A glass of Alsatian wine is like a summer dress or a flower in spring, it’s the ray of sunshine that simply makes life brighter – Christian Dior.
You’ll be enchanted by the incomparable beauty of the villages and towns of the Alsatian wine route, composed of traditional 15th and 16th century half timbered homes, decorated with ornate wooden rails and balconies overflowing with colourful hues. Mythical Castles and Churches have been silent witnesses to the history of Alsace which has changed hands quite a few times between France and Germany in the last 150 years.
Nestled between the Vosges mountains and the Rhine river, it borders Switzerland and Germany and although it is a part of France, its borders have not been clear.
The Alsatian wine route located in Eastern France spans 170 km, starting near Strasbourg in the north and ending just south of Colmar. This picturesque region of Alsace is the truest and closest rendition of fairy tale charm I’ve ever encountered. Food, wine, and architecture are the perfect matter for chatter.
A string of picturesque villages, the Alsace route de Vins has everything you could wish for. Colmar is at the heart of this route and would be a perfect base to explore these gems. Spoilt for choice I settled on Eguisheim, Colmar, Riquewihr, Ribeauvillé, Turckheim and Kaysersberg, the canvas for our next sojourn and Eguisheim was our first jewel.
Getting Into Eguisheim
Europe has a fine network of buses, trains, busy subways, lazy countryside trams and the occasional taxi, so take your pick. We really have been able to shrink a lot of Europe using their public transport, but of course nothing says more romantic than plying the Europe countryside in a period 69 Beetle.
So here begun our little adventure –
Frankfurt via Strasbourg to Colmar (approximately 3 hours) via train and then hired a cab from Colmar to Eguisheim (approx. 7 kms which took around 10 minutes, there are also buses but not very frequent). We finally arrived at Hotel St. Hubert, a cosy and quaint little haven just outside the gates of Eguisheim. We retired for the night eagerly looking forward to the next morning.
Blue skies, golden sunshine drenching the overflowing petunias and geraniums, colourful half timbered houses and the narrow cobbled stoned streets….Eguisheim sparkles with individuality and hidden charm.
Eguisheim is a member of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (The most beautiful villages of France) and in 2013 was voted as the most favourite French village and for good reason.
The village houses around 1600 people. We made our way to the tourist office for a map -the quaintest office ever, took our time while wandering the rue des ramparts, it’s medieval past everywhere, the engravings and coat of arms on the door lintels and on the beams of half timbered houses. There is quite a bit of history packed into this small village.
Léon IX was said to have been born in this region. A statue honouring the Pope can be found in the main square – Place du Château.
While we were at the square we heard a resounding clackety clack…and glancing up, to our amazement we saw these large black and white birds on a rooftop! Storks have been part of Alsace for centuries and are thought to be symbols of happiness and faithfulness and bring fertility and good luck.
We had by now gone around in circles…literally, as Eguisheim is wrapped in concentric circles around the castle. I just couldn’t stop capturing these pictures right out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
Doors opened into delightful courtyards…with Winstubs (wine lounges) and this was just perfect timing… we were both ravenous and enthusiastic about sipping our first glass of Alsatian wine.
Eguisheim, is the cradle of the Alsatian vineyards. It was here that the Romans planted the first vines in Alsace. The predominant grapes here are Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat.
So here we were contemplating what our first Alsatian meal would be!!! Flammekueche (Tarte flambee- Alsatian Pizza, super thin topped with cream, onions, bacon and mushrooms) an Alsatian beer for my better half and foie gras (a delicacy that is also controversial) and a glass of Pinot Gris for me. I loved the complex fruity flavours of the wine and I ended up devouring his Flammekueche (very highly-recommended).
After a hearty meal we headed back to the mischievous maze Eguisheim had tricked us into. Tourists were now making their way back. Eguisheim is a popular day trip from Colmar and a lot of tourists don’t spend the night as it takes roughly around an hour to walk the village at leisure. I would definitely recommend at least 24 hours to soak in the bygone era of knights and princesses.
We stopped for a coffee at one of the quaint little cafés Le Café. Eguisheim was in its glory….twilight had cast a spell, the contrasts were stunning .
It is evident that the Alsatians take great pride in their home, the flower laden windows, carefully overgrown creepers, flower painted window blinds transforming their homes into open air museums.
We had Eguisheim all to ourselves. To round of our visit we went for a long walk, surrounding the village were lush green mountains and vineyards. We lost track of time and missed dinner time in the village. We walked back to the hotel and had a quiet dinner with our favourite flammekueche and our favourite wine. Enchanted by Eguisheim, we fell asleep in the cradle of Alsace…..dreaming of our next…. Colmar