Alsace

Alsace

After connecting from our Bodensee ride. our Alsace tour starts in Basel where the Rhine forms a boundary between Switzerland, Germany and France. It is actually in Switzerland; but French is readily spoken. It is also a rail hub. It is a University town, so there is much going on here.
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The well preserved Basel Rathaus, which dates from 1504, is a work of art itself and the cathedral, which dates from 1019 offers a commanding view of the Rhine as it wends its way tot he North Sea. Several of the old town gates still exist as well.
The lush Alsace valley is contained by France’sVosges Mountains on the west and Germany’s Black Forest on the east and is one of the best wine growing regions in the world. This region has changed from French possession to German and back again a number of times over the years. It is dotted with quaint villages and a unique culture that is a mix of German and French. You are apt to meet folks along with way with perhapsa French first name and a German last name or visa versa.

Stage One:  Basel to Ottmarscheim  30,0 km

After a day of seeing the sights of Basel, we head out to follow the Rhine northward. We leave town, passing in front of the Rathaus and riding beside some tram tracks. Our route was to take us as directly as possible to the French border crossing, which had no wait and just a friendly wave through by the border gurards. From there we find the path into Huningue and onto the dedicated bicylce and pedestrian path along the Huningue canal. The path is partially paved and partially packed dirt; but, what a pleasant way to lead us into the coutryside. There is a path on both sides of the canal and we will be crossing back and forth today. Some sections are more suitable for the nobby tires on our mountain bikes. Interestingly on this sunny day, we are encountering the remains of a major summer storm that not only was wet; but, was so incredibly windy that it brought down some trees that block parts of the path still; a few days after the storm itself. We work with some other cyclists to navigate over, under and around these fallen trees. This is not the usual condition of this well maintained trail. When we reach Rosenau, we cross the bridge to ride the other side of the canal. Then again at Kembs, we watch for a clearing and turn right to cross over this canal bridge. Before long you catch a glimpse of the Grand Alsace Canal on the right. An underpass takes you under the D468. Several canals converge here. Continue along the Canal on the approach to the crossing at Niffer. There are two bridges here. The one on the left crosses the Huningue canal and the one on the right takes you to Niffer. Go right. Ride through town. Outside Niffer, you’re on the roadway without a bike lane; but, the traffic was very light. Pass Chateau de Hombourg and then out of town and past crop fields. As the temperature rises we pass through a roundabout and Ottmarsheim is just ahead. Our destination for today. Ottmarsheim is part of Romanesque Alsace with a church that dates back to the year 1030.
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It is well worth a look at the frescos inside. The Tour de France is will be passing through town in just a few days and this small town has gone all out with floral displays to welcome the tour.

Stage Two:  Ottmarsheim to Colmar  53,2 km

Today’s ride is predominately downhill with some rolling hills. First off;however, we start the day with a good breakfast and today’s had a nice variety of baked good, fruit, cheese, meats and coffee. Then were were off to ride through a many small towns that nearly all seemed to end in sheim:Bantzenheim,Rumersheim,Blodelsheim,Fessenheim,Vogelsheim,Biesheim,Urschenheim. There are many bike paths and canal paths of pavement, dirt and gravel as well as some riding on smaller roads. Today’s ride will follow a number of D roads; which can be confusing as we criss cross from one to another. There are no less than 8 D1 roads to negotiate today. As we enter the portals of Neuf Brisach we make our way to the exact center of town. The intricate grid of this ancient city can best be appreciated from an aerial view.
It is well worth picking up a post card.
These walls are truly like a well planned fortres
Exit town through another portal to ride on the roadway.
Ride on through Vogelsheim and a ride beside a canal into Beisheim. At Widensohlen we wind through the outskirts and over the canal. Then ride on through Urshenheim, Fortschwihr and Bischwihr. As we leave Bischwihr, we get a look at the Vosges Mountains looming up ahead. As we enter Horbourg-Wihr, we noticed an increase in traffic, which just got more intense the closer we got to Colmar. This is not pleasant with the auto traffic. Straight ahead we cross the bridge over the Lille River and enter the outskirts of Colmar. A bike lane helps on the Colmar approach, beside one of Colmar’s many canals; but it does end, before you reach the Centre Ville. This was tough going in the traffic. The Centre Ville; thankfully,is a pedestrian area. Colmar was really our introduction to the Alsace. This is the 3rd largest town in Alsace. Its old quarter looks more German than French, and is intersected with canals.
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A major attraction is the musee d’unterlinden (under the linden trees). It is housed in a former dominican convent built in 1232. The historic neighborhood of La Petite Venice—so dubbed for its 16th century buildings and many bridges—comprises picturesque homes, stores, and artists’ studios perched along the banks of the Lauch river.
For fun, visit the tanner’s quarters for even more canalside cuteness.
There are a number of dining opportunies beside the canal or on one of the squares…
and outdoor winetasting many summer evenings.

