Today is split between peaceful woodland trails and meandering tracks through vineyards, stopping off in Wintzenheim and Wettolsheim for your daily dose of Alsatian villages, though saving Eguisheim – the most impressive – for last!
Today you trek along the dynamic frontier where the Vosges Mountains rise from the Alsatian Plain. To look left is to gaze across the pancake-flat plateau of Alsace, shimmering in the summer heat. There isn’t a ripple in the landscape for 20 kilometres and then, suddenly, the mountains of Germany’s Black Forest surge skywards.
Looking right shifts your attention to the thickly-wooded Vosges mountains, many of the peaks topped with long-forgotten stone châteaux that once played key defensive roles in this region. Tomorrow’s optional loop walk climbs to 4 of these castles for a closer look, though they look especially formidable towering over you today.
The walk reserves something special for last. Eguisheim won the award of Le Village préféré des Français – the favourite village of the French – in 2013, and is also one of 158 villages designated as Les Plus Beaux Village – the most beautiful village in France. Such accolades recognise the fairy-tale quality of the colourful half-timbered houses, the beauty of the narrow streets arranged in concentric circles rotating around the Château Saint-Léon, the gurgling fountains overflowing with flowers that dominate each village square, and the many other delights you’ll discover on arrival.
I quickly became infatuated with the picturesque village of Wettolsheim. It would make a nice break for lunch.
There are some exposed and unfenced edges throughout the walk; be careful and remain on the path.
There are several stretches where you must walk on the road as there is no pavement. Walk on the left side facing the oncoming traffic unless there is a sharp left bend, in which case you should cross to the outside edge to allow drivers the maximum time to see you.
Some of the path is along rocky steps; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.
You are required to cross over a railway track today. Don’t cross over if the lights are flashing or the barriers are coming down. Check both directions before crossing.
Sturdy hiking boots and a waterproof/wind-break layer are required. Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of these ascents and descents.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.
Make sure you bring enough water. It is recommended to drink 0.75 litres per 1 hour of hiking in hot weather.
Be sure to bring plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.
Points of Interest
Castle and Chapel of Saint-Léon
Around Eguisheim you will find regular mentions of Saint Leo or Saint-Léon. This is because a German aristocrat, Bruno of Eguisheim-Dagsburg, was born here in 1002 AD. He would later become Pope Leo IX - not many villages can claim to have produced a pope! Be sure to pop into the exquisitely-decorated chapel. His relics are held here, and the stained glass depicts the various stages of his life.
Wettolsheim is disturbed less than neighbouring villages and appears more quaint and charming because of this. There are around 85 wine-producing families in the village, resulting in some of the best wines in Alsace.
Even if your legs ache by the time you reach Eguisheim, make sure you walk a lap of the remparts before you leave! These narrow, circular streets encircle the centre of the village. Previously they would have added another layer of defence, but now they display some of the most quintessential and picturesque Alsatian architecture.
Food and Drink
You will pass through the villages of Wintzenheim and Wettolsheim after 5.5 and 8 kilometres respectively. You won’t struggle to find a gourmet meal or refreshing glass of wine in either.