the far east of France, Alsace
are two regions that have
been deeply marked by their proximity to Germany. Indeed until the
twentieth century, German - in the form of local Germanic dialects -
was the first language throughout Alsace, and in parts of Lorraine.
Along with the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, Alsace
and Lorraine make up the historic central band of western Europe, once
the Emperor Charlemagne's central kingdom, between France to the west
and Germania to the east.
The regions' culture,
architectural styles, and traditions in wine and food are heavily
marked by their historic heritage - most markedly so in Alsace. As part
of the Rhine valley corridor, Alsace has always been culturally and to
a certain extent economically attached to its German neighbour.
The two regions are separated by the chain of the
mountains. To the east, and including the upper part of the
Moselle valley, Lorraine is a land of farming communities, woodland and
in the Vosges area spruce forests. The northern part of the region, the
north of the Moselle department, was once a major coal-mining area; but
this industry closed down many years ago. The south and west
Lorraine is very rural, with the Vosges department having much in
common with Germany's Black Forest, less than 100 km to the east.
Lorraine contains two historic European cities, Nancy and Metz.
Alsace occupies the eastern slopes of the Vosges,
foot of which lie the famous Alsace vineyards. Strasbourg, the Alsace
capital, is a very attractive historic city, as well as being the seat
of the European parliament; the Alsace plain is dotted with a lot of
very pretty villages, with their brightly painted
houses in the Germanic tradition. In south Alsace, Colmar is a fine
historic city, while the nearby city of Mulhouse boasts France's
national railway museum.
from Calais or Lille: The whole area is easily accessible via the A 16
or A26 motorways from Calais, or the A1 / A2 motorways from Belgium and
Holland via Reims, or directly from Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.
TGV from Paris Gare de l'Est or from
Lille. Trains from Brussels and from Germany.
in Alsace: Strasbourg, Basel-Mulhouse.
Peripheral airports: Paris Charles de Gaulle, Luxembourg, Brussels