This year, 2016, we launched a new tour, Alsace. Our first new tour since 2012.
How did it go? I’m the wrong person to ask, I’m a bit biased, but I think it’s a magnificent place, and a great tour. We’re planning four tours of Alsace in 2017.
I’ve got an album of photographs to share, thanks to Patrick Hudgell, and I’ve chosen 5 of them that I think illustrate Alsace. By the way, if you want to see an amazing – and I mean amazing – collection of wildlife photos, click here for Patrick’s collection on Flickr.
Here are the 5, with a brief commentary from me (click on any of the images to enlarge them).
1. The ‘Route des Vins’.
Alsace is beautiful. There’s a huge area of vineyards that run along the base of the Vosges mountains, and there is a ‘wine route’ that winds its way through medieval villages from Colmar to Strasbourg.
The Vosges are a magnificent backdrop, but we don’t have to cycle up any of the big climbs, they just sit to the West of us for the first half of our week looking beautiful. It’s like the very prettiest bits of the Cotes d’Or in Burgundy, except a lot prettier.
2. The wine villages.
Tourist traps, of course, but that only demonstrates that tourists can tell the difference between a beautiful village and a field of corn.
Why wouldn’t you visit Riquewihr? It’s spectacular.
3. Cycle paths.
It’s especially nice for us guides – customers can’t get lost, and neither can we!
4. The Magical Storks.
Storks are considered lucky in Alsace. Householders and public bodies place nesting platforms on the top of their roofs to encourage the storks to build their nests, which are actually just big piles of sticks.
This year, in June, July and September, we saw hundreds of these beautiful birds. They often feed in large groups in fields, just like these two.
5. Colmar, and the Isenheim Altarpiece.
This photograph is doing two jobs. We finish our Alsace tour in Colmar, which is beautiful. It has a large medieval centre and brings together all the architecture that we’ve seen throughout the week.
Ans it also boasts the Isenheim Altarpiece. This is the most famous artwork in Alsace. I’ve a bit of a weakness for altarpieces anyway, but this must be the grandest I’ve ever seen. It’s well-worth buying a guide book. It hails from the Monastery of St Anthony, of St Anthony’s fire fame, in Isenheim, 15 miles away.
The monastery was noted for their care of plague sufferers as well as their treatment of skin diseases, so skin diseases (such as St Antony’s Fire) feature heavily!
The Altarpiece features outer wings, and inner wings, which would have been opened only on special feast days. Today we can see the whole display in the Unterlinden museum. And it’s worth it. This photo shows just a part of the Altarpiece, and remember this is over 500 years old!