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Visiting Goebelsmuhle, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg: convergence and fragmentation at a curious, hill country hamlet

Updated on September 5, 2011
Flag of Luxembourg
Flag of Luxembourg | Source
The village of Goebelsmuhle seen from the hill Schinneschschleed
The village of Goebelsmuhle seen from the hill Schinneschschleed | Source
Map location of Goesdorf
Map location of Goesdorf | Source

Three official place-name spellings for a hamlet with a population of 17

So where is this hamlet or village of Goebelsmuhle? It is in the northern Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, situated in hill country popular for hiking: a recreation particularly loved by people from Luxembourg. The Luxembourg national tourist office issues maps of recommended walking routes through the country's northern hill country. Being on the railroad, Goebelsmuhle can be a suitable starting point for hiking visitors.

More broadly, Goebelsmuhle is a place of convergence: the confluence of the Wiltz and Sûre Rivers occurs near here and the railroad intersects a number of local roads.

How to spell it

So just to get it straight: how do you spell it?

Well, it all depends. The name of this hamlet with a population of 17 actually has at least three and maybe four official or semi-official spellings.

But why?

Well, therein lies a lot of history, which we need not go into now; or, put a little less delicately: this is Luxembourg.

But wait a minute: doesn't the name, or at least part of it, sound vaguely familiar even to English-speakers? Wasn't there an extremely unappetizing German politician who ... . Yes, well, he was German, nothing to do with Luxembourg. And he spelt his name 'Goebbels', not 'Goebels-'. In any case, in Luxembourg you have to be careful about which politician named 'Goebbels' that you are referring to. Because a local politician by that name was a minister in the Luxembourg government and subsequently became a European Commissioner; indeed, in honour of his achievements, there is even a rue Robert Goebbels , in Schengen, Luxembourg.

(Oh I see.)

Anyway, back to Goebelsmuhle: the first thing you need to know is that this is the French way to spell it. (The French way? it doesn't seem very French to me.) Well, trust me; it is supposed to be. Not that many French people have heard of it.

Then you need to know that the German way of spelling it is Goebelsmühle or Goebelsmuehle. (Yes, well, this seems genuine enough.)

Moving on to Letzebuergesch, designated the national language of Luxembourg, the hamlet's name is Giewelsmillen (or even D'Giewelsmillen, with the Letzebuergesch definite article included in common usage). So now the name looks rather different from its French and German versions.

Which spelling to use and who would know?

But how do you know which spelling to use, and when to use it? Well, again, this is all part of the subtle, nuanced complexities of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The point is that outsiders are unlikely to know when to use which spelling and which language to use. You see, it's local people from Luxembourg who know . Orally, among themselves, Letzebuergesch will often predominate. Administratively, it's either French or Letzebuergesch. Then, if it's something to do with the police or the clergy (yes, really!), German may predominate; or at least, if the context of the communication is deemed to be polite. Otherwise, police and clergy, too, may prove more informally to be content to participate in a resurgence of Letzebuergesch orality.

Administrative complexity

Another interesting characteristic is Goebelsmuhle's administrative complexity. The hamlet has two mayors: part of it is the municipality of Bourscheid (Letzebuergesch: Buerschent ; German: Burscheid ) and it is partly in the municipality of Goesdorf (Letzebuergesch: Géisdref ; German: Goesdorf ). Furthermore (and you may be really excited — or bewildered — to learn this): Goebelsmuhle lies within two administrative Cantons, because the municipal boundary running through the locality is also a cantonal boundary: thus, Bourscheid is in the Canton of Diekirch (Letzebuergesch: Dikrech ; German: Diekirch ), while Goesdorf is in the Canton of Wiltz (Letzebuergesch: Wolz ; German: Wiltz ).

Furthermore (and wait for it): in turn, the Cantons of Wiltz and Diekirch are both within a District also known as Diekirch.

While you are there...

Anyway, while you are there, you might want to admire the views of Goebelsmuhle / Goebelsmühle / D' Giewelsmillen from a local hill...known as Schinneschschleed (yes, really! and make sure you spell it correctly, too).

You didn't reckon that a small hamlet, buried in the heart of Europe, could be so complex, did you? Three official spellings for a place, the population of which would fit 30 times into a Boeing 747.

Also worth seeing

Clervaux (distance: 27 kilometres) has striking castle and ecclesiastical architecture, and Battle of the Bulge associations.

Luxembourg City (distance: 49 kilometres) has numerous visitor attractions, including the Grand Ducal Palace and the Pétrusse valley.

...

How to get there: The nearest large international airport is Luxembourg (Aéroport de Luxembourg ), at Findel, from where car rental is available. For North American travellers making the London, England area their touring base, airlines flying to Luxembourg include Luxair (from London Heathrow Airport and London City Airport) and CityJet (from London City Airport). Luxembourg's railroad company CFL maintains a service between Luxembourg City and Goebelsmuhle . For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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