Alsace is certainly different. While it may be in France the locals seem to identify with being Alsatian first and French second. The region has had a turbulent past, being a prize in multiple conflicts between France and Germany. Its history, architecture and local wine all combine to make it a fascinating place to explore.
Our timing (end of August) for a visit to Colmar couldn’t have been better. Town and village wine festivals, bands playing, and glorious weather made it a memorable holiday. Not to mention, the added bonus of Lauren being our local tour guide, now that she lives here in this picturesque part of France
The term “Chocolate box” has been used a few times on our travel blog to describe towns and villages that are of the ‘cute’ variety. Just about all the towns and villages we visited in the Alsace region fit into this category. The French and German architectural influences combining to create something special. You could spend a day or two wandering around Colmar’s “old town” admiring buildings, but I had a museum visit planned.
Near Colmar is the Cite de l’Automobile which is a Bugatti lover’s paradise. It is a quality collection with lots of variation to please car lovers of any genre. My favourite section was the collection of Grand Prix racing cars starting from the 1950’s right through to some modern day examples.
If you are into Bugattis, then this place is definitely for you! I saw more Bugattis in one day than I have seen in my whole lifetime. The Bugatti Royale was an impressive looking car, stylish but also beautifully engineered.
That evening was spent in usual French fashion, eating a variety of the local dishes. Mine involved a smoked pork joint and Kate indulged in the cheesey goodness of a Tarte Flambe. I should mention at this stage that the Munster cheese from this region is delicious, albeit a little smelly. We made friends with the french couple next to our table by sending a small bottle of wine back and asking for a large one (this seems to impress the French) and they happened to mention a wine festival in Eguisheim that was happening on Sunday. More about that later.
The walk home involved passing a mini wine festival so we stopped to try a few of the local regional wines. The local Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat d’Alsace, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer were all worth tasting. So much so, we repeated our stopover on the way home the following night!
The Route des Vins d’Alsace (Alsace wine route) follows a range of hills to the west of Colmar, they run as far north as Strasbourg and south to Mulhouse. We visited a couple of wine villages, the first being Kaiserberg. Kaiserberg featured more of the beautiful old buildings from this region and it also had a tower/castle over-looking the town and valley. Appropriately the view was vineyards for miles.
Eguisheim for the wine festival was the next day’s destination and what a great day out it was. The festival had brass bands (think Rio carnival versus the military type) that were in competition with each other. All of them were excellent. As well as the bands, the festival celebrates the Alsatian culture and most importantly the local wines.
I don’t drink much white wine and the sweeter varieties don’t normally appeal to me but I have to say the Riesling from the Eguisheim Caves was very good, with subtle differences between the houses, even in such a small village.
We will of course go back to Colmar to visit Lauren, explore more villages, eat amazing food and try more of the local wines. Next time I’ll take my hiking boots to go walking in the hills and maybe work off a few calories from all the rich and creamy food.