luxembourg has!”
Other exhibits detailed Luxembourg’s amazing exports, like haunted Egyptian beetle wax, sex butter, decorative zombie arms and motors that run off the power of the African goddess Oya.
One exhibit explained that WWII was a bummer because of Nazis and stuff. Neutral Luxembourg had been conquered by Germany in both WWI and WWII, moreso because it was on the way to France than anything else. Oh Luxembourg, always in the way. Germany had invaded The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg all on the same day in 1940, which doesn’t say a lot for the level of resistance they expected to encounter. This was apparently the right call since the small Luxembourg army didn’t even leave their barracks and Luxembourg City was taken by noon that same day. The Luxembourg government just said yuck and peaced out for London, leaving the remaining population to resist the Nazis by speaking Luxembourgish and wearing pins.
The museum exhibit wanted all to know for sure that this whole thing was totally bogus, the Luxembourgers didn’t like it one bit and somebody made a wedding dress out of a parachute.
As we moved forward in time, the museum chose to represent the completely normal and not at all freaky 1950s with this series of bone-chilling possessed busts.
This is the point where I actually yelled “JESUS FUCK!” out loud in an empty museum when I turned a corner and this mannequin lady was standing right next to me. I’m still not sure if she was really a mannequin or just a woman standing terrifyingly still.
Luxembourg’s motto is “mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sinn,” which means “We want to remain as we are.”
What in the hell kind of national motto is that? That’s worse than Belgium’s “Belgium: We’re good, thanks.”
I suggested “Luxembourg: We’ve got gas.” but they acted like they weren’t still taking submissions for national mottos.
The 60s in Luxembourg looked fun.
At this point the museum pivoted into seemingly trying to explain what in the hell is going on in Luxembourg and why it’s still a country today.
This started out with an awesomely embarrassing poster of the Europe Super Pals. I love how Norway is ghosted out because they clearly decided this whole thing sounded lame.
Helpful graphics explained that in 2007, Luxembourgish mooses barfed up more Roman ruins than in any previous year, which explains a lot.
But isn’t Luxembourg just a weird tax shelter shaped like a country? Ha ha, no my friends, that’s an easy mistake to make. Allow us to explain that Luxembourg is actually… yeah okay it’s a tax shelter shaped like a country.
But what are we doing with all that money? We’re making a building shaped like a vacuum cleaner from Star Trek, that’s what!
That all having been cleared up, the museum pivoted again, this time suddenly and vertiginously into an abstract art museum. It was like the country didn’t have enough history to fill an entire museum so what the hell, have a mermaid.
This glowing swing just swung back and forth and made a weird noise in a dungeon room.
They’d filled another entire room with yet another big diorama of Luxembourg City, it seemed like because they didn’t know what else to do with this room.
Well then, that didn't really help at all. Maybe I should just wander around and figure this place out for myself.
A few of the streets were lined with these weird metal pillars, which were scooped out at the top to form concave golden death-mask faces that followed you as you walked, like the busts in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. Hokay.
A skyway connected a very new and a very old building, like someone had just plugged a massive USB drive into Luxembourg.
Just don’t call these guys if Germany invades, they'll be on their way to France.
Near my hotel there was a funky little fountain and a much funkier psychadelic kiddie train.
Oh cool, souvenirs! This will teach me about… okay. Owls. Luxembourg is run by owls.
Maybe I just need to check out a historical building. How about the Notre-Dame Cathedral?
Cool! Oh, wait, that door’s locked. better try the other side.
Not bad. Maybe I just need to OOH WEIRD SHIT.
As usual, the collision of weird unlicensed knock-offs and an obviously unsafe ride made my day.
Luxembourg City is awkwardly situated around a massive gorge filled with trees, which you can look down into from the city streets of the old town.
Down below there were walking trails which looked nice.
But there were no stairs I could find that went down there, so I ended up having to cross the gorge through a tunnel underneath the gorge-spanning road bridge.
This footbridge looked completely normal and solid, but the second I stepped on it and the floor reverberated under my feet I could feel, physically feel, all the empty space just under my feet, as if my consciousness was projecting down through the floor and into all that nothingness. This was entirely unnerving and my entire body reacted in abject panic. In spite of all the pants-shittingly scary things I’ve done in my life, there was something about this bridge and the lack of solidity underfoot on an instinctive level that had my whole body screaming “OH MY GOD THIS SHIT’S GONNA COLLAPSE LIKE RIGHT NOW” the entire time I was walking across this completely fine-looking footbridge. This was fascinating and very, very strange.
From the other side, I was able to find many, many steps leading down into the gorge.
The walk down there was nice and leafy...
