Copyright Image – Alsace Tourist office
The Haut Rhin to the south of Alsace has an almost fairytale aura about its medieval flower bedecked villages, especially Turkheim where it is not unusual to see a nesting stork on the roof. These birds, frequently illustrating tourist publications for Alsace, are now the subject of a conservation order as their numbers had declined dramatically in recent years. Here you can also find the last night watchmen to be found in France.
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Equally appealing is Riquewihr, with its double city wall and medieval centre and the villages of Niedermorschwir, Amerschwihr and especially Kayserberg with its castle overlooking the plain. The houses are half-timbered with flower-bedecked balconies and the villages are scattered amongst the vineyards. Best known of the department’s cheeses, the production of Munster from the village of the same name, is strictly controlled and it is only made from the milk of herds grazed in the pasture of the Vosges using a technique originated by monks and closely guarded to this day. It is a good accompaniment to the excellent local wines.
Colmar, the capital of Alsatian wine, is ideally placed, equidistant from Strasbourg and Basle, the Vosges and the Rhine and for its proximity to the most beautiful vineyard villages. Its name derives from the Colombarium tower in the middle of the Carolingien domain. A charming city, the old town centre has retained the authentic flavour of its heritage from the middle ages with a wealth of half timbered houses with balconies, carved timber facades, churches, cloisters, gables and Renaissance edifices. The leather maker’s district has been restored and is amongst the most picturesque corners of Colmar, often referred to as ‘Little Venice’. Auguste Bartholdi, creator of the famous ‘Statue of Liberty’ in New York, was born here in 1834. There is a museum in his honour whilst the Museum of d’Unterlinden is brimming with archeological and artistic works.
Mulhouse, is the second most significant city for museums in France after Paris. Amongst them is the famous Schlumpf collection of over 400 automobiles, mainly Bugatti’s, housed in over 2 hectares and including many prestigious names from Rolls-Royce, Mercedes, Ferrari and Porsche. Here is the personal ‘Royale Bugatti’ of Ettore Bugatti and those belonging to other famous people including Charlie Chaplin. The air is very unpolluted as the city has many parks and just nearby is the Forest of Tannenwald, a vast peaceful area of 300 hectares with over 25 kms of pathways. Also worthy of a visit are the towns of Sélestat with its beautiful Eglise St George and Saverne on the River Zorn.