Open and DiverseNICE TO MEET YOU
Luxembourg’s Old Town has been a World Heritage Site for 25 years: you can explore it all on a Unesco walk. Or you could put on your running shoes and join the FatBetty.Run running crew.
PHOTOS MIKE ZENARI
Luxembourg City, Thursday, around 6 o’clock in the evening. Independent Café is filling up with lively chatter and an afterwork atmosphere. The first runners are gathering around a big table, most of them wearing the black crew T-shirt saying “FatBetty.Run”. No matter whether it’s raining, snowing or sunny outside ‒ “the Bettys” meet up every Thursday evening to run through the city. First comes the run, and then the after-run beer – or perhaps two or three. The mood is relaxed but a bit wild.
One little spark of madness
They communicate via Facebook, and the group is growing all the time. The aim is to run together through Luxembourg as a big, happy troop, sometimes with more than 50 people. The procedure is kept as straightforward as possible. Anyone who wants to take part can simply turn up and join the group. Runners can get changed in the back room at Independent Café, where valuables can also be locked away. They run 10 km in about an hour – “it’s easily doable, and you can stop and take photos now and again,” says Dan, one of the four founders of the group.
The FatBetty.Run is a really memorable way to experience the city – they call it “sight-running”. Participants say that running together through the city is a great feeling; an energy is created that welds the group more strongly together each week.
It’s easy to make new friends as you run. “It’s simply more fun doing it in a gang!” says Ricky, who has been going along for the last two years. The run has already spawned many friendships.
“I always love going on the FatBetty.Run,” raves Nikki. “You see the city in a quite different way in summer from in the winter, there’s always a new perspective.” The team makes sure that there are some nice sights on the way – including Unesco sites, of course. Neumünster Abbey in the Grund district is a firm fixture on nearly every run. “Some of the people who run with us are only in Luxembourg for a few weeks and through us they get to know corners of the city that they would otherwise never see,” says Nikki. “We’re a sweaty, multicultural bunch,” says Yves, laughing. “There’s no hierarchy when you run. Your job, your age, your nationality or what languages you know – none of that’s important. Newcomers are always right in there as part of the group from the very start.”
Upstairs, Irina is freshening up. Born in Moscow and a passionate trail runner, she always looks forward to the run through Luxembourg City. “The town is so varied, the old and new architecture blend together perfectly,” she says, straightening her head torch. She likes the district of Clausen and the Pétrusse valley best. When it goes dark early in winter, you sometimes see a whole procession of head torches moving along the Bock cliff as the FatBetty.Runners go past.
Then, at exactly 6.45 p.m., they’re off. The runners start outside Independent Café, opposite the neoclassical justice quarter. The tempo is relaxed as they turn left along Boulevard Franklin D. Roosevelt. The runners pass the cathedral and the impressive Golden Lady statue with her laurel wreath, stood on a 21-metre-high obelisk on the Place de la Constitution. Some people are chatting, others are concentrating on the route and their rhythm.
They soon reach the Adolphe Bridge and dart on to the footbridge underneath it. Suddenly there’s a bloodcurdling cry, but no-one seems particularly scared, some people laugh and others smile quietly. It was just Dic, alias Stéphane, who’s always good for creating a great atmosphere – and providing “a little spark of madness”. After Stéphane’s shout on the bridge, the pace picks up a bit. On they go, uphill and down.
The “big hill” - at speed
Talking about going uphill, what’s the reason for the name “Fat Betty”? At first, it doesn’t seem a very obvious or appropriate name for a dynamic running crew. But that little, irritating incongruity is an integral part of the slightly mad concept. “We’re often asked about the name as we run through the city with our T-shirts on,” says co-founder Guido with a grin.
The answer to the puzzle is as follows: “Fat Betty” is what the four “founding fathers” of the run used to call their 1-in-4-gradient (training) hill in Steinsel, the Montée Haute (“Décke Bierg” in Luxembourgish: “big hill”). And “Fat Betty” just sounded a whole lot cooler and more personal. Almost like the name of a mascot.
More and more locals, tourists and business people are joining in with the FatBetty.Run through the city. Samuel from Manchester has only been in Luxembourg for a few months. He thinks it’s great that the runners are always considerate in setting the pace and that it’s not a competition: “It’s not about racing or pacing. It’s about having some ‘run-fun’ together.”
“Sightrunning”, exercise and shared experiences in Luxembourg – it’s as simple as that.
Unesco Visitor Center: Unesco is brought to life at the Lëtzebuerg City Museum.
Unesco bike tour: Ride 9.5 km through the city, up and down hills, exploring the Pétrusse valley and the Grund, Clausen and Pfaffenthal districts the easy way by bike, discovering a whole host of interesting sights at the same time.
Unesco Old Town and Fortifications walk: In just 2.5 km, the Unesco walking tour offers an extraordinary historical experience in less than 90 minutes. It includes:
- Place de la Constitution
- Park in the Pétrusse valley
- Plateau of the Holy Ghost Citadel
- Grund gateway
- Casemates in the Bock cliff
- City wall
- Fëschmaart square and St Michael’s Church
- Grand Ducal Palace
- Place Clairefontaine
- Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin
Casemates: The casemates are one of the main sights in the city of Luxembourg. With 17 of the original 23 km preserved, they are the longest in the world. Over 100,000 visitors tour the underground former fortifications every year.
Urban Time Travel: In the Pfaffenthal district, you can go on an exciting trip back to the time when Luxembourg was still a fortified town. Urban Time Travel is a virtual reality tour on which visitors use a VR headset to transport themselves into the year 1867, just before the fortifications were razed to the ground. In this virtual world, coachman Jos tells his passengers interesting facts about his town; in reality, the visitors are bumping over the cobblestones in a minibus. It’s a fascinating illusion.
Unesco − where else?
Every year on Whit Tuesday, the Hopping Procession of Echternach transforms the abbey town into a focal point for crowds of pilgrims and rhythmically hopping people; this is Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Open and diverse
Despite appearing such a peaceful place, Luxembourg, with its international flair and the many languages spoken on its streets, is a modern, dynamic metropolis. The current population is over 122,000 and rising. The inhabitants come from 164 different nations; just 29 per cent are Luxembourgers, all the rest are from other countries.
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