Lorraine lies in the north-east of France on the upper reaches of the Meuse, Moselle, Sarre and Saône rivers. It forms the eastern foothills of the Paris Basin. The eastern border is formed by the Vosges. The highest point is Hohneck with a height of 1,364 meters. Originally the “Lotharii Regnum” was much bigger. When the Frankish Empire was divided into three parts after the death of Charlemagne, his son Lothar received the middle territory. The southern and central areas of the former duchy were French-speaking, while in the north-east Lorraine – a Moslem-Franconian dialect – was spoken. Today, however, only few country-dwellers speak the German dialect.
The site of Franco-German wars
The small town in the North Vosges Nature Park lies in the shadow of a mighty citadel built by the fortress architect Vauban in place of a medieval castle. In the German-French war Bitsch (German spelling) was fiercely contested. Those who visit the Citadel will receive a video and audio tour (in French, German or English) with a free presentation of the Franco-German War (1870-71). The small church, as well as the other buildings on the citadel – which had survived the wars – were restored. A well known cluster of restaurants has formed around the fortress.
Underground barracks of the Maginot Line
The fortress four kilometres west of Bitche was part of the Maginot Line, built between 1930 and 1940 under the French Defence Minister Maginot. It consisted of a line of bunkers along the French border with Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. The Simserhof consisted of underground barracks for 900 men including a medical department with an operating theatre, a food store and its own power station. In 1965, the French army set up a museum. Guided tours are offered from March to November.
Italian flair in the French provinces
The capital of Lorraine is located at the confluence of Seille and Moselle and is home to a university and the seat of the European Centre for the Environment. The historic old town surrounding the St. Etienne Cathedral appears like a large open-air-museum with its churches, monasteries, palaces and town houses, where Italian flair and French province create a cheerful atmosphere.
Memorial to the horrors of war
The Battle of Verdun has become emblematic for the futility of the Frist World War and was one of the most murderous battles in world history. The trench warfare lasted for over six months and claimed 800,000 dead and just as many wounded. By its end in December of 1916, the front lines had hardly budged. Even today, the battlefield arouses a feeling of anguish. Behind the endless graves stands the ossuary, a building one hundred meters in length with a high tower. It houses the remains of over 130,000 German and French soldiers.