We had a spare day in Alsace and looking for something to do, we decided to visit either the Ecomusée d’Alsace or Staufen-im-Breisgau, on the edge of the Black Forest and famous for its association with Doctor Faustus. The Ecomusée won. Partly because it was closer, and partly because our hosts gave us some money off vouchers to use there.
Luckily, it turned out to be absolutely fabulous. The Ecomusée is an open-air museum dedicated to rural life in Alsace over the last couple of centuries. It’s deceptively big and despite expecting to spend only an hour or so there, we were there for almost four hours and could have spent longer looking around.
The Ecomusée is a collection of 74 buildings that have been dismantled and rebuilt, brick by brick. It’s an incredible achievement and it’s great fun walking through the museum village and discovering the many buildings and industries each one represents. There’s a pottery and a blacksmiths (each with working potters and blacksmiths), a barber’s, an olive oil maker’s, a house dedicated to Alsatian fashion and many, many more. There are also farms and houses belonging to different classes of people (including a castle with pretty, romantic gardens) to show how people at different levels of society lived.
What amazed me most was that you could walk right through each furnished house and there were no guards watching your every move (as happens in the UK). You were just trusted to look around and leave everything as you found it.
The museum is home to lots of animals including ducks, donkeys, goats, pigs and chickens. One of my favourite things were the storks on the roofs of many of the houses. I’ve never seen storks up close before and I had a great time spotting them on the different roofs (above).
During our visit, there was an exhibition on the illustrator Hansi in the old train station, which was really interesting, and we tried some Alsatian specialities, too – an apple fritter, which was really good. We also took the opportunity to take a gentle boat ride through the museum’s network of waterways. The water was really still and there were loads of ducks to be seen hiding among the reeds and foliage. Gliding through the water, the place had a swampy feel to it and it reminded me of the Louisiana bayous I’ve seen on TV.
The Ecomusée was brilliant and gave me a real insight into Alsatian culture through the years. I’d heartily recommend it to anyone visiting the area.
Ecomusée d’Alsace, Chemin Grosswald, 68190 Ungersheim, France
€15 Adults, €10 Concessions and Children