Monique and Bernard show Tommy the bear the local sights.
Tommy intends to visit Monique and Bernard in Seebach for 2 days to discover the Outre Forêt. Bernard devised a grand masterplan for the first day:
It is the forest in our region. It means beyond the forest and is the last forest before the border to Germany. Or the first forest, after you cross the border to France. Whatever the direction, it is the name of the most North-Eastern corner of France.
In the Alsace, we go to bed with the chickens, unless we have to go to a festival. But we get up with the first cry of a rooster. (even after a festival). So, breakfast will be served by Monique at 7am sharp!
We like to start early, so after breakfast, we drive to Wissembourg at 8 am. We begin with a visit to the church of St. Pierre et Paul. It is the biggest (and the second biggest church in all of the Alsace) church in our region. It a Gothic church and has two towers. One was constructed during the Romanesque period and the other during the Gothic period. The church itself was completed in the 14th century. The roof is impressive and is decorated with tiles made with different coloured tiles. The stained-glass windows were recently cleaned. Also, a new organ was installed about 6 years ago.
Next, we will stroll through the old town. Tommy can admire the architecture, the narrow streets and pretty lanes. He can look at the roof of the old Salt House. It once used to be the abattoir and then a storage place for salt.
Near the Protestant Church is the Bruch with an old washing area, where people once washed their clothes. Near the Restaurant Le Chatelet, you can admire the old house of Ami Fritz.
When you go down the Rue Nationale, you can see the building where Banque Populaire is housed. In former times, it was a stable and even Napoléon paid a visit.
Stanislas Palais must not be missed! It is now privately owned. Stanislas Leszczynski, the King of Poland from 1704 to 1709, was exiled in Wissembourg from 1719 to 1725, and he resided here. Louis XV asked to marry his daughter in 1725.
Behind the Stanislas Palais are the Ramparts where you can relax in the Grabenloch, a pleasant park on the banks of the River Lauter. To the north of the town are also some Remparts explore.
It is time to take a break. We will drive together via the Col du Pigeonnier (about 432 m above sea level) to the town of Lembach to visit the old castle Fleckenstein and the lake near the border to Germany.
Today it is a ruin, but you can still do a tour of the castle. At the top, you can see the mountains surrounding the castle. It is quite a panoramic view. The best season to see Fleckenstein is in Autumn when the trees are on fire in beautiful colours. But because it will be spring, Tommy can admire the fresh leaves on the trees.
We return to Lembach for lunch, scheduled at 12h30 pm at the Cheval Blanc, which has 2 Michelin Stars. The menu will be a menu surprise.
At 4 pm, we have an appointment with a private guide to visit the bunker at the Ligne Maginot. André Maginot (1877 – 1932) was a French politician who thought of a way to defend France from future German invasions. The Ligne Maginot is an old defence system along the border to Germany.
It was built 30 meters underground where the temperature is a constant 14°C, except for the turrets. It starts here in the Outre Forêt, in Hatten and finishes in the Ardennes, near Belgium. Construction was between 1930 and 1938. Unfortunately, Germany invaded France from the Low Countries, where the line was at its weakest. Today, the underground bunkers open to the public to show the true horrors of war.
After we drive to Woerth to visit many monuments. One of them is the Big Lion from the war of 1870. When Germany invaded France. Tommy might find this confusing, but Germany occupied the Alsace from 1870 to 1918 and then again from 1939 to 1945. There is a small museum in Woerth that describes the 1870 war.
The next step is the oil museum in Merkwiller. Eighty years ago, an oil company discovered oil here and provided work for many people in the region. The Karishmiermacher is the centre of the village. He was a man who walked around the villages to sell cups of oil to households. The landscape around Woerth and Merkwiller is breathtaking.
Our day will end in Hunspach, chosen as the most beautiful village in France for 2020.
The village is full of authentic half-timbered houses. In the village centre, Tommy can admire the view of the square and soak in the village atmosphere.
Tommy is a Very Important Bear. The people in the village have decided to throw a Tarte Flambée party with dancing from local Hunspacher folklore groups.
We start with an Apéro. The men usually drink Amer Beer whilst the ladies will be served a Crémant.
Amer is a sweet liquid made up of orange zest, lemon juice, Gentiana, sugar and caramel. It has an alcohol content of 18%. A little is poured into the beer glass and then topped with Pilsener.
Earlier, before people baked bread, they made Tartes Flambées. The dough (made from flour and water) is rolled extremely thin, about 5mm. Then you put a topping of cream cheese, onions and bacon cubes (lardons). The tarte is put into a wood oven and baked for about 5 minutes.
A tarte is shared by everybody. One tarte is served and divided into the number of people at the table. The slice is folded together and eaten as finger food. And people drink white wine with it.
Both Monique and Bernard think Tommy will have a pleasant, relaxing end to a long day full of different impressions.
After two apéros and a bottle of wine, lots of food, Tommy will be worse for wear and perhaps a little tired. He might find it hard to stay awake for the second day, which we will describe in part two.