Andorra – 2. Motoring in a tiny country

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IMG_20180929_134542549Andorra has a fair few but not a huge amount of prestige cars, unlike Monaco.    Cars have these small US style licence plates and an usually and oval sticker with the letters ‘AND’.

There are in fact, a lot of motorbikes, and the capital Andorra La Ville has dealerships and repair shops.

This country is only 40kms to drive through taking about 45 minutes.

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This Opal dealership has an extra floor underneath with roof racks and other accessories for skis, bikes and sports equipment to carry on your car.

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The old first generation Fiat Panda with its unergonomic boxy looks has disappeared from most European cities, but here seems popular and used as a vehicle for government use here.   Some of these were supplied as an ultra simple 4×4 run around.

I’ve seen one of these before, but I can’t remember what it is called, its an off road buggy with very high suspension travel to go up steeper hills than most SUVs can go.

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I like the fact that many apartments and hotels here have their own Batcave style underground car park also.

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Meanwhile the long winding roads around the mountains in Andorra, look like they would be a lot of fun for a race or a motorsport event.

1. The mystery small Pyrenees mountain state, EU or not?

3. Sant Julià de Lòria

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Andorra – 1. The mystery small Pyrenees mountain state, EU or not?

This week (end of September 2018) I had some time off work to use up and found the need to try out another one of these mysterious small countries which aren’t all that well known.

I tried to visit Andorra in October 2017 and gave up due to the fact that transport links are really hard unless you have a car.

So this time I took a flight to Barcelona and found a bus ride which goes there, which is pretty much the only way to do it.

Actually, Google has this quite wrong.   This takes 3 hours and was 59 Euros return which I bought online.

Note! there is only one toilet stop and no loo on the bus!

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Yes, this place has a border.   Just like I discovered Gibraltar has with Spain it seems.  I thought we were supposed to be in Europe?

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Everyone has told me that Andorra isn’t in the EU, so this sign was a bit of a suprise.

Nevertheless, there are flags up everywhere by all the hotels and sports resorts with French, Spanish and EU flags up.    I didn’t get to stop at this border crossing, as cars stopped and the bus was diverted into another lane, where stopping wasn’t needed.  I already had my passport details given at a kiosk at the bus company’s office in Barcelona.

I like small countries in Europe, they usually have tax breaks, race tracks, eccentric monarchy and often overlooked as places to see, so I had to figure out what kind of tiny country Andorra was like.

Next: 2. Motoring in a tiny country

Other tiny countries I have seen:- Malta, Iceland, Monaco, Gibraltar, Luxembourg, Andorra

Luxembourg 5. Faiths in Luxembourg

Luxembourg has some big spectacular Catholic church buildings.

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Stain glass windows are simply the best I have ever seen.   Most of Luxembourg os Catholic.

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Holocaust memorial in French, German and Hebrew.   There is a Synagogue, I’m not sure how active it is, or how many Jewish people are in Luxembourg.

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This the view from “Sant Esprit” (Holy Spirit in French)   I walked up and down this about 4 times expecting to see a church or a specific monument, only finding the signs pointing back to where I had just walked.

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I’m not sure how many evangelical churches are here.   I did spot this amongst a lot of political stickers on lamp posts.

I kept thinking of these words from Christ himself to religious rulers:-
Matthew 22 : 37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ c 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Luxembourg 1. Whats this mini nation like? – 2. EU building – 3. What sort of mini country is this – 4. Transport – 5. Faith

Other tiny countries I have seen:- Malta, Iceland, Monaco, Gibraltar, Luxembourg, Andorra

Luxembourg 4. Transport

The city centre is small enough to walk around for anyone reasonably fit.  The park which has a path that encircles the city with below views of the viaducts makes a great place to take a walk.

lux platesSome cars here have a prominently large EU flag on their number plates without a country identifying prefix.  I’ve seen this on Luxembourg vehicles in the UK, and only the separate L oval sticker reveals when this car is from.  Maybe Luxembourg is the least nationalistic nation in Europe?

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My flight to Luxembourg from London Stansted was the cheapest flight I’ve ever bought.   It was also one of the worst.   Not because Ryanair have many hidden costs on things like many other budget airlines, but that my flight home was canceled because of industrial action with their staff.  I had a nice hotel paid for, but I decided not take another flight the next day as I had already missed a day of work and made my own way home (which I took a long bus back to London via the Eurostar)  The staff in Luxembourg’s airport were actually really polite and helpful with me and the mostly very angry passengers.

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Like a lot of European capitals, the railway station is large and has connections to get all over parts of Europe.   I spent one day in Metz, France which was quite a simple journey but required a bus first to Bettembourg, a Luxembourgish town outside the capital city, due to railways works.