Stage Three:  Colmar to Ribeauville  28,5 km

Today is hilly with some moderate climbs. We will be passing through some of the most beautiful little wine villages of the Alsace today. We leave Colman, looking West to the Vosges mountains. We make our way to the rail station and cross to the other side to ride beside the tracks till the turn to the highway where we cross and pick up the bike path. Here we encounter the 1st vineyards we see on the Alsace route. Soon there are many more beside us. Talk about immursing yourself in the Route de Vin.
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We skirt around some woods and encounter several junctions before we cross a bridge over a river. Then continue straight for 1 ½ km past farmland.
This road eventually leads to the busy D10 where you carefully cross left.
After 1km on this unpleasant D road, we were happy to turn off right toward Ammerschwihr. More vineyards as we approach Ammerschwihr in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. We meandered through town before re-entering the dreaded N415. Normally N roads are to be avoided at all costs, for good reason.
They are not bike friendly. Unfortunaely, this one could not be avoided. Here is a hint. Don’t compete with the vehicles. There is a stop light at Ammerschwihr which will hold back the traffic for a few minutes. Work with this time as you go downhill on the N415. When you see the traffic approaching again, just pull over and wait for the next break in traffic.
Just be thankful it is downhill and not longer than 1500 meters.
At the bottom of the hill, turn right to Keisersburg and away from the N415. Kaysersberg lies at the mouth of the Weiss valley,
This town is a popular stop with its vineyard views, wine tasting and colorful buildings.
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It was a nice refreshment break time for us. From Keisersburg, the vineyards fill the slopes.
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A feudal castle that was ruined in the thirty years war, tops the hillside.
We follow the bike signs out of town and on to the next wine village.
The trail leads up into the vineyards for one of the most beautiful stretches of the route…
as well as a moderate climb. It was such a pleasure to be on this quiet path. Kientzheim is known for it’s wine and you’ll find many opportunities for degustation (wine tasting).
We picked one and stopped to try the local varieties. On our way again, we exit Kientzheim through a portal dating from the middle ages, and continue toward Sigolsheim.
It’s only 1 km with vineyards hugging the path. One km after Sigolsheim we approach the busy D1 bis. Better known as the “Route de Vin.” Watch for a clearing in traffic and cross left.
This route is so heavily traveled, we avoided the actual Route de Vin whenever possible and chose alternative routes. It was not always possible to avoid; however.
Ahead is Bennwihr. The Route de Vine goes straight through. Right after Bennwihr is Mittelwihr. There is relief here, since we can turn off left from the D1 and ride a less traveled, scenic route instead. This means a climb away from the D1; following signs to Riquewihr.
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This takes us to the very foothills of the Vosges Mountains. This hilly little town draws lots of tourists. We found it more pleasant to walk our bikes through the narrow cobbled streets as we checked out the colorful buildings.
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It was like stepping back in time.
The high gate of Dolder, straddling an arch through which you can pass, is from 1291.
There are tasting opportunities all through town. Up ahead is one of the remaining town portals. We pass through to exit town.
The climbing continues on a narrow, but quieter route further into the hills. We follow the signs as the road winds through the trees and continues climbing. The reward is the sweeping views as we descend
We breeze through pretty little Hunawihr. There is more climbing as well as descents and spectacular scenery as we continue on to Ribeauville. We switchback following signs and descending to the pedestrian friendly Centre Ville of Ribeauville.
The town lies in a valley surrounded by vineyards and guarded by an ancient fortress. We spent most of the afternoon roaming the cobblestone streets, snacking and checking out the wine shops. Also, if you look up, you are apt to see a storks next and their brood perched precariously on one or more of the town chimneys, or in front of a wine shop.
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Stage Four:  Ribeauville to Barr  35,2 km

