Thiers, tourist please look up the hill, not down

Welcome readers to todays offering from The Philatelist. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. We are going to talk today about a stamp encouraging tourism to a place most of us have not been.

A few words about the attractiveness of the stamp. The use of the bright colors is very evocative to me of the south of France. If it were possible, the texture of the paint would show on the stamp to add to the feel of the impressionist movement in painting. All in all, visually a very good job on the part of the French postal authority.

The stamp today is issue A705, a 1.70 franc  stamp issued on October 9th, 1976. It displays the high-town part of Thiers and was part of 6 stamp issue showing tourist sites around France. It is worth 25 cents cancelled according to the Scott catalog.

Thiers is located in the department of Puy-de-Dome in the central southeastern part of France. The town was begun around 1000 AD. The current population is around 11,000 and has been in gradual decline for a long time.

The town relies mainly on tourism of the older high-town.  There is a tradition of fine knife making in the town which continues to a small degree and is remembered by a museum in the town. The mountains and nearby rivers also place the town in a pleasant area.

In the research on this stamp, I came upon something I found disturbing so I hope you will excuse I little rant. I mentioned earlier that this ancient town had suffered a population decline over many years. That should have prevented what happened in the 1950s but did not.

The old town is on a hillside and adjacent to it is an area of small factories where the knives the town is known for came from. This part is picturesque and no doubt is a powerful draw for tourists. In the 1950s, a lower city was developed. This part is especially known for it’s big box supermarkets. It is literally, and no doubt figuratively, looked down on from the older high-town.

Why such development is allowed in a town with a declining population is beyond me. Some may say it would not have happened if it did not fill a need. I am indeed not calling for a war on supermarkets. I do wonder if more talented architects and more carefully considered city planners could have seen to it that the development of the low-town could have blended in and complimented the architectural achievements that exist in Thiers up the hill.

Alas, as in so many places all over the world, this was not to be. I think it is safe to see that it will be a long time before the low-town is honored with a postage stamp or is sought out by a tourist. We can rejoice that the high-town is still here to enjoy.

Well, my drink is empty and it is time to open up the conversation in the below comment section. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.