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Grand Duchy of Luxembourg - Introduction

Luxembourg is one of the world's smallest countries, but it is also one of the richest. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, a constitutional monarchy, is an independent sovereign state, tucked between Belgium, France and Germany. Luxembourg is the sixth-smallest country and the only Grand Duchy in the world. The country measures just 51 miles by 32 miles, and has a population of 420,000 comprising the highest proportion of inhabitants with a foreign passport among the EU countries. Luxembourg is 97 percent Roman Catholic.

'Ltzebuergesch' is the everyday spoken language of the people, and the symbol of the Luxembourgers' national identity. This former Mosel-Frankish dialect is now recognized as the national language, while both French and German remain the official languages. This peculiar language situation is a direct result of the size of the country, and its historic associations with both France and Germany.

Exhibits in the National Museum of History and Art in Luxembourg City give evidence of early settlers from the mesolithic and the neolithic ages (some 10 000 years ago). Caesar wrote of the vast forests covering the entire area, and even today more than one third of the country is hilly woodlands, sheltering in its crags and valleys ancient trees and monuments, such as the "Devil's Altar" near Diekirch.

The Grand Duchy enjoys a temperate climate without extremes. It profits from the beneficial and moderating influence of the sea, but the sea winds (SW and NW) shed a great part of their moisture before reaching the Luxembourg frontiers. The period from May to mid-October is particularly suitable for vacations. While July and August are the warmest, May and June are the sunniest months. September and October often offer an "Indian Summer". For the celebrations by the end of the year the weather gets dry, cold and snowy.

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg's towns are always bustling with life, while managing to maintain a human scale. If the capital is more international and cosmopolitan, Esch-sur-Alzette, which has recently become a university town, has a resolutely young and dynamic image. The twin towns of Diekirch and Ettelbrck, on the other hand, are perfect for some quiet shopping and a friendly atmosphere.

It is said that Luxembourg is the safest town in the world, with one of the highest qualities of living amongst average- sized towns (between 50,000 and 100,000 inhabitants). Luxembourg is also the birthplace of the European Union. Tastefully restored small towns and villages give the comforting impression of a return to authenticity. Echternach and Schengen - a wine-growing village that gave its name to the treaty for the free movement of European citizens - are among the famous "European Destinations of Excellence", while the village of Useldange has been awarded the "Europa Nostra" European prize. The small towns of Vianden, Wiltz and Mersch stand out for their romantic lanes, their cultural heritage and their picturesque stalls. The wine-growing towns of Remich and Grevenmacher are located on the idyllic banks of the Moselle.

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