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Alsace vineyard, France
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France: Alsace Villages, Vineyards & Castles

Westhalten Vineyard Walk Eguisheim & Three Castles Walk Kaysersberg & Riquewihr
Ribeauvillé & Medieval Christmas
Haut Königsberg Dambach-la-Ville, Andlau, Obernai
Riquewihr

 

So many beautiful towns and villages, fine castle ruins and a great Christmas Market at Ribeauvillé.

 

Westhalten Vineyard Walk

Westhalten
The vineyards above Westhalten.
Westhalten

 

Westhalten is at the southern end of the Alsace region, and the countryside around it, like the whole of the Alsace, is covered with vineyards. The mountains of the Vosges to the west protect the vineyards from harsh weather, so much in fact that the region has the lowest rainfall in France. The Alsace WIne Route map has lots of good info on the villages, vineyards and wines.

On a sunny late September day in 2016 we started our walk from Westhalten climbing up into the vineyards.

Westhalten
I believe these are Gewurztraminer.

The grapes were ready and the vendange was just beginning.

Seven different grapes are commonly grown in the Alsace: Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir (the only red varietal), Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. My all-time favourite is Muscat.

Westhalten
The edge of Westhalten, a small wine village, and its church.
Westhalten
And these, I think, are Pinot Gris.

Westhalten stands at the entrance to the "Noble Valley" and covers three Grand Cru vineyards: Zinnkoepflé, Vorbourg and Steinert.

Westhalten
Not just vines - these are hop flowers, commonly used to flavour beer. Not sure what the berries are.
Westhalten
The grapes are picked by hand.
Westhalten
Westhalten
No doubt the tables are for refreshments for the grape-pickers.
Westhalten
Soultzmatt, west of Westhalten.
Westhalten
Rose hips.
Westhalten
Westhalten
Possibly a High Brown Fritillary.
Westhalten
Westhalten
Westhalten
Westhalten
Auberge au Vieux Pressoir
Westhalten

After our walk we had lunch at the Auberge au Vieux Pressoir which stands in the middle of vineyards. Wild boar was excellent, as was Andrew's hot Munster - a must when we come here!

Westhalten

 

Eguisheim & Three Castles Walk

Eguisheim
Eguisheim

 

Possibly the prettiest village in the Alsace and birthplace of Alsace viticulture, according to the Route des Vins d'Alsace map and info.

 

Eguisheim
Storks nest on rooftops all over the Alsace and are a symbol of the region.
Eguisheim
Eguisheim
Eguisheim

The medieval town was built in three concentric circles around its castle, and the remains of the octagonal Roman tower still stand. The village has the most beautiful half-timbered buildings and its own Grand Cru, Pfersigberg.

Eguisheim
Eguisheim

On a beautiful April day in 2014 we set out from the village to do the Three Castles Walk.

Eguisheim
The three castles on Schlossberg.
In April the vines are pruned and bare, ready for new growth.

 

Eguisheim
Eguisheim
Wahlenburg with Dagsburg behind.

The ruins of the castles stand on the Schlossberg above the village. Wahlenburg in the middle is the oldest, constructed in 1006 by Hugues IV, Count of Eguisheim, and his wife Heilwige, Countess of Dabo, on the site of a Roman watch tower. Weckmund to the south and Dagsburg to the north were built in the twelfth century.1

In 1026 Wahenburg was destroyed by Duke Ernest of Swabia.

Dagsburg: was built in 1144 by the Count of Ferrette. It lasted only fifty three years, destroyed by Philip of Swabia, after a revolt against his brother, Emperor Henri IV.

Swabians, from the south west of Germany, have a lot to answer for in this region!

Weckmund was built in 1227 by King Henry of Germany, an ally of the Count of Ferrette, who now owned the castles, to defend the castles against the Bishop of Strasbourg who disputed the count's claims.

Eguisheim
Bundles of prunings, two thin branches left on each vine.
Eguisheim

All three castles were destroyed in 1466 during the War of the Six Oboles.

 

We had a very nice lunch at Caveau Heuhaus - trout for me and steak for Andrew.

Eguisheim
Lunch at Caveau Heuhaus.

In December of the same year we came back to Eguisheim to the Christmas Market which was lovely but not very extensive.

