We started right at the top today, at the château du Haut-Koenigsbourg, a medieval castle strategically positioned overlooking the Upper Rhine Plain. It was used by successive powers from the Middle Ages until the Thirty Years’ War when it was abandoned. From 1900 to 1908 it was rebuilt by German Emperor Wilhelm II.
Wilhelm wanted to create a castle celebrating the medieval times of Alsace and, more specifically, German civilization. He also hoped it would reinforce the bond of Alsatians with Germany, as they had only recently been incorporated into the newly established German empire. In 1908, the restored castle was inaugurated in the presence of the Emperor. After WWI, France confiscated the castle, according to the terms of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. Poor Wilhelm – all that work and expense for nothing.
Though there are some quibbles about the accuracy of the reconstruction, it is judged relatively accurate, and it was certainly wonderful to visit, though there were some scary creatures hanging around.
Though the altitude was lower, the medieval town of Eguisheim is equally high on the tourist’s must-see list in Alsace. The town is known for its wine and we saw many tractors lining the road waiting to unload their grapes. The town is spectacularly intact and charming. Like many towns in the region, it is favored by storks, and we saw some feathering their nests. Between the flowers, the half-timbers, and the generally immaculate condition of this town, Eguisheim really charmed us. Just don’t ask us how to pronounce its name.