IN ALSACE-LORRAINE, FOR THAT WINTER FEEL

IN ALSACE-LORRAINE, FOR THAT WINTER FEEL

A camper tour to explore magical towns, in a fairy-tale landscape.

Let's head off by camper to discover some of the most beautiful cities of Alsace-Lorraine: Obernai, Strasbourg and Colmar; excellent local wines and Gothic architecture. 

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Let's visit the French region that lies on the border with Germany, washed by the Reno River at the foot of the Vosges Mountains. Here, magical forests, medieval towns and a varied world of traditions await the visitors who climb up the Reno Valley to discover Obernai, Strasbourg and Colmar.
Snow is scarce even in the middle of Winter in this region where the climate permits the production of wine at up to more than 400 metres of altitude.  To compensate, the damp air that encounters the cold currents from the north, covers the woods with a thick layer of brine creating a fable-like panorama. The landscape and the atmosphere is welcoming and magical, making these areas perfect for a weekend.

Obernai

    

The town is one of the favourite destinations for those visiting Alsace. We park the camper near the Medieval wall that surrounds the city and set off on a journey of discovery.

The stop allows us to take in a wonderful city with elegant shops selling traditional products and small restaurants, enjoy the tranquil rhythm of the life at the foot of the Vosgi Mountains and taste products from the surrounding vineyards. Large part of the small city remains as it was in the 13th century. Here the “maisons à colombages” - timber framed houses - are a wonderful site for tourists.
The reason for its popularity, apart from the market stalls filled with traditional foods and spicy warm wine (white rather than red), is the strategic position with the railway station only 5 minutes from the town centre and parking. There is also a train connection with nearby Strasbourg and Colmar around every half hour.  The perfect chance to visit the main markets without traffic and parking problems. 

In the evening, the small wooden chalets that line the small squares of the belfry, welcome wine producers who offer their products including various liqueurs for tasting and sale.  A chat, a glass of wine, tasting of traditional products and freshly-baked bread: this is the perfect aperitif for those who have been on the move all day and are ready to dine out in one of the excellent restaurants of Obernai. Or you can eat in the camper, savouring cheeses, cold cuts, wine and other delicacies cooked in the square: sauerkraut and fried cabbage, potatoes and sausages, just to name a few.

    

Strasbourg. Capital of the Region and Seat of the European Parliament

     

Thirty kilometres to the north we find the city of Strasbourg.
The capital of the Alsace and seat of the European Parliament and European Council, Strasbourg is a multi-lingual and multi-ethnic city. Many also see this city as the European capital of Christmas; during the Christmas period it expresses its multifaceted culture and traditions with markets dedicated to the various European countries, such as those in Place Gutenberg. Local artisan products are to be found in the great Place Broglie, where the Fédération Régionale des Métiers d’Art d’Alsace displays objects derived from ancient cultures. 

The popularity of “Christkindelsmärik” to many tourists is also down to one of the most ancient traditions: the first Marché de Noël (christmas market) was staged here in 1570. These markets not only tell the story of the evolution of a traditional event, now common in all Europe, but that of the appearance of the customary Christmas trees. 
In the Medieval period, as recorded in an ancient documented archived in the library of Sélestat (a town located between Obernai and Colmar), a tree was placed in the church and decorated with white apples to represent the tree of knowledge in Eden. Wafers were added to the fruit over time to strengthen the Eucharistic connection. Over the centuries the traditional of adorning the tree also with red and green apples came to be popular amongst the parishioners.  At the end of the 16th century, paper decorations were also used and in the 17th century, gilded nuts and silver threads made their appearance. The wafers were replaced with almond sweets and anise bread.   From then onwards the branches were decorated with moulds, garlands, wax angles and paper stars. The master glass blowers also added glass droplets and spheres.  The Christmas tree came into being. 

The city is rich in monuments and historical buildings.  The double French-German identity makes Strasbourg fascinating and cosmopolitan; the best of the two nationalities lives on in its architecture, social structure, art and gastronomy.  A perfect equilibrium of German consistency and French elegance.
The Cathedral is one of the most important works of architecture, an example of the highest expression of the Gothic style in Europe, a "marvel of greatness and beauty" as defined by Victor Hugo. From the 142 metre-high steeple you can take in the extraordinary spectacle of the view over Grande Île and all of Strasbourg. The façade portal is considered the greatest Bible of the Medieval in terms of its extraordinary narrative and symbolic force.