 

 

Kaysersberg & Riquewihr

Riquewihr
Riquewihr
Riquewihr
Riquewihr

 

These two lovely villages are close to each other at the base of the foothills of the Vosges.

In 1990 we spent a long weekend in the Alsace staying at a B&B in the middle of the vineyards.

Alsace
View from our B&B in October 1990 in the middle of vineyards.

We spent our first morning in Riquewihr, a well-preserved medieval and Renaissance town, and it instantly became a favourite - many times thereafter we came up for the day and had lunch in the Dopff & Irion restaurant until, inexplicably, it closed, or at least changed hands.

The vendange was in full swing and the whole town smelled of wine. We watched wine growers bring their loads of grapes into the wineries.

At that time there were very few tourists, unlike today.

 

Riquewihr
Riquewihr
Riquewihr
Riquewihr 1991
Riquewihr
Riquewihr
Riquewihr
Riquewihr
Riquewihr
Riquewihr 1991
Riquewihr
Riquewihr August 2015.
Riquewihr
Riquewihr August 2015.
Riquewihr
Riquewihr December 2007.
Riquewihr
Riquewihr August 2015



Kaysersberg
Vineyards from Kaysersberg Castle, 1990.

In 2007 we went to the Riquewihr Christmas Market - the town looked lovely but the market was less than inspiring.

 

Riquewihr
Vineyards above Riquewihr,
December 2007.
Riquewihr
Riquewihr December 2007.
Kaysersberg
Kaysersberg from the castle, 1990.
Kaysersberg
Kaysersberg 1990

 

 

We also discovered Kaysersberg on this weekend in 1990 and walked up to the ruined 13th century castle from where we got terrific photographs of the village. It's another beautiful place, with a river running through it and one we've returned to several times.

Kaysersberg
Kaysersberg 1991
Kaysersberg
Kaysersberg from the castle, 1990.
Kaysersberg
Kaysersberg 1991

 

Kaysersberg
Me and Mum, Kaysersberg 1991.

 

 

In 1991 my Mum visited and we just had to bring her to the Alsace and show her the lovely villages, especially as they are full of flowers in the summertime.

 

Kaysersberg
Kaysersberg 2010
Kaysersberg
Kaysersberg 2008
Kaysersberg
Kaysersberg

 

Ribeauvillé & Medieval Christmas

Ribeauville
Ribeauville
Zum Elephant
Ribeauville
The Butchers Tower used to mark the boundary of the upper and middle town.

 

Way back in 1990 we walked up above Ribeauvillé to the three castles with fantastic views over the Alsace. More recently we have been back to the village to the Medieval Christmas Market, in 2010 and then again in 2011 but the second time parking was dreadful.

Ribeauville
St Ulrich, fortress and residence of the Comtes de Ribeaupierre.
Ribeauville

Ribeauvillé is a lovely medieval town and three castles stand on the hills above it: St Ulrich, Ribeaupierre and Girsberg. In November 1990 we walked up to the Girsberg from where we had great views of St Ulrich. The town itself has many old half-timbered buildings and can boast three Grand Cru vineyards: Geisberg, Kirchberg and Osterberg. The town is quite large with a long central street, mostly cobbled, with several squares.

Ribeauville
Ribeauville
St Ulrich Castle
Ribeauville
Ribeauville
Castle St Ulrich can be seen on the high ground above the town.
Ribeauville
Ribeauville

The medieval Christmas Market is really excellent. A lot of the local people dress up in medieval costume. There are jugglers, minstrels, old games like throwing horseshoes to strike a small post - a precursor of boules?

Ribeauville

 

Ribeauville
Now that's what I call a loaf of bread!
Ribeauville
Great thick slabs of bacon - we both had these with bread and they were excellent!
Ribeauville

Lots of food, of course, including a wild hog roast on a spit, thick slabs of bacon on bread, melted cheese and local ham on bread, and glühwein. The slabs of bacon were fantastic - we both preferred it to the hog roast, though it was also good.

Lots of Christmas stalls selling local items and Christmas stuff. It was really great and everyone seemed to have a lot of fun.

Ribeauville
Ribeauville
Ribeauville
A cauldron of glühwein!
Ribeauville
Ribeauville
Skewered meats are cooked here.
Ribeauville

Video: minstrels at the Christmas Market.

