I’ve been to large swathes of France, especially the coastal areas, but I hadn’t spent much time in the eastern regions bordering Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, etc. This all changed over the summer when I spent a week in Alsace.
Alsace is a narrow strip of land bordered by the River Rhine and Germany to the east, Switzerland to the south and the Vosges mountain range to the west. The area is heavily Germanic in influence having repeatedly changed hands between the French and Germans over the centuries, resulting in an intriguing mix of French and German culture. The border town of Neuf-Brisach, for example, switched between France and Germany five times in a 150-year period – that’s once every 30 years!
I was staying in a hamlet in the Haut Alsace called Thierhurst where the house we’d rented overlooked a seemingly neverending series of cornfields. Driving through the region, I was struck by the sheer number of cornfields – there were miles upon miles of them and most of the fields we passed (aside from those along the Route du Vin) were filled with row upon row of corn.
As ever I made it my mission to track down the local foods while I was there – the most notable Alsace speciality being the tarte flambée, essentially an ultra-thin pizza topped with cheese, bacon and onions (above). It can be found all over the region and is delicious, although with all the cheese and bacon, it’s quite rich and very filling (not ideal if you’re looking for a light lunch!). I also really enjoyed the local wines, with the local sparkling wine, cremant d’alsace, a particular favourite. Do seek it out if you’re in the region, I made sure to pick up a box to take home with me.
I really enjoyed Alsace, it’s so different to the other parts of France I’ve been to and has a very distinctive culture. I especially enjoyed all the quaint, brightly painted houses in the region; while the scenery was superb and the wine delicious. It was great to see another side to what is probably my favourite country, and it’s made me want to further explore the eastern border areas. Over the next few weeks I’ll be blogging in more detail about the places I visited, so keep an eye out for more about my Alsace adventures.