Monday, November 12, 2012

Obernai, France - July 7, 2012

Moving further east through France, we left the Champagne-Ardenne region, enjoyed a serene but spectacular drive over the Vosges mountains as we crossed the Lorraine region before finally entering the Bas-Rihn department of the Alsace region, bordering on Germany. Our target was Obernai, a vibrant city bucking the trend of small French cities in that it is growing and has almost doubled its population to around 12,000 inhabitants over the last forty years.
The area where Obernai developed was the property of the dukes of Alsace in the 7th century and where, legend has it, St. Odile, daughter of the Duke, was born subsequently to become the Patron Saint of Alsace. The name Obernai first appears in 1240, around the time that the village acquired the status of town and began to prosper. It reached its economic peak in the 15th and 16th centuries and in 1562 Emperor Ferdinand I saw fit to visit the town.
Obernai was significant;y damaged, both physically and economically, during the Thirty Years War in the 17th century. It fell under foreign occupation at least twice in this period and, after being ransomed, was ceded to France in 1679. Although its fortunes improved as a result of this it never fully regained its earlier luster. In 1871 the whole of Alsace, including Obernai, was summarily annexed by Germany and was not returned to France until the end of WWI, nearly forty years later.
In much earlier days, Obernai was a double-walled city with defensive ramparts separated by a roadway and both walls were replete with towers and gates. While there still is a "rampart walk" around the town, much of the structure was removed in the 19th century and the facilities put to other uses. Small sections of defensive walls have been retained however.
Obernai is a center of wine and beer production as well as a significant tourist destination second only to Strasbourg in the entire Bas-Rhin department. Just 25 miles from Strasbourg and 15 from the international airport, Obernai is well situated for easy access. For views of this picturesque town on Market Day, click here.

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