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  • HI, I'M RICK STEVES IN THE FRENCH REGION OF ALSACE.

  • IN THIS PROGRAM, WE'LL SAMPLE A LUSH LAND

  • OF VILLAGES, VINEYARDS, RUINED CASTLES,

  • AND MEMORABLE CUISINE.

  • IN THIS SHOW, WE'LL EXPERIENCE THE UNIQUE MIX

  • OF ALSATIAN CULTURE

  • BY VISITING ITS LOVELY COBBLED VILLAGES,

  • SIPPING A LITTLE WINE,

  • VIEWING ART THAT'S STILL AS VIBRANT

  • AS THE DAY IT WAS PAINTED,

  • TASTING ALSATIAN CUISINE IN A FINE RESTAURANT,

  • PONDERING THE BLOODIEST

  • OF ALL WORLD WAR I BATTLEFIELDS,

  • GOING GOTHIC AT THE REIMS CATHEDRAL,

  • AND FINALLY VISITING THE BUBBLY BIRTHPLACE OF CHAMPAGNE.

  • FRANCE IS ONE OF THE LARGEST COUNTRIES IN WESTERN EUROPE.

  • THE REGION OF ALSACE

  • IS IN THE NORTHWESTERN PART OF THE COUNTRY.

  • FROM OUR ALSATIAN HOME BASE OF COLMAR,

  • WE'LL DRIVE TO VERDUN, REIMS, AND FINISH IN EPERNAY.

  • AND ONCE AGAIN, WE'RE TRAVELING WITH THE HELP

  • OF MY FRANCOPHILE PARTNER STEVE SMITH.

  • BONJOUR, RICK.

  • I TAUGHT HIM EVERYTHING HE KNOWS.

  • THEN THIS SHOW SHOULD BE, HOW YOU SAY, FORMIDABLE.

  • ALSACE IS FRANCE WITH A GERMAN ACCENT.

  • HISTORICALLY, THE GERMANS THOUGHT THE MOUNTAINS

  • WERE THE LOGICAL BORDER.

  • THE FRENCH THOUGHT THE RHINE RIVER WAS.

  • THE ALSACE, THAT'S THE AREA IN BETWEEN.

  • STANDING LIKE A FLOWER CHILD REFEREE

  • BETWEEN GERMANY AND FRANCE,

  • THE ALSACE HAS WEATHERED MANY INVASIONS.

  • THE REGION'S MANY CASTLES REMIND US

  • THAT ALSACE HAS BEEN A LONG-FOUGHT-OVER CROSSROADS,

  • AND ALL THESE CENTURIES AS A POLITICAL SHUTTLECOCK

  • BETWEEN GERMANY AND FRANCE

  • HAVE GIVEN THE ALSACE A HYBRID CULTURE.

  • VISITORS ENJOY A RICH BLENDING OF TWO GREAT SOCIETIES,

  • FRENCH AND GERMAN, CATHOLIC AND PROTESTANT,

  • A LATIN JOY OF LIFE

  • WITH JUST ENOUGH GERMANIC DISCIPLINE.

  • ALSACE HAS CAREFULLY COIFED POODLES

  • AND THE BEST BEER IN FRANCE.

  • THE RESTAURANTS SERVE SAUERKRAUT WITH FINE SAUCES.

  • SIGNS ARE BILINGUAL. SO ARE MANY NAMES.

  • AND WITH GERMAN POPULARITY LOW AFTER WORLD WAR II,

  • MANY FAMILIES WITH GERMAN SURNAMES

  • GAVE THEIR CHILDREN FRENCH FIRST NAMES.

  • MY NAME IS DOMINIQUE FREYBURGER.

  • MONIQUE FREUDENREISCH.

  • MAURICE KLUFT. [ LAUGHS ]

  • THE RICH MIXING OF CULTURES HAS DONE THE ALSACE WELL.

