Barge Holidays in France Exploring the East
Barge holidays in France through Alsace and Lorraine take you through a landscape that’s rich in history and culture.
Barge holidays in France through the eastern areas of Alsace and Lorraine will show you a very different side to French culture.
A Fascinating Heritage
If you paid attention during those school history lessons, the terms “Alsace-Lorraine” may cause you to instinctively flinch. That’s because the history of the area is exceptionally complicated and the stuff of 5th year history nightmares! But if you're planning on embarking on one of the excellent barge holidays in France around this area, it may pay to brush up on your history a little.
Two great cultures meet in this area, Germanic and Gallic – a meeting that has always been historically difficult. These lands have always had mixed populations; broadly speaking, the small towns and rural populations were largely German in culture and language, whereas many of the larger towns and cities were predominantly French in nature. That was a recipe for trouble in the past – not because the local people couldn’t get on, but more because various rulers both sides of ‘the border’ saw Alsace and Lorraine as theirs.
Needless to say, the various kings of France and the rulers of the German states have fundamentally different ideas on just where that border should be, and the people of the area suffered as a result. The cause of numerous seesawing wars, Alsace and Lorraine finally became established as part of France and remained so for a lengthy period of time. In the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, France was badly defeated and the area was annexed to the new German state.
Taken back by the French at the end of World War I, it was taken over again by Nazi Germany in 1940 then eventually returned back in 1945.
The legacies of history
But if you’re not interested in history, you may wonder what relevance all this is to a modern-day barge holidays in France. The landscape here is beautiful, and, as you’d imagine, the terrible traumas of centuries of warfare has left its mark in many chateaux from different ages.
Some of these had their origins in the warfare of the far past and today are beautifully picturesque ruins. The Chateau of Haute-Barr is one such example. Others, such as the Chateau de la Petite Pierre, were later modernised into residences and became closely linked to the surrounding towns as a place of administration. Today they make evocative touring. Others are much more recent – including the Maginot Line fortifications not far from Strasbourg, which proved so ineffective when the Nazis simply bypassed it in 1940.
The point is, there's plenty of history here to see.
Another thing that makes this area worth touring is its unique blend of French and German cultures. Many of the local people are bi-lingual and the cuisine shows heavy influences of France and Germany. You’ll see those great sausage dishes and stews that are typically German, but also some of the rich and refined food of Eastern France. Don’t forget also the incomparable wines of Alsace – they’ll wash down any meal beautifully.
Nowhere is the mix of culture better reflected than in the beautiful city of Strasbourg – which is well worth a visit if you’re in the region cruising along the Canal de la Marne au Rhin.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways. We can provide you with a luxury, all-inclusive barge holiday in France to enjoy the sights of the country's most picturesque waterways. Cruises are also offered in Holland, Italy and the UK.