...culminating in a weird skate park full of local dudes being radical on skateboards and little BMX bikes. Nearby there was also a big stone beehive for bees to be radical in. Behind this I saw another bridge spanning the gorge, and noticed that the janky footbridge dangling precariously underneath it seemed to have been cobbled together that very morning out of extra construction materials and low standards. Okay, maybe my body was onto something.
Finding a well-hidden set of stairs back up this side of the gorge, I hiked up, up and up back to the city level.
When I got to the top I felt something on my neck. Thinking it was a mosquito, I reached back and swiped it away, coming away with a handful of an absolutely massive and bizarre bug that probably could have flown me up out of the gorge if I’d asked it nicely.
The next day I woke up very early in the morning, feeling absolutely wretched. Not physically sick, rather there was something very, very wrong with the energy here and I’d absorbed as much of it as my body could handle. It’s a very distinctive and unmistakable feeling. Oof. The Bear Medicine reaction was kicking in, I was transmuting dense energy through my body and feeling the negative side-effects of that process. Usually I have to be in a very dense place for at least 24 hours before it really catches up with me like this, so this had sure happened fast.
There must be some very dark things happening behind closed doors in Luxembourg. Maybe it’s all those secret societies, wooh. Uuuuuugh. Normally this would mean I was in for some serious barfing and a delirious day or so in bed of fever dreams while I was processing and transmuting the energy, but I had only planned on spending one day in Luxembourg in the first place and felt no desire to stick around longer. So I decided I would be better off getting out of this energy as quickly as I could instead. I packed up and staggered off toward the train to Switzerland.
On the train I thought about how incapacitating this Bear Medicine experience can be, and wondered if there was a way to do this energetic service without suffering so much on my end. I had several hours on the train to Lucerne to experiment with this idea. I thought about the experience I’d had in Australia, of using visualization and extremely intense and focused meditation to turn around a severe allergic reaction I had been suffering from there. Could I do the same thing now?
I closed my eyes on the train and began to imagine feeling differently than I did. What would it feel like if I wasn’t filled with this dense, nauseous energy? I imagined feeling good. What’s the best I’ve ever felt? What did that feel like? Remember. Very specifically, what did that feel like? What did it feel like in my head? Imagine and feel it there. And in my body? Remember. What did it feel like physically, and emotionally? Bringing up the memory and willing myself to feel that again in every bit of my body. Visualizing the gross Luxembourg energy being replaced with something lighter and freer, more joyful.
Huh. I do feel a little lighter. A little better. It started to seem plausible that I might even be able to eat something that day. I went back into the meditation and continued. The key, as I discovered in Australia, is to keep that focus very clearly and intensely and not let the mind and body wander and default back to how they felt in that moment, to thinking and editorializing about how lousy that felt. Back to that clarity of holding how I wanted to feel instead, making it more vivid and real than what I was experiencing in that moment. Hold it, and when it wavers, return to that, return to that, return to that.
It took a few hours, and no doubt chugging away from the energy of Luxembourg City at the speed of train helped a lot too, but before the ride was done I was feeling wonderful and clear, on all levels. Wow. I’ve never been able to do that before, normally I’d be face-down under a toilet right now. It’s such a simple thing but amazingly powerful, to realize how much control you can have over how you feel.
I tend to get a lot of resistance when I tell people about this kind of thing, I know it gets lumped in under the category of New Age B.S. by a lot of people because they saw The Secret on Oprah or whatever and thought it was dumb. And other people have tried this kind of thing briefly and gave up when they didn’t get instantaneous results. My own personal experience has been that the contents of your mind do have a big impact on your experience and even the events of your daily life, but people are generally really bad at even being aware of what those contents are. We tend to have very little mastery of our minds, and nothing in our culture encourages us to improve on that.
Someone will try something like this, thinking “Ok, I feel great!” for two seconds and then spend the next ten minutes thinking about how bad they feel, and then declare it’s all a fraud and doesn’t work because the 95% of their thoughts that happened while they were on mental autopilot outweighed the 5% when they were consciously trying.
When I’ve had good results with this, it’s because I was exerting a level of mental focus that I don’t think most people are familiar with and many might even find weird, to be truly and completely absorbed in a singular thought for an hour or more, and to visualize and make something so real within you that you can feel it more strongly than what’s really happening physically around you in that moment. I’m grateful for the years I spent in meditation that gave me a leg up on being able to do this. But I think it’s something anyone can develop with practice, and I believe it’s where we’re all headed as we evolve as human beings into the future.
Anyway. Is Luxembourg the most boring country in the world? Maybe. Somebody has to be. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t find anybody who’d ever been there before. But they still found a way to make ‘Mater even more gross and weird than he already was, and I loved them for that. See you in Switzerland.