Alsace was fought over and taken many times, back and forth betweeen the French and the Germans and other empires. Alsace was conquered many times, back and forth and back and forth.
The farthest back we know is to the time of the Celts, tribes that lived all over Northern Europe, here and there in villages. The Celts were in Alsace for a long time. They grew crops there and lived a normal life, around 1500 BCE. But soon the Celts were invaded by the Romans, and in 58 CE, they took Alsace. The Roman empire lived a very long time in Gaul (France), fighting with the neighboring Germanic tribes that lived across the Rhine river. But, as the Roman empire fell apart, it was being stabbed at and attacked from all angles: by the Vandals on the tip of Northern Africa (where do we get our word vandalism?), the Ostrogoths in Italy, the Visigoths in Spain, and many more tribes, kingdoms, and empires, including the Germanic tribes in Alsace. In 406 CE, Alsace became part of German Alemani. In 496 CE, the Franks, who were Germans and part of the tribes that crossed the Rhine to stab the Roman empire, fought and took Alsace. The Frankish empire had control over Alsace for a long time, during which it got split into smaller kingdoms, and then, in 880 CE, the Germans took it and made it part of Alemani (again). The Holy Roman empire took it in the 13th century, during which it suffered great losses with bad harvests, harsh winters, and the Black Death.
During the 16th century, Alsace was taken by many little groups, some of which only held it for like 5 years. Other times it was impossible to follow what was happening. It was during that period of empire after empire, group after group, with so much happening, that the Bucher line made it’s way into the history of Alsace. In the 17th century the French took it, and in 1871 Germany took it back in the Franco-Prussian war.
In the museum l’e Ecole (see Kieran’s post), we saw a piece of art from 1889, that depicted the Germans crossing the Rhine river, to invade Alsace in 1871. The art showed a German army on the right side, East of the Rhine, and a French army on the left side, West of the Rhine. There is an old, bearded man in the center, representing the Rhine, the ancient border going back centuries. The border of Roman land to Germanic land was the Rhine river. It was an important figure.
Well after that invasion, the French took it back in 1918, during WWI, Germany took it in 1940, during WWII, and then the French finally reclaimed Alsace in 1945, during the conclusion of WWII.
I don’t know if Alsace is French or German.
That is where we were staying. An area of many cultures. It had been conquered so many times, that everybody there has ancestors that are from France, Germany, and Switzerland. This was where all 3 of those cultures came and swirled together in a big whirlwind of ethnicities coming to form Alsace. Janet is not just French. She is Alsacian. That is why we were spending all of our time in Alsace. We found a Bucher gravestone, a Bucher winery (Bucher is not pronounced “Butcher,” but as “Boo-shay.” It’s a French name), and distant relatives, all in this one part of Alsace. This is where our knowledge of the Bucher line started. According to Jean-Luc Bucher (man and distant relative at Bucher winery), the old, old, old Bucher ancestors came from Switzerland, traveled to Alsace, mixed with a bunch of French and Germans, and voila! You have the Buchers living in Alsace.
But we left all that behind. We stayed in Alsace for like 5 days, but in that time we got to be detectives, and we traced our family back, back, back using our family tree, and we found them, living in places in Alsace like Colmar, Riquewihr, Ribeauville, and Zellenberg. Next we would go to Heidelberg, Germany. We would see Britta, an au pair from 7 years ago, and see the magnificent castle.
But that was not today. We just spent the whole day packing, going, and settling in. That’s exactly what we did. Packed up, went out the door, took a bus, and settled in.
We packed up. Check! We got out the door. Check! We got on the bus. Check! It was over a 3-hour bus ride, all the way to Germany. We had got podcast recomendations from the Herrlings in Zurich, and we dived right in. Listening to podcasts was a very good way to stay entertained and pass the time. That is literally what we did the whole ride.
It was also Armistice day. 11th of November. 100 year anniversary of the end of WWI, and we would be crossing the Rhine, going from France to Germany, on that special day. So symbolic! WWI was terrible. So many lives were lost. Today was exactly 100 years since the signing of the armistice that ended the terror and destruction of WWI.
Then the moment came. We were above the Rhine. An important crossing on an important day. Betweeen France and Germany, we crossed the border. Traveling to a new country is very exciting. Now we’re in Germany. UK, Spain, Morocco, Italy, Vatican city, Switzerland, France, and now Germany. That’s 8 countries in a little over 3 months.
I am so excited to do new things in other countries. After we settled in, we went to play at a park and ate Thai food for dinner. Germany isn’t exactly known for its food, but it was sure delicious.
It is very fun doing this, but I am still eagerly awaiting the day when we return, get to see people, and life is somewhat normal again.
Below: Crossing of the Rhine on Armistice day
Below: A copy of a map from the 1600s hanging in the Thieberts’ house, showing Alsace and Lorraine as independent states
Below: Thai food dinner