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.
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.
postcard views and steep climbs
Ups and downs are the order of the day right from the start. After a croissant in Ettelbruck, the friends start the walk in a leisurely style, passing the memorial to the famous General Patton, a key figure in the Battle of the Bulge. Their destination for the day is Bourscheid-Moulin, where they intend to dine. As they walk through the quiet woods, climbing gently, the men get chatting. Josh always pursued a lot of outdoor activities in his native Canada. Ciarán, the Irishman, loves that there are so many forests in Luxembourg. “It’s not like that in Ireland,” he says. Then the men walk along in companionable silence again.
They enjoy the tranquillity of nature – and the climbs are getting steeper. Every so often, Alfonso stops, whips out his camera, sets up his tripod and snaps leaves, mushrooms, trees, tiny details and expansive views. An old-fashioned sign that fascinates Alfonso points the way to the “Priedegtstull” (pulpit in English) viewpoint, where St Willibrord is said to have preached to the faithful. From up here, they get their first picture-postcard view of the River Sûre as it winds through the green valley. After that, the Lee Trail continues to climb steeply, passing over a high plateau and then down again, past the village of Michelau. The next picture-postcard view comes at the end of this stage of the walk, a view of Bourscheid Castle from the Gringlee, the “green rock”. In Luxembourg there are lots of villages and place-names, especially in the north of the country and in the Mullerthal, which incorporate the word “lee”, meaning “rock”.
“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
Casemates in the Bock cliff
Fëschmaart square and St Michael’s Church
Grand Ducal Palace
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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