Luxembourg: An Independent Travel Guide

This travel guide to Luxembourg is intended to show foreign would-be travelers and residents what Luxembourg is really like, unbiased by glossy brochures issued by Luxembourg authorities. Consequently, do not expect any photos/sounds/smells from Luxembourg in these pages: for fast downloads, this guide is limited to textual information, the rest can wait until you get there or can be found on other sites. This travel page is thus not redundant with (most) other services on Luxembourg, as it is only about travel, with special focus on independent travel!

Note that this travel guide is just a service I provide as a pastime, but not as my profession (I am an academic in computing science!). Please contact an on/offline travel agent, and/or the nearest Luxembourg consulate (if there is none, ask at a Belgian or Dutch consulate), if you cannot find the desired information starting from this travel guide. But I will reply to "interesting" requests, especially that I have made some wonderful friends this way!

In 2012, I decided to stop maintaining this guide, but it still contains a lot of correct and useful information.

Contents

1. Online Information 2. Printed Information 3. Letters from/to Readers of this Guide

Happy traveling in Luxembourg,
Pierre Flener

Copyright © 1993-2012 Pierre Flener. All rights reserved. Do not duplicate or redistribute in any form without written permission. Last updated 7 June 2012 by Pierre Flener.


1. Online Information

Facts & FAQs | Safety & Health | Languages Spoken | Money & Exchange Rates | Travel Information | Impressions from Foreign Visitors


Facts & FAQs

The Luxembourg Tourist Office in London (UK) has a nice list of frequently asked questions (with answers) on Luxembourg.

The CIA World Factbook has lots of interesting facts about Luxembourg.

Rick Bronson's Tourism Offices Worldwide Directory has some addresses of tourism offices for Luxembourg.

Descendants of emigrants from Luxembourg to the USA can trace their ancestors and relatives via some excellent genealogy sites, such as Luxembourg on my Mind, Luxembourg Research, GeneLux, and Speltz Web.


Safety & Health

The US State Department Travel Warnings & Consular Information Sheets give an up-to-date estimate of the current political/economical/religious/... climate in Luxembourg.

The Center for Disease Control & Prevention has excellent information about staying healthy in Western Europe, and hence in Luxembourg.


Languages Spoken

The Ethnologue Database has some must-read information about the Luxembourger language, our one and only native language.

Michael C. Martin's Foreign Languages for Travelers has some basic lessons (with sounds!) for the traveler on the German language and French language, which are our second and third languages (all learned in school, not at home). English is also widely spoken.


Money & Exchange Rates

The OANDA Currency Converter allows you to find out the weekly exchange rates of the Euro, the only legal tender in Luxembourg, now that the Luxembourg Frank (LUF) is defunct.


Travel Information

Excellent travel pages about Luxembourg are: Many, many others are linked to by these.


Impressions from Foreign Visitors

Luxembourg - Where Languages Coexist, by Manfred Pfluegl (1995), is the only Luxembourg trip report on the Internet that I know of!


2. Printed Information

Rough Guides | Lonely Planet


Rough Guides

Rough Guides have some books covering Luxembourg: They are all highly recommended! Choosing between any of these and the Lonely Planet ones, I'd take whichever is the most suitable and the most recent.


Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet Publications have several guides covering Luxembourg, as well as relevant phrasebooks: They are all highly recommended! Choosing between any of these and the Rough Guide, I'd take whichever is the most suitable and the most recent.

Lonely Planet Publications also have:


3. Letters from/to Readers of this Guide

Visas & Borders | Itineraries & Public Transportation | Luxembourg-City | Caves | Cycling & Hiking | History | Language

Editor's note:
I considerably pruned the following letters so as to keep them up-to-date, short, informative (and spell/grammar-checked). I also annotated them whenever I don't agree with other people, or have updates to what they wrote.


Visas & Borders

From: mnc@diana.law.yale.edu (Miguel Cruz)
Newsgroup: rec.travel.europe
Subject: Re: Schengen Visas
Date: April 1998

> can someone tell me what these visas are all about and how do you get one?
> cost?  do these visas really allow you to use the one visa for all EU
> countries?  surely there must be a catch of some sort?  who is entitled to
> these?

