After only my first day of work during the wine harvest, my German boss Mattias told me to go enjoy myself until the end of the weekend. It was Wednesday afternoon. The Caves de Wellenstein wasn't going to need its American grape-seed-sorter for five days.
The communication between Mattias and me didn't involve too many instances of understanding. "I don't know if it's going to work out for me," I tried to tell him.
He smiled a content "Man,-foreigners-are-silly" smile at what he wanted to believe was my agreement. He left a meaty-handed wave behind him, said "I'll see you Monday," and marched his powerful march out the door.
I decided I would immediately go and visit Elaine, even if I didn't know where she was. All I knew was she was volunteering in some hotel on some island in the Netherlands. I remembered she'd told me the island was mostly nature reserve and that its name was something like "Trouillez."
Luckily, there aren't many islands in the Netherlands, and one is called Terschelling. Unfortunately, Terschelling has about a hundred hotels. My heart fevered as I tried to find my fellow traveling Michigander. It looked as if my wild goose chase was going to end up with a big fat goose sitting on my head - but, alas, Elaine was working at the Terschelling youth hostel.
When Elaine was told she had a visitor, she was in the middle of waxing her hair into dreadlocks. When she saw the unexpected me, she was so surprised it was like she'd been hit by a truck. She invited me in. I was so excited to have found little Elaine and her sweetly exotic face that I could barely say complete sentences to her without happily trembling in the middle of words.
Little Elaine amazed me with her hostessing efforts. She snuck me into her living quarters, where I stayed. She could eat for free in the hostel's kitchen where she worked; she snuck me soup and candy and enormous sandwiches which vegetarian Elaine even put meat on.
She loved unspoiled, diverse Terschelling, and I soon liked it too. We rented bikes to tour around like most Terschelling visitors, and we hiked too. It was the type of place that just made you want to be outside all day for as long as the sun was up.
(Elaine helped me with the following description:)
On the island's eastern end grew the Boschplaat, where dunes covered with helm intertwined with forest. A white sandy beach along the northern side neighbored the North Sea that resembled a Van Gogh painting. Pastureland, for inhabitants' farm animals, rose not much higher than the Wadden Sea on the south side. Small shops and brick homes and docked sailboats and ferries made up the tiny town of West Terschelling. At night, the island was comfortingly flashed by a towering lighthouse with colors like a windmill.
While in Terschelling, I also told Elaine I'd been thinking about us. I had never considered that we would be so close to each other and not be dating. We'd had such wonderful, funny times together before we'd twice broke up when I left our hometown to travel.
I told Elaine I could make her my number one priority. I could cut short my European travel plans, go home with her in January, and not leave her to travel again.
I hoped we could re-capture what we once had. I headed back to Luxembourg. We hugged, and she said she would think about it.
Three days later, Elaine said good-bye to Terschelling and her young Dutch co-worker friends who didn't charge her for her Bailey's-and-coffees nor my "Wieckse-Wiete" (Dutch white beer). She said good-bye to the older Dutch co-workers and hostel guests who confused her by speaking to her in Dutch.
She kept traveling. She stopped in Belgium, just so she could experience the travel wonder of eating a Belgian waffle in Belgium. (It was good, she said. But, it was a waffle to go, and she couldn't help dripping chocolate on her pants.)
Next, she visited me in Luxembourg. Elaine absolutely can't stand Luxembourg.
We had a one a.m. "date" one night after I got out of work. While I washed the smell of grape vines off me, Elaine cooked us a rice-and-yummy-vegetables-and-red-sauce meal. We sampled a pink Luxembourg wine which was bubbly and awful. Around this time, Elaine and I began dating again.
We've shared a rough week, though. Elaine misplaced a bag of hers at a bus stop. We came back and it was gone. Elaine was horrified. The small, red bag had only contained: a "Let's Go!" Europe book, her student identity card, her camera, two- or three-hundred Euro's, her credit card, her Eurorail pass, her passport, a warm winter hat, and - damn it all! - one banana. Elaine loves bananas.
It was a travel nightmare. Elaine says it felt like "being raped, like someone took something from (her) and (she) didn't deserve it." We've been scrambling to solve these problems. Money and heartbreak have been shed on the way.
Only yesterday, five days later, did we locate the bag at the police station. Everything was in it but the money. Even the banana! - which was now a little black. Elaine split the banana with me, and it tasted delicious.
Small Luxembourg - officially titled the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg - is a very well-off country. I would assume it's rather safe usually.
What else is Luxembourg? Well, I spent over a week there. Is there time for one? - Yep! - there's time for another grape-remnant-reeking version of - sacrebleau! - MODERN ODDYSEUS' TOP 5!!!
The Top 5 Best Things About Luxembourg:
1. A GOOD PLACE TO GO TO IF YOU WANT TO MAKE MONEY
2. THE FRENCH PEOPLE -
They were fun and friendly to work with.
3. COLORS OF THE HOUSES
4. THE PORTUGUESE PEOPLE
5. COUNTRYSIDE BEAUTY -
At mid-day or when the sun is about to set, the rolling wineyard grids really captivate. Forests support canopies of vines.
HONORABLE MENTION includes "MOYEN!" (Hello!), the only uniquely Luxembourgish word I know.
And the worst ...
1. THE LADY I RENTED A ROOM FROM -
Her face was red and round and unemotional. Talking to her head was like talking to a big, uncompassionate tomato. She was German-speaking. I had little choice but to stay with her, and I paid 200 Euro's to her in all. Yet, she locked the laundry room door when Elaine and I tried to do wash, because she said that was a privilege available for only "long-term guests." She wanted us to be rich tourists and was happy she could charge me more for the room when Elaine got stuck in Luxembourg.
2. HIGH - SOMETIMES EXORBINANT - PRICES
3. WHOEVER TOOK ELAINE'S MONEY
4. PEOPLE NOT INCREDIBLY FRIENDLY
5. TOO MANY CARS -
There are less pedestrians and bikes than in other parts of Europe.
I didn't like Luxembourg all that much. But, Elaine ... Elaine despised it. And Luxembourg hated Elaine. Poor Elaine even had to take her new dread-locks out of her hair while in Luxembourg, because they weren't turning out right.
So, now, Elaine and I are back together again. The early stages of our new relationship aren't the same as our past relationships once were. Elaine's and my futures are uncertain.
I called to a friend in Barcelona and told him that my girlfriend and I were going to go next to Paris. My friend didn't know of our recent relationship troubles, but he said of us in Paris: "You'll fall in love again!"
I said with energy: "I hope so!"
At least we'll be out of Luxembourg. Elaine's happy about that. Woohoo! "A-ow, a-ow!" Paris, do your magic!
- Modern Oddyseus
Thanks to Ralph; Jean-Claude; Mafeesh; Honny & Anna; Ton; Manu; Bridgett; Corinne; a nice wineyard owner; and the Belorussian trucker for the lifts!
Much thanks to Elaine; and Yeroen & Danny for the places to sleep!