National Geographic : 1948 Jun
Luxembourg, Survivor of Invasions BY SYDNEY CLARK With Illustrations from Photographs by Maynard Owen Williams UXEMBOURG has been surviving inva sions for more than a thousand years, but America's part in her latest and most arduous survival-from the Battle of the Bulge in 1944-45-was directly responsible for my own survival as a postwar pleasure traveler in the Grand Duchy. Some twenty months after Field Marshal Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt's attack and repulse, I entered the city of Luxembourg, the capital, and at the nearest hotel nonchalantly asked for a room. "Sorry, sir," said the clerk, in good English. "We've had to turn away over 200 people today. We have nothing at all." Thinking the place might be especially in demand because it was a good hotel directly opposite the station, I tried another, then another, and then ten others in swift suc cession, becoming very unfussy indeed. Vacationists Tax Luxembourg Hospitality There were almost no American or British travelers in evidence, and scarcely any French, for their own Government's severe currency restrictions prevented them from touring out side of France; but it seems that I had reck oned without the Belgians. As visitors they can enter Luxembourg without passport or visa, and their francs are interchangeable at par with those of the smaller country. All Luxembourg is holiday terrain to tens of thousands of Belgians, and their number that day was much above normal, since this was the week end of July 21, Belgium's na tional holiday. It was late afternoon, and still another hotel manager was giving me his polite regrets, when a timid girl of about 14 appeared and told him her mother had a room. She would take two ladies or a man and wife, provided they would stay at least a week. The manager turned brightly to me and asked if I would pay as if for two. "Of course," I said eagerly, but the girl, a literalist, interposed firmly: "No. Mamma said it must be two people, and they must stay a week." "Go along with her, anyway," said the manager. "You can talk her mother into it. Don't let the girl out of your sight." It was a good half mile to her home, and during the walk we talked in French. As I answered the youngster's questions about Hollywood, she melted utterly and became my friend and champion. When I saw her mother, I knew that I had need of a champion. "No, Kathy," said the dour lady very sharply in the Luxembourg patois, which my knowledge of German enabled me to grasp. "No. I told you to get two ladies or a man and his wife." "But, Mamma, he . . ." I interrupted and explained in German that I was an American writer come to see where my countrymen had fought in Luxembourg. "Your Soldiers Saved My Country" "Ein Amerikaner! Doch! And are you a friend, perhaps, of the great General Pat-ton who died and who is buried at Hamm near here?" "I met him," I replied, making what I could of a very minor contact. "But that doesn't matter," she said, and her whole manner had changed to one of eager hospitality. "You are an American. Your soldiers saved my country. More than 8,000 of them lie at Hamm. Come in, come in. I will show you your room." I presently went out to see the city and to dine, and when I returned at 10 o'clock I found mother and daughter leaning out of a window to watch for me. "Do they have chocolate in America?" called the girl. "Yes, Kathy. We have chocolate, and gum, and tall buildings, and big cities." "Which one do you live in?" she asked as I came into the house. "Boston." "And is that near New York?" "About 300 kilometers." She thought I said meters and fairly squealed. "Three hundred meters! My, that's pretty near! I'd like to live that near to New York." "Go to bed, Kathy," called her father from another room. "Let the gentleman rest." "Yes, Papa." But she didn't go. Her mother asked if I should like to have her wake me in the morning, but I said I had an alarm clock. Kathy pleaded to see how it worked, so I showed her. "Tell me about the tall buildings, sir," she said irrelevantly. "Go to bed, Kathy," from the other room. "Yes, Papa."