Luxembourg: a polyglot’s delight

These days my visits to Luxembourg are almost always to attend meetings at the European Commission, and are thus filled with a sense of dread and panic. But my first visit to Luxembourg in 1994 was a rather different matter. I was living in Nancy, France at the time, so it was an easy daytrip to make. Here’s the account I wrote of my first visit. Interestingly, my writing style doesn’t seem to have changed much in the last 20 years! Sadly my handwriting no longer has such pristine elegance, no doubt thanks to the introduction of the computer in our daily lives.

Amazingly, Luxembourg City is only 1 1/2 hours from Nancy by train, so I took a daytrip there. It is surprisingly beautiful, in summer at any rate, and completely unlike any other capital city. It’s so small you can walk round it in a day, although there’s lots to see scenery-wise.

The big attraction is the casemates, of which there are two sets, but unfortunately they were closed because it wasn’t the tourist season. Odd, as my visit was on 3rd June. The views are spectacular, both from the bridges and the castle remnants looking into the valleys, and from the valleys looking up at the castles perched on the hills.

The linguistic situation is interesting as the nation is truly trilingual: French, German and Letzeburgisch (a more or less incomprehensible “dialect” of German); each language being used in specific social situations. According to the 1984 Language Act,  French is the only language of legislation, but all three languages can be used for administrative or judicial purposes.  The social language is Letzeburgisch, while French is used for road signs and German for newspapers. The Luxembourg and Belgian franc are equivalent and interchangeable – prices are relatively high. The atmosphere is quite sleepy for a capital city, although quite cosmopolitan as a result of the mixture of cultures and languages due to the geographical situation and proximity of borders.

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