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Go (to) Bananas in Luxembourg City

outside

The caption: Peel slowly and see

The caption: Peel slowly and see

Banana’s

9 Avenue Monterey, Place d’Armes, Luxembourg City

I picked this place at random as I walked in the old city one lunch time, mostly because the façade is very different and caught my eye.

I then read their mission statement on the big menu board outside and was even more intrigued: they aim to be different but good. Well, I’d say they certainly succeed. As they say, “We admit that our vision of fun is slightly different to the general ‘politically correct’ way of ‘normal’ behavior and lifestyle. But that’s it, this is us! For more than 15 years it has been like that. Why change now?” Some of their framed posters certainly aren’t politically correct, but are humorous and bring a smile to everyone’s face. And it turned out to be another really good eating place in Luxembourg City.

Downstairs in the basement I saw an Andy Warhol poster of a banana, and wondered if that influenced the name, and/or if it’s linked to the saying “go bananas”.

Hmmm...

Hmmm…

saladI sat downstairs, near the entrance and the bar, but there’s also a big room further in and more seating upstairs. The décor downstairs is mainly reddish, with lots of old mirror tiles and plenty of old beer ads, some of them funny and/or a little “naughty”. It must be very popular, as groups large and small, old and young, wandered in and out all the time. Next to me were a single young man and a single older lady, both having the day’s special, so it seems that solo eaters feel comfortable here too.

The service was prompt and friendly and my lunch salad was awesome. It was large and almost defeated me—which is highly unusual, as I love salad—but I did win! It was called Salade Madame Seguin, and was a bed of greens with chevre chaud (warm goat cheese) toasts, sprinkled with honey and pinenuts. It was beautifully presented and really delicious, so I’d already decided that it was worthy of another lunch. The huge salad only cost €12.90, and total with a glass of rivaner wine and an espresso was €17.80.

upstairs

RupstairsRod and I did come for lunch the next day and we sat upstairs. The color scheme is still basically red, but the theme is jazz music. The walls have some great posters of the history of jazz in tree form, plus pictures of jazz greats like Duke Ellington and Ray Charles, of old guitars, and even of Marilyn Monroe. It turns out they also have a DJ in the evenings and offer lively music. We did stop here early one evening too with a colleague for Erdinger beers and a kir, and it was a “happening place”, with people coming and going.

Rod M with his salad

Rod M with his salad

Viv M's salad

Viv M’s salad

Anyway, that lunch Rod had the Salade Madame Seguin, which he pronounced ‘marvelous’, and I had the Salade Mere Denis (a bed of greens with potatoes, croutons, lardoons, and a fried egg on top). Pretty good, but I think I prefer the Seguin.

Definitely recommended if you are ever in Luxembourg City.

Another amusing (and true) poster

Another amusing (and true) poster

S. Korea: Honoring Road Workers

Name plaques behind, right

Name plaques behind, right

Viv M poses, to give an idea of the size of this sculpture

Viv M poses, to give an idea of the size of this sculpture

Sculpture to Honor Road Workers

At the Nokcha Service Area on Highway 10 in the SW part of Korea we saw a really gorgeous outdoor sculpture in the gardens—huge, bright, shiny. We found out from Chang that it’s to honor all the people who worked on the construction of Highway 10—one of the amazing highways with so many tunnels that we lost count. Highway 10 is the Namhae Expressway, started in late 1972, and completed April 2012. What a great idea, as there must have been millions of man-hours involved!

The stone plaques behind it (see to the right, behind) list all the names apparently—obviously we couldn’t read any of it. Chang could not find a plaque with the name of the sculptor, though. Most of the service areas have a garden/park area, and many have a sculpture or statue or two.

Blue-green against a bright blue sky

Blue-green against a bright blue sky

statuecloser

wallcloser

locks

wallLennon v. Lenin and Love Locks

Prague, Czech Republic, is chockful of amazing and wonderful sights, lovely old bridges, gorgeous architecture, a castle hill, an awesome astronomical clock etc.

But, it has another interesting sight that many people don’t seem to know about: A John Lennon Wall, or Lennonova Zed. The citizens of Prague love John Lennon and the song “Imagine”, so I’m glad we found this.

The wall is on a small plaza next to a little canal off the Vlatava River, below the Charles Bridge in Mala Strana area (Little Quarter) on the Prague Castle side.

The canal

The canal

Spray-painting the wall

Spray-painting the wall

walldetailIt’s a wall of graffiti, with a picture of John Lennon, and around it is graffiti in ‘60s hippie style/fashion. It still survives and people continue to add to it these days. The day we were there, a group of young Americans were adding to it with spray paint cans.

