Thursday, May 2, 2013

An American in Luxembourg

Our Easter road trip was pretty relaxed.  We decided on the route, booked the hotels and made some Champagne house reservations (more on that to come) but didn't really plan much more than that.  Which I'm really surprised about.  It's not the norm for my travel planner of a husband.   (I'm sure there is an Excel spreadsheet somewhere that I don't know about.)

Luxembourg is a small country bordered by Belgium, France and Germany and an overnight stay wasn't that far out of the way.  To be fair, you can't experience a place in less than 24 hours (or even in a year) but the city of Luxembourg is lovely from what we did see.  (And I got number 24 on my Fifty by 50 plan.)

We were delayed by road construction so arrived a bit later than planned.  After getting checked into the hotel, we went for a little bit of an explore and dinner.  The next morning we were up and out early to visit the American Military Cemetery and on our way to Rheims by lunchtime. 

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is the world's only remaining Grand Duchy.  They have a constitutional monarch as the head of state who is the Grand Duke.  Luxembourg has one of the world's highest GDP's per capita and there are three official languages, Luxembourgish, French and German. 

Just outside of town is the Luxembourg American Cemetery and MemorialThe white stone chapel and memorial is adorned with the angel of peace.  Inside is a beautiful mosaic ceiling featuring a dove of peace surrounded by angels.  There are two pillars that contain information about the battles and also the names of missing soldiers who were buried in unmarked graves.

These 50.5 acres are the burial place for 5,075 American servicemen and one female Army nurse most of them killed during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944-45.  Luxembourg was the headquarters for General Patton and he is buried here among his men.   The white marble crosses and Stars of David extend in solemn lines in every direction. 

Like all cemeteries, it is a haunting place.  The only sound was the wind and birds.  My thoughts turned mostly to the fact that each of those crosses or stars represented a mother's child, a life that was taken by violence too soon.  And yes, I felt patriotic. 

Since becoming an expat, I've noticed that often U.S. Americans are criticized and judged for their level of patriotism.  It makes me sad that my shedding a tear in an American military cemetery in Europe will be met by some with an eye roll or knowing scoff.  

Patriotism is love and devotion to one's country and that is what I feel.  America is my home.  It's what I know and love.  Does that mean that I buy into nationalism, ethnocentrism or xenophobia?  Of course not.  Does it mean that I think we have all the answers?  Obviously we don't.  Does it mean that I agree with every decision made by US leaders?  I certainly don't.  My patriotism says nothing about other countries and cultures.  It's not a comparison or a judgement of others.  It's simply my love of home and pride in my country and the things that we get right.

What does patriotism mean to you?

Deep thoughts today, huh?
Don't worry.  We'll be getting to the bubbly stuff soon.
Next stop is France and the Champagne district!


  1. During our visit to the American cemeteries in Normamdy we saw many non-American visitors, who were as somber and pensive over the massive loss of life as we were. These WWI and WWII memorials are everywhere in Europe, I think they are a daily reminder for inhabitants, and I'm not really sure if Americans have that. Not saying the scoff is justified, in fact I believe it is terribly rude and hope it isn't the norm for you as an expat. Only saying maybe the average American needs to think of the sacrifices made more often than once a year on Veteran's Day. Could that be what the eye-rolling is about?

  2. Hi Liene,

    It's not the norm, but it seems to come up often about the overly patriotic American. Some of the news footage that is shown as an example can make me cringe, too. It's just made me really think lately about how I feel as an American living outside of the US. It's been good for me. And it's really opened my eyes to how America and Americans are perceived. (I'll admit to feeling a bit defensive about it sometimes. It's like in high school and you realize the popular clique doesn't really like you.)
    It must be so different to come from a place that has experienced war directly on home soil. There have to be so many daily reminders. And the memories of WWI and WWII in Europe still feel very recent even as a visitor. It's so hard to fully comprehend that when I haven't experienced it, no matter how hard I try.
    I don't really know what the Average American thinks about anything. (It depends on whose opinion you're listening to.) In my experience, it's not just once a year thing. War, sacrifice, fighting, destruction and death is happening all over the world today. I certainly do my best to be aware of that, as do most Americans I know. It's easy to just get caught up in life and sometimes forget. I think that's a human trait not necessarily an American trait.
    Thanks for commenting. I'm really trying to get my head around some of these issues. And it helps to hear the opinions of others that I respect.

  3. Lisa @ Gone With The FamilyMay 2, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    Hi Selena, I love your photos from Luxembourg - it's a country that I have always wanted to visit. I visited the Canadian War Cemetery in Normandy with my family last spring and was moved to tears as well for similar reasons to what you have expressed. My older daughter was 15 at the time and I was reading dates on the grave markers and realizing that so many of these boys who sacrificed their lives for their country were not much older than my daughter and her friends. Thinking of what their mothers must have gone through made it very personal.

    I'm Canadian and I love my country - that's what patriotism means to me. I don't think that you or any other American should ever feel ashamed of or have to explain your patriotism - it's not a bad thing. From my perspective, it's unfortunate that there is sometimes a negative perception of Americans abroad. I think it probably originated with a very small minority who expressed their patriotism as superiority and that rubbed people the wrong way. Over time it's become a cliché that, unfortunately, people who don't know many Americans personally have a tendency to believe. I'm sure that it must lead to some awkwardness for American expats.

    As an aside, you won't believe how I found your blog! I have just recently signed up for Bloglovin' and on my blog profile page it had a similar blog link and yours was listed - I liked the name of your blog so decided to check it out! :)

  4. Call me clueless...I didn't know other cultures looked down on Americans for being so patriotic. I love America and all things American, but I don't think that means I can't appreciate other cultures.

    I loved seeing your pictures on this post. We are headed to the D-day beaches this weekend. Living over here has definitely taught me more about World Wars I and II. The memory of the great wars is so much more a part of the landscape here, and I love seeing that history come alive. We just watched Band of Brothers to get ready for the trip to Normandy, and I know my patriotism will be overflowing.

  5. I am more patriotic towards America than England haha! (and I'm a Brit!). I love America's patriotism towards their country! and I wish I'd grown up feeling the same towards England! Perhaps it's because we never sang the national anthem at school or didn't celebrate St.George's Day the way you guys celebrate Independence Day! or because we're just 'too British' to feel proud and boastful of our own country! Your pics of Lux are brother in law is from there and when I first met him I refused to believe Luxembourgish was a real language! haha

  6. It's interesting how different cultures are, isn't it? Luxembourg was great! I didn't quite belief the whole Luxembourgish thing either at first. It's a beautiful city! Thanks so much for reading & commenting, Gem!! xoxo

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