Saturday, December 26, 2009

An Excursion in the Moselle

December 26th arrived with clear blue skies. Susie and I set out for an afternoon's drive to begin to understand the area. We headed east and north, eventually reaching Creutzwald, a French city right on the border with Germany. On the way, we passed through the agricultural landscape of the Moselle countryside. Although most interesting sites are not open in the winter, we stopped to look from the outside at the Chateau de Pange, built in 1720 on the site of older fortifications. Still owned by the Pange family, the chateau abuts the village one side and looks across meadows and river on the other. See http://www.chateaudepange.fr.

Creutzwald, despite its park and lake, reminded me of a Pennsylvania mining town, laid out in a small valley between ridges. Local signs tend to feature both French and German. For example, the Leclerc "hypermarche" (perhaps analogous to Walmart) welcomed drivers with both "Bienvenue" and "Wilcommen." Much of the area around town, and especially along the border, was still forested. See http://www.creutzwald.fr.

On the way back to Metz we drove past and then stopped at Jewish cemetery just outside the village of Blouzonville. The cemetery, terraced up a slope above a river valley, faces east. It holds the remains of people from the local Jewish community, which dates back to the end of the 17th Century. The village's present synagogue was built in the 19th Century, restored in 1907, destroyed by the Germans in World War II, and rebuilt in 1960. Most of the village's Jews, with the rest of the town, were evacuated in 1939 to Chauvigny and survived the war. Although the cemetery is still used, Blouzonville's Jewish population declined steeply after the war. Older people have died, and younger people, like much of the rural population all across France, have moved to bigger cities. The village's Web site has an interesting page on the history of Blouzonville's Jewish community. See http://www.mairie-bouzonville.fr.

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