Holiday in Alsace
The Alsace region may look German, it may even sound German, but its heart is most passionately French. Having changed hands between France and Germany many times over the course of its history, this narrow strip of north-eastern France, the smallest region in the country, sits adjacent to Germany and Switzerland and has a great many French and Germanic influences – which can be noticed in Alsatian cuisine, dialect, architecture and culture. Carefully inserted between the Rhine and the Vosges Mountains, the spectacular borders of flowing river, picturesque lakes and green, mountainous forests encircle a landscape amply speckled with picturesque villages, churches and castles.
The Romans established Alsace as a centre for winemaking in 58 BC, and it has been ever since. The cold, dry winters give this area the perfect terroir for wine making. Today renowned for its notable whites – especially dry Rieslings – Alsace is blanketed in lush, stunning stretches of vineyard. Alsace is also the main beer producing region of France, home to world famous breweries including Heineken and Kronenbourg.
The local cuisine has a heavy Germanic influence, so make sure to sample the local delicacy flammekeuche, also known as tarte flambée, with your Riesling or lager. It consists of thinly rolled bread dough traditionally topped with crème frâiche, sliced onions and lardons.
Some of the main appeals to visitors in the region are the seemingly undiscovered natural beauty of this wine country along with its unusual cuisine and picturesque villages, while the long, hot summers and good value for money don’t make Alsace any less popular.
From the capital of Strasbourg to Colmar, Mulhouse or any of the other quaint villages scattered across the region, make sure to lap up the culture here and explore all its nooks and crannies. Colmar in particular stands out in the region because it has a particularly sunny micro-climate, making it dry and perfect for Alsatian wine. A popular pastime with travelers is the Alsatian Wine Route, a medieval trek through some of Alsace’s more beautiful grape-filled areas and authentically charming villages.
Parts of Alsace are rugged and mountainous; and some of the more scenic peaks to explore include Massif du Donon and Grand Ballon, if you are looking for a natural ramble and a glance at a side of France you don’t get to see too often. The national park of Parc Naturel des Vosges du Nord is also a beautiful spot for a picnic and a place for experienced and casual trekkers to get to grips with nature.
Klingenthal is a hamlet in the Bas-Rhin department of France, and is divided between the communes of Boersch and Ottrott. Klingenthal, meaning "The Valley of Blades" in German, was host to a large manufacturer of various types of edged weapons and metal armours during the 18th and 19th Centuries.
Klingenthal was the first Royal Weapons Manufactory in France, and was largely inspired by methods pioneered in Solingen, another major sword-producing town in western Germany. The Solingen Manufactory was the first to develop an infrastructure for the mass-production of weapons, and at the beginning of 18th century was outfitting many of the European armies including the French Royal Army. Under the reign of Louis XV, acknowledging the critical dependency on foreign imports to equip the army, French authorities decided to mimic the organization that had succeeded in Solingen by creating their own national blade manufacturing centre. The site at Klingenthal was preferable due to the local presence of iron ore, and sandstone which was used primarily in the grinders for honing and sharpening the blades. The site's proximity to the Vosges mountains allowed for easy access to mountain streams, for the purposes of hydraulic power. Craftsmen were hired from Solingen in order to import the manufacturing process, communication with whom was aided by the local dialect, which was close to their native German.
The manufactory, named the 'Manufacture Royale d'Armes Blanches d' Alsace', was opened in 1730, under the direction of Henri Anthès, and the basic pattern of the factory would later be used in at other sites such as Saint-Etienne. The original site contained a forging hammer, grinding and honing equipment, along with a number of workshops, and accommodation for the workers. Initially the blades produced there were signed: "Manufacture Royale d’Alsace", but were later signed: "Klingenthal." The 'Royal Manufactory' was renamed the 'National Manufactory' (Manufacture Nationale d'Armes Blanches) in 1792, following the French Revolution, and then renamed the 'Imperial Manufactory' (Manufacture Impériale d'Armes Blanches) under Napoleon I in 1804. The manufactory was finally returned to its original title of 'Royal Manufactory' upon the Bourbon Restorationin 1815. After the Restoration, French officials started considering the fact that the manufactory was too close to the German border for such a strategic asset, and so Weapons production was gradually resettled to Manufacture d'armes de Châtellerault, founded in 1819 in the Western Center of France. In 1838 Klingenthal ended weapons manufacturing, lost the Royal Manufactory status, and became a privately owned company producing civilian goods under the "Couleau" name. The company continued producing agricultural tools, notably Scythes, until production ceased in 1962.
A museum is now held in one of the former factory buildings, displaying tools and a significant collection of swords.
Learn more about Klingenthal at http://klingenthal.fr/index.htm
Impressions from the Alsace: http://www.flickriver.com/places/France/Alsace/