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Alsace (Strasbourg)

Alsace in the northeastern region of France has a blend of German and French cultures, resulting from several years of border conflicts. Alsace is the smallest region in France and is prettily located between the Vosges mountains and the Rhine. This location of Alsace provides it with a very fertile environment suitable for grape cultivation and wine production. The streets with semi-timbered houses line the attractive villages, which can be best observed by following the Alsace wine route. The route with over 170 km from north to south gives opportunities to visit vineyards and splendid sceneries. With over 50 classified wines produced en route, you always have an opportunity to try and appreciate fire wines.

Strasbourg, the cosmopolitan capital city also houses the European parliament comprised of three buildings. Tours are possible to the parliament, which also has a visitor’s gallery. The Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg was built in 1284, with its spire completed in 1439, to become the highest in France. Between the 12th and 14th centuries several stained glass windows were installed. The replaced astronomical clock does a performance everyday at 12.30, called the twelve apostles parade. The cathedral itself is a sight to behold, not to mention the panoramic view it can offer. The ecomuseum at Ungersheim is the largest in France offering a nostalgic glimpse of the past era. The castle of High Koeniqsbourg, built on the rocky mountains of Staufenberg was built by Fedrick II as a prestigious fortress. The castle was ruined in 1633 as a result of a battle with the Swedes. It was ultimately restored in 1901. It is today possible for tourists to visit its courtyards, kitchen and other dowelling areas, and is open all seven days of the week. In the northern Alsace is Le Struth of, the only concentration camp in France, which was under German occupation during the war.

With a population of around 6 million people, Alsace has an important position in Europe. Travel to the region is very convenient with two international airports at Bale-Mulhouse and Strasburg. Alsace is close to Zurich, Frankfurt and Luxemburg and is linked to Paris by the high speed train TGV. In several ways it is the leading region of France next to Ile de France. Alsace is a very international and a diplomatic center with close to 20 European institutions and 75 consular and other international offices. Being close to Germany, a large percentage of Alsace’s workforce is bilingual with about 17% of the population being able to speak German compared to the national average of just 2%.

The town of Mulhouse provides several attractive walking opportunities, for the untiring walkers. Its several historical monuments include the Roman baths, and the square de la Bourse or the stock market square and the Tower of Europe. With its exceptional industrial past, Mulhouse has innumerable museums, like the train city and the automobile city museums. The printed textiles museum and the electrical museum of the Electropolis are great attractions. The size and offerings of the town has earned Mulhouse the title of being the European technical museum capital. Colmar is a medium sized town and a premier wine producing area of Alsace. Given its almost consistent and remarkable architecture, the colorful half timbered houses add mystic to beauty. The town’s Petite Venise or little Venice is a leading tourist attraction. The Bartholdi Museum which is also very popular, is dedicated to the Colmar artist who designed the statue of liberty.

The town of Selestat is an ideal stop for anyone traveling from Mulhouse to Strasbourg. The town is a very old one and very interesting for the ones who love to stroll and explore history. The town doesn’t have as much to offer like its neighbors although it has historical town buildings of the 11th and the 15th centuries. Notable among these are the Saint Georges Church and the Saint Foy church, the Ebersmunster building and the Andlau building. Selestat also has one of the most unnoted/unacknowledged libraries in the world, with its Humanist Library being the only one in Europe with a collection that has never been broken up. The town also has an inseparable connection with Christmas, being the birthplace of the original Christmas tree.

The history of Alsace is believed to be associated with the stone age and the bronze age, which has been proved with excavations. The Celts were the first settlers in 1500 BC. The Roman invasion of 58 BC set in a long period of prosperity and cultural development. Alsace prospered very much under the Hohenstaufen Emperors in the 12th and 13th centuries. One of its emperors, Fredrick the first claimed Alsace as a ‘dearest family possession’. It was during the last decades of the 16th century that the French influence in Alsace increased. The wars between the Catholics and the Protestants drove Alsace regions to seek help from France. With most of today’s Alsace attached to France in 1648, the people of Alsace were more connected with France than with Germany, after the French revolution. However, the regions of Alsace and Loriane were handed over to the second Reich in 1870 after France was defeated in the Franco-Prussian war. But these were returned to France after Germany’s defeat in WWI. In fact, the choice of Strasbourg as the seat of the Council of Europe and European Parliament was to serve the cause of France – German future cooperation.