Perfect weather is a perfect reason for a day-trip when you’re in the Alsace. Although this Spring’s travels have been blessed with numerous cold and rainy days while in Colmar, I finally got a mostly sunny day and warmer temps, so, off I ventured south a few miles to one of the most picturesque and beautiful of the numerous wine villages along the Route du Vin (Wine Route). It lays only a few miles out from Colmar, so it is easily accessible by car or bus or bicycle.
Eguisheim (pronounced “aye-gush-hime”), with a population of 1600, is a well-preserved 16th Century village that is mostly characterized with narrow cobblestone passageways lined with multi-colored half-timber structures, usually three to four stories in height, with blooming potted plantings in the windows. Eloquently designed blade signs hang from the exterior walls, their carefully crafted shapes advertising the various shops, restaurants, a few hotels, and, of course, a winery or two. Looking up, there are the huge stork nests seemingly precariously perched at the top of church steeples or anything that is tall and spindly. Everywhere I look, there is definitely an atmosphere of un-hurried bliss that is all very common in this rural wine region.
The layout of the town is circular, with the one main street cutting straight through the center, and a pair of parallel narrow roadways which follow the path of the once-upon-a time town walls which encircled the town. The whole town is only about a quarter mile across, making it possible to see the whole town easily in a few hours, depending on how often you stop to soak up some fresh alsacean ambience, or, if you prefer, wine. At the very center of town is the Place du Chateau, the main town plaza and gathering place, complete with a fine octagonal fountain which contains a statue of Saint Leo IX, a local Bishop who would eventually become pope. Overlooking all this is a small castle and adjacent chapel, all of this makes for a truly grand and stately town square.
To cap off my day of adventure, a bike ride in the vineyards was in order. This time of year, the grape plants are mostly just stubby trunks with a few new vines forming and straining to eventually fulfill their mission as the masters of grape production. On a bicycle, I was able to easily and comfortably traverse the seemingly endless rows of grape vines along the narrow vineyard service roads, most of which are asphalt. I soon came upon a silhouette of a distant church tower and village on a nearby hillside, and quickly pointed myself in that direction. The hill was long and hard, but the effort was well-rewarded, for the views around and from the village were quite thrilling. The village, named Husseren les Chateau, is tiny, and is dominated by a very large, high steeple’d church.
Today was truly an enjoyable and enlightening day-trip in rural France. Eguisheim and the surrounding wine villages are a fantastically refreshing escape from the “real world”. This was an experience I plan to repeat as often as I can.