If you are issued a visa by a country that has signed and implemented the
Schengen Accord, it allows you to stay for 90 days into the entire
open-border zone established by that treaty.  This includes the
Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, France (when they're in the
mood), Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece.

Denmark, Sweden and Finland have signed on and will start playing soon.
[Editor:  in late March 2001.]  The UK has not and probably will not for a
good long time.  Not sure about Ireland.  Norway and Iceland are
fence-sitting [Editor: and are not part of the EU anyway].

If you don't normally need a visa for these countries (if, say, you're from
Western Europe or North America) then this isn't very important to you
unless you plan on spending more than 90 days in Europe.  If you ordinarily
need a visa for some but not all of these countries (Australians, for
instance), then you only need to get a Schengen visa if you plan on going
to one of those countries.

---

From: Michael Voight (mvoight@hotmail.com)
Newsgroups: rec.travel.europe
Subject: Re: crossing Benelux region borders in car?
Date: March 1998

> How difficult/time consuming is it to cross the borders between the
> Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, and France in a car (w/ US
> passports)?

The time it takes to cross the border depends on how fast your car will go.
If driving from Belgium to Netherlands, slow to near the speed limit at the
border :-)  Of course with those gas prices in Europe, slower will be
cheaper.  If you're driving, no one will even see your passport.  Make sure
you rent from a reputable company as insurance and other issues are more
strict than most of the US.  Some places require fire extinguishers and I
believe using the warning triangles are required throughout Europe.  Get
aquainted with the signage and usage of roundabouts.


Itineraries & Public Transportation

From: the editor
To: Some.One@Some.Where (name withheld)
Subject: Re: Need suggestions on [...] Luxembourg
Date: March 1994

> [...] will be going to [...] Luxembourg [...]. We plan to go by train
> [...]. I've been told that getting around in Luxembourg is done better
> with the buses, and I know about their various passes.

Depends on where you go in Luxembourg:  the entire north-south axis is
well-served by trains, and this includes many major destinations.
Otherwise, indeed, you must rely on buses.  Careful, though:  some places
only run 2 buses a day in each direction:  going there in the early
morning, and coming back from there in the late afternoon.  This is because
of the centralized form of Luxembourg's economy:  the capital city is its
major hub, and many buses just run for commuters.  Another point:  going
from one village to another one just 20km away might require an 80km ride,
because you first need to get back to the capital.  But all in all, you
should have no problems getting around, and hitching is definitely no
problem.  Many overland buses are run by the railway company, so their pass
might cover such bus-rides!

> We also want to stay in one place for 3-4 days at a time, so two
> different towns [...] in Luxembourg. What I would like is any
> suggestions on not-to-be-missed castles and/or wineries and/or
> anything else, especially [...] in Lux.

In Luxembourg, you shouldn't miss the capital city.  The other deservedly
major tourist magnets are, in decreasing order:  Echternach, Vianden (both
on the German border), Clervaux, and Esch-sur-Sure (center-north), though
none is on the Mosel, and only Clervaux is directly accessible by train.
Other ones that are, are less splendid, but still worth it:  Diekirch,
Ettelbrueck, or any village along the railway line north of Ettelbrueck.

The Mosel is pretty unspectacular in Luxembourg (unlike certain spots along
the German Mosel, such as Bernkastel!), and at worst I would settle down in
Remich, because otherwise you'll die of boredom (unless you want plain
village-life?).  I recommend you make Echternach your second locale in
Luxembourg.

> Also, we would like any recommendations for inexpensive but good
> bed-and-breakfast/Gasthaus/pension type places. For that matter, how
> do you recommend going about making reservations, or will we need such
> in May (ie, could we just decide a town when we get there, get off the
> train, and be fairly certain to find a place to stay?) We are not
> interested in youth hostels, nor do we want to spend the whole day of
> the day hunting down a place to stay; if it's better to get
> reservations now, I guess I'd rather do that.

I can't help you with addresses, as I have relatives all over my country.
But I'd say that May is very early season, so you should have no difficulty
w/o reservations.  I don't have a festival calendar here, but double-check
with one (if you can find one; ask the Luxembourg Tourism Bureau in New
York) because otherwise you might run into trouble in certain places on
certain days.

> Finally, any comments on how easy/hard it is to see the good stuff
> along the Mosel relying only on train, bus, bike, and walking...

