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Alsace

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Area guide of Alsace in France

ALSACE

Are you interested in moving to the Alsace region? We have gathered some information about the Alsace for you which may help you make up your mind.

Where is the Alsace region?

The Alsace region is the smallest region of France, situated in the north-east where it forms part of the boundary with Germany and Switzerland. Belgium is also not far making this a region from which one can easily travel to other countries. It consists of two departments : Bas- Rhin (67) and Haut-Rhin (68). The capital is Strasbourg and with its 16th century centre it is a fascinating city architecturally, culturally and historically. The Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and the first seat of the European Parliament are all located here. The city of Strasbourg is an absolute gem with winding streets, canals, half-timbered houses and its beautiful Gothic cathedral called Notre-Dame.

What is there in Alsace?

You'll find the river Rhine on the eastern side and to the west the Vosges mountains (1424m), which are popular with both walkers in summer and cross-country skiers in winter. The forests in the Vosges are quite well-known but Bas-Rhin too has forests e.g. Haguenau Forest. The existence of so much forest is one of the reasons why you see so many half-timbered houses.

Apart from the mountains and forests there are valleys and sleepy, rolling vineyards – belying their beleaguered past – medieval walled villages and many castles,of which Haut Koenigsbourg , at 2000 ft, is a must. From here you get an idea just how close to Germany you are. Fleckenstein is another fascinating place, partially destroyed but the parts that were carved from the red sandstone rock itself, like the great watch-tower, are worth a visit.

The splendid city of Strasbourg has already been mentioned. Mulhouse, which dates back to medieval times, is the main town in Haut-Rhin and has a large industrial centre. Don't let this put you off because it is a lively town with a cosmopolitan feel to it and has some interesting museums. Colmar, a charming, colourful town and a centre of art and culture, is nestled in the middle of the wine producing area. The river Rhine has had a major influence on the region providing industry – car manufacture, textiles and wine – and communication. Despite the heavy industry, 25% of the jobs are in industry, this is a very beautiful region. There are many foreign companies, not surprisingly Swiss and German ones but Japanese, American and Scandinavian firms can also be found in Alsace. You could say that Alsace, one of France's most industrialized regions, it is quite an affluent and conservative region.

The population is growing, it is the third most densely populated region, but it seems that there are not too many English people here.

Climate of Alsace:

The summers are hot but be prepared for dry,cold winters. Colmar deserves a special mention as it is the second driest city in France.

Property in Alsace:

Property prices are expensive compared to the rest of France. The already mentioned location of European organisations means that there are many bureaucrats looking for rental property.

History of Alsace:

This region has had an incredibly turbulent past. For 1000 years it was the frontier of the Holy Roman Empire but in more recent times it (together with Lorraine) has changed nationality 4 times since 1871 in the wars between Germany and France when it became part of Germany after the Franco-Prussian war only to become part of France again after WW1. This changed again during WW2 and after WW2 it belonged to France once again. All this is reflected in the architecture – just look at the houses with their Germanic gables – the food and the strong dialect. However, it soon becomes obvious that this area has its own identity when you see how people take pride in their local costumes, traditions, food and dialect, which is a mixture of French and German.
Strasbourg was the place where the French anthem was composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in 1792. Originally called "Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin" the military song for the Army of the Rhine it became the Marseillaise (The Song of Marseille) and was declared the national anthem on Bastille Day - 14th July - 1795.

Food and Wine in Alsace:

This region is renowned for its traditional cuisine, very tasty, hearty food but watch out for the calories. The Germanic influence is apparent in both food and wine.

Some of the finest wines of France – mostly white wines - are grown in this beautiful area. There is an 80 mile (120km) wine route, called 'Route Des Vins d'Alsace', on which you will have plenty of opportunity to sample the different wines and you'll probably find it difficult not to buy some bottles. (Riesling, Tokay, Muscat to name but a few). Beer is also produced in this region (e.g. Kronenbourg) but Schnapps seems to be going out of fashion.

Famous Alsatians:

Among the many famous people from this region are the creator of the Statue of Liberty (New York), the 19th century sculptor Bartholdi, was born in Colmar. Albert Schweizer, M.D.,MO was born in Kayserberg (Haut-Rhin) although he spent most of his life in Gabon, Africa where he founded the Lambarene Hospital for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. He treated thousands of patients suffering from leprosy and sleeping sickness. Arsenal's football manager, Arsene Wenger, OBE comes from Strasbourg where he also studied at the university which is arguably one of the best in France. Also from Strasbourg is the world famous mime Marcel Marceau.

Getting to the Alsace:

Airports:

There are two international airports:
the international EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg (British Airways, Swiss Int. Airlines, easyjet), situated near these cities and
the international airport of Strasbourg (Air France) in Entzheim. As always, beware of the low cost airlines, we do not know how long the service will last.

Road network:

There is a very good and ever expanding road network linking Alsace to Germany, Switzerland, Paris and the south.

Railway network:

By hopping on the TVG East, which is part of the high-speed TGV French train network, you can travel from Strasbourg to Paris in roughly 2.30 hrs. The region also has its own TER Alsace network.

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