  • VISITORS DELIGHT IN THE REGION'S DISTINCTIVE CUISINE

  • AND SUPERB WINES.

  • CENTURIES OF SUCCESSFUL WINE PRODUCTION

  • HAVE BUILT PROSPEROUS AND COLORFUL VILLAGES.

  • WINE CONTINUES TO FUEL THE LOCAL ECONOMY.

  • WE'RE EXPLORING THE WINE ROAD OF ALSACE,

  • THE ROUTE DES VINS.

  • THIS ASPHALT RIBBON TIES 80 MILES OF VINEYARDS,

  • VILLAGES, AND FEUDAL FORTRESSES

  • INTO AN UNDERSTANDABLY POPULAR TOURIST PACKAGE.

  • THE DRY AND SUNNY CLIMATE HAS PRODUCED GOOD WINE

  • AND HAPPY TOURISTS SINCE ROMAN TIMES.

  • ALSATIAN TOWNS LIKE EGUISHEIM ARE HISTORIC MOSAICS,

  • MIXING FLOWER-BEDECKED FOUNTAINS,

  • CHEERY OLD INNS, AND CHARACTERISTIC WINERIES

  • COLORED IN WITH HALF-TIMBERED PASTELS.

  • THE EVER-PRESENT SYMBOL OF THE ALSACE,

  • MAGNIFICENT WHITE STORKS,

  • BUILD NESTS ON THE TOWN'S HIGHEST PERCHES.

  • DESPITE THE SEEMINGLY PRECARIOUS SETTING,

  • THEY MANAGE TO RAISE THEIR YOUNG

  • WHILE KEEPING AN EVER-WATCHFUL EYE

  • OVER THE VINEYARDS.

  • KAYSERSBERG IS A COLORFUL BUNDLE OF 15th-CENTURY HOUSES.

  • THE TOWN'S CHURCH FEATURES A CENTURIES-OLD CRUCIFIX

  • REMINDING US OF THE DEEP ROOTS OF ALSATIAN TOWNS.

  • THE CARVING OVER THE DOOR OF THE CHURCH DATES FROM 1235.

  • THE GREAT HUMANITARIAN ALBERT SCHWEITZER

  • ONCE LIVED IN THIS PEACEFUL VILLAGE.

  • HIS PROFOUND REVERENCE FOR LIFE

  • LED HIM TO AFRICA,

  • WHERE HE ESTABLISHED A HOSPITAL IN 1913.

  • HE SPENT THE BETTER PART OF HIS LIFE EXPANDING

  • AND SUPPORTING THIS EFFORT,

  • AND IN 1952, WAS AWARDED THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE.

  • TODAY, HIS ALSATIAN HOMETOWN

  • IS A RELAXING AND ENJOYABLE GETAWAY.

  • HERE IN THE ALSACE, WINE IS THE PRIMARY INDUSTRY,

  • TOPIC OF CONVERSATION,

  • AND PERFECT EXCUSE FOR COUNTLESS FESTIVALS.

  • IT'S A TRADITION UPON WHICH

  • MUCH OF THE LOCAL FOLK CULTURE IS BUILT.

  • THE DEVASTATION OF WORLD WAR II

  • WAS A HIT-OR-MISS AFFAIR IN THE ALSACE.

  • SOME TOWNS WERE SPARED WHILE OTHERS WERE DESTROYED.

  • BENNWIHR WAS FLATTENED.

  • BUT THE RECOVERY OF THIS VILLAGE IS REMARKABLE.

  • THE SMALL FAMILY-RUN VINEYARDS OF MANY VILLAGES LIKE BENNWIHR

  • SPRANG BACK AS LARGE, EFFICIENT,

  • AND SUCCESSFUL CO-OPS.

  • IN THE VILLAGE OF BENNWIHR,

  • OVER 200 FAMILIES PRODUCE GRAPES,

  • AND MOST OF THOSE GRAPES COME HERE.

