Thursday, April 29, 2010

Visiting Otto Klein in Geneva

Mom, Tibor, and I took a train from Metz to Geneva yesterday, a beautiful six-hour ride through the Vosges Mountains, the Alsatian plains and the shores of Lake Geneva. Our main purpose was to visit Otto Klein, the brother of Tibor's late wife, Agnes, and Mom's second cousin. Otto and his late twin brother, Ferenc, survived the terrors of Mengele in Auschwitz, but Otto wasn't able to come to the United States because he contracted tuberculosis in the camp. He spent four years in Davos recovering and has spent most of his life in Geneva.

Otto hasn't been in the best of health. He had a stroke about four years ago, and recently spent three months in the hospital recovering from a broken ankle. He is so fortunate to have the support of Lydia, his companion of many years, who has helped him get through this latest setback. We visited with them this morning and went to a nearby restaurant for lunch.

You can see the Schwartz family resemblance...
When we returned to Otto and Lydia's apartment, we said our goodbyes and Lydia walked us to the tram stop nearby. We ventured into the center of Geneva, walked by the lakeshore, and took an hour-long cruise on the lake before we returned to the hotel. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Soup and Tulips

On Tuesday, we went to the Marche Couvert to have lunch at the soup bar. The owner asked us to eat inside, and we were later joined by two women from the Metz Tourist Office who were hosting some Belgian journalists. The soups are made fresh every day from produce sold at the market; note the soup kettles on warmers on the floor.

In the afternoon, we took a bus down to the Botanical Garden in Montigny-les-Metz, where we enjoyed spectacular displays of spring bulbs.

Spontaneity on Sunday

Our first outing last Sunday was to the Spring Flea Market at Metz's Convention Hall. David and I have been attending the flea market on Saturdays, but this was a special one with an entry fee of 4 euros. Consequently, the market seemed a bit more upscale than usual.

We walked around the two large rooms, using our new-found knowledge of Sarreguemines pottery, Longwy enamel, and Meisenthal glass to examine the wares. We didn't find anything that knocked our socks off, but Mom found a wooden sculpture that she particularly liked - for 5 euros.

We then caught the freeway and drove northeast to Chateau Malbrouck, yet another example of how France excels in turning its historical assets into cultural tourism. The chateau, built in the 15th century by Arnold VI de Sierck, lies on a strategic position at the German border. Damaged and pillaged over time, it was classified as a historical monument in 1930, but it was in ruins by the time it was bought by the General Conseil Generale of the Moselle in 1975. The Conseil spent eight years restoring it in the 1990s, and it is now an exhibition space where we saw a wonderful exhibit of the works of French artist Nike de Saint Phalle.
We enjoyed a lunch of quiches on the patio; Tibor didn't want to see the exhibit, so he stayed and made friends.

The boy's name is Paul, and his father is an official in the German government. Tibor chatted with them in German while we were inside the chateau; the father convinced us to take a little trip up to Trier, we did!

Here are Mom and Tibor in front of the Porta Nigra, the old Roman gate to the city of Trier.

After having a drink nearby, we took a walk down the main pedestrian street in the center of the city and drove back to Metz on the Luxembourg side. So, we visited three countries in a span of an hour!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Stylishly Shorn

Mom and Tibor went to our neighborhood salon and got their hair cut this morning. And the results are really good - for less than they would pay at home!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Saturday in Sarrebourg

On Saturday, we drove on idyllic back roads to the town of Sarrebourg to see the Chagall windows at the Chapel of the Cordeliers. Arriving just before lunch, and finding that the Chapel would be closed until 2 pm, we found a salon de the in the nearby pedestrian street and ate al fresco.
Tibor loved looking at the fabulous pastries.
And whose hand is that?

With about an hour to kill, we got in the car and drove in to the foothills of the Vosges mountains, where we saw the Plan Incline (a boatlift on the Canal de la Marne au Rhin) that replaces 17 locks. Turning up the valley toward the Vosges mountains, we climbed up to Dabo, which is famous for a 19th century chapel perched on a rocky outcropping.
The views from Dabo were spectacular.
We returned to Sarrebourg and visited the chapel to see the magnificent Chagall window built in the 1960s. On our way to the Sarrebourg City Museum, we passed by the city's synagogue, which is still in use.
On our way back to Metz, we drove past lovely countryside, and we stopped so that Mom could get a better look at the dandelions that are everywhere!

