by Jenna Harrison
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 to 22, Colmar)
Two Easter markets are nestled in the lovely Ancienne Douane Square and the Dominicains Square, allowing guests to stroll along small historic alleys while taking in the architecture, booths, street music, city farm and egg hunts. For details, visit www.printemps-colmar.com (available in English).
Festival des Artefacts (April 10 to 28, Strasbourg)
The region’s major music festival includes 10 days of concerts, featuring more than 40 international pop and electronica artists, with an emphasis on French performers. For details, visit
www.festival.artefact.org (not available in English).
Fun runs “Les perles du Vignoble” (16K) and “La ronde du Sonnenglanz” (9.5K) (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. For details, visit www.pdv.colmar-marathon.fr (not available in English).
International Botanic Festival of Schoppenwihr (April 27 to 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. For details, visit www.schoppenwihr.com (not available in English).
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 to 11, Münster)
Going strong for more than 20 years, this year the festival
welcomes the Count Basie Orchestra to its lineup with a special jazz after-club free for attendees. For details, visit www.jazz-festival-munster.eu (not available in English).
Alsace Eco-Bio Fair (May 8 to 12, Colmar)
At Colmar’s Parc des Exposition, more than 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. For more information, visit www.foireecobioalsace.fr (not available in English).
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 (available in English).
Mittelwihr (May 4 and 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 www.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!
Author Jenna Harrison shares more travel tips at www.FollowBenandJenna.com.