  • THIS PRODUCTION LINE HANDLES, 10,000 BOTTLES AN HOUR

  • AND BY THE END OF THE DAY,

  • HUNDREDS OF TONS OF GRAPES ARE PROCESSED.

  • FOUR MILLION BOTTLES ARE EXPORTED

  • ALL OVER EUROPE EACH YEAR.

  • HARVEST TIME IS IN THE FALL, BUT WE'RE HERE IN JUNE.

  • WHILE WE'RE MISSING THE CRUSHING OF THE GRAPES,

  • WE CAN CATCH A GLIMPSE OF THE MODERN PRODUCTION LINE

  • AS IT BOTTLES THE POPULAR WHITE WINES.

  • AND AFTER A GOOD TOUR OF THE WINE MAKING,

  • VISITORS ENJOY THE REFRESHING FINALE OF ANY VISIT:

  • THE TASTING.

  • FOR LESS MACHINERY BUT MORE PERSONALITY,

  • WE'RE VISITING ONE

  • OF THE COUNTLESS ALSATIAN FAMILY WINERIES.

  • IN THE ALSACE,

  • WINERIES ARE TYPICALLY PASSED FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION.

  • STEVE'S FRIEND DOMINIQUE

  • CARRIES ON HIS FAMILY'S WINE-MAKING TRADITION.

  • THIS IS MY CELLAR.

  • THIS IS THE OLDEST BARREL IN THE CELLAR.

  • IT WAS MADE FOR MY GRAND-GRANDFATHER.

  • "M" IS "MANDRACE," AND THE OTHER "M" IS...

  • SO MY GRANDFATHER AND THE GRAND-GRANDFATHER.

  • SO, TWO FAMILIES. THIS IS THE EDELZWICKER.

  • THAT'S THE ONLY BLENDED ALSATIAN WHITE WINE.

  • SO ALL THE OTHER WINES

  • ALL THE OTHER WINES ARE MADE ONLY WITH ONE GRAPE.

  • AND THE WINE IS NAMED AFTER THE GRAPE.

  • RIESLINGS AND THE SPICY GEWURZTRAMINER

  • ARE THE FINE WINES OF ALSACE.

  • THE UNIQUE GEWURZTRAMINER AND ALSATIAN CUISINE

  • ARE A PERFECT MATCH.

  • APART FROM AN OPPORTUNITY TO TASTE SOME GREAT WINE,

  • A VISIT LIKE THIS GAINS US A FEW ALSATIAN FRIENDS

  • AND SOME HELP SINGING THE FRENCH NATIONAL ANTHEM.

  • [ all singing in French ]

  • [ singing fades ]

  • CELLAR-HOPPING AND WINE-SHOPPING

  • IS A GREAT WAY TO SPEND AN AFTERNOON

  • ON THE ROUTE DES VINS.

  • ROADSIDE DEGUSTATION SIGNS MEAN "WINE TASTERS WELCOME."

  • WITH FREE TASTING AND INEXPENSIVE BOTTLES,

  • FRENCH WINE TASTING CAN BE AN AFFORDABLE SPORT.

  • COLMAR IS A SCENIC HOME BASE FOR OUR ALSATIAN EXPLORATIONS.

  • LONG POPULAR WITH FRENCH AND GERMAN TOURISTS,

  • THIS WELL-PRESERVED OLD TOWN OF 70,000

  • IS OVERLOOKED AND UNDERRATED BY OVERSEES TRAVELERS.

  • HISTORIC BEAUTY WAS RARELY AN EXCUSE

  • TO BE SPARED THE RAVAGES OF WORLD WAR II,

  • BUT IT WORKED FOR THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CITY IN THE ALSACE.

  • THE AMERICAN AND BRITISH MILITARY WERE CAREFUL

  • NOT TO BOMB QUAINTLY COBBLED COLMAR.

