May 14th 2015

Alsace has long been a crossroad of cultures. Today the region is part of France – the current borders decided after the end of World War II. But historically speaking, Alsace was part of the German-speaking area of central Europe, and to this day a large proportion of the population, of all generations, speak or understand Alsacian, closely resembling the German spoken in Switzerland. In the last two centuries, Alsace has passed from Germany to France and back , and back again. Consequently, it is a region that was not part of France at the time of the makings of the modern-day nation, and has held on to a number of institutional differences, particularly concerning religious affairs. For example, Good Friday is a public holiday in Alsace, but not in the rest of France – just one example of how Alsace has a culture all of its own! In terms of heritage, with its villages of brightly-painted steep-roofed half-timbered houses, Alsace is definitely Germanic. While today people are free - within limits - to choose what colour to paint a building, in the past the colours had a significance, and town houses, which often had shops or boutiques on the ground floor, were painted according to the type of shop - bakeries in one colour, butchers in another, shoemakers in a third colour, and so on. Today the tradition of brightly coloured half-timbered houses has become firmly established as the local Alsatian style typified in the charming town of Colmar. Along the Wine Route, and surrounded by the vineyards which provide the lush fruit of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Gewurtztraminer grapes, half-way between Strasbourg and Mulhouse, Ribeauvillé is a beautiful must-see. The town and neighbouring hills are dominated by the majestic ruins of the Three Castles of the Lords of Ribeaupierre. The Grand-Rue (main street) and its picturesque neighbouring streets, lined with 15th- to 18th-century buildings (bedecked with flowers) are scattered with Renaissance fountain-decorated squares. haut koenigsbourg castle Don’t miss the chance to visit the great chateau of Haut-Koenigsbourg. A castle built in the 12th century, occupying a strategic position watching over the wine and wheat routes to the North and the silver and salt routes from West to East, it dominates the landscape. It was reduced to ruins by the Swedes during the Thirty Years' War and then abandoned. In 1899, Kaiser Wilhelm II decided to rebuild the castle entirely with the aim of turning it into a museum and at the same time a symbol of Alsace's return to Germany. Inside, the beautifully refined rooms are decorated with mural paintings, Renaissance furniture and enormous cast-iron stoves. There is an impressive collection of weaponry from the Middle Ages in the basement with crossbows, all types of swords and armour. And if all that hiking has made you peckish, fear not as Alsace is known for its gastronomy as well as its wines and beers. Think pretzels, sauerkraut (choucroute in French), and several other local specialities such as Alsace Flammekueche, a traditional dish that is not unlike a pizza without tomatoes, but covered with cheese, cream, mushrooms and local ham. Another local speciality is Alsatian gingerbread, known as Pain d'Epices. Read more about our Walk through the villages and vineyards of Alsace here.

Download: PDF Document.
Print: Press CTRL+P or click here to print.

Next Post  →