The Christmas market of Wissembourg is open on the four Advent weekends, Sat and Sun 11:00-19:00. It is located next to the abbey church. The market is not big but worth a visit, especially for foodies.
The merchants are mostly local producers offering their Alsatian specialities: sausages, ham, cheese, bread, biscuits, French nougat, jam and honey... Others have Christmas decorations, soap, and similar. Some charity organizations have stalls there, too. The price level qualifies as acceptable, even surprisingly low for the excellent quality of the products.
Glühwein is served, unfortunately, in plain plastic cups. This year (2011) there is good news for mug collectors, they have real mugs now but only upon request and for 2 € more. However, there is one stall right next to the bridge that sells hot organic fruit juice. The price of 3€ includes the mug and you can select from a collection of very cute Christmas mugs. The spiced apple and prune juices are really really tasty (and non-alcoholic). The Rotary Club's pea soup deserves a honourable mentioning.
Another new addition is a (rather smallish) ice rink for children. Skates can be rented.
More photos in the travelogue.
Most pâtisséries sell Kougelhopf, cakes from yeast dough baked in a round mould with a hole in the middle, a very typical shape. The Kougelhopf (in German: "Gugelhupf") is a traditional Alsatian cake with raisins and almonds. They have it in different sizes, I also saw (and bought and tried) a very small one-person variety, good if you just want to taste it.
However, Kougelhopf is not as sweet as other cakes. It is not supposed to be served with coffee or tea. The appropriate drink to have with this cake is a dry Gewürztraminer, a variety of white wine that has a flowery, perfumed flavour.
In Wissembourg I also found a sweeter variety, entitled "Kougelhopf douce".
On the second and third Advent Sunday the Living Nativity is set up in Place de la République. Donkey and sheep are real animals. The human roles are taken by children.
The children who perform the living picture are scouts who raise money for their activities with this, so please leave them a little donation in the box.
The sign of two crossed knives in the shape of a sickle is displayed on several houses in town. These are the typical vine-dresser’s knives and indicate the houses where winemakers used to live, probably (I guess) members of a certain guild.
Everybody in Europe seems to have a favorite farmer who has a still - known to the tax collector or not. For us mere tourist, a good alternative exists in a fine micro-distiller like Distillerie Hoeffler. JC Hoeffler follows the old traditions of eau-de-vie and creates a whole mix of different schnapps and eau-de-vies from a whole range of fruits that can be found in the Alsace. IF you have any questions as to the bush or plant the fruit grows from, you just need to step out onto the patio where a sample of each is grown. You will find the distillery on the east end of Lobsann which is a few miles south of Wissembourg near Woerth.
The traditions and music of Alsace come alive during the May Pentecost Festival. Local wines can be sipped and Alsatian tarte flambes can be tasted. Fireworks caps the multi-day festival. Be aware the festival is very popular. If you are staying here, get a room beforehand!
There is a wide variety of traditional Alsatian costumes and it is quite interesting to not the differences:
of course there are differences between the northern part of the Alsace and the southern part, but then also between the Protestant Alsatians and the Catholic Alsatians and then there is the time factor.
The predominant colors are black white and red and throughout the Alsace the women used to wear aprons over their skirts. The little ribbons on the bonnets vary in number and lenght (also a regional difference to be observed).
Today you will not be able to see the costumes much other than in a museum or at some local festivities.
The Alsace has been a stip of land fought over for centuries and it has belonged to France and Germany back and forth. Knowing this you might understand why you will find both French and German signs and inscriptions throughout this region.
Oftentimes you can get along with German, especially with older people. They have a dialect that is similar to the dialects on the other side of the border.
So the road signs that will show you how to get to this beautiful city will either have Wissembourg (French) or Weissenburg (German) on them.
In the Alsace you will find a road sign next to the village sign, telling you, if you are just visiting a "blooming village". The more flowers you find on the sign (the maximum is 4), the more flowers you will find in the village.
Wissembourg is only a one flower ville fleurie, but still it is a wonderful decoration!