…and then, there’s Dutch coffee.

Luxembourg is a very important country to me, first of all because I spent my utterly happy childhood there, and then because it’s the place where my friend Katja lives—she’s also very important to me—which makes the place a source of constant joy. Each time she visits, she brings delicacies from beyond the German border, from a country near enough to France, Belgium, and The Netherlands to benefit from their culinary heritage. There’s Rieslingspasteitchen, Moselle wine, the best eaux de vie in the world, Framboise being my favourite, fine confiserie and patisserie from Namur, suppliers to His Royal Highness The Grand Duke, and then, most importantly, there’s coffee from Douwe Egberts, available in any supermarket in the entire Grand Duchy, which makes this country paradise on earth to me. Don’t ask me why, but Dutch coffee is so much better than any of the stuff you get in Germany, however high-toned the store, I just had a cup, au lait, this time, I know what I’m talking about. And Katja, if you read this, please come back soon and bring some more…

Irresistible horses.

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Picture it, The Hague, summer of 1982. Of a holiday that my family and I spent mostly on the nearby beach in Scheveningen, I just recall one particular day, the day we went to The Hague to see architecture for a change, shops, museums, I guess, and restaurants with dressed people, this I recall intensely, I like dressed people, anyway, The Hague has a lot of beautiful places, we had tea and sandwiches at the most stylish café, Germany had absolutely nothing of the kind these years, I really like The Hague, I actually prefer it to Amsterdam, but don’t ask me why, anyway, on this day we passed, quite by chance, The Hague’s Hermès boutique, and as nobody in my family was particularly interested in their display, I was left behind in front of one of its windows, a window in which there was an ashtray, an ashtray, yes, the most beautiful ashtray with a horse in some sort of gala outfit, and no, I did not smoke at this age, I didn’t smoke for five more years, I was a late bloomer, anyway, this ashtray was so beautiful that I didn’t get it out of my mind, a few hours later I would schlepp my mother back to the store just to show her that ashtray, my mother going once again “What?” as she did not get the beauty of the depicted horse in that or any other ashtrays, hers were purer, simpler, but she can’t ride either, I can, very well even, and so, as my monthly allowance didn’t cover an Hermès ashtray at that time, I had to go without – until I moved to Zurich some years ago. There they had almost the same ashtray, and at the age of fortysomething my cash flow was almost positive, and I even was allowed to smoke, I was in heaven – needless to say, I bought it right away – and a new pack of Dunhills to go with it. The only thing that bothers me, it doesn’t look good with ash in it. Maybe I should quit.

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