While autumn is definitely boredom for some people, others celebrate autumn as their effort for the whole year is paid off. Those are the farmers in various wine regions across Europe because for them the arrival of autumn signalizes the grape harvest and new wine season.
To kick-off October, I would like to invite you to Alsace – a photogenic wine region with charming old towns, green soothing vineyards, and a magnificent cathedral in north-eastern France. Master and I were there for a few days and we were able to catch a glimpse of one of the most beautiful routes in France – the Route des Vins d’Alsace (Alsace Wine Route). We did not explore the entire route (as we didn’t have a car), we started in Strasbourg, then to Hunawihr and ended up in Colmar, the capital of Alsace wine.
Strasbourg – the capital city of the Alsace & Lorraine region – is the perfect overture to all that is distinctive about Alsace, where culture and architecture blending German and French influences. The first thing that captured our attention when we walked into the city center was the grandiose Cathédrale Notre-Dame. Completed in 1439, the red sandstone monolith is a piece of art with its lace-fine facade (more impressive if approached from rue Mercière), flying buttresses and a 142m spire. The cathedral is at once immense and intricate.
Just a few minutes away from the cathedral, we were already in Petite France where twisting alleys (lined with half-timbered houses) are crisscrossed by narrow lanes and canals. In the Middle Ages, this area was used by artisans to ply their trades.
Strasbourg is also famous as a culinary hotspot. We were allured by delicious Alsatian specialties, including foie gras, Fleischschnacka, biscuits and crémant de Alsace (sparkling wine made in the region). Unfortunately, only the appetizer was captured, the rest we realized it after we finished the meal…
A Strasbourg Pass (15€) is highly recommended (even if you were there for just one day) because it grants access to the cathedral platform (5€) and a boat tour (12.5€), plus discounts on other attractions.
Hunawihr is a small village along the Route de Vins d’Alsace and unpopular with tourists (which make it more appealing to us). The scenery is far more beautiful than we could imagine. Green soothing grapevines stretch from hills to hills and expand to the horizon. The picture is punctuated with some colorful houses and a 16th-century fortified church.
According to our guide book, Hunawihr is also the home for around 200 free-flying white storks – Alsace’s most beloved symbols. But we did not spot any of them, maybe they have already flown to the south to avoid the coming winter.
It was a bit cumbersome to reach Hunawihr with public transport, but we made it. As train runs only between Strasbourg and Colmar, and from Colmar, there are buses (Bus 106) running to Hunawihr, as well as to other villages.
It is no longer necessary to praise the charm of Colmar – the capital of the Alsace wine region. Cobblestone lanes lined with half-timbered buildings in candy colors, bridge-laced canals in Petite Venice quarter (to be honest, it doesn’t resemble the Italian counterpart in the slightest, but it is lovely in its own way) and flowery city centers are drawing people to this town.
From Strasbourg, we made a day trip to Colmar. Trains run hourly between Strasbourg and Colmar and it took around 30 minutes. Colmar is best to be explored either by foot or boat (6€ for a 30-minute-trip) and I recommended to visit in the morning so you can avoid the horde of tourists.
Aside from the Petite Venise, Colmar’s illustrious past is also etched in its magnificent churches, for example, the Collégiale St. Martin – a delicate Gothic church with a Mongol-style copper spire.