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Outside of the station was one of these French style urinals, although this one is less crude then some I have seen before.

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Luxembourg 1. Whats this mini nation like? – 2. EU building – 3. What sort of mini country is this – 4. Transport – 5. Faith

Luxembourg 3. What sort of mini country is this

Right, there isn’t any race tracks or casinos.   This place is quite expensive though, its hard to eat out for less then 15 Euros.     This country was independent in 1815, but history goes back to the 1400s.

Amsterdam has cheese, cycling, tulips, canals, windmills and euphemistically named ‘coffee shops’ which actually sell cannabis.  Brussels has waffles, chocolate, Tintin comics, lace and really good beer.   Luxembourg is like neither.

There is a sovereign head of state here, Henri, the Grand Duke who has reigned since 2000.    So I think this scores highly on my mini countries rating, when I visited Monaco in 2005 just before Prince Rainier passed away (yes Prince, they don’t have a King) and he was married Prince Grace, an American Actress although she sadly passed in a car accident.   Prince Ranier

Only 50.9% of the people are born there, most of the others are from other parts of Europe, 18% the largest group from Portugal.

Luxembourg has its own wine, but don’t make enough of it to export it

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There is a very French feel to this place.

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This was decent, clean and fun youth hostel I stayed at which is right underneath a huge railway viaduct here close to centre of Luxembourg.

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Like Belgium and and Netherlands, there are some nice canals here down the road from the hostel.   Like the Dutch, Luxembourgers are keen gardeners, so these small scraps of land next to the water are being used by locals to grow all kinds of fruit and vegetables.

Luxembourgish is spoken in addition to conventional French and German, which is a form of Quasi-German with slightly different looking spelling.   Some streets have the names with a mixture of French and German, ie: Avenue Du Fritz or or something like that.

Headquarters of Paypal Europe.
There is, like many small countries tax breaks here though, so big tech companies have a little office here.

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You can be forgiven in getting Luxembourg’s flag mixed up with the Netherlands, they look almost the same, the Dutch have a dark blue band, Lux is a little blue.  Both look like the French flag 90 degrees.

The best parts of this city are the views from the viaducts or even the parks with long paths that go underneath them.

Luxembourg 1. Whats this mini nation like? – 2. EU building – 3. What sort of mini country is this – 4. Transport – 5. Faith

Luxembourg 2. EU building

With two years after the Brexit referendum in the UK, people on all sides are still upset, a plan for a modern Britain hasn’t been done for the big date of 29 March 2019, many folks want another referendum, and people in the EU may think the British have gone daft for such a drastic move.   I think everyone is sick of all the moaning on social media, I’d rather up and go and see some places.

Part of my reason to visit all the mini countries in Europe like Gibraltar, (2015) Monaco, (2005), Iceland, (2005) Malta (2014) and Andorra (tried to get there in 2017 and failed) was to look at some of these nations that not everyone has heard of and see what makes them tick.  I plan to do Andorra again, and Liechtenstein next year.

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I got to go past this EU building.   It’s not exactly a big spectacular type of thing.  It looks like it should be an estate agents shop.

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I guess a small shop/office gives a kinder, more PR savvy image of the EU here.

Unlike maybe this one.  One of the EU headquarters in Strasbourg, which many people have pointed out it looks like paintings of the tower of Babel in the Bible.  I’ve not been to Strasbourg but I did get home via Brussels on a bus going past many big mirrored tower blocks that were part of the EU administration.

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Are people in Luxembourg happy with the EU?    This is a touchy subject which I decided not to ask.    I did see a lot of graffiti on the street behind which may be from bored youth or from Luxembourgers unhappy with the big blue establishment.   The rest of the city is clean and free from vandalism though.

Luxembourg is also home of Jean-Claude Juncker, current President of the European Commission.

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Here is the UK embassy in Luxembourg.   There were some men erecting new CCTV cameras inside.

Luxembourg 1. Whats this mini nation like? – 2. EU building – 3. What sort of mini country is this – 4. Transport – 5. Faith

Luxembourg 1. Whats this mini nation like?

Taking a break from Israel, the Middle East, and China, as part of my obsession of the littlest countries of Europe, I decided to take two days off work and spend a long weekend in Luxembourg.

Tiny countries often have some nice perks.    Monaco, Bahrain, and San Marino have race tracks, some like Macau and Monaco are big on gambling and glitziest nations for the uber-rich to hang out.  Many have eccentric monarchies and tax breaks and opportunities (Gibraltar) to buy cheap fags and booze.

