26 September 2019: Luxembourg Living ......... Esch-sur-Alzette Is No Ghetto !


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September 26th 2019
Published: September 26th 2019
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Nice Rooftops Nice Rooftops Nice Rooftops

From Tim and Natalia’s kitchen window.
As the title suggests, this multicultural, diverse borough in the south of Luxembourg, is considered by some to be on the fringe of what life could offer, if you had the means to escape.

How wrong you can be.

As a long term resident of Esch-sur-Alzette since the 19th of September....this year, my observations are fresh and unbiased about this country of highly subsidised , overpaid shiny pants bankers, whose primary function is to push and distribute wealth around the world, with the primary goal of pocketing as much as possible as it passes through. Which is fair enough.

I’m looking at it from the much maligned - highly unwarranted I might add - city of Esch-sur-Alzette, the second largest city in Luxembourg. Positioned in the south east, not too far from the remarkable vineyards of the Alsace wine region in France, with access to the German Black Forest region a short drive away, Esch-sur-Alzette‘s location is unquestionably perfect.

The architecture and facilities available to the people of Esch-su- Alzette are more than adequate to service the lives of the community, with a first class indoor pool and spa , providing lessons and recreational aquatic activities at
The Station.The Station.The Station.

Heading into Luxembourg City
a fair price, more child care and kindergarten centres, and free schools than many Australian communities have, and a shopping mall that, while not in the league of multi storey centres we’re used to, certainly caters for the general needs of anyone who can’t travel the short distance to the larger centres in Luxembourg or Germany.

I have been informed that Esch-sur-Alzette is slowly evolving into the Brooklyn of Luxembourg. If this is a desire to boost market values, all I can say is, Good luck with that Nat.

Esch-sur-Alzette was a prosperous steel producer in the early 20th Century, and many of the wealthy business people built lavish Art Deco, or Art-Nouveau residences, and an aimless walk through the streets uncovers some remarkable examples still in original condition. The streets are wide, with colourful houses that remind me of Ghent or Bruges, but from a different architectural period. Even though it is Luxembourg‘s second largest city, it is easily covered by foot, and the minor hills are no challenge for most people. I’ve walked down into the quiet shopping precinct many times, and it is immediately apparent that, since the downturn in the steel industry in 1970,
this city has adapted to its new position on the social scale well, and the population is now a mix of Portuguese, Luxembourgers, Africans, and if the large Middle Eastern supermarket is any indication, maybe Turkish, and migrants from Arabic countries. I‘m led to believe that some colleagues can‘t believe that Tim and Natalia have bought into this city, and lightheartedly make comments that are tinged with racist overtones. I enjoyed the atmosphere of downtown and never felt uncomfortable wandering around the lanes and ally ways.

I like it.

No migration from when I was brought up, would mean that the most exotic person we ever encountered was the guy who owned the local Chinese food shop, no other food varieties available, not even pizza shops, no multicultural festivals, Italians and Greeks owned the fish and chip shops and green grocery stores, did all the concreting and other jobs Australians labelled as too hard, and then copped flack for doing well. There probably are social problems in pockets of Esch-sur-Alzette, but there were plenty when I was younger as well, and it was competing suburban gangs made up of Australia youths. I won’t expand on it but does
Manicured Gardens In An Enclosed SquareManicured Gardens In An Enclosed SquareManicured Gardens In An Enclosed Square

There were major roadworks disrupting the footpaths and sending people onto the street, but it’s for much needed tramlines.
the word skinhead ring a bell with anyone; maybe you’re too young.

It reminds me of the western suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, where in general people live in harmony and acknowledge the differences between the cultures. It looks like it has introduced a richness to the area, that used to be only assessed by wealth. I‘m sure there’s problems, as there are elsewhere, but another similarity with Melbourne is that the neighbourhood is becoming attractive to young people who work in Luxembourg, but don’t want the large mortgage that comes with buying there. If cars are any indication - top European vehicles are the norm when you move around the streets - things are improving, and Luxembourg is only 25 minutes away by train. I‘m told further transport links can extend your commute beyond an hour and a half.

I learnt today that Luxembourg has a population of about 600,000, with another 200,000 people commuting daily from Belgium, France, and Germany. Luxembourg is a wealthy country, where some people can make much larger wages than they would at home, but it is also expensive to live here. Plus going home to familiar surroundings puts a full stop on
a days work.

I’ve had dealings in cafes, supermarkets, on public transport, even in a perfume shop, and a car parts place, and the people are friendly and accept our language difficulties as though it’s a shared problem. Luxembourg doesn’t have as many multi lingual people as many other highly populated parts of Europe. French is the common language, but the barriers are broken down with hand gestures, patience, and a warm smile. Going in with expectations gets you nowhere. One cafe Tim recommended had two women who spoke French, no english, but one had Spanish as well. We flipped to Spanish, my brain worked overtime to understand and reply - it was a strain - but we ended up having quite a chat, and when she found out we were from Melbourne, Australia, she was amazed, and said my Spanish was ‘excellent ‘. Nice to hear that the hundreds of hours aren’t a complete waste of time. It is just the encouragement you need when it starts to get repetitive and a bit boring. '

When we left the cafe, my head now just clearing the doorway, I said that we must go back there, to which
Medieval Embattlements In The Lower Valley. Medieval Embattlements In The Lower Valley. Medieval Embattlements In The Lower Valley.

Luxembourg was once a fairly impenetrable city, and as such was sought by many as a valued prize.
Sue replied, “ Excellent !....it’d want to be after the hours you spend on it ! “

Ah, wives. I just altered the tone, and took it as a compliment.

One aspect of living in a small central country such as Luxembourg, is that a weekend away can involve a cheap flight to Italy, Spain, the west of France, anywhere really, and some of the amazing places we’ve been fortunate to visit, are a 2 or 3 hour drive away. It wouldn’t be unusual to venture out one weekend a month for a break. This part of Europe is also well serviced with hiking and bike paths, and the close proximity of villages, puts this sort of getaway firmly in the picture.

As a condition of our ongoing free accommodation, I have been working my way through a list of jobs that Tim has delegated from his list of jobs to do, as drawn up by Natalia and himself. I am at the tail end of it now, the car has been serviced and Tim should be able to do that in future, as I conducted an intense workshop for him while I did it. I’ve written down the odometer reading and will make sure our next visit doesn’t coincide with a service.


Additional photos below
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St Joseph’s Church , Esch-sur-Alzette.St Joseph’s Church , Esch-sur-Alzette.
St Joseph’s Church , Esch-sur-Alzette.

This is the largest in the city, and is well loved and maintained. A man with a small guitar came out of a bar and wanted to know if I’d been inside, and did I want a tour. He was very passionate about his church, was keen to show it off.
The Presbytery, St Joseph’s  The Presbytery, St Joseph’s
The Presbytery, St Joseph’s

Hopefully it was a multi purpose building. It’s too large for a couple of clergymen, and by the shoes on the window sills, it is still well used today.
Local Municipal Swimming Pool. Local Municipal Swimming Pool.
Local Municipal Swimming Pool.

I originally thought it was the shire offices it looked so grand, Heading in there for a swim tomorrow. Don’t be alarmed, there will be no visual record of that event.
Urban Garden Urban Garden
Urban Garden

In this little oasis in Esch-sur-Alzette, little plots are producing vegetables and herbs, with the bees pitching in.
Esch-sur-Alzette Suburban SprawlEsch-sur-Alzette Suburban Sprawl
Esch-sur-Alzette Suburban Sprawl

Nice colourful homes in quiet, protected streets


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