For those of you who are avid travelers, there are probably several places on your wish list that you want to see. You may be determined to pull the slots of Las Vegas, or you may desperately wish to journey into Graceland, glancing at the bed where Elvis once slept, the pillows where he once drooled. You may desire to camp in the Australian outback, under the stars and the wishful eyes of the hungry dingos, or you may, in a personal challenge, go to New York, knowing that if you can make it there, you will make it anywhere. No matter where it is you choose to travel, one place well worth seeing is Alsace, France.
Alsace is the smallest region in metropolitan France. Nearly four times longer than it is wide, it borders Germany, Switzerland, Franche-Comte, and Lorraine. Sunny, dry, and protectively shielded by the Vosges Mountains, Alsace maintains a very storybook quality. With white cottages and brown trim, flower boxes in windowsills, and people uttering cheery hellos while they sweep front porches, the only thing Alsace is missing is seven singing dwarfs. It is like a place manufactured purely for happiness, a place that will make you want to get up bright and early and yodel.
Alsace was heavily influenced by Germany, mainly because the Germans kept invading. While this probably got annoying among the citizens of Alsace – Dang it, the Germans are here again and I just opened a new bottle of wine – the German’s presence heavily influenced the cuisine and architecture that Alsace has since become famous for.
There are several places to go in this area; it is a region with the rare talent of offering perpetual entertainment. However, if you go to Alsace, there are certain places to which you must journey. Not doing so will leave you berating – or beret-ing – yourself all the way home.
A Boat Ride on the River III – The III is a river located in the eastern tributary of the Rhine. Starting in the mountain town of Winkel, this river runs northward, eventually meeting the Rhine in the city of Strasbourg, the main city in Alsace. Riding on a boat while the river flows through Strasbourg will allow you to see some of Alsace’s truly historic features, including walls and defenses built in the 17th century.
A Visit to Colmar – This old city is one of the most well-preserved in all of Europe. Home to buildings made in German gothic style, architecture of the early Renaissance, and several historic churches, Colmar is a place where tourists can go to bask in the sun. The driest city in all of France, the climate of this area is ideal for growing wine. Raising its glasses in a toast to Mother Nature, Colmar is the Capital of Alsatian Wine.
Claiming the Throne at Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg – The Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg is the biggest tourist attraction in all of Alsace; going to Alsace and not seeing this castle is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. Located in the protective Vosges Mountains, this castle was routinely occupied by successive powers. During the Thirty Year’s War, however, the castle was abandoned, and lay deserted for several centuries. While unoccupied, it served as an inspiration for poets, writers, and artists. In 1900, Emperor Wihelm II had it restored, giving it the fairytale-esque feel that has made it so popular among visitors.
The Alsace Wine Tour – The Alsace Wine Tour is enjoyable for anyone. From those who don’t drink wine to those who named their first child, “Brandy,” the beauty this wine tour captures will leave you in awe. The entire route goes for more than 170 kilometers, running through hills, villages, churches, and houses made of timber. For those who wish to sample some of the goods, tasting cellars and accessible vineyards are located along the path.
The Museums of Strasbourg – The principal city in Alsace, Strasbourg serves as the backbone of the Alsace economy. Home to manufacturing, engineering, and road, river, and rail communications, Strasbourg also contains the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, and the European Court of Human Rights. In addition to this, Strasbourg is home to a plethora of museums. From the Musee Zoologique, which is renown for its huge collection of birds, to the Musee Archeologique, which displays regional findings from the beginning of man through the 6th century, both the Dr. Doolittle and the Indiana Jones in you are sure to be appeased.
Right now, Alsace may be French to you. But, once you journey there you will find the customs, cultures, and atmosphere very appealing and welcoming. It’s like a place you’ve never experienced and you‘ll want to return; going there once will make you understand why the Germans kept on coming back for more.