Fun things to do in Alsace

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Most Viewed Things to Do in Alsace

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    St. Martin Church

    by rexvaughan Written Mar 29, 2013

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    St. Martin Church is sometimes called a cathedral, but it is not as Colmar has never been the seat of a bishopric. However, it is a 13th Century gothic monument built of red and golden stones with colorful tiled roofs which give it a local Alsatian flavor. It is quite tall and is rife with huge columns which give it a very massive appearance. The inside is very spacious even with more massive pillars. The high apse windows, assisted some by interior lighting give it a somewhat airy appearance. One of the windows in the nave features a unique beardless Christ. The interior includes an ambulatory, a rare feature in Alsatian churches, When we visited, there was a funeral in progress so we did not explore the interior thoroughly. As Alsace has been alternately French and German, the church has alternated being Catholic and Lutheran. At the present, the two share the building.

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    Musée Unterlinden

    by rexvaughan Updated Mar 29, 2013

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    Due to renovation and expansion, part of the museum is closed from June 2012 to spring 2014.

    It is worth visiting the Unterlinden just to see its two most famous works, the Isenheim Altarpiece and Schongauer’s “Virgin of the Rose Bush” painting. It is housed in a 13th century Dominican religious sisters' convent and, outside the Ile de France, it is one of the most visited museums in France. The Christ in the altarpiece features a rather nasty looking skin condition covered with plaque-like sores as it was done for the Monastery of St. Anthony in nearby Isenheim. The monks there were noted not only for caring for plague sufferers, but also those suffering from skin diseases. The message was that he shared their afflictions. Schongauer was known to include people like those he knew on the streets of Colmar in his paintings. Thus, the Madonna has a very human aura.

    Admission for adults is €8 and includes an audioguide. Reduced prices for seniors, youth and children.

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    Sipping the wine

    by rexvaughan Updated Mar 29, 2013

    Among many other unique characteristics of Alsace is its wine. I think it is the only wine region in France which names its wines according to the grape variety: Pinots, Muscat, Reisling and Gewurztraminer being major ones. There are several varieties within the groups and wines can be from very dry to a bit sweeter. Most wines in Alsace are white with the exception of Pinot Noir. Though many share characteristics and names with German wines, there are some which are unique to Alsace.
    There are countless organized tours of the “Wine Road” and a trek along it, whether with a tour or on your own, is a wonderful experience. In addition to delicious wine, the road is littered with exquisitely lovely villages. On our first trip, we rented a car in Colmar and spent half a day enjoying the rolling vineyards and villages with a bit of wine thrown in. On our second trip, a friend arranged for one of her childhood friends to show us around his winery which has been in his family for 13 generations, having started in about 1635. One surprising fact was that the winery produces about 50,000 bottles a year and yet its vineyards cover less than 30 acres which is in about 20 locations. As you can tell, I was impressed with the educational part of the tour as well as the sampling of nine of their wines. This kind of venture is best done NOT driving.

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    Sipping the wine

    by rexvaughan Updated Mar 27, 2013

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    Among many other unique characteristics of Alsace is its wine. I think it is the only wine region in France which names its wines according to the grape variety: Pinots, Muscat, Reisling and Gewurztraminer being major ones. There are several varieties within the groups and wines can be from very dry to a bit sweeter. Most wines in Alsace are white with the exception of Pinot Noir. Though many share characteristics and names with German wines, there are some which are unique to Alsace.
    There are countless organized tours of the “Wine Road” and a trek along it, whether with a tour or on your own, is a wonderful experience. In addition to delicious wine, the road is littered with exquisitely lovely villages. On our first trip, we rented a car in Colmar and spent half a day enjoying the rolling vineyards and villages with a bit of wine thrown in. On our second trip, a friend arranged for one of her childhood friends to show us around his winery which has been in his family for 13 generations, having started in about 1635. One surprising fact was that the winery produces about 50,000 bottles a year and yet its vineyards cover less than 30 acres which is in about 20 locations. As you can tell, I was impressed with the educational part of the tour as well as the sampling of nine of their wines. This kind of venture is best done NOT driving.