It should be very easy, especially if you like biking!  Many railway
stations rent out bikes.  Walking is a national pastime in both Germany and
Luxembourg, and cycling is one in Luxembourg.

---

From: the editor
To: Some.One@Some.Where (name withheld)
Subject: Re: Luxembourg
Date: March 1994

>> Another point: going from one village to another one just 20km away
>> might require an 80km ride, because you first need to get
>
> but this may be bike-able, yes?

Sure.  I firmly recommend to anybody who is in decent shape and wants to
spend more than 4 days in Luxembourg, to discover it by bike.  Cycling is a
national pastime, drivers are experienced, and there are really superb
traffic-free bicycle trails (pamphlet + map available everywhere).

> Hitching is not illegal? Would you advise renting a car (we really
> don't want to, but if we have to...)

Hitching is not illegal.  Renting a car will set you back about $40 a day
for the smallest economy car, and is probably not really necessary for your
plans and travel-style.

> Echternach, Whit Tuesday, the hop-dance for St. Willibrord! I've read
> about it, and a friend from Germany says I shouldn't miss it!

Not to mention the absolutely gorgeous surroundings.

> Do you know of any good wineries or Luxembourger wines?

There are pamphlets at any tourist office, so pick one up as you get there.
Almost any village along the Mosel has a winery, or a co-op winery, and
none really stands out, except maybe the one at Wormeldange (f), which
produces our finest Riesling.  Note that Luxembourger wines are completely
different in taste, but not in names, from their German Mosel counterparts:
ours are less sweet, more like the Alsacy [sp?]  wines from France.

> Any good castles besides the one in Vianden?

The restoration of the Vianden fortress is a huge success, and cuts my
breath away whenever I go there (because I remember the times before).
Most fortresses and castles are being restored in these days, and I
especially like Brandenb[o]urg (f,g), Clervaux (f), which has a superb
exhibit with models of most castles, and Robert Steichen's "The Family of
Man" (a Luxembourger B&W photographer who made his career in the USA),
Esch-sur-Sure (f) (not finished), Stolzemb[o]urg (f,g) (?), and most of the
ones in the "Valley of Seven Castles" (along the Eisch river).

---

From: jstump@unlinfo.unl.edu (Jordan Stump)
Newsgroup: rec.travel.europe
Subject: Re: Airport to Train/Luxembourg
Date: September 1995

> Does anyone know how difficult/easy it is to get from the airport in
> Luxembourg to the train station?

It's very easy:  there will be a bus just outside the terminal which will
take you directly to the downtown train station.  It's cheap, as I remember
(although I can't remember how much), and fast (maybe twenty minutes to
half an hour?).

One warning:  it would be a shame to leave such a beautiful city as
Luxembourg as soon as you get off the plane!  It would be well worth it to
spend a night there and take the train the next day if at all possible.

---

From:  priley@sun-link.com (Pete and Marty Riley)
Newsgroups: rec.travel.europe
Subject: Re: Luxembourg-First Trip
Date: February 1998

> My wife and I are hoping to go to Luxembourg this summer and would like
> some advice on a nice hotel in Luxembourg city and things to see.

[...]  Luxembourg [...]  we've spent part of several days in that city.  A
very pleasant small city.  There's pleny to see just wandering around, but
we particularly enjoyed the main square, the nearby US national military
cemetary where Gen.  Patton is buried, and the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
The city is perched on top of a small, narrow ravine, the bottom of which
has become a very pleasant park.  Luxembourg National Day is celebrated on
June 23, so you might want to take that into account when planning your
arrival.  We had flown in that day for the start of a choir tour, and I
remember that things were pretty lively.  On the other hand, it might be
pretty neat to experience all the festival activities and firework
displays.

Luxembourg-City

From: dcrowson@amoco.com (Dave Crowson)
To: the editor
Subject: Re: LUXEMBOURG: An on-line compilation
Date: November 1994

I lived in Luxembourg in 1990.  I moved there to work at the European
Parliament, which is situated on the Plateau Kirchberg (along with the
European Commission and Court of Justice).

To my knowledge, 10 years ago Luxembourg had about 10 different banking
institutes, it currently has over 200+, making it one of the leading
financial centres in the world.

The night life is excellent in Lux, as there are a good mix of
bars/restaurants/clubs that are run by Italians, English, Irish and
Luxembourgers alike.  The social life (amongst the English speakers) is
generally to be found in bars such as "The White Rose", "The Pygmalion",
and "Scott's Pub" in the Grund.

The Grund is a valley that runs though the middle of Luxembourg city,
making it one of the most beautiful cities in Europe (IMO:)

Because Luxembourg is surrounded by Germany, France and Belgium it makes
for a great base for exploring Europe.  It is also the central meeting
place in Europe for all travelers, especially in the summer.

---

From: the editor
To: Some.One@Some.Where (name withheld)
Subject: Re: Information on Luxembourg
Date: July 1995

"moien", (greeting in Luxembourgish)

> I am planning an extended stay in Luxembourg City and am trying to
> get as much information as possible.

I can only recommend you exhaustively explore all the links I mention.

> Any suggestions on where I might get suggestions on areas to live,
> apartment rentals, estimates of cost of living, etc. would be greatly
> appreciated.

It's a very expensive city, because of the EU institutions (these guys make
so much money that they drive the prices up all the time).  Except for
housing and maybe dining, though, it's probably however cheaper than most
other Western European cities, because of the lower VAT (the gov't makes
enough money on the tax paid by all these zillions of banks).

The city is small, and has excellent bus service from anywhere to the
center, so it doesn't really matter where you set up your base.  I would
however avoid the neighborhoods along the Alzette river, because with their
mostly Mediterranean immigrant populations you probably wouldn't feel at
home there (but it's not unsafe).  Anywhere else will be fine and almost
interchangeable.  To cut down on rentals, try and find a place in the first
communities outside the city.  I haven't lived back home for over 12 years,
so have no clue about rentals (and my parents own their house).

Caves

From: the editor
To: sgoldstien@delphi.com (S. Goldstien)
Subject: Re: Luxembourg Caves?
Date: April 1994

> I have heard there are caves in Luxembourg. Can someone give me more
> details on where they are located, are they accessible to the general
> public and can they be gotten to by public transportation. Thanks.

I don't think any of our caves are very impressive (there's better stuff in
neighboring Belgium), but here's what I remember:  there are caves in the
areas called:

+ "Mamer Layen", along the Mamer river, near Mersch (geographical center of
the country); there are frequent trains from the capital to Mersch, and
it's a nice walk from there; or just hitch from Mersch, everybody knows
where the caves are and will drop you nearby; you can get maps of the area
at the Mersch tourist office;

[Editor's note: entry to these caves is now barred off, due to their
 collapse about a decade ago during a tornado.]

+ "Nommer Layen", near the village of Nommern (draw a line east of Mersch,
past Larochette); quite similar stuff to the previous one; there are buses
from the capital, or just hitch there from anywhere (it's a rural area and
people are very friendly);

+ "Moellerdall" ("Muellerthal" in German, dubbed "Petite Suisse
Luxembourgeoise" in French and "Little Switzerland" in English), the area
constricted by Echternach (German border), Consdorf, Larochette, Beaufort,
Grundhof.  Spectacular hiking.  Ask around in Berdorf where to look for
caves.  Buses from the capital to Echternach, and hitch a ride from there.

As far as I remember, there are no access restrictions.  Also check out the
underground galleries of the Luxembourg-City fortress.  And the wine caves
in any village along the Mosel river...  ;-)

---

From: geeta@informix.com (Geeta Karmark)
Newsgroups: rec.travel
Subject: Re: Luxembourg Caves?
Date: April 1994

Yup there are caves in Luxembourg.  The are called the Casemates.  Don't
ask me what that means.  They have been hewn out of the rock face and could
shelter an army as well as a bunch of cannons.  I think they helped the
Luxembourgeois defend the city a number of times.  You can also take an
elevator to the Grund (ground) where the rest of the "old city" is/was (we
didn't go there because of time constraints).  BTW they are right "in town"
so they are easy to find and get to (if I remember correctly they are
fairly close to a parking garage!).

[Editor's note:  "Casemate" is a French word synonymous with
 fort(ification) or bunker.  Yes, they were part of the defense
 installations of the city (Luxembourg was, until 1867, the strongest
 European fortress after Gibraltar), and were used as bomb shelters during
 both World Wars.  With the Cold War and nuclear disaster paranoia, they
 were prepped up as nuclear shelters.  The "casemates" are all over, under
 the old town, but only two sub-systems are open for visits:  on the "Bock"
 rock (near Siegfried's Castle) and on the xxx (oops, I don't remember ;-)
 (at the other end of the "Corniche").]

Luxembourg is a delightful city, very fairy-tale like and lots of nice
places to wander through -- for about a day.  It is also the only country
that actively commemorates (in my opinion) America's contribution to the
liberation of Europe (by the Allied forces).  I think the Battle of the
Bulge was fought on Luxembourg soil, and you see tanks and other statues
and reminders of the war in many small towns.

[Editor's note:  I don't know about Luxembourg being the "only" country
 actively commemorating the US contribution to the liberation of Europe.
 The vicious "Battle of the Bulge" ("Bataille des Ardennes") followed the
 "Rundstedt Offensive", i.e.  the last stand of the Germans before
 retreating east of the Rhine, and was fought on Belgian, Luxembourger, and
 German soil.]

Cycling & Hiking

From: the editor
To: Some.One@Some.Where (name withheld)
Subject: Re: Cycling in Luxembourg
Date: March 1990 [but still accurate]

Taking a bike on the train is inexpensive:  ~US$1.20 gets your bike all
over the country, provided you board the bike yourself.  But then, the
country is small; and yet, this is by far the cheapest rate, since in most
other countries the fare is proportional to the distance.

The weather can be anything between beautiful sunshine and rain, but it
will (except in winter) be hot enough for cycling and camping.  Plan your
journey such that your prospective camping-site is close to a Youth Hostel,
so that you can sleep there in case of lousy weather.  Off-campground
camping is forbidden, so be extremely careful to be well-hidden; but
campgrounds are not too expensive.

Interesting cities in Luxembourg are Luxembourg-City, Larochette,
Echternach, Clervaux, Wiltz, Esch-sur-Sure, Vianden, Diekirch, Rosport,
Beaufort, Mondorf.  Except for the capital, these are mostly [very] small
towns with medieval castles/fortresses situated in a cyclist's paradise:
the Ardennes (Bulge), the Luxembourger part of which is called "Eisleck" in
our language.  You'll indulge in your favorite sport on lonely roads in a
spectacular countryside.  Be in good shape, but the hills are not too high.
The only major professional bike-race in that area will be the "Tour of
Luxembourg" (mid-June):  traditionally the last stage is across the
Oesling, and the tour usually ends in Diekirch.

I strongly recommend you buy the Michelin map for Luxembourg (the yellow
one with the scale 1cm = 2km):  they are made for drivers, but very helpful
for cyclists as well, in the sense that:

+ everything useful is on them (all villages & roads);

+ scenic roads (usually the yellow ones) are marked by a green border:  use
  these roads as much as possible, since in addition they are not heavily
  used by motor-vehicles; stay clear of the red roads;

+ uphill & downhill parts of roads are shown and expressed in %.

Youth Hostels are all over:  something like 9, which is world record
density.  They are all equally good I think, and well-situated.  I
particularly like those of Vianden and Beaufort.

Staying far away from civilization will be difficult:  I don't think there
is any point in Luxembourg, where you are more than 5 miles away from a
village or lonely farm.  Camp-grounds are literally everywhere.  I think
you can plan on 60-100 miles/day, at least if you plan on riding in the
valleys as much as possible, and only go uphill when you change valleys.
Watch out for rivers on the map:  there usually are very scenic roads along
them, and they get you around the whole country.

Luxembourg has special bike trails (often for bikes only) that get you
almost all over the country, and of course to the best places.  I remember
the following:  + Ettelbrueck - Diekirch - Echternach (along the Sure/Sauer
river) + Echternach - Vianden (along the Our river) + Echternach -
Luxembourg (on the track of an ancient railroad:  includes tunnels!)  and
certainly some more in the meantime...

Other scenic roads in the Ardennes are:
+ Ettelbrueck - Kautenbach - Esch/Sure (along the Sure/Sauer river)
+ Luxembourg - Larochette - Diekirch
+ Junglinster - Muellerthal - Bollendorf (don't miss this area!)
+ Clervaux - Michelau - ... (along the Clervaux/Clerf river)
+ Vianden - Stolzembourg - Dasburg (along the Our river)
+ Schengen - Remich - Wasserbillig (along the Moselle/Mosel river)
+ Wasserbillig - Rosport - Echternach (along the Sure/Sauer river)
and many more...

If you feel like hill-climbing, try the following roads:
+ Luxembourg - Bridel - Saeul - Redange
+ Dasburg - Marnach - Clervaux - Wiltz
or any other across-the-valley-structure itinerary!

---

From: jstump@unlinfo.unl.edu (Jordan Stump)
Newsgroups: rec.travel.europe
Subject: Re: Hiking in Luxembourg
Date: April 1998

> My wife and I are going to be in Luxembourg for about five days next 
> month.  We want to do walking on trails and would like to know what 
> areas of the country are best for that activity.  

The only path I've walked in Luxembourg is the big one, the GR5, which I
would certainly recommend.  It follows along the eastern side of the
principality for the most part, much of it along the Moselle river, going
through Vianden, Diekirch, Echternach, Wasserbillig, Mondorf-les-Bains,
etc.  It would probably take you five days to get from, say, Vianden to
Mondorf.  The very best parts of the path, I think, are between Diekirch
and Echternach -- you go through the beautiful Petite Suisse area, and past
at least one great castle (in Beaufort, a little town well worth staying
in).  I've found walking in Luxembourg a bit more tiring than in, say,
France or Belgium, because the paths in Luxembourg seem to want to take you
to every scenic spot they can -- down to a river, then up to a hilltop,
then back down to the river, etc.  This might be a subjective impression,
however...  Also I've found the paths a bit easier to lose in Luxembourg
than elsewhere...also a subjective impression, I imagine.  But five days in
Luxembourg will get you some very good walking indeed, through gorgeous
scenery and amid very congenial people.

History

From: the editor
To: Some.One@Some.Where (name withheld)
Subject: Re: Luxembourg
Date: March 1994

>> BTW, there are more people of Luxembourg origin in the USA than back
>> home, most being in the Illinois/Iowa area.
>
> most of our ancestors came to Wisconsin and Minnesota. I have found
> out about *2* Luxembourger heritage groups in Minnesota!

The St. Donatus village, a few miles south of Dubuque on the Mississippi
River in Iowa looks as if it had been transported brick by brick from
Luxembourg!

I don't know whether all these heritage groups have a common head, maybe
he Embassy in New York can help you there.  I know that they have opened
a Luxembourg House in New York.

You'll also notice, especially with elder people, some gratitude towards
US-citizens (re:  WWII).  Gen.  George Patton still is sth like a nat'l
hero back home, and the US-cemetery near the airport in Luxembourg- City is
a constant reminder of to whom we owe our independence of today:  sth like
1,500 tombs, mostly from the Battle of the Bulge (Winter 1944/45).

---

Subject: Luxembourg
Date: October 1995
From: owen7889@tribeca.ios.com (Owen Torrey)
To: the editor

As a young infantry private in General Patton's Third Army (11th Armored
Division) I spent a large portion of January and February of 1945 in
southeastern Belgium and northern Luxembourg.  Even in winter and in what
was then a dangerous environment, I coudn't help noticing how lovely a
region that is.  As a private, I rarely knew where I was, but I do remember
being in Clervaux and Vianden, both of which are impressively and uniquely
attractive.

This summer I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to revisit that area
by car with my wife and daughter.  In summer, the region is simply
breathtaking.  Of course, all the destruction I remember has been repaired
or rebuilt, including Vianden's chateau (fort?), the roads are smoother and
the towns and villages no longer deserted.  I truly enjoyed my stay and
hope for a chance to go back again.

Language

From: the editor
To: Some.One@Some.Where (name withheld)
Subject: Re: Luxembourg
Date: November 1999

> I have a report for my French class about a French speaking
> country, and I chose Luxembourg.  But I cannot find out when
> and how specifically French was introduced.

In fact, Luxembourg is NOT a French-speaking country!!!  French is a
national language, though, along with the native Luxembourgish and the
non-native German, primarily because Luxembourgish was for a long time a
spoken-only language, without a formal spelling and grammar.  This was
fixed in the 1980s and Luxembourgish was then also elevated to a national
language, although it had always been the native language of every native,
and the only one at that.  Visitors are confused, however, because written
French (as the main official language) and German (in newspapers) are still
dominating by far, and because spoken French is much heard in the capital,
due to the high percentage (over 30%) of francophone/Italian/Portuguese
immigrants and the presence of the headquarters of many international
institutions and companies there.

Don't worry, almost everybody gets this wrong, even in our neighbour
countries, so I don't bear any grudges.  To answer your question:  I do not
know when French became an official language, but suspect it was after the
Napoleonic conquest.

---

From: the editor
To: Some.One@Some.Where (name withheld)
Subject: Re: Luxembourg
Date: March 1994

> [...] we now have a few towns to look for, and unless noted, we can't
> find it on the maps we currently have: Gastingen/Gostingen/Gohstengen
> (we don't know the spelling), Godbrange (have a map that shows it),
> Greiveldange (one map shows it, and we may have distant relatives named
> Speltz there), Biver, Everlange, Mersch (on map). (I'm not even sure
> all of these are real towns, due to the fact that I can't find all of
> them on the map.)

Spelling depends on the language (and era):  most of our villages have 3
names, one in Luxembourgish, one in German, one in French.  The first two
are usually quite close, but the third can be arbitrarily different, and
not necessarily a mere translation (I ignore why these exceptions exist).
Maps usually show at least one of the latter two.  When you enter villages,
yellow signs will indicate in big black letters the French name, and below,
in smaller characters (italics) the Luxembourgish name.  This is but a
recent trend:  French (and marginally German) used to be, until a few years
ago, the sole *written* languages of Luxembourg, even though nobody speaks
any of these as a native language!  To solve this paradox (which puzzles
visitors, and makes them assume we are native speakers of one of those
languages, which we are *not*), and to put a plug on the rapid
disappearance of original idioms of our native tongue, Luxembourgish, the
latter has become a full-scale national language a few years ago, and
grammar/spelling of this *spoken* language have finally been decided upon.
Linguistically speaking, Luxembourgish is a Germanic language (*not*
dialect) derived from Mosel-Fraenkisch (an old language that has
essentially died out, except in Luxembourg), but with strong French
influence, and thus not mutually intelligible with either German or French.

The villages of:
+ Gouschtingen (l), Gostingen (g,f)
+ Godber (l), Godbringen (g), Godbrange (f)
+ Greiveldeng (l), Greiveldingen (g), Greiveldange (f)
+ Biver (l,g,f)
+ E'iverleng (l), Everlingen (g), Everlange (f)
+ Miersch (l), Mersch (g,f)
all still exist (I don't think we have ghost-towns), but they are all very
small, except for Mersch (which is in the exact geographic center of the
country).

> We always knew of one of Joel's great-grandfathers as Peter Faber, but
> in some stuff we got recently, he was also called Pierre! (Pierre
> Faber's father was also Peter, and Pierre also has a grandson, cousin
> of Joel's dad, named Peter Faber. It was this fellow Pierre who was
> born in Gastingen (or however it is spelled). Is it common for
> Luxembourgers to be called either Pierre or Peter, or is it a regional
> thing? Did they maybe call him Pierre just to differentiate him from
> his father?

The Peter/Pierre confusion for the same person can be explained as follows:
traditionally (French having been the official *written* language for such
a long time) we all have French first names in our id's, although
Luxembourgish equivalents exist:  Pier (pronounced "Peer") or Pit[t]
(pronounced "Pit") in my case, but *never* [the German] Peter.  Everybody
calls me one of the former two, and in the case of that ancestor, I'd
reckon that he just anglified his name to [the English] Peter.  Pierre is a
rather common name, indeed.  Recently, the French-only "rule" is often
broken, especially by the ~30% immigrant population (soon, we'll be a
minority in our own country).  Whenever you meet sb with a French first
name and a Germanic-looking surname, s/he's likely to be a Luxembourger
(linguistic crossroads!).  Exceptions to the Germanic-looking surnames are
the Latin ones, such as Faber, which were at some point adopted to point
out the differences between Luxembourg and Germany (the national motto
being "Mir woelle bleiwen waat mir sinn", that is "We want to remain what
we are").