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European Traditions in Linens and Housewares

Our discoveries along the byways of France and Beyond

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Discovering the Alsace – Traditions of the Alsacian Wine Road

Discovering the traditions of the Alsace – Wine, Food and Beautiful Scenery

There are a number of wine roads in France, all winding their way through the different wine growing regions. The scenery is very picturesque with the vineyards, the small villages with wineries, their courtyards offering the opportunity to taste the wines and purchase some that you particularly enjoy. And, most of all they offer some of the most famous French traditions associated with food and wine.Most recently we toured one of our favorite wine roads, through the Alsace from Colmar to Strasbourg. The Alsace is an interesting amalgam of both the French and German cultures and it is easy to see how that occurred. The Alsace sits between the Rhine River and the Vosges Mountains. Dotting the foothills of the Vosges are ruins of the ancient chateaus or castles which guarded the area from invasion by who ever the enemy was at the time. In the last 150 years, the region has twice passed from French to German rule and back.Within a few kilometers of each other are three places we find particularly interesting. First is Riquewihr, a wonderful example of walled cities dating back to the 13th century. It is not very large either within the walls or out, but it is very picturesque. While it has become a major tourist site it still maintains the historic atmosphere. The cobblestone main street runs between the city gates, with half-timbered buildings on either side. Restaurants, gift shops, hotels and museums hold items reflecting the ancient period. The residents have accurately restored their dwellings in such a way that the exterior maintains the historic architecture. It is easy to stroll through the village in the early morning and get the feeling that you have truly gone back in time. The people are very welcoming and will gladly spend time with you to explain the history of the region, how the products they are selling tie into traditions of the region and convey the culture as it was and is still maintained.

Situated nearby is the small village of Ribeauvillé. The streets wind and turn around the hills and there are houses on either side with window boxes overflowing with colorful flowers. On the roofs and chimneys of many buildings, special structures invite migrating storks to build nests. Tucked in a valley beneath a castle ruin is the Beauvillé textile factory and company store. Beauvillé has a long tradition of producing high quality printed fabrics primarily used for table coverings.

Up the road a bit and I do mean up, is a castle which was built in the 12th century, destroyed in the 1500s, and restored by the Kaiser during the German reign in the late 1800s . Haut Koenigsbourg tops a mountain overlooking Kintzheim and can be seen for miles around. It is surrounded by forest land which runs down the steepest part of the mountain to fields and orchards for grapes, fruit and grains…just the sort of things a castle might need in case of a siege. Within the castle grounds are the battlements, black smith shops, kitchens, living spaces for the soldiers and families of the lords, all furnished with period furnishings. There are also some whimsical things which I do love. For example, hanging from the great room ceiling is what appears to be an authentic stuffed winged dragon. After looking at that, who can really say that those creatures never really existed? Certainly not me, especially when I have my young grandchildren with me

Take this Photo Tour of the Alsatian Wine Road, and turn on your speakers!

Alsace-wineroute

Surrounding the ruins are the vineyards and the small villages where family wineries produce notable Rieslings, Gewürztraminers, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noirs and other varietals. 

The distance between the villages is not great but we find the going slow since we stop to taste the wines, visit with the people and enjoy the scenery. Wines from the Alsace and other Gallic wine growing regions can be obtained in America through the U.S. subsidiary of Gerhardt Wineries of Nierstein, in the nearby Gallic region of Germany.

I had been exclaiming over the tablecloths used at the various wineries along the road and how beautiful they were. When I asked the owners of the wineries about the cloths, I was usually told that their mother or grandmother had given it to them and had originally been made right there in the region at Beauvillé. They were colorful, cheerful, and reflected the flowers of the area. What also struck me was that they were not new but had been in use for years and still held their color. The fabric had softened a bit but all was still intact. No holes, no loose hems, no blotchy fading. At last, I was able to see where they we made and had the opportunity to buy a few pieces. What a wonderful find! I have used them over and over again and with use they have become easier to care for. And, what is most interesting is that the patterns easily fit into most decorating schemes. See the Beauvillé collectionin our e-store 

 

Kathryn Severance

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