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    Kaysersburg

    by rexvaughan Updated Mar 23, 2013

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    This is one of the most beautiful villages on the Wine Road, although each one makes you think you have driven into a picture postcard. Of course it is one of the fine wine growing areas in Alsace and wine produced from the Tokay grape variety is a local specialty. It retains a medieval atmosphere which is typified by the marvelous medieval church. It is also home to a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Albert Schweitzer who was an incredibly multi-faceted man who won wide respect as a musician, physician, theologian and philosopher. We were delighted to find that the home where he was born is now a small museum and the small admission fees (2€) go to support the hospital he founded in Africa.

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    Grand Canal d’Alsace

    by rexvaughan Updated Mar 23, 2013

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    The Rhine is a beautiful river and a major shipping lane but evidently the shallows and swift current in places is a bit of a problem. This channel was built in 1962 to enable shipping between Amsterdam/Rotterdam to Basel/Lyon and also to provide electricity to the area, producing almost a million kwh annually for that purpose.Marckolsheim was supplied with electricity in 1911, with a coal-fired plant located near the Canal du Rhône au Rhin. Since 1962, this role is performed by the hydroelectric plant installed on the Grand Canal d'Alsace. It annually produces an average of 928 million kWh. The locks and power plant are situated on a lovely stretch of the river and we stopped at a good time to see the locks in operation and a long boat coming through.

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    Strasbourg Cathedral

    by rexvaughan Updated Mar 23, 2013

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    I have a theory that every city and town in France has a Notre Dame and Strasbourg is no exception. This magnificent churchwas begun in 1015 but most of what you see is 13th Century Gothic and Romanesque in the red sandstone. There were some later 15th Century additions and refinements. The stonemasons who built the great Chartres Cathedral also worked on this one.

    French poet Paul Claudel described this Cathedral as being like "a pinky-red angel hovering over the city." This 15th Century spire is the symbol of the proud and independent city of Strasbourg. It stands 142 m highand at one time was the tallest building in Christendom. Some in the past have wondered why it stood so alone without a twin and this one was almost destroyed - during the French Revolution it was set for destruction and I don't know why it was spared but am very glad.

    One of the main features of the Cathedral is its Astronomical Clock, a mid-19th Century version of the original 14th Century one. Try to arrive around noon when the clock is in action. There are stories indicating the month and year, the time by the sun and GMT while angels turn over hour glasses. The 12 apostles parade before Christ and pause to pay homage. When Peter appears a cock crows thee times. It is an amazing and wonderful show.

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    Catholics and Protestants together

    by rexvaughan Updated Mar 23, 2013

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    This picturesque little church sits on a hill at the edge of town and overlooks Hunawihr. It is a 16th Century structure with some parts going back earlier and includes a wall around the cemetery beside the church. Due to the back and forth French and German history of Alsace, it has been alternately Catholic and Protestant and is now shared by both. I understand that the Catholics are buried inside the wall and the Protestants outside, so there is still some separation. The clock in the tower is still working. Do you supposed it has been in working order for 500 years?!

    There is a plaque, mounted under an archway, which capsules the whole history of this little church. Evidently the original building was from the 10th Century, the walls around the cemetery from the 13th Century, the bell tower and interior frescoes of St. Nicholas from the 15th Century and the choir, transept and nave from the 16th Century. The church was classified as a historic monument in 1929. I learned a lot from this display and I don't read much French! Thank goodness for pocket dictionaries!

