Mulhouse (pronounced meh-LOOZ) sat at the southern end of Alsace, and was one of the region's industrial centers. Heavily damaged during World War II, Mulhouse was extensively rebuilt, but thankfully a number of her original historic monuments remained in her huge and impressive inner city. I used Mulhouse as a base for traveling to other locations, but certainly it had plenty enough to hold my interest.
I devoted some time on Sunday morning after church to explore the downtown, doing a loop around the inner city, then combing the interior around midday when the crowds were forming. This was a brave move, given that it was an especially cold February morning with temperatures in the teens and a stiff breeze. The good news was that Alsacian coffee houses ranked among the best in the world for getting a good hot espresso, while Alsacian food was rich enough to compensate for the coldest of winters (a good dose of red wine never hurt either).
The first photo showed the Parc Salvador, located in the eastern part of the town, where I began my circuit. The hedgework in the center was fashioned in the city's symbol, that of a gear -- a clear symbol of Mulhouse's industrial past. Indeed, one of the most impressive buildings in the east was the Societé Industrielle, a block-sized columned structure that surrounds a small park and several major streets. The wings of the building housed a number of Mulhouse's popular restaurants and the eastern office of the Tourist Information Bureau. At one end of the park was the Place de la République, a common one among French cities that usually meant the presentation of a national symbol of some kind. Mulhouse's, however, was a little, er, um, different. (It has something to do with bulls.)
Following my tourist map, I made it a point to visit the identified remnants of the old town wall and its towers. The most prominent of these was shown in the second picture -- La Tour de Bollwerk with its beautiful artwork on the tower. The photograph doesn't do it justice -- here it probably appeared like a loud billboard or an ill-placed poster. Truthfully, it was traditional old artwork.
JFK Boulevard was one of the roads that established a loop around the downtown, and that was the road I followed, passing a number of points of interest. Among them were two other prominent towers -- the Tour Nessel and the Tour de Diable (Devil's Tower). Nessel was now just another part of an apartment complex in the northwest, while Diable sat on a major traffic intersection in the southwest. At the north end was a large public bathhouse with a Roman-style bath (Les Bains Municipaux, an impressive red sandstone building across the current town hall), and the Boulevard du Président with its white marble WWI monument.
Having done my loop, I concentrated on the inner city, the best part of which was the market square in the center. It was that part I visited both on Sunday and on the late Friday night when I arrived, hence why the third photograph was a night shot.
The third photo shows the Hotel de Ville, the old former town hall that now served as the city museum and the central office of the Tourist Information Bureau. The decor and structure, with its exposed staircase, reminded me very much of similar town halls in Germany (see Lindau am Bodensee, for example).
The fourth photo was taken almost from the same spot -- it was of the Temple St. Étienne, the city's protestant cathedral and most impressive of Mulhouse's churches by far. I found it interesting that the Catholic churches or convents were greater in number and dotted around the outer rim of the downtown. In virtually all other French cities, it was the Catholic church that held the dominant position in a city center or atop a nearby hill.
Like most of Alsace, the food in Mulhouse was to die for... figuratively and literally. Among my favorite dishes of all time is the Alsacian choucroute plate, basically a pile of sauerkraut covered with slabs of meat -- usually pork sausages, briskets, and other variations of sliced dead mammal (oh, but it's all tender and tasty!). A massive hunger, traditional dijon mustard and French red wine were a must with such a meal. I ate at three different restaurants, fairly cheaply actually, but always left happy.
Mulhouse was a great place to host a traveler. Its location was central enough to access other destinations easily, and it had plenty enough to hold my attention. Certainly worth a look.
Trip taken 16 February 2003 -- Page Last Updated 04 October 2006 -- (C) 2003 Tom Galvin