Why the love for Lennon? Lennon’s ideas gave many Czech people hope and a vision, as opposed to the oppression of V. I. Lenin’s ideas. When Lennon was killed in 1980 this wall was spontaneously covered with memorial graffiti, especially with “Imagine” and “All you need is love”. Each night the police would paint over it, and day after day it would reappear. Until independence in 1989, freedom lovers, locals and travelers, gathered here, as a special place. The wall is remembered as a place that gave hope to locals craving freedom (from Communist rule). Today the tensions and danger associated with the wall are gone, but people still come to imagine. “John zije” is Czech for “John lives”, and in a certain sense he does. Nearby, just over the canal, is a John Lennon pub too.

pub

Wall leading to small bridge with locks

Wall leading to small bridge with locks

Note the water wheel behind the locks

Note the water wheel behind the locks

Right close by the wall is a small bridge over the canal, next to an old water mill wheel—it’s the last survivor of many mills that once lined the canal here. This small bridge is Prague’s version of a Love Locks Bridge, and it’s packed with locks of many shapes and colors. It looks very different to how Paris’s Pont des Arts looked (with its thousands of locks), as the structure of the bridge and the grille railing are different, and it’s a lot smaller. “All you need is love” seems an appropriate theme here too. I hope this one doesn’t get too heavy and the locks have to be removed, as happened recently in Paris.

locksdetail

locks3

Driving South Korea’s Highways

Nokcha Service Area

Nokcha Service Area

Dinosaur Service Area

Dinosaur Service Area

Korean flags at Nokcha Service Area

Korean flags at Nokcha Service Area

Korea’s Highway Service Areas

We were recently in South Korea for a conference and were very fortunate afterwards to go on a wonderful road trip with a Korean colleague, Chang Hyun Kim. He went to an amazing amount of trouble to drive us around and show us as much of the SW part of the country as possible, as well as making sure that we tried lots of the delicious Korean food and learned about the history and culture. More on the trip will be coming soon.

We were very impressed with Korea’s extensive highway system. Many interconnecting highways and freeways must be a Civil Engineer’s dream, with so many long tunnels (it’s an extremely hilly country), long bridges over deep valleys, and causeways to the many small islands in the south.

A notable feature of highway driving is the regularly-spaced Service Areas—with gas stations, large toilet facilities, bus parking, many restaurants and coffee shops, other small shops (for clothes, holiday necessities, tools, food, fruits) and sometimes even a small grocery store. Usually there’s also a special closed-in smoking area, something we were interested to see, as Korea tries to cut down on the number of smokers. We were there in the summer, so the areas were always really busy and crowded—a veritable hive of activity. It was fun to stop for coffee and/or a light lunch, for us usually noodles, and watch the people and the hustle-bustle.

Can't miss what this service area is!!

Can’t miss what this service area is!!

Green is the theme

Green is the theme

Another sign at the Dinosaur Service Area

Another sign at the Dinosaur Service Area

Most of the service areas have a special name and theme, usually linked to where they are. So, for example, we stopped at the Nokcha Service Area/Boseong Nokcha (nokcha means green tea), close to the part of the country where green tea is grown. Another day, driving back from Geoje Island, we stopped at the Dinosaur Service Area. In this part of the country, many dinosaur fossils and footprints have been found.

What a neat idea.

A smoking area---very clearly marked

A smoking area—very clearly marked

Wish we'd seen some dinosaur footprints

Wish we’d seen some dinosaur footprints

Grande Duchess Charlotte Memorial in Clairefontaine Square

Grande Duchess Charlotte Memorial in Clairefontaine Square

The grand lady from a side garden

The grand lady from a side garden

charlottecloserSnapshot of Luxembourg through some major memorials

Luxembourg City has a number of outdoor commemorative statues, memorials and monuments, all of which offer a small peak into the history and culture of this tiny Grand Duchy. Small in size, but large in stature in Europe, and in its complex history.

The most-photographed seems to be the Grand Duchess Charlotte Memorial in Clairefontaine Square, not far from the late-Gothic Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin (1613), and the Government District.

Clairefontaine Square is named after a place of shelter, a refuge belonging to the Abbey of Clairefontaine near the Belgian border. The square was redesigned in the late ‘80s and the Charlotte Memorial erected in honor of Grand Duchess Charlotte (1896-1985). It was designed by Parisian sculptor Jean Cardot, and was officially inaugurated on 29th April 1990 in the presence of the Grand Ducal family. Grand Duchess Charlotte, who was very popular with the Luxembourgers, ruled from 1919-1964. All the visitors (including us) seem to want their picture taken next to the grand lady. We walked through this square a number of times, day and evening and even in light rain, and there were always throngs of people around the statue.

