Even though Lorraine is today one of the 27 regions that make up France, it wasn’t always a French province, or at least not on a permanent basis. It is this discontinuity that accounts for its marked German character, one of the many consequences of being a land the boundaries of which were established rather haphazardly by various events of history. As it stands today, the administrative province is bordered by Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne, and Franche-Comté, as well as Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.
In fact, the name Lorraine itself maintains a certain ambiguity, as it may refer to either a unit of political administration or a less clearly defined entity of traditional, cultural, and national unity. The administrative unit comprises a total of 2337 localities, both urban and rural, organized into four departments, which are as follows: Meurthe-et-Moselle, with the impressive city of Nancy as informal capital; Meuse, a landmark of World War I history as it was the place of the famous battle of Verdun; Moselle, which contains the city of Metz, the actual capital of Lorraine; and Vosges, famous especially for being the home of Joan of Arc, who was born there, in the small town of Domrémy.
As mentioned above, the history of this north-eastern province was one of endless upheavals. The first major conflict to go through was the Franco-Prussian War, which resulted in almost all of Lorraine forcefully becoming part of the German Empire. The end of World War I brought a reversal of this situation, with the Lorraine being re-assigned to France, only to be occupied again in 1940, before finally becoming a definitive province of France.
Given this turbulent history, it is no wonder that the province of Lorraine now has a mind-boggling mix of cultures, ethnicities and languages, or rather dialects, some of which have survived and are still being spoken by many of its inhabitants, despite concerted efforts of the officials to impose only one language by offering formal education only in French. Differences aside, the province retains a modest, understated charm that attracts both locals and tourists to enjoy the quiet of its mostly rural landscape.
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