Alsace

 

Alsace is France’s smallest region and you’ll find it in the top right-hand corner. It’s sandwiched between the Vosges mountains to the West and the Black Forest mountains across the Rhine in Germany. It’s a classic example of "horst and graben" geology from the Oligocene era (about 30 million BC.) Think of a Black Forest Gateau that’s been heavily leant on. The good news is this makes Alsace one of France’s driest regions, because er, the rain only rains on the hills and er, sorry Sir, can you explain that bit again?

The half-timbered houses of Alsace are one of the region’s most striking features. For most of its history, much of Alsace was flooded on a yearly basis. ( But I thought you said it was one of the driest regions in France? Oh, ok it doesn’t rain much but the Rhine floods.) In the days before flood damage insurance, the Alsatians (the people, not the dogs) decided that the best solution to this predictable inundation was to build wooden kit-homes, which could be dismantled, moved somewhere drier and reassembled in a day. Having found somewhere dry, you’d think they’d just leave it there, wouldn’t you?

The Oaths of Strasbourg have nothing to do with the sort of language you hear today in Strasbourg’s rush-hour. They were pledges of allegiance sworn in 842 by royal brothers Louis the German and Charles the Bald. Charles the Bald was, of course, succeeded by Charles the Fat and Louis the Stammerer. That must have kept the tabloids busy.

When in Alsace, you must visit the remains of the Maginot Line, that Sinclair C5 of fortifications. The young Charles de Gaulle did suggest that francs might be better spent on some aircraft, but André Maginot was having none of this modern nonsense and built a system of defences all the way from the Med up until Belgium. The Belgians are, after all, friendly people who eat chips with mayonnaise. And waffles. Maginot was outraged when the ungentlemanly Germans either flew OVER his Line or walked through Belgium.

The pretty town of Colmar is the second driest town in France (in terms of climate, not alcohol. There are plenty of bars.) Charles the Fat held a Diet there in 884. No, really. Actually I think it was some sort of parliament.

One of Colmar’s most notorious sons was Georges-Charles de Heekeren d’Anthès, the man who shot Russia’s favourite poet Pushkin. Pushkin caught d’Anthès looking at his wife "in a funny way," Pushkin’s wife Natalya did nothing to discourage d’Anthès and, in an early example of cyber-bullying, d’Anthès circulated an anonymous letter at court, casting doubt on Pushkin’s abilities in the bedroom department. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but it’s no match for a state-of-the-art 1837 duelling pistol. Especially when fired by a trained soldier with so many names.

Colmar was also the birthplace of Frédéric Bartholdi, the sculptor who created the Statue of Liberty. Apparently he modelled the face of the Statue after his mother and the body after his mistress. Worrying.

© 2008 richardheacock @ mac.com

Alsace Location

Alsace is located in eastern France on the border with Germany located on the west bank of the Upper Rhine, adjacent to Germany and Switzerland.  It is the smallest region in France. Two departments: Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin.

Alsace Landscape

It contains many forests, primarily in the Vosges and in Bas-Rhin (Haguenau Forest). Several valleys are also found in the région. Its highest point is the Ballon de Guebwiller in Haut-Rhin, which reaches a height of 1426m.

Alsace Attractions

Although the region is in one of France’s most industrialised areas, there is plenty to enjoy! The region is famous for
its white wines, beer and gastronomy (dominated by sauerkraut!). The servings are plentiful with many pork dishes.

Route du vin d’Alsace (Wine route of Alsace)- Any tourist office will provide a map. It is well signposted, but you should get a map to avoid getting lost! For the adventurous try hiring a bike and enjoy!
Other attractions include:

  • Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg
  • Musée de l’automobile de Mulhouse
  • Ungersheim open air museum
  • Cité du train museum in Mulhouse
  • Christmas markets in Kaysersberg, Strasbourg, Mulhouse and Colmar
  • Struthof concentration camp
  • Schoenenbourg fort of the Maginot line

Alsace Weather

Alsace has a semi-continental climate with cold and dry winters and hot summers. There is little precipitation because the Vosges protect it from the west. The city of Colmar has a sunny microclimate; it is the second driest city in France, with an annual rainfall of just 550 mm.

Getting there

There are two international airports in Alsace. Ryanair flies to Mulhouse and the other airport is at Strasbourg. There are plans for the TGV to run from Paris to Strasbourg in 2007. From the UK, there are autoroute links from Calais into the region.

Alsace population

1,734,145 (1999) – 3rd most densely populated region in France.

Major Towns/Cities

The major towns are:

  • Strasbourg
  • Colmar
  • Mulhouse

Strasbourg whilst a business centre, is also home to numerous parks and gardens with the enchanting old quarters like "La Petite France" and the sector around the Cathedral. The Ill River meanders its way around the city, circling the centre of town, which has been pedestrianised.

Colmar is a lovely town – the Capital of Alsatian wines. Colmar is also the birthplace of the sculptor Bartholi who created the Statue of Liberty in New-York. The old quarter "quartier des Tanneurs" (Tanners district) is well worth a stroll and the fishmarket dating back to the 17th century opens onto what is known as the "Petite Venise" (Little Venise).

Mulhouse is a bustling town With its Place de l’Europe Mulhouse echoing its ties with Europe. Mulhouse is both a historic and modern town with its Renaissance Town Hall surrounded by ornate period houses and its modern tower: Tour de l’Europe. It has also numerous parks, gardens and green areas.

Alsace Property Selection

Listed below are the departments in the region of Alsace; the number of properties in each department are denoted in brackets - click on a department to see the properties available.

All the properties in Alsace by department.
(Number in brackets = number of properties)