Today’s ride is mostly doownhill with a few moderate climbs and pretty much all on small roads and paths through vineyards. We leave Ribeauville and within 10 minutes we are surrounded by vineyards. There are no big towns here; just the quaint wine villages with half timbered buildings bedecked with colorful flowerboxes. The frequent bike route signs are much appreciated. As we leave Kintzheim, we get a good look at the Vosges range to the left. It’s market day as we ride through Chatenois. We pass by the Centre Ville but do not stop to shop today.
As we exit town, we go straight at the roundabout and then across the rail tracks.
In about 600 meters, after crossing the bri dge, we take the 2nd right turn off the Route de Vin. No route marker here, so heads up. Soon another sign and we ride on to Scherwiller. There is a bit of climbing to Dieffenthal. Ride amongst the vines as you turn right and circle the town itself.
This brings us back to the Route de Vin for only about 100 meters; till the turnoff left toward Blienschwiller. We climb up into the Vosges foothills and continue on this quiet alternate route. We coast down to Blienschwiller, turning left, we are on the busy D35 Route de Vin yet again. Climb through Nothalten and soon we’re coasting downhill past vineyards again. Intterswiller is on the hill up ahead. You’re still on the official “Route de Vin” here. This is a long and colorful main street and it’s adorned with flowers everywhere.
Leaving Intterswiller, we just had to stop and take in the great panarama. Then we ride on until a left turn, off the D35; but following the Route de Vin toward Andlau. This stands out as one of the best views of the tour…. Downhill into Andlau. Wines have been produced in this village since 70 CC. We stopped for refreshments here. Unfortunately, we pay for the downhill with a climb again as we exit Andlau. It was well worth it; however. Just after the crest of the hill, watch for this small road which angles off from the D62. There is a bike route marker.
We have the trail to ourselves as we coast past the vineyards on our way toward Mittelbergheim. Climb out of Mittelberheim and after a very brief stint on the busy Route de Vin road, we turn off for a quiet path through vineyards to Barr. The castles of Landsberg and Andlau stand high above the town. We arrived durring the long traditional lunch break so the town was quiet; but, by late afternoon it was bustling. When we visited Tourist Information, we found that there was a walking tour through the vineyards. We were all over this. We were in a small group as we gradually climbed from one section of vineyard to another with explanations of the different varies and their quality differences and history.
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This finished with a tour of this family’s small pressing operation and wine tasting at the end. It was fun and memorable for all. This is not a big institutional winery; but a nice small friendly family operation.

Stage Five:  Barr to Molsheim  21,1 km

This is a short day as we want to arrive in time to watch the Tour de France stage pass through town on the way to Strassberg. Most of our climbing is in the 1st part of the ride; starting on our way out of Molsheim. At first there is a bike lane; but, it gives out part way up the hill. We are happy to ride into Heiligenstein, crest the hill and to turn off onto a secondary road and a descent of about 2km. The path jogs through the vineyards. Then we are on some D roads into Bernardswiller and then watching for signs for Obernai. The spires are our directional sign for the center of town.
The patron saint of Alsace, Saint Obernai, was born here. We headed to the square and took some time to wander around; taking in the sights and capturing them with our camera.
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It was still early; but, this town attracts lots of tourists, so we were ahead of the crowd. We head out of town and up a hill. Eventually the road veers left and we exit Bischoffheim and continue for about 1 km downhill toward Rosheim. Rosheim’s gated town wall is to the left; but we decided to push on to Dorlisheim and made the right turn instead. At Dorlisheim After we cross left using the green bikeway and continue over the railroad tracks.
Just ahead is the Bruche River bridge. Follow signs to Molsheim’s Centre Ville and enter through this impressive gate. Molsheim is our last stop on the Alsace Route de Vin.
It’s built around a large town square with tourist information, shops and restaurants.
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A good time to find a bench, spread out our little lunch and peruse the square. We then headed out to secure a good spot to watch the Tour de France riders and entourage pass by. This is a huge event and people line the street for blocks. French flags wave; gendarmes keep the crowds in check and there is lots of hooting and hollering as the commercial carivan passes wtih souveners, samples and water canons. What a spectacle. Then the tension mounts as the helicopters are overhead and then the preceding motorcycles and finally the first riders. It is all over in a colorful flash; but oh so fun.
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Stage Six:  Molsheim to Strasbourg  24,9 km

