Sunny days have (finally) arrived in Strasbourg, and one Sunday my friends and I took advantage of the cloudless, pleasant weekend by spending an afternoon in the Vosges Mountains.
We first traveled southwest by car across the region of Alsace, speeding across endless stretches of vineyards and admiring the shadow of mountains in the distance. Forty-five minutes later, we found ourselves in the quaint village of Le Hohwald, a tiny town perched on the top of a valley overlooking rolling farms, cozy bread and breakfasts, and the stretch of woods leading up to its waterfall. After hiking through winding country roads and the thick forest, we picnicked just next to the falls with some homemade baguette-ham-and-cheese sandwiches, fresh fruit and cookies.
During our descent, we stumbled upon a tiny chapel overlooking the valley of Le Hohwald, its facade still engraved with bible quotes in German, dating back to the pre-World War I era when the region did not belong to France.
Beginning to feel a little sleepy, we wound our way through the deserted dirt roads and found our car. We retraced our way back to Strasbourg, stopping in the village of Ottrott to visit the tomb of Saint Odile, who in the 7th century constructed a monastery overlooking the plains of Alsace. The original monastery has since been burned, plundered and abandoned in the 1500s and revived until the Revolution in 1789 when its priests were once again forced to leave. Finally, in 1835, it became property of the Catholic Church in Alsace and has since served as a popular pilgrimage site for the spring whose water is said to have healed the blind. We found it at the end of a heart-stopping descent into a ravine, clambered back up (legs throbbing after a whole day of hiking), and found the tomb of the saint inside the monastery at the top of the mountain. We stayed for awhile, admiring the complete panoramic view of the Alsacien region stretching all the way to Strasbourg near the horizon.
We ended our day trip by passing the city of Obernai, one of the most ancient and best-preserved Alsacien cities and the birthplace of St. Odile (although it didn’t officially become a town until the 1200s). A tinier version of Colmar (see my post on Colmar by clicking here), Obernai is bursting with tourists but not uncomfortably so. We settled into an outdoor café for large bowls of vanilla and strawberry ice cream sundaes and watched the sun set over the city.
For more information:
http://www.tourisme-obernai.fr/ (English version of this site coming soon)