Friday 26th August – Eguisheim
The sound of hammers, banging storm pegs into the parched earth to hold down awnings, is ringing all around the campsite Trois Chateaux, on the edge of Eguisheim. After days and days of temperatures in the mid to high thirties, there are dark clouds rolling in from the Vosges mountains, the rumble of thunder is becoming more frequent, and the wind is picking up. I think we are in for a storm.
Verdun had been a zig and a zag off our original route, so we still had four hours to drive to our next stop – the medieval village of Eguisheim in the valley of the Rhine. Driving east, two things hit us (figuratively, not literally though that would have added some interest to the blog). Firstly, how vast the plains are in this part of the world. The fields just seemed to go on for ever and the farms are on a scale we just cannot imagine in the UK. Secondly, the names of places began to sound more German than French, a reminder of how fluid the border has been here for centuries.
I had chosen Eguisheim as a stopover, purely from reading about the campsite on a Facebook group and being intrigued by its name. After the disaster of Dormans (What if the Alsace grape harvest was early too?), this is a real beauty of a place. It is a real jewel of a French/Alsace/German village with a great campsite and if you are ever in the top left corner of France, you really must visit (but not on the last weekend in August as things can get a little messy as the annual wine festival takes place). We have decided to stay for a couple of nights so we can have a proper look around.
Apparently, there has been a fort or castle here since roman times, but the village was never of military importance, it left that to the three chateaux on the hills behind us, instead it concentrated on commerce and becoming rich. The unique concentric rings of the town walls were built in the 14th and 15th centuries to protect the many wealthy tithe yards belonging to local abbeys and noblemen. It has carried on being wealthy to this day and the few new houses built outside the old walls are large and clearly expensive. We are in the Strasbourg commuter belt here.
Eguisheim is one of the major centres for wine growing in the Alsace. The village is surrounded by vineyards growing on the lower slopes of the Vosges facing the Black Forest. We can almost reach over the fence of our campsite and pluck a grape or two. I am sorry to say, dear reader, that I would be careful with any 2022 vintage Alsace wines, as that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ you savour, may be down to Bryn.
The Eguisheimers are also very keen on their storks, which nest conspicuously around the village. They even have a park dedicated to them and are rightly proud of their record in increasing the numbers nesting year on year.
I still haven’t found out why there are three castles close together on the hill above the campsite, but they look a little Transylvanian and with the thunder and lightning now all around us, I am half expecting the villagers to invite us to grab our pitch forks and torches and join them in storming the castles. I’ll tell you how we get on in the morning (if we survive?).