Introducing Alsace & Lorraine
Though often spoken of as if they were one, Alsace and Lorraine, neighbouring régions in France’s northeastern corner, are linked by little more than a border through the Massif des Vosges (Vosges Mountains) and the imperialism of 19th-century Germany. In 1871, after the Franco-Prussian War, the newly created German Reich annexed Alsace and the northern part of Lorraine, making the régions’ return to rule from Paris a rallying cry of French nationalism.
Charming and beautiful Alsace, long a meeting place of Europe’s Latin and Germanic cultures, is nestled between the Vosges and the River Rhine – along which the long-disputed Franco-German border has at long last found a final resting place. Popularly known as a land of storks’ nests and colourful half-timbered houses sprouting geraniums, Alsace also offers a wide variety of outdoor activities – including hiking, biking and skiing – in and around its gentle, forested mountains. Throughout France, the people of Alsace have a reputation for being hard-working, well organised and tax-paying.
Lorraine, a land of prairies and forests popularly associated with quiche and de Gaulle’s double-barred cross (croix de Lorraine), has little of the picturesque quaintness of Alsace. However, it is home to two particularly handsome cities, both former capitals. Nancy, one of France’s most refined and attractive urban centres, is famed for its Art Nouveau architecture, while Metz, 54km to the north, is known for its Germanic architecture and the stunning stained glass of its marvellous cathedral. The town of Verdun bears silent testimony to the destruction and insanity of WWI.