travel guide

Alsace travel guide

For centuries Alsace has been disputed between France and Germany. The architecture is Germanic, the names of places and people sound German, and the people speak a German dialect, yet they feel themselves very French.

Their main towns – Strasbourg, Colmar, Mulhouse – lie along a slim plain between the Rhine (Rhin) and the pine-clad mountains of the Vosges. This is splendid touring country: you can drive along the summit of the Vosges, via some of the greatest beauty spots (such as the Grand Ballon and the Hohneck), and then visit the romantic castle of Haut-Koenigsbourg, alone above its rolling forests. Or you can take the lower road, through the vineyards that produce the fragrant white wines of Alsace: Riesling, Traminer, Sylvaner. Here the old village of Riquewihr, beautifully preserved, shows classic Alsation architecture at its best, in houses with red-tiled roofs, beamed black-and-white fronts, stone arcades and fountains. You find the same style in other towns, too, even in Strasbourg. This gracious city, with its marvellous pink Gothic cathedral, is proud of its European destiny: the Council of Europe sits here, and the reconstructed frontier bridge across the Rhine symbolizes Franco-German friendship. Strasbourg is also a thriving industrial centre and port. The Alsace region bordering with the other French regions of the Franche-Comte in south-west and Lorraine in the West, Alsace it is the smallest region on the French mainland.

The modern Alsace has a north-south extension of 190 kilometers, while the east-west extension only 50 km. In the East, the Alsace limited by the Rhine River to the west across broad stretches of the main ridge of the Vosges.The main road link in Alsace is the toll highway A 35, it is the north-south connection between Lauterbourg to St. Louis in Basel. South of Strasbourg runs the A 35 to a short stretch as a national road, which is planned to fill this gap. The A 4 leads from Strasbourg to Saverne and continue to Paris. The A 36 leads from the German A 5 from the motorway junction Neuchatel from west in the direction of Paris, Lyon.

Lorraine, like Alsace, is intensely patriotic. If you doubt it, visit the house at Domremy where Joan of Arc was born in 1412, or make a tour of the battlefields and cemeteries of Verdun. The people of Lorraine are phlegmatic and industrious; their prosperity depends on the big iron and steel industries around Metz. Nancy, the largest town, was once the capital of a duchy, and contains one of the finest 18th-cent. ensembles in Europe – the Place Stanislas and the Place de la Carriere. Nancy is more northern than Latin, and hides its warmth of spirit beneath an austere surface. The University has some go-ahead science and engineering colleges. To the S. are the spa towns of Vittel and Contrexeville, in delightful wooded settings. Baccarat has interesting glass factories.
Alsatian cooking, a little on the heavy side for some tastes, includes such dishes as choucroute (sour cabbage in white wine, with sausage and pork), various types of charcuterie, foie gras, snails, coq au Riesling, trout, and Munster cheese. Alsatians, like Germans, are jolly beer drinkers, as much as wine-drinkers. In Lorraine, the special dish is the quiche, a tart with eggs, cream, bacon, and cheese.