A Trip to Alsace, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog
In the eastern part of France, along the Rhine River and the borders of Germany and Switzerland, lies the region known as Alsace. The colorful history and culture of this area could never be told in a brief post. From ancient time to the present, the land has been part of the Holy Roman Empire, the Frankish Realm, German Empire, Kingdom of France, Nazi Germany, modern-day France and others. The fusion of cultures and languages makes the area a fascinating trip through history, tradition, architecture and cuisine. A prominent feature of the region today is the wine vineyards. A trip down the wine road is a delight. I have done it often.
Although you can take a flight to Paris and go on to Strasbourg, the largest city of Alsace, by train, the more efficient and cheaper transit may be to fly to Frankfurt/Main, as I did on my most recent journey. From there you have several choices to reach Strasbourg. I have taken the Lufthansa bus in the past, but this time my friend recommended Flixbus.
This is a relatively new service connecting many western European cities with a “reliable and green alternative” to other services. The new buses and quick trip to Strasbourg, along with the significantly cheaper prices compared to the Lufthansa bus, make it the best choice if the timetable fits your schedule. This time it worked best and I arrived quickly in the center of Strasbourg.
My friend collected me at the bus stop and on we went to the small town of Selestat, which dates back to at least 727 AD. We have spent much of our time together here in recent years. It is the center of our adventures. For me, the best part of the trip is to sit on the small balcony of his apartment, look at the castles on the hills around us and enjoy a local beer or glass of Alsacien white wine.
It is not necessary to go to exotic and expensive places to have a good time. We watch sports and eat together in my friend’s apartment. We visit with friends and relatives. We make some local stops, but the time together discussing American sports is more enjoyable than I could explain.
When my friend was off to work, I took in some of the local sites with his father. He speaks no English and I know little French. It does not matter, we have a good time. At least I am having a good time and I think he is too. Sometimes I do not understand where we are going until we arrive. I don’t mind. It will be fun. Our first adventure took us to a local distillery museum. It is new and has interactive displays. At the end you finish in a gift shop (of course) where we sampled their main product, Eau-de-vie (water of life). It is really a clear, fruit brandy. A friend of mine calls it French moonshine. It will certainly wake you up if you took a morning tour of the museum and gift shop as we did.
If a clear brandy does not suit your taste, perhaps the local chocolate museum and shop will. On our next adventure, all I understood from my friend’s father was chocolate was in our immediate future. How could I say no?
So off we went to learn about the making of chocolate and to see a demonstration by a craftsmen who melted chocolate and then created leaves and animals and a variety of chocolate charms to the delight of the crowd.
The chocolatier spoke French so I understood little, but watching him create was a joy.
The region is dotted with small towns that are a step back in history. We have no such places in the US, as these town contain buildings that pre-date America. The culture has evolved over many more centuries and the history of many of these locales tells tales that would delight an historian. In each of the stops, we see a lifestyle unlike our own. I particularly enjoy the ancient churches for what they tell us of the individual towns.
It was love and sacrifice that brought people together to build unique structures before there was any modern technology or construction equipment.
I could wander endlessly through the streets of these old towns and villages, stopping in shops to view the local wares. It is a joy to have a cup of coffee at one stop, a pastry at another and perhaps a wine at another. The slow pace of exploration is so much more pleasant than the tourist traps of the major cities.
Yes, I enjoyed Paris and would even go again, if I could, but the back streets of the small towns will fill your eyes with delight and warm your soul for reasons you will not fully comprehend.
Each time the sun sets on our visit in France, the sadness grows a little stronger. That is because there is one less adventure in our future, one less year to be together. It is also a time of joy, because there was one more adventure and one more memory to take home.