The Cathedral Square is the crossroads of the old town of Strasbourg that is overlooked by some of the city's most important buildings. Apart from the Cathedral, from which it takes its name, of immediate impact is the profile of the Maison Kammerzell, the most beautiful house in Strasbourg that was constructed by a rich cheese trader, Bronn, on the stone workshops (still visible).  The upper section, Bronn's home and warehouse, was made in wood and decorated with animals, warriors and grotesque figures. 

The more romantic visitors looking to capture a heart in Strasbourg, have a secret weapon in store: Petite-France, is the most intact and picture-postcard area of the old town. For many centuries it was inhabited by millers, tanners and fishermen.  The houses in the Petite-France area have remained as they were in the 1500s, with pitched roofs, balconies adorned with flowers and windows overlooking the water. The barns and the warehouses have been replaced by artisans' workshops and souvenir shops, but the fascination of the area remains unchanged.  One of the most photographed views of Petite-France is the “Ponts Couverts” (covered bridges) that have kept the name even though the coverage disappeared in the 1700s. The quarters of Petit-France, the squares and the lanes overlooking the canals feature hundreds of wooden chalets where you can sample traditional sweets and Alsace wines.
A visit to to the Rohan Palace Museums is a must. Constructed as accommodation for important bishops, this beautiful palace in the city is just a few metres from the Cathedral and houses 3 important museums: Fine Arts, Decorative Arts and the Archaeological Museum.  All warrant a visit.

    

Colmar, little Venice

    

Numerous buildings with exposed wooden beams can be spotted along the canals of the Little Venice, one of the historical quarters of the city, where hundreds of timber-framed houses overlook the canals.

But Colmar is unique not just because of its medieval buildings, one of the most important being the Gothic cathedral of Saint Martin. The centre preserves splendid examples of Renaissance architectures and the entrance of the city features a 12-metre reproduction of the Statue of Liberty. Its creator, Auguste Bartholdi, was born in Colmar and the man - an assistant to Gaibaldi in the French-Prussian war - lends his name to the museum that houses a number of preparatory studies.
The old town is the site of markets winding along the canals, lanes and squares such as those in the Place des Dominicains, where the wooden chalets offer Christmas decorations of every type and size.  The square dedicated to Joan of Arc is the site of miniature medieval houses selling regional foods such as foie gras, cold cuts, sweets, wines, distilled beverages and ginger cakes. 
At the Place de l’Ancienne Douane, a beautiful bronze statue is dedicated to Lazare de Schwendi, an Imperial bailiff who served Charles V and Maximillian II. In 1565 he took part in a siege on the Tokaj fortress in Hungary, from where he transported a number of the famous vines, so generating the Tokay d'Alsace denomination that remained until 2007 when the Hungarians reclaimed the name. It is now officially known as Pinotgris d’Alsace. The square dedicated to regional wine production could not be elsewhere, here you can sample important white and red wines.  The city is also the showcase for artisan products for the young: toys and group games of many types abound.  For the adults, visits and tastings to the inns of the old town are a must.  Rue de l’Ange, Rue de l’Ours, Rue du Stauffen and Rue de la Fecht offer guided visits to help you discover more about Alsatian wines.

USEFUL INFORMATION
For general information visit the sites www.tourisme-alsace.com, www.tourisme-obernai.fr, www.otcolmar.fr, www.otstrasbourg.fr
STOPS AND CAMPING SITES 
Obernai:
there are two large areas for parking with public services and camper service. The municipal Le Vallon de l’Ehn camping service is open from March to January (1 Rue de Berlin, tel. 0033/3/88953848, www.camping-obernai.fr, camping@obernai.fr). The Camping de l’Ill, is served by three bus lines (1 Allée du Camping, www.campingdelill.fr, colmar@camping-indigo.com).
A stopping area (fee charged) is located near the river port (Port de Plaisance, Rue du Canal).
Strasbourg:
The Parking Relais-Tram Elsau di Rue Charles Winter is a day parking area close to the tram stop. The complete list of parking areas can be viewed at  www.cts-strasbourg.fr. The Deux Rives hostel has a small equipped communal area (Rue des Cavaliers, tel. 0033/3/88455420), as does the Camping de la Montagne Verte (2 Rue Robert Forrer, Montagne Verte, tel. 0033/3/88302546).

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