  • TODAY, COLMAR NOT ONLY SURVIVES, IT THRIVES

  • WITH 15th- AND 16th-CENTURY BUILDINGS, RICH ART TREASURES,

  • AND POPULAR CUISINE.

  • COLMAR'S CHARMS ARE ROOTED IN A WEALTHY MEDIEVAL PAST.

  • FIFTEENTH-CENTURY COLMAR WAS ONE OF TEN CITIES

  • THAT JOINED TOGETHER TO MAKE THE DECAPOLIS,

  • A LEAGUE OF TRADING CITIES.

  • AS MERCHANTS MET IN THIS CUSTOMS HOUSE,

  • THEY WERE CREATING A NEW ECONOMIC ORDER.

  • TRADING LEAGUES WERE REACTING TO THE BUSINESS PROBLEMS

  • THAT CAME WITH FEUDALISM.

  • NO UNIFORM CURRENCY, DIFFERENT WEIGHTS AND MEASURES,

  • TERRIBLE DUTIES EVERY FEW MILES.

  • THIS WAS GOOD FOR THE NOBILITY,

  • MEDIEVAL EUROPE'S RURAL LANDLORDS,

  • BUT A CHAOTIC NIGHTMARE FOR CITY MERCHANTS.

  • TO REMOVE THOSE BARRIERS TO FREE TRADE,

  • MANY MEDIEVAL EUROPEAN CITIES BANDED TOGETHER

  • TO FORM TRADING LEAGUES, LIKE THE DECAPOLIS.

  • THIS PROUDLY DECORATED 16th-CENTURY BUILDING

  • WAS THE HOME OF A WEALTHY COLMAR MERCHANT.

  • IN THOSE DAYS,

  • HOUSES WERE TAXED BY SQUARE FOOTAGE AT STREET LEVEL,

  • AN INCENTIVE TO BUILD BOTH UP AND OUT.

  • ORIGINALLY, COLMAR'S CANALS WERE BUSY TRANSPORTING GOODS.

  • TODAY, THIS CANAL ONLY ADDS TO THE AMBIENCE

  • IN A NEIGHBORHOOD LOCALS CALL LA PETITE VENICE,

  • THE LITTLE VENICE.

  • COLMAR'S KNACK FOR TRADE AND ITS LOCAL INDUSTRIES,

  • SUCH AS THE LEATHER BUSINESS IN THIS TANNERS' QUARTER,

  • ADDED UP TO A STRONG ECONOMY.

  • PROSPERITY FROM TRADE MEANT MONEY FOR ART,

  • AND COLMAR HAD MORE THAN ITS SHARE.

  • THREE GREAT ARTISTS, BARTHOLDI, SCHONGAUER, AND GRUNEWALD,

  • CALLED COLMAR HOME.

  • THE FREDERIC BARTHOLDI MUSEUM HONORS THE GREAT SCULPTOR

  • WHO CREATED THE STATUE OF LIBERTY,

  • A GIFT FROM FRANCE TO THE UNITED STATES

  • ON ITS 100th BIRTHDAY.

  • THE MUSEUM OFFERS INTERESTING HISTORICAL DETAIL

  • DESCRIBING THE CREATION OF LADY LIBERTY

  • AND DISPLAYS MANY OF BARTHOLDI'S SCULPTURES.

  • HE ADORNED HIS HOMETOWN WITH MANY STATUES,

  • MOST, IT SEEMS, WITH ONE ARM HELD HIGH.

  • FOUR HUNDRED YEARS BEFORE BARTHOLDI,

  • MARTIN SCHONGAUER WAS COLMAR'S LEADING ARTIST.

  • HIS VIRGIN OF THE ROSE GARDEN LOOKS AS FRESH AND CRISP

  • AS THE DAY IT WAS PAINTED IN 1473.

  • IT'S MAGNIFICENTLY SET IN A GOTHIC DOMINICAN CHURCH,

  • SURROUNDED BY 14th-CENTURY STAINED GLASS.

