The French city of Metz (pronounced 'Mess') is described in several English travel articles as an overlooked destination which rewards the visitor with an extraordinary richness of architecture and culture. Competing for attention alongside the Saint-Etienne Cathedral and a branch - quite literally with its wooden roof - of the new Pompidou Centre is the Metz Water Tower, one of the symbols of the many periods when Germany and France fought for possession of the city over the last 2000 years.
France For Visitors says: 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.
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.
Wikipedia adds: The German Imperial District, or New City (French: Ville Nouvelle), was built during the first annexation of Metz by Otto von Bismarck into the German Empire. In order to germanify the city, Emperor Wilhelm II decided the creation of a new district shaped by a distinctive blend of Germanic architecture, including Renaissance, neo-Romanesque or neo-Classical, mixed with elements of art nouveau, art deco, Alsatian and mock-Bavarian styles. Moreover, the Jaumont stone, commonly used everywhere else in the city, was replaced with stones used in the Rhineland, like pink and grey sandstone, granite and basalt. The district features noteworthy buildings including the water tower, the impressive railway station, the Central Post-Office, the Mondon square (former Imperial square), and the large Foch avenue (former Kaiser Wihelm Ring). The district was renovated during the 2000s and now displays street furnitures designed by Philippe Starck and Norman Foster.
ID Number 100677
Description Metz Station - Water Tower
Photographer Jacques Mossot