Alsace: A Mix of European Cultures
View of Alsace typical traditional street (Colmar, France), Photograph by PhotostockAR, Shutterstock
There are two reasons that you might have heard of Alsace. The first is the excellent quality wine that comes from this area and the second are the numerous war films that depict World War II battles that took place there. With Brexit in process, the fact that the European Parliament is based in Strasbourg, the capital city of Alsace, shouldn’t bother us in this article which serves the purpose of giving some basic information for one of the most beautiful areas in Western Europe. No reason to stress about politics, when we can just imagine the French region’s scenic beauty.
Alsace is a region in eastern France, on the borders with Germany and Switzerland. Throughout history, the region has changed French and German overlords many times, with the period after WWII to be the longest without any war conflict. With the region being passed between French and German control very often, the Alsatian culture is a unique mix of influences. The French sometimes perceive Alsace as a cultural exception. Even the French ex-president Nicola Sarkozy, in one of his visits to the Alsatian city of Truchterscheim, commented that it was nice being in Germany. Unfortunately, for Sarkozy, and fortunately for his critics, despite the German name of the city, Truchterscheim belongs to France!
But enough with history and on to the wine. There cannot exist a wine lover who hasn’t heard of the famous Alsatian wines. The regional wine of Alsace, most of the times, is white because of the cool climate. Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Riesling are grape varieties that are famous worldwide. Next to those, comes the Alsatian sparkling wine named Cremant d’Alsace for which some experts say that it is a worthy rival of champagne that comes from the south of the country. Last but not least, Gewürztraminer is a wine that will accompany your desert keeping you satisfied with its aromatic nature and sweet taste. Wine is closely associated with everyday life in Alsace for many centuries. During the Renaissance years, the citizens of Strasbourg were paying for hospital services with quantities of wine due to the lack of cash. The wine donations were held in the hospital cellar, which is now a wine museum including wine made in 1472!
Of course, if you want to visit the wine museum in the heart of Alsace, you will have to schedule your trip to there. Internet will be your friend in this task, but we will give you a basic piece of advice. Eurostar will take you from London to Strasbourg in five and a half hours with ticket prices starting from just £55. If you are bored travelling by train, Ryanair will fly you directly to Strasbourg airport, but there is always the option of indirect flights with British Airways and KLM via Amsterdam. If you are a petrol head, driving in the French countryside should be a wonderful experience where you can enjoy the beautiful sceneries.
La Petite France is one of the parts of Strasbourg that you will want to visit again and again when you have the opportunity. This quarter is a cool combination of medieval fortification and traditional French houses made of timber. Plenty of bars and restaurants along the river Ill are at your disposal to enjoy a pint of beer or a glass of the famous wines. After having a couple of drinks, you can walk towards the Notre Dame cathedral (there is always a Notre Dame in every major city!) which is the tallest church in France and a fine example of Gothic architecture. The church still has the original 12th century magnificent stained glass windows and 17th century tapestries. The cathedral stands impressively amidst the surrounding houses and our piece of advice is that you shouldn’t miss visiting it.
If you want to see another famous little city without spending many hours on the road, Colmar is the answer. The city is only 60 kilometers from Strasbourg towards the south and you can reach it by train or car. One of the best things to do in Colmar is the Little Venice boat trip. You can buy tickets for small boat tours that will take you around in the beautiful canals of the city, listening to birds singing and enjoying the view of amazing houses with vibrant colours. Tourists describe this part of town as picturesque and you shouldn’t lose the chance of buying your souvenirs for your beloved ones and have romantic walks.
Alsace is a region full of hidden treasures. It is no wonder that the region has switched hands so many times through history. For the visitor, Alsace offers beautiful scenery, food and wine accompanied by a one of a kind mix of German and French culture. If you want a holiday that will be remembered, maybe you should start making arrangements for Alsace!