Our last stop was in Delme, where we visited the Delme Synagogue. Built in 1881, destroyed in World War II, and rebuilt in the 1950s (albeit smaller), it was used as a synagogue until 1981. It has been a contemporary arts center since 1993.

Built in the Oriental Style, the synagogue retains some wonderful details.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Signs We Like

A town in the Moselle region, just south of Sarrebourg.

First Day in Metz

With a good night's sleep behind them, Mom and Tibor had a bit more energy to enjoy a walk on Friday morning around Metz. We walked to the Cathedral by way of Place St. Louis, window shopped in the Centre Ville, and enjoyed the flowers that are planted in every conceivable place.

After walking by the Moselle River, we found a park bench and sat down in the sun. David came by to join us and we had lunch at a nearby Alsatian restaurant.
After lunch, we decided to go for a drive around the area, much of which Mom and Tibor missed because of their napping in the back seat! When we got back to the apartment, we all took naps...

That evening, we went to the Metz Synagogue for Shabbat services. The evening began with a commemoration of the deportations during World War II. Along with the mayor of Metz and various officials, there were veterans wearing medals carrying the flags of their towns. A soldier played the French version of taps after the cantor chanted "El Malei Rachamim." The Grand Rabbi of the Moselle gave a short speech about the Holocaust. It was a very moving commemoration. Shabbat services followed, which seemed shorter than usual...

We then had a very nice dinner at a neighborhood Italian restaurant before coming home and crashing!

Beating Jet Lag...

After arriving in Metz on Thursday, we wanted to show Tibor and Mom around so they could get some air before they "hit the wall." Consequently, we went for a walk in the Centre Ville, visiting the Marche Couvert and the shops in the pedestrian zone.
We bought some cheese and enjoyed a little appetizer before dinner...
After dinner, the inevitable happened.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

They're Here!

We're pleased to let everyone know that Mom and Tibor arrived safely this morning in Paris and we got to Metz by train this afternoon. Our train was cancelled because of a strike, so we took the next one without any problems. Now off to the Covered Market to buy cheese!

Monday, April 19, 2010

On the Road to Metz

On our way back to Metz from Sarreguemines, we drove on small roads that took us from village to village. Our destination was St. Avold, where the largest World War II American cemetery is located. On the way, however, we found a Jewish cemetery in Puttelange-aux-Lacs.

The cemetery in St. Avold is a bit more orderly.

And one more, this atop Le Mont Saint Pierre, just a short distance away from Metz.

Citadels and Castles and More!

Last Saturday, we spent the day visiting the citadel at Bitche and castle ruins in the northern part of Alsace. The citadel was extraordinary. I've never experienced such an innovative way of learning about history, in this case, the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. We wore headphones that provided historical content about what we were seeing; the sound was set off by sensors in various places. A video on the siege of Bitche in 1870 was broadcast in different underground rooms of the felt like you were right there with the French soldiers. See David's post on Bitche for additional information.

After leaving Bitche, we headed into the northern part of the Vosges mountain range to look at castle ruins. David made an ascent to the Schoeneck Castle and took a look around; check out his posts about this excursion. After driving past other castles in that valley and one nearby, we settled on looking at things closer to the ground.

Such as synagogues and cemeteries. We drive into villages, happen to find rue de la Synagogue, and usually find one there. This synagogue was in Niederbronn-les-Bains, a lovely spa resort in the Northern Vosges. Built in 1869 in the "Oriental" style, the building is now the parish hall of the nearby Catholic church.
As we left Niederbronn-les-Bains, we found this Jewish cemetery in Oberbronn, a nearby village.
An interesting headstone shape.

Our last stop of the day was Meisenthal, home of the Meisenthal Glass and Crystal Museum, which is located in the former glass works factory. After viewing a film about how glass blowers create beautiful works, we saw incredible pieces of glass that had been made there. The best part was that we got to see a young man create a vase from start to finish, with a colleague providing commentary. This glass blower said that he has followed his father and his two grandfathers in this craft, having grown up watching the process from under the table in the factory.
The former factory is also home to the International Glass Art Centre, where designers and glass blowers collaborate on projects.

No Need to Mow the Lawn

Here are some critters eating away at the entrance to the Citadel at Bitche.
(talk about being the black sheep of the family...)