Dead centre in the middle of Europe, Luxembourg is often described as being part of the BeNeLux countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) so my thinking without research would be that this little country would be Flemish/Dutch type of culture.  Actually, I was completely wrong, this nation is a lot more like France.

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Luxembourg’s most immediately stood out character is the hilly terrain and these stunning railway viaducts.

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Holland and Belgium and much of northern France has most of the residents cycling, the steep roads in this city are a bit too much for all but the most extreme bikers I think!

Luxembourg 1. Whats this mini nation like? – 2. EU building – 3. What sort of mini country is this – 4. Transport – 5. Faith

The first and the head of the year

Today is Rosh HaShanah, Jewish New Year.

Because my current employer (close to London) is made up of a lot of Jewish staff.   I have two days off, yay!

I was looking at some interesting similarities in Hebrew.

Rosh is Hebrew for head.
רֹאשׁ

Rishon is Hebrew for first.
ראשון

In Hebrew text, they look more similar than they do written phonetically in English.

There is a city in Israel called “First of Zion” as you can see here.

Also, days of the week in the English speaking words use various pagan god names, ie: Thor is in Thursday, etc.  Hebrew simply uses “first days” or Yom Rishon for Sunday.  Please note, I don’t get all uppity about the religious meaning of holidays like Christmas or Jewish holidays, this gets my goat, and I avoid those sorts of people that do!

Switching to another ancient language, Jesus said he would be the first and the last.

Revelation 22 : 12 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

I’m hoping that 5779 will be a year that more Jewish people will move to the land of Israel, but more importantly that more Jewish people in Israel and around the world will find their Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) as their Lord and Saviour.    Chag Semeach.

 

A few words of faith in Christ can be the best witness

People of faith including believers in Jesus can make trying to explain what they believe overly complex.

Before I did ministry work in Israel (2009-2013) I worked for Israel hi-tech company in 2007 as a contractor. One day after work I was reading an article in an IT magazine called “elevator pitch” – what do you do if you get into the lift with the MD of your company and what do you say to him, so I pondered on this. This was a great company to work for with some very smart people producing products for banks and financial institutions around the world, whereas I was just doing simple work of helpdesk and preparing PCs and laptops ready for the engineers.

Well whaddya know – a week after I read this article I got into a lift, with the big boss, I am going to call him G, he is a secular Israeli businessman.

Me: Morning G hows you sir, business going well?
G: Yes our business just produced its best sales figures this year, half a billion dollars.
Me: Erm, ah that’s nice
<door open after approx 15 seconds in lift>

In 2017 I was traveling to different schools to fix their computers. One school which was a really nice place to be but with kids with challenging behaviour, I got quite chatty with one of the teachers I’ll call “A” who was just curious why I go to church, and why I have visited places like Israel and Turkey.   I like A.  He’s about 40ish like me, has a real passion for young people, fun to be around, yet firm.   Him and his wife like to travel during the school summer holidays.   When he asked me why I visited those places, I just said I’m curious about the places of the bible and the events that happened there as a Christian.

I only visited this site every two weeks as to be honest, their IT systems were modern and ran like clockwork and issues were minor.   Whilst replacing a cracked LCD screen in a laptop which had been dropped,

A month later I saw A again, after just asking how he was over the Easter (2017) holidays, he told me him and his wife were going to a church and an Alpha course, as he felt his life had gone the wrong direction and wanted to get back into a life with Christ, after only going to church a few time when he was very young.

I praise God how in my secular job I get opportunities to see people find the Lord in different unexpected ways.

China trip – 28. Roof top strongholds

Since I visited China in 2017, recent news about the persecution of Christians in China is disturbing.   First, crosses were ordered to be removed from churches, and now entire churches have been destroyed by the government.

https://www.charismanews.com/politics/72518-chinese-christians-there-is-no-freedom-at-all

Where this greatly saddens me, for Christians like churches are defined as the body of people rather than the building, so I hope followers of Jesus in this part of the world can quickly find another location to meet and continue to worship their saviour.   This shouldn’t be a surprise to Bible-believing Christians of any nation, seeing as the scriptures would predict this kind of trouble would happen.

Something I noticed about decorations of roofs of buildings;

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I’ve not properly researched this, but every single ancient building in China and modern buildings used for government or religious use has ornamental statues on the corners of the roofs here.

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The awkward moment when you realise a famous leader has a similar receding hairline to my own!

DSCF9468 1024This is also true of when I saw of some sort of strange Islamic temple on top of an office building.

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Catholic Church in Shanghai

I believe that flags, motifs and other things can be used for good and bad, and historically churches have a cross on the roof to be seen from far away, and to give glory to Christ.   It’s also natural to assume that other religious systems have a need to proudly proclaim their own importance as well.

27. Unusual street food in China

29.