Alsace & Lorraine

In his 1941 Germany (!) edition Kurt Hielscher included some photos of Alsace and Lorraine in today's France, next to photos from  Luxemburg and the Czech Republic.  Alsace and Lorraine, Elsass and Lothringen in German, was part of the German Empire in between 1871 and 1918. First I managed to visit Kaysersberg and Riquewihr in May 2022, both real gems and from which I shared a lot of photos below, and Metz, but here things went different than expected. A year later, end of April 2023 I also visited Colmar to and Molsheim in the beginning of May on our way back from Italy. A photo from the famous Château du Haut-Königsbourg is still on my wishing list, but that is understandable since we only passed the region on our way to or from another final destination either home or to Italy. More or less the same goes for Saverne and Vic-sur-Seille and of course Strasbourg.


After our five week stay in the south of France, we stayed for the night near Dijon. On our way home, we wanted to combine lunch with repohotographing Kurt Hielscher's photo in Metz, but that did not go as expected. 

Porte des Allemands, Metz, Lorraine, France 1941 vs. the 13th of March 2022

Photos: Kurt Hielscher (1881-1948) & Casper Molenaar

After the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine by the German Empire, Metz grew strongly due to German settlers. For several decades, the city would have a German-speaking majority. The enormous buildings in Romanesque Revival or Neo-Gothic style built during the German period still catch the eye. The region was lost by Germany to France after WWI but occupied by the Nazi regime in WWII. After three months of fighting American allied forces were able to liberate the city from the Nazis on the 22th of November 1944. 

On arrival I quickly parked the van for a toiletvisit, stopped the engine, but found out later that I could have parked the van slightly better. So I wanted to start again, but the engine refused. The whole electric system failed, so I concluded that we might need a new battery, which, ofcourse, we probably would not be able to find on a Sunday. We called SOS International expecting to be towed away to a garage waiting for it to be opened the next day. In the meantime, we had lunch. And I made the short walk to the Porte to make the photo and messed around a littlebit in the engine and the battery. And then we received a call that help was coming. 

Suddenly, my oldest son yelled and noticed that the battery somehow was full again and we decided to wait with trying to start again till the tow truck would show up. And then the engine indeed started again and the man quickly found out that some screws had come loose so that contact was no longer made. It was fixed in a minute and we could continue our trip back home. 

Parked just a 100 meters from the Porte des Allemands, you can see in the distance. A littlebit too far from the sidewalk, but the car wouldn't start anymore. The screw of one of the electrical cables of the battery turned out to be loose so it was fixed in a minute.

The "Porte des Allemands", "The German Gate" is named after a hospital built by the Teutonic knights around 1230 guarding the La Seille river. Extensively restored in the 19th century, and again in 1946 and 2013, it houses the Musée du peuple Messin today. Besides the stress, I could still concentrate on photographing and enjoy the gate a littlebit. Actually to walk through it is quite an experience and the differences in between both photos remarkable.   

Photo by my youngest son. You can see me calling with SOS International. A few minutes later I rephotographed Kurt Hielscher's photo and we strolled around the Porte des Allemand for a short while before turning back to the van and the family to wait for help.


On the last day of our holidays in May we stayed for the night in Mulhouse, which was also a special place, but the day after we made a final and quick stop in Molsheim, just to rephotograph the photo from Kurt Hielscher here. Both places are situated in the Alsace. And we were lucky, we just could park at the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville in Molsheim, just next to building on Kurt Hielscher's photo, so I got out, took a deep breath, made the photo and walked around the square to get a littlebit more sense of this place and its central square. I think the photos on show what a nice but tiny central square it is. The characteristic building, the Metzig, is a former butcher's shop which dates from 1525. Today it is a restaurant. The Fontaine aux Lions dates back to 1609. Below, I also added some photos from Mulhouse during golden hour when we had a nice evening stroll on our way to a restaurant.

Molsheim, 1941. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

Molsheim, 7th of May 2023

On the evening before we arrived in Molsheim, we stayed for the night in Mulhouse, where we had a nice stroll during golden hour. I am not sure wether Kurt Hielscher also visited Mulhouse, but he could have. Check the 1552 built City Town Hall at the Place de la Réunion and some more photos below..


The village of Kaysersberg is the place to be in the Alsace, because it is known as one of the most beautiful villages in the whole of France. Named after emperor Frederik Hendrik II of the Holy Roman Empire (1194-1250) the name of the village was first mentioned in 1227. It has less than 3.000 inhabitants. 

