Lorraine, in the far north-east, is often called the Pays de Trois Frontières (the land of three frontiers) as it shares borders with Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. Geologically, western Lorraine is composed of rolling hills of clay separated by the northsouth running limestone ridges of the Côtes de Meuse and Côtes de Moselle. The heavy soils of these rolling plains support mixed farming: dairy, oats, and wheat and the ridges have worked as defensive barriers during the many times that Lorraine has been threatened with attack. The cities of Metz, Mancy, Verdun, Thionville, and Toul are route centres and fortress cities defending the gaps in the ridges. Between 1871 and 1918, the department of Moselle in the east was annexed, along with Alsace, by Germany following France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. It was again controlled by Germany from 1940 to 1945. The bloodiest battle of World War I - the Battle for Verdun - took place on Lorraine's unfortunate soil. Here hundreds of thousands of French men were brutally killed and today most of the visitors to the région are those on sad pilgrimages to see where their forefathers lost their lives.
Much of Lorraine's landscape has been exploited by industry. Iron ore fields of about 110 km (70 miles) long and 20 km (12 miles) wide, run from Nancy northward to the primary iron and steel district around Longwy, Thionville, and Metz. The French part of the Saar coalfield lies for 64 km (40 mi) in the east. In the south-east Lorraine rises gradually to the summits of the Vosges. This sandstone massif has a granite core exposed in the south, where elevations exceed 1,200 m (3,937 ft). The political and linguistic divide between French Lorraine and the more Germanic Alsace runs along its crest.
Although the two main cities Nancy and Metz are very handsome, the landscape is bleak - dominated either by industry or by windswept agricultural plains, making itnot popular with second home owners. Living costs and property prices are low.
- Population: 2,310,376
- Pop.density (people per km2): 98