I went to France for lunch with a group of friends for one of their recent birthdays. Lunch? In France? Yep. Because when you live only about an hour from the border you can do those kind of things. You can jump in your car and say, "Hey, I feel like fresh French bread, from France." Or "I wonder what's happening in Switzerland right now. Let's go check it out." Just one of the perks of where we live.
Soufflenheim lies right over the border of the Rhine River between France and Germany, about an hour southwest of where we live. It is in the department of Alsace, which is known for it's small, timbered villages and rolling hills. This was the first trip to France for some of our group. These people were very excited to be setting foot in France. I hated to burst their bubble, but I told them "It doesn't look that different from Germany." Oh. "In fact, it used to be Germany. It's gone back and forth several times." Soufflenheim even sounds like it's in Germany.
Soufflenheim, France. Isn't it glorious? Before we crossed the border, a girl kept asking "Are we in France yet? Are we in France yet?"
When we finally arrived at the town, the first-time-France-traveler remarked, "It IS just like Germany."
"Yep. Except for the dog crap on the sidewalks." Seeing dog crap on the sidewalks is always a sure sign you're in France. Soufflenheim is France dressing up in German clothes. Or is it Germany dressing up in French clothes?
Let me explain our confusion. The area of Alsace has bounced between France and Germany a lot. It is a desirable area (I would hope!) that people have been fighting over and stealing for centuries. Here's a quick break down. I color coded it to make it easier to follow. Aren't I nice?
847 AD - Alsace given to East Francia (modern day France).
889 AD - The Carolingian Empire breaks up and the Kingdom of Germany takes Alsace.
962 AD - The Holy Roman Empire forms (Germany) and annexes Alsace.
1674 AD - Louis XIV of France takes it back after the Franco-Dutch war.
1874 AD - Franco-Prussian war ends and Germany takes it back from the losers (France). Creation of Germany.
1919 AD - End of WWI and Treaty of Versailles has France grabbing it back.
1940 AD - Nazi Germany invades and conquers Alsace. Says Alsace is their's and always will be.
1945 AD - End of WWII. Alsace goes back to the French and remains under the control of France.
I think they might have an identity crises on their hands. Considering that every time they changed hands, they made the people switch from French, to German, then back to French again. Streets were renamed, the other language was outlawed. The Alsatian dialect is the language spoken here and is close to German. French is now the official language, but you can still hear some Alsatian now and then.
History lesson over. If you want to know more, read this here.
The real reason that you go to Soufflenheim is not for history lessons, but for French pottery. Pottery has been made in this area of France for 1,500 years due to the large clay deposit from the Rhine River nearby.
They make it right there in their shops, and then hand paint it and fire it in their own ovens. It's beautiful.
Here is a big plate I bought to set out chocolate chip cookies on. Cranes are the symbol of Alsace, but I have no idea why since Alsace isn't anywhere near the ocean.
If you want to be really authentic, buy a crock pot. That is how the pottery really came about. Families would save all the scraps from the week, the meats and vegetables, and put them in a crock pot and take it to the local baker to stick in his warm oven on Sunday while they went to church, and then when they got out they would have a meat-vegetable stew concoction. It's called Baeckeoffe, which means baker's oven.
This is where we eat when we go here. The Restaurant au Boeuf, or Beef Restaurant. They serve more than beef.
They serve things like this. The Vol-au-vent. A puff pastry filled with goodness like beef, gravy, and mushrooms. This vol-au-vent is award winning. They tell you all over their menu. Award winning!!!
And things like this. The tarte à l'oignon, or onion tart. Mmmm... French onion tart. No awards though. But still, pretty darn good.
Even though Soufflenheim doesn't put off the same French feel that Paris does, it's still good for a quick pass through if you are in the neighborhood.
Who doesn't like to walk down the street and see places like this?
*Loves going to France no matter what feel it has, and she loves saying she has been five times now.