I was lying flat on the fuel tank of my motorcycle just blasting it on the A31 north, and this thing was roaring like mad passing the cities of Dijon, Nancy, Metz and finally reaching Luxembourg.
I booked a posh Sofitel hotel for the night, located in the middle of the European institutions buildings, all of them made of glass, steel and mirrors. No smoke during the weekend, they’re not in session.
I walked into the tremendous lobby, and I stand out after my rides - the motorcycle jacket, hair a bloody mess, helmet in one hand and the bag in the other. The receptionist looked at my Canadian ID and she asked – “did you just come straight from there?”
This city-state has a population of 600,000 with about half of it being foreigners.
The EU institutions contrast with the city’s old quarters and fortifications and give it a special flavor. In Luxembourg, the repeated invasions by Germany, especially during World War II, resulted in the country's strong will for mediation between France and Germany that, among other things, led to the foundation of the European Union and the Euro currency.
Now the city of Luxembourg is the seat of several major institutions and agencies of the EU.
Luxembourg is also the world's second largest investment fund center (after the United States), and the most important private banking center in the Eurozone.
In March 2010, the Sunday Telegraph reported that most of Kim Jong-Il's (the North Korean Rocket Boy’s) $4 billion in secret accounts is in Luxembourg banks.
In 2013, Luxembourg ranked as the 2nd safest tax haven in the world, behind only Switzerland.
Their Euros are printed in Germany, and have a serial number starting with R, if you’re interested. Actually, a lot of Euro notes for several EU countries are printed in Great Britain by the De La Rue company, and they will likely loose the business with the Brexit “no deal, crashing out” ordeal that is coming.
It is important to comprehend a critical point here. The European currencies are not safe to keep for long. A US dollar bill from 1861 is still a legal tender. That is no the case in Europe – not even Britain. Why do you think the narcos from all over the world deal with dollars? They know the currency is here to stay. Europe routinely cancels their currencies. They demonetize both, previous coins and notes. They always cancelled the notes to ensure people pay taxes. If you had a bundle of cash you didn’t pay taxes on, cancelling the old notes forced capital out of hiding and it was then taxed.
I’d say, if you want to safe cash, get the old $100 bills while you still can. The new ones they can pick up on a scanner going through an airport these days.
There is a major difference between Europe and the US and apparently it takes a Polish guy to point it out. The United States was founded upon the distinction between the public and the private, and the public was held in suspect. The idea of the United States was that the government was dangerous and therefore we need to make them so incapable of making decisions that they would leave everybody alone.
But Europe is built on a totally different premise. While the US constitution promises the freedom to pursue fortune and happiness, the EU promises to everyone fortune and happiness. That’s worlds apart.
I came to Luxembourg with some hesitation – it is too EU-ish for me, like, being the heart of the milieu that I don’t like.
But then I was totally taken by the vibe of the city.
In the afternoon I went for a late lunch over the famous big bridge with great views all around. In the old town a trumpet band all dressed in red was playing at the Place D’Armes under the trees, but then I found one better - a slim brunette woman playing violin on the street with a man accompanying on a piano. And a great violin play brings me into different reality every time.
And in life I take the experiences I go through and I adjust my thinking.
Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand, sometimes you turn your back to the wind, no?
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler