Founded in 963, Luxembourg became a
duchy in 1815 and an independent state under the Netherlands. It lost
more than half of its territory to Belgium in 1839, but gained a larger
measure of autonomy. Full independence was attained in 1867. Overrun by
Germany in both World Wars, it ended its neutrality in 1948 when it
entered into the Benelux Customs Union and when it joined NATO the
following year. In 1957, Luxembourg became one of the six founding
countries of the European Economic Community (later the European Union)
and in 1999 it joined the euro currency area.
The capital is the
city of Luxembourg itself. Other important cities are :
Vianden, Echternach. The city of Luxembourg is
home to some of the institutions of the European Union, like
the secretarial building of the European Parliament, the European
Investment Bank and Euratom. The country is
divided into two clearly defined regions: The "Eisléck" or 'Oesling' in
the north, which is part of the Ardennes, on the western rim of the
Eifel, and covers one-third of the territory. It is a wooded country of
great scenic beauty. Highest point: 555 metres (1823 feet).
The 'Good country' in the centre and the south, covering the remainder
of the territory, is mainly rolling farmland and woods. Average height:
270 metres (900 feet). Culminating point 426 metres (1400 feet). It is
bordered in the east by the wine-producing valley of the Moselle, and in
the extreme south west by a narrow strip of red earth which forms the
Luxembourg iron-ore basin.
The 4 most important rivers are: The Moselle, the Sûre, the Our, and the Alzette.
The Petrusse is a very small river that crosses Luxembourg city, and
meets the Alzette. The Moselle area is famous for its vineyards.
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg enjoys a temperate climate without
extremes. The sea (some 200 miles distant) has but a moderating
influence on the weather. The air is clean, beneficial and health
giving. Rainfalls: 31 inches.
The linguistic situation in Luxembourg is characterised by the fact that
several languages are spoken and written at the same time in the same
place. Recently, there has been a renaissance of the own vernacular :
Lëtzebuergesch, the Luxembourg
language, which is a germanic language, close to German and Dutch. Names
of streets, shops, travel tickets, hotel registries and menus are mostly
in French (some street and place
names are also added in Lëtzebuergesch). Newspapers printed in the Grand
Duchy are mostly in German, but some
cultural articles, many advertisements and social announcements are in
French. In other countries too, several languages are spoken, but they
almost always are limited to specific regions, to the exclusion of other
tongues. In Luxembourg, the various languages are superimposed in an
almost hierarchical manner.
The current sovereign is
Grand Duke Henri of the House of
Nassau-Weilburg. Henri was born in 1955 and assumed power on October 7,
2000 when his father, Grand Duke Jean, abdicated in his favor.