Kaysersberg, Alsace, 1941. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

Kaysersberg, 5th of May 2022. Photo: Casper Molenaar. 

We arrived in the evening, parked our campervan at the extensive aire de camping-car and went for a coffee on the terrace of café Le Bar'th. Outside we were the only customers and inside it was quite cosy and busy, but we did not went in. We left exploring the rest of the village for the next morning. The deeper we went in, the better and more authentic it got, till we arrived at the Pont Fortifié, when I suddenly recognized Kurt Hielscher's photo in the area around the bridge. This is truly the photo you want to make as a tourist when you're strolling around Kaysersberg, though shrubs and trees have taken over the view on the river Weiss. And tourists, there are plenty, though I can imagine the crowds will peak in the summer.


Mixed feelings I kept on our visit to Riquewihr. It is probably here that my youngest son somehow got COVID-19. He is doing fine and all the other familymembers including myself are still testing negative having no symptoms whatsoever. It is exciting though, since Kim, as an immunocompromised kidneytransplantpatient, is in the highriskgroup for COVID. We have been in full isolation because of that since March 11th 2020. Now that we were loosening a littlebit for only 40 days, we had bad luck I guess. It feels strange and ominous and hopefully Omicron would turn out as mild as it is for many when she will get it too. As a family we did a great job keeping earlier more dangerous variants out of our lives, especially in the days when Kim did not had her vaccinations yet. And I am really proud on how we did it as a family and a team. We really made the best of it, even self-sufficient going on holidays abroad.

Riquewihr, Alsace, 1941. Photo: Kurt Hielscher. 

Riquewihr, Alsace, 5th of May 2022. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

I did not prepare my visit to Riquewihr, and therefore did not know what to expect. I only had Kurt Hielscher's photo. When we passed the gate of the Hotel de Ville at the uttermost eastend of the old centre, a real gem revealed to us. What a lovely tiny place! It has less than 1200 inhabitants but lots of "Fachwerckhäuser". Why did I put this in German? Well, the region was annexed by France in 1793, but this architecture still makes it feel like a German place. I heard that German is still spoken by some locals, of course next to French. Most of the houses date back to the Middle Ages and for example the Western Gate "Dolder" is from 1291. In 1320 Riquewehr, Reichenweier as it is called by Kurt Hielscher in his book, received city rights. To make the photo, Kurt Hielscher probably used a "special technique" that I am lacking: a huge stairs. That way he could bring the lens of his camera a littlebit higher which straighten the walls of the houses on both sides of the photo. Compare his with my photo and you'll see that the walls of the house will come to the center of the photo at the top. Using the stairs, he could also take some more distance, creating more depth in his photo. On today's photo we see Restaurant Relais Des Moines, a restaurant with for example canard, duck, on the menu while its characteristic sign says "Gasthaus" on Kurt Hielscher's photo. Next to the restaurant one can find the Tourist Information followed by winery from Famille Hugel that is operational since 1639. On the the right side behind the yellow house, there's Boutique Cellier, one of Riquewihrs numerous souvenir- and giftshops. Now I know and understand why Riquewihr has over two million visitors a year: all its beauty and characteristics is quite overwhelming. Pity that we took COVID as a souvenir. Well, next to a lot of impressions and a stunning collection of photos.


When I visited Kaysersberg and Riquewihr in 2022, I passed Colmar. Then ofcourse, the seed was planted and I decided to not pass Colmar again without visiting. I was not dissapointed.

Rue des Marchands, Colmar, 1941. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

Rue des Marchands, Colmar, 22nd of April. Photo: Casper Molenaar. 

The first glimpse I got from Colmar, was believe it or not, the statue of liberty, maybe a little smaller than the real one in New York, but still, it made an impression and it was close to our hotel that we used to stay for the night exactly in between our home in Breda and the Ligurian coastline in Italy, our destination. The old city center of Colmar is as characteristic as the places in the Alsace but more modern at the edges and slightly bigger, but mainly known for "Little Venice", because of La Lauch streaming across the center with nice views from the bridge at the Rue Turenne. We had a nice dinner at Alsako on a small square at the end of the Rue des Marchands, though it started to rain a little during the dinner. 

Having dinner at Alsako just around the corner from where Kurt Hielscher made his photo at the Rue des Marchands.

Nice shop in a characteristic building.

Little Venice in Colmar.

Colmar, here at the Quai de la Poissonnerie, was definitely worth the visit, have dinner and stay for the night.

Below: view on Kaysersberg.

In the footsteps of  Kurt Hielscher