On the road

Department of Haut-Rhin (68)

Population: 762,000

Prefecture: Colmar

Sub-prefectures : Mulhouse, Altkirch, Guebwiller, Ribeauvillé, Thann

Surface: 3,525 km2

Specialities: Alsace wines, sauerkraut, munster, fried carp of Sungdau, fleischschnacka (minced meat and pasta), melfor (vinegar).

Clubs: ASPTT Mulhouse (volley-ball), FC Mulhouse (football), Mulhouse Scorpions (ice-hockey). Mulhouse Olympic Natation (swimming).

Events: Colmar international fencing meeting, Grand Prix de Colmar (track cycling)

Festivals: Colmar Christmas market, Colmar book fair, Musicales of Colmar, Colmar international classical music festival, Mulhouse automobile festival, Bête de Scène in Mulhouse.

Tourist sites: cité du train and cité de l’automobile (Mulhouse), Ecomuseum of Alsace (Ungersheim), Unterlinden museum in Colmar, collegial churches (Thann and Colmar) villages of Hunawihr, Eguisheim and Riquewihr.

Economy: agriculture (colza, wheat, maize, wines), automobile, textile, tourism

Websites and social networks: www.haut-rhin.fr

Km 2.5

Wittelsheim (Pop: 10,000)

Close to Mulhouse, Wittelsheim was a major centre of potash production in Alsace. Its presence in Alsatian soil was discovered in 1904 by Amelie Zurcher and potash made the wealth of the region for decades. It is also the hometown of former international and Sochaux goalkeeper Albert Rust.

Km 10

Bollwiller (Pop: 4,000)

Château de Bollwiller, built in the 12th century, is remarkably preserved, both inside and outside, and is now one of the rare medieval buildings in Alsace whose old stones, medieval rooms, galleries and halls reflect nearly 1,000 years of history. The castle was surrounded by moats and a magnificent park with rare trees and plants some of which are still to be seen. It was the stronghold of a powerful lordship stretching across the valleys of Thann, Masevaux and Val-de-Villé.

Km 14

Soultz-Haut-Rhin (Pop: 7,300)

On the road of the wines and at the foot of the Vosges, close to their highest summit, Soultz was mentioned for the first time in 667. Its name probably cemes from the Latin Sulza, which might evoke the presence of a salted spring. Thanks to viticulture, the city was prosperous in the 16th and 17th centuries, and several elegant townhouse with turrets reflect this wealthy past. The pleasant city has charming little streets and can be discovered by following the old Soultz historical circuit. It also tells the tale of some of the famous characters of the town like Georges Heckeren of Anthès whose castle is still visible and who killed Russian poet Pushkin in a tragic duel.

Soultz is also the hometown of former international footballer Bernard Genghini, who played for Sochaux and Monaco and has 27 caps for France.

Km 17

Guebwiller (Pop: 11,000)

Guebwiller is located on the road of the Alsace wines, at an altitude of 300 metres, at the foot of the Grand Ballon, once called the Ballon of Guebwiller. It is the highest summit in the Vosges (1,424 m). Labelled a Town of Art and History, it has constantly valorised its architectural heritage. A former possession of the monks of the Murbach Abbey in the Florival (Flowery) valley, the “Town of three churches” has several monuments in varied architectural styles. Its religious heritage (St Leger Romanesque church, abbatial church, synagogue, Dominicans convent) is exceptionally rich. Among the celebrities in the history of the city was 19th century ceramics master Theodore Deck, who gave his name to the museum of local history.

Famous for its remarkable vineyards, Guebwiller is the only town in Alsace to produce four grand crus: grand cru Kessler, grand cru Kitterlé, grand cru Saering and grand cru Spiegel.

Km 21

Buhl (Pop: 3,300)

Buhl lies in the heart of the wooded hillsides of the Florival valley, close to lake Lauch (Alt. 950 m) and the Markstein ski resort. It is an ideal starting point to discover the hilly roads of the region and panoramic views going as far as the Alps on sunny days.

Buhl simultaneously offers wide open natural spaces and an astonishing architectural heritage taking visitors from the Middle Ages to today, from the ruins of the Hugstein castle to the vestiges of the industrial era. The commune holds a magnificent 17th century triptych saved from destruction during the Revolution and attributed to the school of Martin Schoengauer.

