For the few days I was in Luxembourg, the one thing that became quite clear was that this was a place of many contrasts. ‘How was that’, one might ask?
When one begins with the history of the place and the languages spoken, a clearer understanding of Luxembourg emerges.
Recorded history of Luxembourg begins over a thousand years ago with the acquisition of Lucilinburhuc – which is known today as Luxembourg Castle, situated on the Bock rock – by Siegfried, Count of Ardennes, in 963 through an exchange act with the Abbey of St. Maximin’s of Trier.
Around this fort, a town gradually developed, which became the centre of a state of great strategic value. With contributions and additions in architectural style and appearance being made over the centuries by various visitors (welcome and unwelcome) from France, Spain, Germany and Austria, a city was created that became one of the mightiest emplacements in the world, also known as the ‘Gibraltar of the North’.
To this day this is still very evident. The impressive fort structure itself takes up 180 hectares while the city accounts for only 120 hectares and variations can be clearly seen in its architectural construction.
Within the actual centre of the city, the influence of all the various architectural styles of building and structures from over the decades and centuries become evident. As one begins to make ones way through the streets a feeling of place and time sets in, but then you turn a corner into the next street and you could be in a completely different location and century.
It is quite amazing.
The city centre, with the street names in French, is mostly made up of all the usual suspects of retail brands and fashion that are so common in European cities, but then like a cat among the pigeons, you come across these wonderfully laid out shops that are traditional family businesses with German and Austrian names over the doors selling liquors and cigars, old antique toys and art.
Most of the smaller restaurants in the centre are closed at 2.30pm and reopen for the evening trade between 6.30pm and 7pm. In between these business hours sweets, cakes and other pastries are the norm for consumption. I am not complaining there.
After a feast of macaroons, cakes and sweets of all sort the exploratory walks were much welcome.
At the moment Luxembourg is going through a pretty extensive redevelopment. On most street corners and on a lot of buildings you find scaffolding with all the unwelcome sound and obstruction that comes with a building site – jackhammers at twenty paces with cranes almost entirely cluttering the landscape. Almost no part goes untouched. It is quite spectacular and creates its own anxieties.
Still, retreating from all the hustle and bustle is possible to the old quarter, where I spent a lot of my time strolling along the River Alzette. Old cobbled streets with medieval structures and its many sights to behold make for a great exploration or even a few hours in the various museums, the vintage bus and tram museum being a particular favourite.
Other great places to visit are the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin, the Central Railway Station or the numerous bridges like the Adolphe or Passerelle linking the city.
Mind you, in the city centre at night there is a respite from all the clatter and batter of road works and renovations with few people around, so comfortable travel is possible where one can appreciate the place and its cuisine.
When making my way about the place, I encountered a multitude of nationalities in various services and work places, but found (when making conversation) the native Luxembourgish almost anonymous. Three languages are recognised as official in Luxembourg: French, German, and Luxembourgish, a Franconian language of the Moselle region that is also spoken in neighbouring parts of Belgium, France and Germany.
Nearly half of the country’s population currently consists of non-Luxembourg citizens. Foreign residents represent 44,5% of the total population, with approximately 86% of foreign residents being EU nationals. The strongest represented communities are the Portuguese (16.4% of the total population) and French (6.6%), followed by Italians (3.4%) and Belgians (3.3%).
With a total of 150 nationalities represented, Luxembourg is a truly plural society.
Indeed a place of many contrasts.
A selection of the images viewed here are available for purchase at www.jamesclancy.org
All images in this post ©James Clancy
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Clancy is a fine art photographer and illustrator from North Cork, Ireland. In 1990 he moved to Cork City where he later studied film (with emphasis on camera and lighting design) and worked in film making, music and theatre, producing works which were presented and screened at film festivals and on national television. His love of photography grew from these experiences. Since 2004 he has been working solely in photography. Still being influenced by film James’ works, many of them are photo series, have a narrative character. Since 2006 James has been exhibiting widely in Europe and Asia. In 2011 he published his first photobook called “Border Country”, which received the predicate “Selected Title” of the prestigious Deutscher Fotobuchpreis 2012. You can see and purchase his work on www.jamesclancy.org