Viv M poses with Charlotte on a cool, damp day

Viv M poses with Charlotte on a cool, damp day

The Dicks-Lentz Monument visible behind the boards

The Dicks-Lentz Monument visible behind the boards

She also has a bridge named after her, the Grand Duchess Charlotte Bridge (more popularly known as the “red bridge” because of its color), the long bridge connecting the old city center to the newer European quarter. Even today, the Ducal family is very well-liked.

Another famous statue is on the edge of Place d’Armes, one of the main city squares in the old city. It is the Dicks-Lentz Monument, erected in 1903 to pay homage to the two national poets, Dicks (1823-1891) and Michel Lentz (1820-1893), who wrote the lyrics of the national anthem. It is a tall pillar, topped with a lion, the heraldic animal of the Grand Duchy. The blacksmith symbolizes the steel industry, which played an important part in this small country’s history. On the pillar is an inscription, with the words of the motto of the Luxembourgers: “Mir wolle bleiwe wat mir sin” (We want to stay what we are).

Unfortunately when we were there, some restoration work was going on in the square and the Monument was partly obscured by barricades.

A better look at most of the Dicks-Lentz Monument

A better look at most of the Dicks-Lentz Monument

William 11 statue in William Square

William 11 statue in William Square

In the large adjoining William Square are two interesting statues; the equestrian statue of William 11, and the Michel Rodange Monument.

The bronze statue of William 11, designed by Mercié in 1884, pays tribute to the King and Grand Duke William 11 of Nassau-Orange, reminding us of the inter-connection between Luxembourg and the Netherlands. He ruled from 1840-1849 and, one year before his death, granted the Grand Duchy its first parliamentary constitution, one of the most liberal in Europe at the time. The monument’s pedestal has the coat of arms of the House of Orange-Nassau and that of Luxembourg, and also the ones of the 12 cantons of Luxembourg.

William 11

William 11

Michel Rodange Monument

Michel Rodange Monument

The other memorial on the square, next to the City Hall, is the Michel Rodange Monument, commemorating this well-known Luxembourg poet. It was designed by Jean Curot and built in 1932. The curved memorial stone has a medallion with a portrait of Michel Rodange (1827-1876). Perched on top of the monument is a stone fox, so the monument is also called “Flis’chen” (little fox). This commemorates “Renert” (Fox), the most popular of the poet’s works. (Renert, in Luxembourgish, is very similar to Renard in French). Renert is an epic satirical work, adapted from Goethe’s fox epic to a setting in Luxembourg. It is well known because of its insightful analysis of the characteristics of the Luxembougers, using regional dialects to depict the fox and his companions.

William Square really is an open sitting room of the city, as besides a number of restaurants, the Visitors Bureau and City Hall, it also hosts a weekly open-air market and in the warmer weather has many music concerts.

Rodange's fox

Rodange’s fox

Market day in William Square

Market day in William Square

market2

The Golden Lady

The Golden Lady

The final memorial that we found in our few days in Luxembourg is the “Gelle Fra” Memorial (The Golden Lady) on Constitution Square overlooking the Petrusse Valley and the Petrusse casemates. It was set up in 1923 to commemorate the Luxembourgers who died in WW1—explained in gold lettering in French at the base of the pillar. It consists of a gold-plated female figure on a stone obelisk. On 20th October 1940 the Nazis pulled the monument down and it was only restored and put back here in 1984. It’s an important monument as these days it symbolizes freedom and resistance for the Luxembourg people.

Gell Fra' Memorial in Constitution Square

Gelle Fra’ Memorial in Constitution Square

Another memorial to a famous Luxembourger is that to Robert Schumann (not the classical music composer), but we didn’t make it there unfortunately. He was the person who, in 1950, basically started the whole process of the European Community: the 6 founding states were the Federal Republic of Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

That’s just one of the reasons that we’d like to return to this delightful city and country.

The base of the Gelle Fra' Memorial commemorates Luxembougers who died in WW1

The base of the Gelle Fra’ Memorial commemorates Luxembougers who died in WW1

View of the Petrusse Valley

View of the Petrusse Valley

EMS, Luxembourg City

EMS (Luxembourg City)

marmite(www.restaurantems.lu )

No, it’s NOT “Emergency Medical Services”! It’s a restaurant whose name comes from Emile Marcel Sweiss, the first owner. This was our first meal and restaurant ever in Luxembourg and therefore potentially memorable—and it was. The receptionist at our hotel (Park Inn by Radisson) told us this is a typical Luxembourg restaurant and, as it’s close to the hotel and it was raining, we were happy to try it. We were not disappointed.