Buhl is the hometown of Maurice Koechllin, who played a major role in the construction of the Eiffel Tower and conceived some of the plans for the Statue of Liberty in New York.

Km 40

Markstein

The ski resort is a paradise for Nordic skiers combining its domain with the site of Breitfirst and the high paying Nordic road leading to Grand Ballon. It was an alpine skiing World Cup stage in 1983 and 1987 and saw Swedish legend Ingemar Stnemark win two slaloms.

Km 47

Grand Ballon

The highest summit in the Vosges massif, the Alsace region and the Haut-Rhin department, Grand Ballon tops at 1,424 metres. It was ridden seven times since 1969 when Lucien Van impe became its first conqueror. In 2014, Tony Martin led a long breakaway between Gerardmer and Mulhouse and was first at the top.

Km 56.6

Goldbach-Altenbach (Pop: 290)

The commune is set on top or a rock and reunited the two highest communes of Alsace, Goldbach and Altenbach, in 1972. The village lies at the foot of the ruins of the 13th century Freundstein castle and surrounded by chalets overlooked by the Grand Ballon and Vieil Armand, two of the highest summits in the Vosges.

It is the home village of Catherine Hubscher, spouse of Marshall Lefebvre, an aide of Napoleon, who was known as “Madame Sans Gêne” (Shameless Madam) for her outspoken manners in court.

Km 89.5

Lake Sewen

It is one of the few Ice Age lakes in the Alsatian Vosges and one of the best preserved according to geologists. Invaded by peat moss, it has ben reduced to 6 ha compared with 30 ha in the late 14th century. Wildlife is protected while the presence of beavers and carnivorous plants makes the lake a subject of research for botanists and zoologists.  Will-o-the-lisps can be spotted at night around the lake.

Territoire de Belfort (90)

Population: 147,800

Prefecture: Belfort

Surface area: 609 km²

Specialties: AOP Munster (cheese), cancoillotte (cheese), blueberry, toutché (potato cake), Belflore (cake), Lion dung (chocolates), Facette du Territoire  (chocolates), legs of the Lion (bread), the Rebel (beer), the shoulder of the Balloon (lamb)

Sport: hiking, horse riding, mountain biking, cycling, paragliding, tree climbing, golf, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, water activities at the Malsaucy water sports center (dinghy, canoeing, windsurfing, kayaking, rowing and boating) paddle), fishing.

Competitions: Belfort Triathlon, Lion Half Marathon, Territoire de Belfort Cycle Tour, Lion Enduro, BelforTrail-GiroTrail

Festivals: Eurockéennes, one of the largest festivals in Europe, International Festival of University Music, Summer Strolls, Entrevues International Film Festival, Contes et Compagnie, Solstice of Puppetry, Impetus Festival.

Economy: High-tech industrial cluster with Alstom, General Electric and PSA nearby, competitiveness clusters around mobility and microtechnology, Techn'Hom and Jonxion business parks, business tourism

Websites and social networks: www.territoiredebelfort.fr / www.belfort-tourisme.com / www.facebook.com/cd90.fr / www.facebook.com/belfort.tourisme.officiel / twitter.com/Departement_90

Km 101.5

Ballon d’Alsace (1,247 m)

Climbed 26 times, Ballon d’Alsace was the first big pass ridden by the Tour de France riders in 1905. Rene Pottier was first at the top and repeated the feat in 1906, the year of his victory in the Tour. A plaque pays tribute to the man who committed suicide a few months after this victory in January 1907. Eddy Merckx led the bunch at the summit in 1969. The Tour had not returned to Ballon d’Alsace since 2005.

Km 116

Le Thillot (Pop: 3,700)

Former mining town and stronghold of textile, Le Thillot was the canton of Jules Ferry and the city of François Remetter, the mythical goalkeeper of the French football team in the 50s.

Km 138.5

Col des Chevrères

Relatively low (913 m) but still listed as a 1st category climb, Col des Chevrères was taken for the first time in 2014 and Joaquim Rodriguez was in the lead at the top.

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