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    WWII Maginot Line

    by rexvaughan Updated Mar 22, 2013

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    Leading up to WWII, a futile effort by the French to ward off German attacks was the construction of the Maginot Line. Named for French Minister of War André Maginot, the line was basically along the borders with Germany, Switzerland and Italy and consisted of concrete fortifications, tank obstacles, artillery casemates, etc. There is one just outside the village of Marckolsheim which our friend took us to see. Unfortunately the interior was not open, but I am not sure that mattered as we were able to see the huge concrete “ouvrage” that was part of the Fortified Sector of Colmar. One of the more interesting parts was a cast iron domed cylinder in front of the fortification. It was obviously built to house and protect (?) maybe three or four soldiers who had slits through which they could fire their weapons. As you can see in the photo, they could withstand some significant gunfire but even if you were not hit, the impact must have created a deafening ring inside.

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    Park des Cygognes (Park of Storks)

    by rexvaughan Updated Mar 22, 2013

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    The stork is a symbol of Alsace; you can see lots of pictures of them nesting on chimneys - this is almost an Alsatian logo. However, a few decades ago the population had shrunk to 5 pairs! To correct this problem this repopulation center was opened and now there are well in excess of 200 pairs. The park also is helping reestablish the otter and has a variety of other wildlife including cormorants and penguins. Penguins in France!!! I would not have believed it if I had not seen it.
    This center does a great job of restoring the stork population and most are in the wild but return to some of the perches and nests provided on the grounds. You can see storks of all ages and there is also an aquarium and pool with sunken viewing level that enables you to watch the cormorants, otters, fish and penguins under water. It would be an ideal place for children. I must say these two old "children" had a great time here.

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    Butterflies everywhere

    by rexvaughan Updated Mar 22, 2013

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    This little center was another delightful surprise. It features both some outdoor and indoor butterfly habitats and a vast variety of buttlerflies in all colors. It is a brilliant display and an ideal place if you have kids along.

    How about this neon blue one on a bright pink orchid! Can't get better than that. Another brilliantly colored butterfly is the red and black one. We are University of Georgia football fans. The team mascot is the Bulldog and the colors are red and black. We named this one 'Bulldog Butterfly!'

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    Colmar

    by christine.j Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    There is no doubt that Colmar is a very beautiful town. Of course we were not the only ones who thought so. Colmar was absolutely crowded!

    Our main reason to come to Colmar was to see the Isenheim Altar by Matthias Grünewald. It is in the Unterlinden Museum.The poor girl at the ticket office was by herself and she also had to take care of the customers in the gift shop.She was doing her best, but it was too much for her.
    We managed to get ahead of the worst crowds and went straight to see the altar. This is a stunning piece of religious art from early 16th century. Well worth coming to Colmar, even if there is no time for anything else.

    Also very interesting:Some paintings are being restored and the work is done in the museum. The area has been cordoned off, but you can watch while the work is being done.

    We would have loved to spend some more time in the museum, but will have to come back again in off-season - if there is an off-season for Colmar.

    Of the two towns I liked Wissembourg much better, but it's difficult to be fair when you can hardly walk because of too many people.

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    Castle Fleckenstein near Lembach

    by elgin99 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The castle ruin is one of the famous and the most imposing fortresses of region Wasgau. It is a specific one because it was from 1129 to 1710 continuously the seat of the Fleckenstein family.

    All about history of castle, family Fleckenstein and pictures are on website by Fleckenstein´s (English)

    Another language links and more links: Links Fleckenstein

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  • Tour the Alsace Wine Route by car

    by eatmanifesto Updated Apr 4, 2011

    The Alsace Wine Routeis perfect for gourmands to sample all the wines and dishes of the region. To top it off, it’s all set in rolling green hills covered with rows of grapevines, dotted with magical fairytale villages and medieval castles.

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    Burg Hochkoenigsburg

    by tini58de Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    This is a very medieval place to visit and enjoy! The Hochkoenigsbourg is a great place to learn about life in former times! You can drive up or walk all the way up - which is quite steep!!! I know, what I am talking about, since our old car almost started boiling while driving up there!!! ;-)

    Still I would highly recommend to visit this castle to everybody!

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Alsace Things to Do

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