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Visiting Kleinblittersdorf, Saarland, Germany: peaceful, border village with complex, territorial psychologies

Updated on April 6, 2013
Flag of Germany
Flag of Germany | Source
The Saar River between Kleinblittersdorf (Germany) and Grosbliederstroff (France)
The Saar River between Kleinblittersdorf (Germany) and Grosbliederstroff (France) | Source
The Teufelskanzel in the Tiefenbachtal, Kleinblittersdorf
The Teufelskanzel in the Tiefenbachtal, Kleinblittersdorf | Source
Map of the Saarbruecken region
Map of the Saarbruecken region | Source

Within the Saarbruecken district, sandwiched against the French border

Situated within the Saarbruecken district, this quite heavily wooded village in Germany, which lies on the Saar River, is actually quite a complicated place in terms of its territorial psychologies.

On the surface, it is a German-speaking locality, with an undoubtedly German-sounding name, situated in Germany, so one might say, how is its identity ambiguous (or, if not ambiguous, complex?)

Well, it's all a matter of geography. (And plenty of history, too.)

First, its name. The existence of the village was recorded as early as the year 777, and in the Middle Ages it was known as Blitharia Villa (and variant spellings). One can see how the Latin 'Villa' became the suffix '-dorf' in German. At this settlement of Blitharia Villa, then, on the Saar River, both banks of the river were settled. Today, the left bank of the river has the French village of Grosbliederstroff (German: Grossblittersdorf ), while the right bank has Kleinblittersdorf in Germany.

So, if the 'Klein-' in Kleinblittersdorf refers to 'Small', and the 'Gross-' in Grossblittersdorf refers to 'Great', then maybe this means that the village in Germany is smaller than its counterpart in France, across the Saar River?

Well, no, this is not actually the case. The population of Kleinblittersdorf — ironically enough — is four times as big as that of Grossblittersdorf, or (should I say) Grosbliederstroff. Or should I say, at least, the administrative division named for Kleinblittersdorf is much larger than that of Grosbliederstroff.

Which brings me to another point. If these villages are joined to one another, why does their spelling not reflect similar conventions?

The answer to this is that traditionally the French state has had difficulty in acknowledging that the national language of another state is spoken by its indigenous citizens within its borders (leaving aside how one defines 'indigenous'). Thus, while Flemings in Belgium officially speak Dutch, Flemings speaking the same language in border villages of northern France are officially referred to as speaking Flemish! Thus also, the inhabitants of villages and towns in eastern France geographically contiguous to Letzebuergesch-speaking Luxembourg are said to speak Lorraine Franconian (French: francique lorrain).

Thus also, French citizens in towns and villages contiguous to Germany in eastern France are said to speak this same dialect: Lorraine Franconian. With its history of having been annexed twice to Germany within the past 150 years, Alsace-Lorraine cannot be officially deemed to be 'German' in character; otherwise, national-linguistic arguments by former German invaders might potentially be viewed in more favourable light, and this would be politically explosive. Meanwhile, the Federal German and the Saarland state governments show no interest in talking up any (supposed) German identity issue relating to towns and villages beyond their borders.

In Kleinblittersdorf itself, noted buildings include the civic hall (German: Rathaus), dating from the 18th century and the church of St Agatha. The Friendship Bridge (German: Freundschaftsbruecke ) links over the Saar River with Grosbliederstroff, France.

October 1, 2012

Also worth seeing

In Saarbruecken itself, visitor attractions include: the Baroque St Johann's Basilica and Stengel's Peace Church (German: Friedenskirche ); the 16th century Old Bridge (German: Alte Bruecke ); the neo-Gothic St Johann's City Hall (German: Rathaus St. Johann); Saarbruecken Castle and the Castle Wall; and many others.

In Saarlouis, (distance: 36 kilometres) the spired Ludwigskirche is a prominent landmark; the birthplace of Marshal Ney is another famous building.

Nennig , Saarland (distance: 47 kilometres) has a well preserved mosaic at the ruins of a Roman villa.

...

How to get there: Lufthansa flies to Frankfurt-am-Main (distance from Saarbruecken : 189 kilometres), from where car hire is available. The railroad company DB maintains a service between Frankfurt-am-Main and Saarbruecken . Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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