by Rich Landesberg
We went to bed Thursday with the anticipation of traveling to Bruges the following morning. But things change. We all got calls from Dr. Morgan at eight AM saying we needed to be ready at nine rather than 9:30…our bus to Luxembourg, scheduled for Saturday, was waiting outside our hotel. Something had gone wrong with our reservation and the bus was there a day early. As Dr. Morgan says, this course has a lot of moving parts and things don’t always go as planned. But with great credit to all our students, everyone was ready to go by nine, with no complaints, and full anticipation of a Luxembourg adventure.
It takes two hours on the bus, through the bucolic Belgium countryside, to reach the Duchy of Luxembourg. We started by picking up Annie, our long-time guide, and heading to the European Court of Justice. This EU institution changes every year and this visit was no exception. We entered the new courtroom where some of the most important cases are decided. We have seen courtrooms before but this was special. Not only did we get to sit in the main courtroom but Annie brought us “backstage” to the deliberation room and the judge’s robbing chamber. Hard to imagine a similar tour at the US Supreme Court.
After the court, we took a quick lunch break at a local shopping mall–with the same stores you might find in Greensboro or Des Moines–but with some yummy eating places. It was good to fuel-up before making one of our more difficult journeys: a visit to the American military cemetery in Luxembourg.
Emotions bubble close to the surface on a visit to a cemetery with neat rows of crosses, each inscribed with the name of a member of the greatest generation, each serviceman and woman killed in the fight to liberate Europe. The Superintendent of the cemetery,
Scott Desjardins, gave us an excellent perspective on the Battle of the Bulge, the reason the cemetery is located here, and on the people buried here. Many of us had seen the HBO series, Band of Brothers, about the battles that raged here more than 65 years ago. Some of the men featured in that series are buried here. So are two Medal of Honor winners, one of whom was a conscientious objector who was assigned to a medical unit and single-handily saved more than one dozen men. There is a nurse buried here, too. But for many people, a visit to the Luxembourg cemetery means paying respect to General Patton, whose grave stands in front of the silent men who served under him. Our day at the cemetery ended at sunset with the playing of taps as we sto0d facing the American flag and the rows of granite beyond.
We ended our day in Luxembourg with a bus and walking tour…and some coffee and pastry. We were back in Brussels by nine, in enough time to grab some dinner, then head to a 300 year old pub for some great late-night conversation.
Tomorrow…Bruges. Unless things change.
For more information on the American cemetery in Luxembourg, check out this link: http://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries/cemeteries/lx_pict.pdf