Tuesday, 13 September 2016

#Eurotrip2016 - Day 1 - a Citadel in Alsace

A quick summary of our trip is up, so it's time to get into a little bit more detail. Here we go, then. 

The first day of our #Eurotrip2016 was long. And by long, I mean really, really long. The plan was to get up before 2 a.m. and hit the road before 2.30 a.m. I was to be the first driver (I'm an early bird type of person) and Krzysiek was to take over on our last stop before crossing the Polish-German border (he's an owl). If everything went fine, we wanted to get to Freiburg to spend the night somewhere close to the German-French border.

How did it go?

Quite well. We got up when the first alarm clock rang (getting up to start holidays is so much different than getting up to work). We cleared the last things from the kitchen (like coffee machine), packed the last things (like fridge and some other minor things). Finally, we were ready to get the kids (straight from bed to the car) and we could go. You'd think that when you put your kid into a car seat at 2.30 a.m., when it's dark outside and the moving car is kind of lulling them to sleep, they'd get back to sleep immediately. Yeah, you would. The kids... not so much. At least my kids. But they were sitting quietly, looking out the window, enjoying the dark view of seeing almost nothing ;) It took them way over an hour to get back to sleep. Yeah, I know.

We made the first stop between Gniezno and Poznan. A quick one, cause it was only past 6 a.m. The kids got dressed and ate breakfast. The second (and last) stop in Poland was the last MOP before the Polish-German border (as planned from the start). We made a few more stops in Germany, though. Somewhere on the way we decided that, instead of spending the night in Germany, maybe we could cross the border and find a camping already on the French side. That was a thought...

We finally stopped in Alsace in France. On a camping right off the city walls of Neuf-Brisach. A town we have never heard of before. We got there around 5 or 6 p.m. So, as I mentioned, it was a long day. And it still wasn't the end of it. Although we were no longer driving (enough of that for one day), we decided to go and see that little town.

The path from the camping led through the city walls. As if through a labyrinth or something. But I'm not that surprised, considering the history of the region. Once German, once French, Alsace was handed over from the first to the second a few times. The sign near the entrance to the town states, that Alsace changed nationaly five times in less than 150 years.

The sword near the main gate to the town (the upper storey of the gate was removed in 1902 to allow heavy vehicle convoys) is a monument dedicated to the town defenders of 1870. They surrendered the town to the German troops with full military honours.

Below - the main gate. On the sign located right by the gate, you can see what it looked like before 1902, that is with the upper storey.

The town itself is small. Not really touristy. We walked the empty, narrow streets. Here and there, we could see a few people sitting, talking. We could sense that people were still living in the town, but it was empty. As if abandoned. Even though it wasn't. And it was a Saturday evening. Last Saturday of July. I'd expect to see more people out. Even in such a small town.

 Other than that, it was great. Tiny, with its own charm. The middle of the town was a square with a church (catholic church in the main square and lutheran church right off the main square).

Considering the shape of the town walls (fortifications?), I guess the town must look great on the maps. Ok, I have just checked it. It does look great. I have found this picture of the town on the official Tourist Site of Alsace:

So we spent the night in an interesting place ;) At the camping site we got a map of the town with a tourist walking route marked on it. It's worth following cause it will show you all the important things in the town. Plus, every now and then you'll see a sign in French, German and English explaining either the history of the place or simply what you're looking at. Which is good.

The above mentioned webpage also give some more information on the town itself (I finally have time to read about the places we saw but didn't plan to see or just spotted them somewhere on the way. Spoiler alert - there's going to be more such places.).

It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site.The town is a Citadel founded in 1699 at king Louis XIV's behest. It's unique in Europe due to its architecture. "Its parade ground, pure lines, 48 quarters forming a perfect octagon and bastion fortifications make it unique in its kind." (quote from the above mentioned official Tourist Site of Alsace).

Who would've thought that we'd come across such a gem. Totally by accident. Just like in Thailand.

Already on the way to the town, right by the main gate, we spotted this thing:

Actually, it was hard to miss it. For two reasons. It was huge. And we still have no idea what the purpose of it was (hard to call it a decoration) and what animal it represents. Is that a sheep? A cow? Or maybe something else? Each one of us had their own guess and we still don't know. Maybe you have any ideas?



  1. That is a really long day! But you got to see such pretty sights, I love those coloured houses especially, they are beyond pretty!

  2. That's so interesting to see that they kept the original shape of town intact! We have a similiar town in Norway called Fredikstad where the old town is divided by little canals shaped in that exact same form!

  3. Nice photos! I just came from Europe but would like to go back again. Every time I go, I discover more and more places. Alsace is a place I want to visit.