Well, for me, this would be more of a thing-to-do-thing, but..... who am I to set the standards here :-)
If you are in Wissembourg or close by, and if you like old fortresses, make sure, you go and visit Chateau Fleckenstein, which was one of the most important fortress among the many which are lined up on the east-west French-German border.
The upper fortress sits on a huge sandstone rock and looks almost like a big ship which wrecked in the forest. The majority of the fortress however was carved into the rock formation: stairs, rooms, platforms and the like. You can walk around on the whole site, including climbing on the top.
What I liked very much, it is a kind of "interactive" fortress, surely the interaction is made for kids, but who would deny a bit of a kid in oneself?
All rooms, parts and special places on, in and around the fortress are explained on little plates (in French and German), and some speakers are installed which make sure, you'll get the feeling of the medieval ambience when wandering around. For example, when you walk inside the worn-out staircases, you'll hear knights' fights, very much realistic.
Admission for the castle is 2,50 € per adult and 2,25 € for kids between 4 and 18 years.
(Original tip date: July 2006, updates Sept. 2011: prices adjusted, typos and link to the castle added).
If you are visiting Wissembourg or somewhere in the northern L'Alsace, and if you are interested in pottery, make sure, you pass by in Betschdorf, a tiny village, 20 km southeast of Wissembourg.
In Betschdorf, potters are manufacturing since 1717, and still do it in the traditional way. You can even visit their shops and watch their working on the pottery.
And there is a little pottery museum,
Unfortunately, when we drove by, all was already closed (on a Saturday, 6 p.m.), but you can get a rough idea of the kind of pottery, when checking the website below (of tourism office).
The village is also typically decorated with flowers all and everywhere and when you drive through the main street (Rue du Doctor Deutsch - aehm funny name), you will see it lined up with beautiful half timbered houses.
The southern end, or beginning, of the German Wine Road (one of the first "tourist routes") originally led through this monstrous gate. In the meantime a new road has been built around it and the gate passage has been closed to traffic, so visitors can walk around unharmed.
This looks like a Nazi architecture and it is a Nazi architecture. The gate tower was built in 1935. The eagle on the facade is carrying a wreath which contained a swastika. The swastika has been erased after the war but its traces are still visible.
The wooden platform in the middle can be climbed and offers a view of the village and the Rhine plain. Access is free and open any time.
The side wings contain a restaurant with a beautiful outdoor terrace under chestnut trees, the tourist information office, and a vinotheque.
Under Napoleon, France occupied the entire left bank of the Rhine, so Schweigen became French. The Napoleon Fountain tells of those times. It was originally located right on the border line between Alsace and Palatine. The village community of Schweigen erected it, as the inscription tells, in 1811 to celebrate the birth of Napoleon's son. The fountain has been transferred to the centre of the village later on and can be admired next to the protestant church. Similar fountains can also be found in Alsatian villages.
Schweigen, Wissembourg's next-door neighbour beyond the border, belongs to the wine region of Pfalz (Palatine). If you want to try Palatinate wines, there are several wineries with restaurants and taverns where they serve their own wines with local food.
The village is quite nice but not exceptionally beautiful. Schweigen's most famous monument is the huge Weintor ("Wine Gate") which marks the southern end of the German Wine Road which runs all along the Pfälzer wine region.
If you don't want to walk back after the wine tasting, there are hourly buses (KVV line 543) to both Wissembourg and Bad Bergzabern train stations in the daytime on weekdays, every two hours on weekends. However, check the timetable (www.kvv-efa.de) in advance, in order not to miss the last bus in the early evening.
Schweigen is Wissembourg's northern neighbour, only 2 kms away but beyond the border in Germany. The little wine village is the southernmost place along the German Wine Road.
Getting there is an easy hike through the vineyards. There are several paths, the shortest being along Rue Robert Schumann, which takes half an hour from centre to centre. Other paths are a bit longer and lead higher up into the hills. It does not matter very much which one you take - walk up into the vineyards anywhere along the northern edge of Wissembourg. The higher you are, the wider the view of the Rhine plain.
On sunny summer days, remember that vines love sunlight and warmth - in other words, you are facing a walk in the sun without any trees or other shade. If you are sensitive take a hat or headscarf or parasol; applying sunscreen is also a good idea.
Since the late 17th century Wissembourg has been located in close vicinity to the French-German border. History changes and borders change. This region has seen many many wars and changed owner several times.
Until 1678 Weißenburg was part of the Holy Roman Empire.
In 1678 it became French Wissembourg with Louis XIV's annexion of Alsace.
In the war of 1870/71 Germany conquered it and the town became Weißenburg again.
In 1918, at the end of World War I, it was returned to France.
In World War II from 1940 to 1945 it was occupied by Germany.
Since 1945 it has belonged to France.
The EEC/EU has opened the borders. With the Schengen agreement in 1995, all border controls were abandoned. You simply walk along a path in the wineyards and except for the two signs you won't even notice that you are crossing a border between two states. Aren't we blessed to be able to do this?
Steps lead down to water level. The spot has been covered with a roof to provide some protection from the weather. This is where the women of the town used to do their laundry in the water of the river.
Location: Quai des Frères - along the shortest way for pedestrians from the train station into the old town
The medieval Stephen’s Gate that lead into the town from the north disappeared from the light of day in the 18th century when the French built the much bigger baroque ramparts above it. Excavations in recent years unearthed the arches and walls of the gate. These are visible from the rampart trail.
A short walk further upstream from Hausgenossenturm outside the old town you reach Walkmühle, an old water mill that now is an upscale hotel and restaurant.
The name tells that this mill was not used for milling grain but for the fulling (“walken”) of wool, felt, or fabric.
The German 3rd Army was made up of units of the various German allies - Prussia, Bavaria, Baden and Wurttemburg. This battle - 4 August 1870 - was the first in which they had operated together - Bavaria had actually been fighting against Prussia alongside Austria during the 1866 war. It was probably well that they outnumbered the French by such a large number so that they had enough room to spare for mistakes. Casualties were relatively similar on each side - Germans lost 1,500 to the 1,300 French casualties, though another 900 would be captured - but the effectiveness of the different units was not. An entire Bavarian corps was set upon the town, making little progress until town fathers not wanting their town destroyed open the city gates. Up the Geisberg, Prussian attacks took advantage of overwhelming numbers in both men and artillery pieces to push aside the French, many of whom survived and escaped toe nearby Woerth where another, larger battle would erupt two days later.
The former Dominican monastery was closed down in the French Revolution. In recent years what was left of the church and convent buildings has been turned into a cultural centre.