The Telegraph
Thursday , April 25 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ambassador on river cruise

As lightning streaked across the dark sky and the river, a West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation vessel set sail from Babughat on Tuesday evening on a special tour. Gaston Stronck, the ambassador of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and wife Monika Aigner stood on a sheltered deck, taking in the fury of Calcutta’s kalbaisakhi, an unfamiliar sight in the cold climes of their country. Metro captured the sights and sounds with the guests

“It hardly rains in Luxembourg and when it does, it’s never like this. There’s no flooding and no monsoon season; we have summer, winter, spring and fall,” said the Delhi-based ambassador, peering at the columns of clouds. He is in town to promote Luxembourg as the “easiest gateway to Europe for Indian companies” and to launch the Luxembourg tourism website on Thursday. Keeping him company was Rajat Dalmia, the honorary-consul of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and wife Pinky. “We feel that a lot can be done to help promote tourism between the two places. Calcutta is rich in culture and heritage and Luxembourg is steeped in history,” said Dalmia.

As tea and sandwiches with kasundi were served aboard, the topic changed to food. “Calcutta and Luxembourg have more differences than similarities but what we do have in common is the love for food!” smiled Stronck, quite a fan of “the use of mustard in Bengali dishes”. He and his wife had a Bengali lunch on Monday. “I loved the tomato chutney with dates and the rasogullas,” said Monika.

The ambassador and his wife clicked pictures of the many sights along the Hooghly, such as the Nimtala burning ghat, Baranagar jute mills and Belur Math, where the strong winds carried the scent of incense sticks and the chants of monks on board. “The streets are usually a reflection of a city. In Calcutta and Delhi, the streets are filled with people; in Luxembourg, the entire population is five lakhs. There are more young people here too; the average age back home is between 45 and 50,” said Monika. Around 44 per cent of the country’s population is made up of expatriates and owing to the number of elderly people, “the health system is very good”, she added.

Towards the end of the three-hour cruise, the vessel went under the Howrah bridge bathed in purple light. “It’s beautiful. It reminds me of the Brooklyn bridge in New York, although that’s in stone,” said Stronck. Are there iconic bridges in the country where Mittal’s Arcelor is headquartered? “Luxembourg is built in a valley so there are hundreds of bridges. The most famous is The Red Bridge, which unfortunately became a suicide point and it was devastating for the people who lived below the bridge. So we had to build a protection gate to stop that, which was a very technical process because if the weight of the bridge increased, the statics would be affected,” said Stronck.

Text by Karo Christine Kumar,
pictures by Pabitra Das