Touring In Alsace

The Alsace could very easily be described as the original Melting Pot of the European wine regions.  The culture, cuisine, and wine directly reflect the influences of centuries of war, politics, migrations, and religion.  Separated from Germany to the east by the Rhine River and from the rest of France by the Vosges Mountains to the west, Alsace (Pronounced ahl zas) is uniquely its own.  Even the language the locals speak is unique, as many families speak Alsacien or Elässisch, a dialect peculiar to the region that is quite different from either French or German.

Of all the regions in France, Alsace is the one in which it is still easy to find villages that are outwardly much as they were in the Middle Ages.  With traditional half-timbered houses and extant fortifications, these villages typically still have their centuries old walls surrounding them and church steeples rising up out of the middle.  To add to the picture postcard scenery, vineyards outside of the villages run right up to the edges of the towns while the surrounding hilltops are dotted with ruined castles and fortresses from a time gone by. 

For the independent traveler, Alsace is a dream come true.  Most of the towns in the region are linked together with the Route des Vins.  With signs constantly pointing the way to the next town or village, the traveler is greeted upon their arrival by a signboard in the main square of each village, listing local wine makers and their address.

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The foods and wines of Alsace both reflect the German and French influences.  While Alsatian wines are mostly made with German grapes, they are made in a drier, more "French" manner.  Alsatian foods, meanwhile, typically use German foods like sausages and cabbages, but prepare them in a French manner.  The resulting regional menu offers foods that range from baeckeoffe, the regional stew that is served on a daily basis, to pâté de foie gras, which is a sensory experienced guaranteed to melt your taste buds.

Festivals are a regular part of life in Alsace, celebrating everything from the grape harvest to almonds.  This sensory ecstasy reaches its pinnacle in November and December when the region taps into its German heritage with the Christmas Markets.   Towns and villages from Strasbourg south to Mulhouse transform into the proverbial Winter Wonderland with Christmas Markets that are complete with stalls selling crafts, confections, foods, and mulled wines while being lit up by Christmas lights.

Following are some on-line resources that we've found to be excellent planning resources:

Frommers

Lonely Planet

Michelin Guides

Rough Guides

Yahoo Travel!

Visit-Alsace

La Route Des Vins D'Alsace


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