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France > Lorraine > Metz

METZ (pronounced "Mess"), the capital of Lorraine, lies on the east bank of the River Moselle, close to the Autoroute de l'Est, linking Paris and Strasbourg, and the main Strasbourg to Brussels train line. If you want to sleep in a Metz hotel, have a look at this site. The town's origins go back at least to Roman times, when, as now, it stood astride major trade routes. On the death of Charlemagne it became the capital of Lothar's portion of his empire, managing to maintain its prosperity in spite of the dynastic wars that followed. By the Middle Ages it had sufficient wealth and strength to proclaim itself an independent republic, which it remained until its absorption into France in 1552.

A frontier town caught between warring influences, Metz has endured more than its share of historical hand-changing. In 1870, when Napoléon III's defeated armies were forced to surrender to Kaiser Wilhelm I, it was ceded to Germany. It recovered its liberty at the end of World War I in 1918, only to be re-annexed by Hitler in 1940 before being liberated again by Allied troops in 1944.

Although its only really important sight is the magnificent cathedral, Metz is not at all the dour place you might expect from its northern geography and industrial background – indeed it deserves its self-styled title of "Ville jardin" or Garden City, with impeccable flower-beds, the warm hues of mustard-yellow stone buildings and the waters of the Moselle all making for an appealing cityscape. The university founded here in the 1970s is at least partly responsible for its liveliness.

Pages in section ‘Metz’: The City, Information, Eating and drinking.

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