Monday, January 4, 2016

That Girl and Her Sister in Berdorf

That Girl and Her Sister
Blogs from Across the Pond

There’s a country called Luxembourg. It’s tucked away in a little pocket of Europe, pressed in between Germany, Belgium, and France.

Inside that country is a little village called Berdorf. It’s a village of clean streets and closed shops. A village of cows and cats and at least one goat. It’s a place, as the internet has told us, for walking and not much else. We’ve gotten here on the weekend and are staying in an immaculately clean room, in an immaculately clean house.

In the morning, we venture out, our breath making ghosts in the air above the frosted grass, to find a place to eat breakfast before we go out to walk. For inside this little village is a magical place of cliffs and trees. A place where people come specifically to walk and climb. We’ve come for that and also because who wouldn’t want to visit a place where Luxembourgish is spoken? It sounds made up, but is some kind of mixture of French and German and who knows what else. I add it to the growing list of languages I wish I spoke.
We wander for an hour looking for a place to eat. But nothing is open. Not to us. Not even the hotel where the manager runs us off because we aren’t staying our nights there. The two restaurants we do find have odd hours like 11:30 to 2:15 and 7:00 PM to 2:00 AM. I look at my clock. It’s early still. Too early.

A goat bleats from inside one of the buildings we pass. It probably wants breakfast too. Poor goat. Poor us. We turn away from the locked restaurant doors and head back to the center of the village. But there, we can’t even find a little grocery store with bananas or bread to buy.

The people here must never eat, I decide. In despair (my despair mixed with some disgruntlement), we go back to the house and I eat protein bars, nuts, and an apple which we’ve (thank goodness) brought along with us. Jesse has popcorn and peanuts. “I’m so happy to have popcorn for breakfast!” she says. And she means it. I try to capture a piece of her simple joy and to be grateful for what’s in front of me. I want to be happy for the littlest reason too. I’m overthinking things and finding disappointment in the failure to meet my expectations of a hot breakfast. We chase our meal down with the Nescafe instant coffee our immaculately clean hostess has left in our room for us. It’s not half bad.

More or less fortified, we walk down the street, down a shorn grass trail past the cows, and into the dark covering of the trees. Under their canopy I forget my bad mood. Words like majestic and grand run on repeat in my head. We’ve come into Faerie. A magical place for mythical giants and wanderers. Here anything is possible, magic, sorcery, bewitchment, joy. The cliffs rise to each side, towering over us. Fissures make walkways through the rocky hearts and we venture deep inside. The trees grow up out of stone faces, clutching rock with rooty tendrils. Mushrooms sprout like charming homes from the leafy floor and out of the trees. And the colors of fall—gold, red, green—make a soft carpet for us to walk over.

The trails have names like Mater Dolorosa and Devil’s Eye. Frightening names meant to send the unworthy away. But we’ve been caught in an enchantment and we could stay here forever in the forest, next to the towering cliffs, cushioned by moss, and comforted by the earthy smell in the air.

We walk and we walk. At one point, Jesse turns to me and says, “Despite not getting breakfast this is the best day yet.” And at that moment, before our fruitless search for lunch, I have to agree.

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