We’ve got an album of photos from Alsace for you, courtesy of Jeremy Shindler.
There are some lovely photos of birds, which is a bonus. It’s a pleasure cycling with someone who knows something about birds. I’ve chosen five photos as an illustration – 5 photos that remind me why I like Alsace so much.
1. We have to start with a storkStorks are everywhere in Alsace. They’re a big part of the local culture – this dates back to the annexation to Germany after the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 / ’71. The stork is a migratory bird, and they can fly as far as South Africa. The French used the stork as a symbol – just as the white storks come back to Alsace, Alsace will come back to France.
It was returned to France after the First World War, and was occupied again during the Second World War. Sources suggest there were as few as 12 storks left in Alsace in 1945. It ain’t true now, they’re everywhere! They’re lovely, you can see them perched on the tops of the town halls, soaring in the air, or feeding in freshly-mowed hay fields.
You can’t get more ‘Alsace’ than a stork.
2. The Route Des VinsThis is Alsace’s hidden secret. More than 70 miles of cycle route rolling through vineyards. To your left, always, (going South to North, as we do) are the Vosges mountains, but you cycle gently along the lowest slopes, sometimes following valleys further in to the heart of the Vosges.
Every 2 or 3 miles is a centuries-old wine village straight out of Hansel & Gretel.
This photo is from our Monday morning in Alsace. We’ve just left Turckheim, cycled up a hill, down the other side, and there’s Ingersheim. Up on the left is one of many castles that give a clue to a less tranquil history, and you can see some serious hills that we NEVER have to cycle up (Despite what Gill and Jane might tell you).
And it’s like this for 70 miles! Bliss.
3. The Towns and VillagesEvery village is like this. Half-timbered buildings, typically painted in garish colours and often surrounded by walls dating back to the 15th and 16th Centuries. You enter through huge gates, all that’s missing is the portcullis – but you can see where it was!
Of course they are tourist traps. But tourists don’t go to rubbish dumps, they go to beautiful places, and the towns and villages of Alsace qualify.
4. StrasbourgStrasbourg is a big city, more than half-a-million people. And yet we cycle into the heart of Strasbourg, the Ile de France, without going on a road. We follow a cycle path along the River Ill.
Once in the centre of Strasbourg, there is a network of canals, rivers and bridges that is just beautiful. I’ve chosen just one photo, but it’s respresentative of many.
As an aside, the cyclists in Strasbourg are like no other City I’ve ever been in. I have wondered whether there is some local bylaw that gives special privileges to cyclists. They’re everywhere, people of all ages, but they don’t seem to care where they ride. You have to look out for them, even in the most crowded shopping streets surrounding the cathedral. But nobody ever shouts at them, which is what made me wonder whether they have special rights.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. And we do!
5. ColmarAlsace’s 3rd city by population, but widely regarded as the centre of its tourism industry.
The ‘old town’ is big – I think it’s relatively easy to keep a village looking a little bit fairy-tale. But like Montepulciano in Tuscany, Colmar is a ‘proper’ size. These old streets, covered market, squares, canals and 500-year-old half-timbered buildings are part of a thriving city complete with industry and modern commerce, and I think this makes it more special.
This is just an ordinary view in Colmar. Restaurants and houses, dating back centuries, lining the little River Lauch that flows right through the centre of the City.
Go And Have A Look n Flickr.
I’ve organised the photos in the album so that they show a chronological view of our week-long tour of Alsace. So as you click through the images, you’ll be following our cycle route. Click here and have a look. I hope you like them, and thank you Jeremy.