A voyage of discovery
Where nature and culture meet
Forest and nature at first sight
Gentle hills, thick forests, red cliffs, picturesque hamlets and old fortresses: the Northern Vosges in Alsace, north-eastern France have for centuries existed as a cultured landscape that could not be richer in nature. There are low-lying mountains with red sandstone cliffs that to the east drop into the Rhine; beyond the river beckons the Black Forest. Numerous watercourses mark the region, cutting across the hilly forest landscape and its oaks, beeches, pines and alders. The diversity of plants and animals is such that UNESCO has declared a trans-boundary biosphere reserve for the nature parks of the Northern Vosges in France and the Palatinate Forest in Germany. This serves not only to preserve the natural species diversity and existing cultural variety, but also provides a model region for sustainable development, with man as the shaper and keeper of his natural living environment. The many trails through the varied natural landscape are ideal for hikers and mountain-bikers alike, while the diverse beauty and wealth are a delight for the eye and soul of the visitor.
The small stone – La Petite Pierre
Right in the midst of this enchanted forest, just two kilometres from La Clairière, is a small medieval town of some 630 inhabitants. It gives its name to the district of La Petite Pierre. Fine half-timbered houses line the main street, which leads directly to the Gothic shared church of Notre Dame. Church lovers will love the carefully restored frescos. Behind it the 12th-century Castle Lützelstein stands on a rocky spur and still watches over what was the very important pass over the Northern Vosges, through which ran one (?) of the few connecting roads between Alsace and Lorraine. Enjoying a traditional tarte flambée in one of the bistros in this small town is of course a must, while the day can be rounded off with a cultural visit to the Alsace museum of seals, the museum of folk traditions and the biosphere reserve visitor centre.
Discover the cultural inheritance
For a mentally stimulating day trip in the area around La Clairière there are the Musée Lalique with its glass art and jewellery in Wingen sur Moder and the Musée du Verre et du Cristal in Meisenthal. For those wishing to explore medieval history, a visit to the Fleckenstein and Löwenstein castles and the ruins of Castle Hohenburg are recommended. Castle Lichtenberg is also the venue for numerous entertaining events. The cliff dwellings at Graufthal bear witness to the harsh living conditions of the 17th century: only in 1958 did the last resident leave her home, which had neither electricity, running water nor heating. The charming natural landscape is always present as a companion and backdrop for these excursions, which also make excellent destinations for walks and mountain bike routes.