  • THE LATIN WORDS ON MARY'S HALO READ,

  • "PICK ME ALSO FOR YOUR CHILD, OH, HOLY VIRGIN."

  • AND FOR SCHONGAUER, NATURE IS MORE THAN A BACKDROP.

  • MARY AND JESUS ARE ENCIRCLED BY IT.

  • THE WAY JESUS HOLDS HIS MOTHER, THE LATIN MESSAGE,

  • AND THE PROMINENCE OF NATURE

  • ALL WORK TO DRIVE HOME THE THEOLOGICAL POINT:

  • MARY IS ACCESSIBLE.

  • A FEW BLOCKS AWAY, THE UNTERLINDEN MUSEUM,

  • MY VOTE FOR THE BEST SMALL MUSEUM IN EUROPE,

  • FILLS A 750-YEAR-OLD FORMER CONVENT.

  • MATHIAS GRUNEWALD'S GRIPPING ISENHEIM ALTARPIECE

  • IS THE MUSEUM'S MOST IMPORTANT WORK.

  • A MODEL SHOWS HOW THIS IS A SERIES OF PAINTINGS

  • ON HINGES THAT PIVOT LIKE SHUTTERS.

  • TO UNDERSTAND THE PURPOSE

  • OF THIS PARTICULARLY GRUESOME CRUCIFIXION SCENE,

  • IT HELPS TO KNOW WHO PAID FOR IT.

  • THE ISENHEIM ALTARPIECE WAS COMMISSIONED 500 YEARS AGO

  • BY A MONASTERY HOSPITAL FILLED WITH PEOPLE

  • SUFFERING TERRIBLE SKIN DISEASES,

  • A COMMON CAUSE OF DEATH BACK THEN.

  • THE HOSPITAL'S GOAL, LONG BEFORE THE AGE OF PAINKILLERS,

  • WAS TO REMIND PATIENTS

  • THAT JESUS UNDERSTOOD THEIR SUFFERING.

  • THE MANY PANELS LED PATIENTS

  • THROUGH A SERIES OF BIBLE STORIES

  • CULMINATING WITH THIS REASSURING RESURRECTION SCENE.

  • [ pan sizzling ]

  • THE OTHER GREAT FRENCH ART IN THE ALSACE IS EDIBLE ART.

  • ALSATIAN CUISINE IS WORLD-FAMOUS.

  • EVEN VACATIONERS TRAVELING ON A SHOESTRING

  • SHOULD SPRING FOR A FINE MEAL IN ALSACE.

  • IN OUR FRANCE GUIDEBOOK,

  • STEVE AND I RECOMMEND A SPLURGE AT RESTAURANT LE RAPP.

  • STEVE'S FRIEND BERNARD RUNS THE RESTAURANT,

  • AND HE'S TAKING OUR TASTE BUDS

  • ON A TOUR THROUGH THE CULINARY TREATS OF ALSACE.

  • WHAT ELSE DO YOU RECOMMEND, BERNARD?

  • PERHAPS THE ESCARGOT?

  • SNAILS?

  • SNAILS.

  • NOW, I THINK OF SNAILS AS BURGUNDIAN.

  • IT'S THE SAME WAY, BUT IN BURGUNDY,

  • THEY PUT ONLY THE BUTTER AND THE HERBS AND THE GARLIC,

  • AND IN ALSACE, THEY PUT ALSO A BOUILLON WITH BUTTER.

  • THE SNAILS WERE EXCELLENT, AND FOR THE MAIN COURSE,

  • IT'S QUICHE, LAMB, AND CHICKEN,

  • ALL PREPARED WITH AN ALSATIAN FLARE.

  • PACE YOURSELF.

  • THE MEALS ARE SERVED IN COURSES, ABOUT FIVE OR SIX,

  • AND EACH ONE DELICIOUS.