It’s a small place on a side street. The décor is plain except for some great paintings of old Luxembourg City. Service was friendly and good, and the food was great. We each had the seafood marmite (an individual cooking pot) filled with seafood stew/soup, which was wonderful—absolutely fresh, totally unadulterated and so tasty, with mussels, shrimp, a couple of types of fish and some vegs. We followed that with a cheese plate to share, which came with 5 kinds of cheese and a few fruits and nuts, beautifully presented, for only €7.70. The USA has a lot to learn about reasonable cheese plates! With a bottle of local rivaner white wine (dry but flowery), our total was € 70.30 (service included).

Rod

cheeseplateSomeone on the next table had choucroute garni (sauerkraut with additions), which looked and smelled great.

We returned another night with 3 other people from Rod’s conference. It was much busier (perhaps because a weekday), mostly with local people, but it was still very good. Most of our group had the seafood marmite, which was excellent again. But one person had the sauerkraut special with sausages, and said it was very good. We found the menu and food to be an interesting mix of French-style and German-style cuisine, which makes sense as this tiny country is wedged between France and Germany.

Definitely to be recommended for a good eating place in the station area, not in the old town.

Some of the painted fragments of the Berlin Wall

Some of the painted fragments of the Berlin Wall

artsignSymbol of a  History Theme

We have just returned from an extended trip around much of Eastern Europe. Besides sampling the foods and wines, and enjoying the usual sightseeing attractions, we followed a common historical thread: all of these places have been affected in one way or another by multiple invasions and wars on their soil.

The Romans were one of the first to occupy these lands, and later the Mongols swept through. Some, like Bosnia-Herzegovina, were occupied for more than 400 years by the Ottomans, which has shaped that region’s modern history, with, for example, the comparatively recent Srebrenica Massacre.

Many places were ruled for a long time by the Hapsburgs and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Some were touched briefly by France and Napoleon Bonaparte.

One of the painted cars---a good symbol of freedom

One of the painted cars—a good symbol of freedom

Car and wall paintings

Car and wall paintings

More recently, the Balkan region was much affected by the First World War, and a chain of events from that and the Second World War led to the creation of Yugoslavia, with Tito’s version of Communism. The death of Tito and the breakup of Yugoslavia led to some horrendous wars and massacres.

The more northerly countries in the region, such as Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, suffered in World War 2 under the Nazis and then under Communism—eventually leading to revolts and revolutions to gain their independence.

So, it was interesting for us to discover a small outdoor exhibition in Paris, where we started the trip. It was in the plaza outside the front of the Gare de l’Est, and was linked to the fall of the Berlin Wall—a symbol of Communist power in East Germany.

The exhibition was the brainchild of Sylvestre Verger, who put it together with the help of Street Art, an international urban artistic movement. They got together 30 fragments of the Berlin Wall, and this is a new collection that pays homage to artists who painted about, and on, the Berlin Wall before its fall. Three of those artists are Christophe-Emmanuel Bouchet, Kiddy Citny and Thierry Noir.

caar3

"Chorus 11" (yin yan)

“Chorus 11” (yin yan)

This new collection is called “Art liberté”, celebrating art, the city, the history and liberty. The 30 works are fixed on metal structures that are arranged in two lines in the plaza. Each one has an information board, plus a QR code, and there’s a catalogue plus films of interviews with the artists, available from a caravan-office in the corner. The artists also painted “Trois Trabant”—vehicles that are emblematic of East Germany. It seems to us that being able to paint them however n artist wishes is a very clear symbol of freedom.

All the paintings are very interesting for different reasons. I randomly picked 3 to highlight here.

The first, by Peter Unsicker (1947-) is “Chorus 11”, May 2014 (plaster on concrete). The text says, “X-ray of a yin-yan brain, accumulation of masks, memorial of the absurd.”

"Evasion" in center

“Evasion” in center

"Continental Climate C"

“Continental Climate C”

The next, by Frank Pellegrino is “Evasion”, April 2014 (acrylic on concrete). The text, “all Berlin’s symbols set in aerosol on the penitentiary remains, cuffing the wrist of humanity.

And, finally by Daleast is “Continental Climate C”, April 2014 (acrylic on concrete). The text, “The zeppelin exploded. The liberated birds have taken flight. The city has been sown with new seeds. We are growers of freedom and the harvest is ready.”

We really enjoyed browsing this for a while and it got us pondering on the link between art and freedom—so very true, as in a repressive regime artistic expression is also curbed/limited/repressed.

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