Today is flat and nearly all on bike paths and beside a canal. This is a popular trail and there will be plenty of other cyclists and it is an easy way to make your way to the busy city of Strasbourg.
We leave Molsheim by heading toward the rail station from the gate.
We turn off left, just past the town wall and ride down the ramp then switchback to ride beside a nice path beside the small canal. A great start to any ride. Leave the canal and crossover the roadway to ride through the campground entrance. Continue to the pedestrian bridge of the Bruche River and turn left onto the cycle path. Stay on the path to the T junction, turning right and then negotiate the roundabout and then onto the cycle path beside the roadway. Cross the bridge over the Bruche river then enter Ergersheim. Then turn onto the Bruche canal multi purpose path that is our route into Strasbourg. We pass by woods, campgrounds, fishermen, fields and wildlife, as well as a few small towns along the way. As we enter the outskirts of Strasbourg, the path crosses over the canal and we ride on the opposite side, still on the path. We just stay with the path and now keep following signs to the Gare (rail station). With over 300 km of bicycle lanes and tracks, Strasbourg qualifies as France’s most bicycle friendly city. We found the ride into town to be one of the easiest entrances we had encountered. All signs led us to the centrally located gare. We are staying nearby. Today, the tour has just started… about 5 km before, so the riders are all grouped together.
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They will cover 162 km today, after 212 yesterday. Hours later, we’ll watch the finish on TV in our hotel room. Today, the Tour de France has just started… about 5 km before, so the riders are all grouped together. They have yet to show their true competative flair for today. They will cover 162 km today, after 212 yesterday. Hours later, we’ll watch the finish on TV in our hotel room. After watching them pass, we set our agenda to really see the town. The massive cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg is a gothic masterpiece. There are many bridges and some great old half-timbered buildings with classic red tiled roofs, which make up the town center. It makes for a terrific walking tour… especially through the meandering Petite France area, with it’s riverside quaintness. We wander on the rue des Moulins and the Quai de la Petite France to the covered bridges, the “Ponts Couverts” …remnants of the city’s 14th century fortifications.
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Stage Seven:  Strasbourg to Kehl  9,0 km

This short ride takes us across the Rhine river from France and into Germany, where we will be making train connections back to Zurich, Switzerland.
From the Strasbourg’s Gare, it’s a straight shot up to the river. We head out of town this way. There is a lot of meandering around on bike paths and over bridges to finally reach Route du Rhine.
Just after is the Pont Vauban Bridge. This is not fun. Traffic is heavy and the bike path is just beside it on the bridge.
This road is the N4. It crosses part of the Rhine here; but you are still in France. You cross this “island” in the Rhine and then cross the Pont de L’Europe Bridge as you officially leave Strasbourg.
On the other side of the bridge you are in Germany in the town of Kehl. It’s 300 meters to the Bahnhof on the left.
Here we board the Deutschbahn, for a train ride into Zurich.
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It would be a shame to do the whole tour and miss seeing Zurich.
Nestled on the end of scenic Lake Zurich, the town is brimming with historic sights, stately old churches, and more museums than any other European city of its size.
Zurich is an ideal size for strolling, with all of its attractions neatly distributed on both sides of the Limmat River which flows out of Lake Zurich.
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