Once in a lifetime

European River Cruises - Alsace and Lorraine

European river cruises to the eastern edge of France through Alsace and Lorraine show you a completely unique aspect of France and Europe. This lovely region has a long and storied past.
Alsace and Lorraine - beauty with a troubled history

European river cruises through the waterways and canals of this area of France will allow you to see some very beautiful countryside with some amazingly historic towns and cities - but it wasn't always like that.

Historically, this was always a notorious 'grey area' between France and Germany or the German precursor states. In parts of this large region, the language spoken was a German dialect and there was a split between cultural French and Germans by both general geography and rural/urban tradition.
Well established as part of France by the mid-19th century, it was ceded to the new German state after France's catastrophic defeat in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. 

Thus began a period of 'Germanisation' but the position changed again in 1919 when after the First World War, the lands were ceded back to France. That in turn heralded in a period of 'Francification' that included vast deportations of people from the area who were of German origin.
Parts of the area were taken under control of the Nazi state after France's defeat in 1940 and returned to French control yet again after 1945. So, much blood was spilled in these lands in the relatively recent past, but today that legacy has resulted in one of Europe's true multi-cultural areas and a richness of tradition that has to be seen.

The culture - German or French?

If you take European river cruises through this area, you'll be able to see strong echoes of France and Germany. A lot of cuisine here has a distinctly Germanic feel but with French finesse. The local wines in Alsace are simply not quite German or French - they're uniquely Alsatian.

In many of the larger towns you'll see ancient architecture that looks in part French and in part German. Oddly, you'll also see 19th and earlier 20th century major buildings that are overtly and entirely out-of-context in their determination to be classically German or French architecture. They have their origins in respective attempts to 'Germanify' or 'Francify' the lands in times past.

In fact, when you speak to local people with a history in these localities, you may sense that they feel themselves to be uniquely Alsatian rather than wishing to be drawn too deeply into agonising over whether they're spiritually either-or.

The past in context

Of course, cruising the waterways of this beautiful part of France and exploring the towns, cities, chateaux and fortresses, isn't just about analysing the insanities of the past, but rather more about enjoying yourself! That's very easy to do in Alsace-Lorraine. The local food and wines are superb, the countryside a delight and many of the towns exceptionally historic and picturesque.

So, if European river cruises appeal to you, think long and hard about this part of eastern France.

Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, a provider of luxury, all-inclusive barge holidays. If you're looking for European river cruises we offer experiences in France, Holland, Italy and the UK.