Today was a bit melancholy, though with it came a great sense of achievement. We left lovely Epfig and drove to a nearby car wash, where we gave our car the best going-over we could prior to turning it in at the EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg. We have driven 15,000 kilometers (9,300 miles) through France, and poked into just about every corner of this country.
Speaking as the driver, while I certainly enjoyed the convenience of the open roads, if I never see another French underground garage, or tiny hotel parking lot, or any spot that requires one side of the car on the sidewalk, I will be a much more relaxed person. St. Theresa watched over us, particularly in the 5,000 roundabouts we must have encircled. For now, we will let someone else do the driving. We got the train to Mulhouse, where we are nicely situated just across from the train station, which we depart from tomorrow.
Mulhouse was annexed to Germany as part of the territory of Alsace-Lorraine from 1870–1918. The city was briefly occupied by French troops at the very start of WWI but they were forced to withdraw two days later. The citizens of Alsace who unwisely celebrated the appearance of the French army faced German reprisals. Alsace-Lorraine was of course taken over by France after that war, and though never formally restored to Germany after the Battle of France in 1940, it was occupied by German forces until the end of the war in May 1945.
The town’s development was stimulated first by the expansion of the textile industry and tanning, and later by chemical and engineering industries, from the mid-18th century. For a long time, Mulhouse was called the French Manchester, which may give you a point of reference.
We did have time for one museum, lest we waste our day. The Museum of Printed Textiles showed just how difficult and labor-intensive early fabric printing was, and how cleverly and beautifully it developed here. This is now a great center for fabric research and evidently designers come from all over the world to explore an amazing collection of designs, colors and patterns. There was a special focus this month on the cross-fertilization that took place with Japan in the 18th and 19th centuries, and a display of the design house of Leonard Paris. Lovely things, and just one more example of how the old and the new blend so nicely here.
We have had a brief but pleasant time here. Like many French cities we have explored, Mulhouse claims that its history is “unique in all the world.” So be it.