The article below first appeared in The Kaiserslautern American and is reprinted here with permission.
Just across the border in France lies a tiny region called Alsace that almost feels German: half-timbered houses, rolling hills, a strong wine culture, small villages, and words you might recognize. It’s all due to years of shifting borders between France and Germany (in the 74 years between 1871 and 1945 alone, the two powers exchanged jurisdiction of Alsace four times).
The scenic Alsace Wine Route stretches along the base of the Vosges Mountains for 100 miles from Wissembourg to Thann. Not only does it feel vaguely familiar, making it a great place for a day trip and an even better place to get your feet wet with international travel outside of Germany, but it is unforgettably beautiful.
At a time when the grape leaves of this famous wine region are just unfurling, its picturesque villages – considered some of the most beautiful in France – welcome spring with a multitude of festivals and gastronomy fairs.
Below, we’ve selected a handful of the very best:
Colmar Spring Fest (April 5–22). Two Easter markets are nestled in the lovely Ancienne Douane Square and the Dominicains Square, allowing guests to stroll small historic alleys while taking in the architecture, booths, street music, city farm, and egg hunts. Info at printemps-colmar.com
Festival des Artefacts (April 10–28, Strasbourg). The region’s major music festival includes 10 days of concerts featuring over 40 international pop and electronica artists, with an emphasis on French performers. Info at festival.artefact.org
International Botanic Festival of Schoppenwihr (April 27–28, near Ostheim). Looking to recreate the overflowing flower boxes of France at home? Stock up on seedlings at this exhibition and market of international plants set in the idyllic surroundings of the meticulously landscaped Schoppenwihr Park. Info at schoppenwihr.com
Fun runs “Les perles du Vignoble” (16km) and “La ronde du Sonnenglanz” (9.5km) (April 28, Beblenheim). The courses take you through vineyards, forests, and charming village centers. As an added incentive, each participant receives a bottle of crémant d’Alsace (sparkling wine) at the finish line. Info at pdv.colmar-marathon.fr
Radio exchange market (May 4, Colmar). For some quirky fun and an excuse to visit Colmar, try “France’s most important event concerning antique radios.” The exhibition and sale takes place from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Place Jean Monnet square.
Jazz Festival Munster (May 7–11, Munster). Going strong for over 20 years, this year the festival welcomes the Count Basie Orchestra to its lineup, with a special jazz after-club free for attendees. Info at jazz-festival-munster.eu
Alsace Eco-Bio Fair (May 8–12, Colmar). At Colmar’s Parc des Exposition over 400 exhibitors will showcase organic products and advice, while workshops teach organic cooking or let you sample organic wines (this is also France’s largest organic wine fair). Add to that concerts, photo exhibitions, and games for children. Info at foireecobioalsace.fr
Wine and Gastronomy Fairs
These fairs set out a course through or surrounding a village (except in Mittelwihr, where the event is stationary) with wine and food booths along the way. (Expect to spend about four hours along what is normally an 8-kilometer route.) Most paths are stroller-friendly and leashed dogs are allowed. More information for the events is available at www.ribeauville-riquewihr.com/en/entertainment/events.htm
Mittelwihr (May 4–5 in the Place des Fêtes) Mittelwihr enjoys one of the highest elevations in Alsace, which equals great views.
Hunawihr (May 12) This historic village has many buildings dating to the 16th century.
Thannenkirch (May 19) In spring, cherry blossoms fill the orchards of this town, which has been declared a “zone of tranquility and silence.” Depart from the Place des Fêtes.
Beblenheim (May 26) Walk through the Grands Crus Sonnenglanz and Mandelberg vineyards accompanied by musical entertainment. By reservation only at bgbeblenheim.fr
Ribeauvillé (June 2) Rallye of the Grands Crus. A trivia contest along the way has an appealing prize: the winner’s weight, converted into bottles of wine!
If you make it to any of these festivals, we want to hear about it. Likewise, if you’ve been to one before, please leave your comments below to help others who stumble across this post. (We visited the last fair mentioned, in Ribeauville, and you can read about it here.)