Ribeauville
Ribeauville
Ribeauville

 

Haut Königsberg

Haut Königsberg
Haut Königsberg

A fine restored medieval castle, one we have brought several visitors to. Built by the Hohenstaufens the castle is first mentioned in 1147. It is in an extremely advantageous position, at a height of 700m, to observe the comings and goings on the roads into Lorraine and on the Plaine d'Alsace.

Haut Königsberg
Haut Königsberg
Haut Königsberg
Haut Königsberg
Haut Königsberg

The castle was rebuilt after it had been destroyed by fire in 1462 and lasted for almost 150 years until it was sacked by Swedish forces in the Thirty Years War and again burnt down. The town of Selestat offered the ruins to Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1899 and he had it fully restored, an enterprise that took eight years.

Haut Königsberg

The castle, before the Thirty Years War, was built to withstand a siege, so had all the facilities within its walls such as a forge, mill and fortified well.

 

Dambach-la-Ville, Andlau, Obernai

Dambach-la-Ville
Dambach-la-Ville

 

In July 2010 we headed further north than we usually go into the Alsace to explore these villages and visit a small farm-based restaurant we'd heard about.

Alsace
Bernstein Castle
The substantial ruins of this 12th century castle are around a two hour round trip on foot from Dambach-la-Ville.


Andlau
Andlau
Andlau
Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul, Andlau
I believe this is a carved figure of Samson wearing a lion skin which supports the pulpit of the Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul.

Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul, Andlau
Around the main door are pairs of carved figures, probably benefactors of the Abbey.

 

 

Dambach-la-Ville is a lovely, peaceful, medieval town with a twelfth century castle nearby on a height in the vineyards.

It's a quiet, pretty place, still with its medieval gates, and no tourists, just local people sitting in the shade chatting. It has a Grand Cru wine, Frankstein, while Andlau has three - Kastelberg, Moenschberg and Wiebelsberg.

Andlau
Andlau

Andlau Abbey Church has the most beautiful Romanesque friezes.

Alsace
Andlau

The Abbey of St Peter and St Paul was founded in 880 by Richarde, the wife of Emperor Charles le Gros (the fat!).

Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul, Andlau
This pre-Romanesque sculpture of a bear stands close to a hole in the floor of the crypt of the Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul which, legend has it, marks the exact spot where Richarde met the mother bear.

It is said that she had a vision in which she was instructed to build an abbey on the spot where she would see a female bear building a shelter for her cubs. In the forest she came across such an animal and duly built the abbey.

Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul, Andlau
The west portal of the abbey church.
The three figures at the top are Christ with St Peter and St Paul.
There are scenes from the creation and the Garden of Eden.
Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul, Andlau

The carvings in the frieze on the church include some very weird and wonderful beasts, as well as quite exotic ones such as a camel and possibly an elephant!

Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul, Andlau
Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul, Andlau

 

Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul, Andlau
The camel is really rather well done.

 

Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul, Andlau
The frieze is quite deeply carved.
Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul, Andlau
Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul, Andlau
Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul, Andlau

 

 

Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul, Andlau
Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul, Andlau
Is that supposed to be an elephant on the left? With cloven hooves, small ears and a short snout maybe not!
Obernai
Obernai medieval town wall.
Obernai
Obernai

It was far too hot to wander far so between Andlau and Obernai we headed out for lunch. We ate at Ferme Auberge Lindenhof west of Adnau, just outside Le Hohwald. It's a very simple restaurant run by the family on their farm, with lots of home-grown produce. Andrew had a superb cheese omelette and I the "planchette fermier" - air dried ham, thick cured ham, wild boar, a young Munster and an excellent Tomme. Both dishes came with fried potatoes and we had 50 cl of the local Riesling which was the best we'd ever had - this is the heart of Alsace Riesling country. Our desserts were Tarte aux Myrtilles for me and Tarte aux Cerises for Andrew - both excellent. And we brought back home-made rhubarb/strawberry and myrtille jams. A very satisfactory excursion.

Obernai

Obernai was our final stop of the day, a lovely old town with some of the medieval walls still standing. The buildings are very picturesque, especially around the Place du Marché.

Obernai
Obernai
Obernai

 

 

 

Obernai
"La Halle aux Blés" - the Corn Exchange.

 

References

  1. Visit Alsace: the three castles of Eguisheim