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November 28, 2018

France: Riquewihr

Filed under: Europe, France, Photography, Travel, Travel, Wine, Writing — Tags: , , , , , , , — anotherheader @ 5:28 am

A steeple through the Alsatian vineyards

If I was transported blindfolded and dropped in the French Alsace region I would instinctively think I was in Germany. This area of Northeastern France looks more German than French to me. Indeed it looks so Germanic that I have tendency to reach for my few German words in everyday interactions. That is inconvenient and embarrassing as I know far less German than I do French. The Germanic appearance of the Alsace influences an unconscious part of my mind that chooses the language to use, even when there is no real choice.

There are good reasons for why the Alsace looks Germanic. Like many places in Europe, control of the area between France and Germany has changed hands many times over the centuries. The Alsace itself changed between French and German control several times since 1681. It even spent a period of time as a “German land in the Kingdom of France”, an intentional buffer between France and the Germanic Austrian Hapsburg Empire.

Riquewihr’s tourist train loops through the vineyards.

Gigi waits outside in Riquewihr.

The border between France and Germany continued to change in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a period of escalating military conflicts.

On 16 July 1870, the French parliament voted to declare war on Prussia, thus beginning the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Hostilities began three days later when French forces invaded German territory. The German coalition mobilized its troops more quickly than the French and rapidly invaded northeastern France. With superior numbers, better training and leadership, and more effective use of railroads and artillery the Germans quickly overwhelmed the French. In six months Germany won the war that France had started.

Riquewihr’s protestant church

Gigi checks out the vineyards.

The formal end to the Franco-Prussian War was declared on 10 May 1871 with the signing of the Treaty of Frankfurt. This treaty ceded what had been French Alsatian territory and parts of the Lorraine to Germany. After the agreement was signed the Germans set about to improve the annexed territory with the goal in integrating it into greater Germany.

The Alsace remained as German territory until the end of the next major conflict, World War I. With the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 at the end of WWI, the Alsace and Lorraine territories transferred to Germany at the end of the Franco-Prussian war were returned to France. Control of the region again flipped back and forth between France and Germany during World War II.

With all of the changes it is not a surprise that the Alsace retains the character of both France and Germany. But to my eye the Germanic influence wins out. The half-timbered buildings with overflowing window flower boxes look more German than French. France has plenty of half-timbered buildings and flower boxes too but they don’t look the same.

Fall colors in Alsace’s vineyards

Grand cru vineyards

Indeed, in some respects the Alsace looks like idealized Germany. The area was not as heavily bombed during World War II unlike many parts of Germany. The benefits of not being a target during the war are particularly noticeable in the larger towns like Strasbourg.

Alsatian food also seems Germanic. It’s heavy on pork and sausage, much like the food served just across the Rhine in Germany. Sauerkraut and potatoes are the “vegetables” of choice in both places.

The Alsace is also well known for its world-class wines, particularly its off-dry whites produced along the Route des vins d’Alsace. Both the varietals and the style of the wines are very similar to those produced in Germany: Rieslings and Gewürztraminer are popular varietals.

Riquewihr’s tourist train…

…even Gigi can ride.

But like the food, the wines are also better in the French Alsace, at least by our palates. Though the architecture looks German the food and wine benefit from the French touch.


During our third visit to the Alsace in October 2017 we stayed in the small wine town of Riquewihr. The food, wine, and fall scenery were all idyllic. The scene was very Germanic….

The brightly colored vineyards…

…present a photo opportunity for visitors.


  1. Wonderful post and great pics. Thank You.

    Have a good day!

    Comment by Sartenada — November 28, 2018 @ 10:40 am

  2. One of our favourite wine regions and have based ourselves in Ribeauville and Turckheim on several occasions. 👍

    Comment by Dr B — November 28, 2018 @ 12:27 pm

  3. Great post 😁

    Comment by the #1 Itinerary — November 28, 2018 @ 2:34 pm

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