The Wine Road of Alsace
Stretching more than 170 kilometers from the village of Marlenheim to Thann, La Rue du Vin is one of the most fascinating and beautiful stretches of road in France. Dotted with more than a dozen picturesque villages and acres of rolling vineyards, you could easily spend days and many rolls of film appreciating the views and the culture.
My friends and I tagged along on a trip organized by the University, meant to “educate” us on the culture of the Alsace region. I was curious to experience a part of France not totally overrun by tourists and hopefully hear some of the region’s native language, Alsatian. I wasn’t disappointed on either count.
We left Strasbourg early on Saturday morning and drove south-west for about two hours, finally arriving at the Monastery of St. Odile. As the story goes, in the 7th Century the Duke of Alsace became enraged when his wife bore him a blind daughter instead of the son he craved and attempted to have her killed. The girl, Odile, was rescued by her nurse. Years later, Odile was christened and her sight was miraculously restored. She then decided to dedicate her life to God, setting up a convent in the castle her remorseful father eventually bequeathed her. Today the Monastery sits on a stunning mountaintop with views that stretch for miles and miles. Inside we toured beautifully ordained chapels and were able to see a number centuries old catholic relics. What stuck me the most however, was the amazing sense of peace that surrounds the place. Its really not so surprising that the nuns are content to live their whole live on that mountain. There are certainly worse place to be.
Tearing ourselves reluctantly away, we next journeyed further south along the Wine Road to the Castle of Haut-Koenigsbourg. Situated again, high up on a mountain top the castle was originally built back in the 12 century. It was restored by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1899 to serve as a symbol of German domination of the Alsace region. Today it is one of the most visited sites in France and with good reason. Unlike many castles which are today only ruins, Haut-Koenigsbourg is a almost to good to be true example of Middle Ages architecture. Its a history buff’s dream and a must see if you happen to be in the area.
For lunch we stopped in the picturesque village of Ribeauville and then made our way to Riquewihr. Both small villages are bursting with European charm and beauty. Stop off for locally made chocolate and cheese and then continue on to the baker for a fresh baguette. Just being here is guaranteed to make you want to buy cottage and spend the rest of your life growing grapes. The spell is only broken once your back on the bus and headed home, but you cant erase the memories of a fantastic day wandering around one of Europe’s most picture perfect areas.
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