Kayserberg, a name meaning Emperor's Mountain in German, is another small town in the Alsace of France and one of my personal favorites in the area. It will be the next stop on our tour of the region.
History of Kayserberg
The town of Kayserberg was established in 1227 and it got its name from the castle ruins that are positioned on the hilltop overlooking the village.
The ruins are remnants of the past and a demonstration of the towns strategic importance throughout its history.
The castle was built in the year of 1220 for a man named Albin Woelflin. He was the imperial bailiff for Emperor Frederick II of the German Holy Roman Empire.
It was said that the castle at the time could house up to 40 Knights and was used as a stronghold for many centuries by several different rulers of different warring nations.
Today the ruins are completely surrounded by vineyards, which makes them very picturesque and for a very scenic hike up the hill to view them.
King Charles V. had this to say about the castle and of Kayserberg. I'm paraphrasing here:
"Kayserberg remains a gateway between Germany and the Latin countries. Its strategic location close to the mountains acts as a cornerstone which allows us to stop foreigners from invading the territory. It is of an extreme importance to us and to our empire." -Charles V. 1530.
In 1293 Kayserberg became known as an imperial city and over the years, the small town grew in size at the base of the castle.
Eventually a wall (or ramparts) was built around the town which still remains standing even to this day.
Kayserberg is actually the only town in the Alsace to still have its entire wall intact.
In 1525, in what was called the Peasants War, the castle was beseiged and ransacked by 13 thousand angry peasants. I don't know the reason why they were so angry though.
Kayserberg belonged to Germany for much of its history but became a part of France in 1648. Many of the people of the village still speak German, which is quite common in the region. The towns of the area are all very close to the border.
Kayserberg is located in Western France in the current Grand Est district of the country. Its close to the border of Germany, as mentioned, and is situated between the city of Colmar and the town of Ribeauville.
It's about a 20 minute drive from each of those towns and even closer to the town of Riquewihr.
We've been to Kayserberg twice now, once in the fall and then again for it's Christmas market in November and December. It is one of my favorite villages in the Alsace and one of the few places that I would go back to for a third time if I had the option.
In truth I could probably say that for many of the towns in the region. The Alsace just has that effect on me I suppose.
The village is set within the mountains and has thick forests surrounding three of its sides. Wine vineyards stretch for kilometers on its fourth side.
The vineyards basically just go on as far as the eye can see.
The town itself is made up of quaint little half timber homes and buildings that have been painted in a variety of bright colors. Its another common feature of the Alsace region and part of why I like it so much.
As you might expect from such a place, the town is a bit touristy. Many of the shops sell local specialties and giftware, some on the more kitschy side of the spectrum.
But among the touristy stuff like Alsacien cookies and random knickknacks, are also good quality Alcasien ceramic cookware and lots of shops selling christmassy stuff.
Wine is obviously a big seller in town as well. The region grows pinot gris grapes, so white wine is the specialty in town.
One of the prettiest spots is at the old stone Bridge that spans the Weiss river.
As you can see, the Weiss was more a creek than a river when we were there.
The stone bridge was built in 1514 and connects the upper and lower parts of the city.
On the left hand side of the photograph above you'll see a small chaple where they used to lock up perpetrators of minor offenses. There the petty criminal would be displayed for everyone in town to see.
Shame can act as a good deterrent for such behavior.
It doesn't look like much from the photographs but the location is very picturesque and has a really nice view of the homes along the water.
At one point while we were in town a group of horse back riders came into town to water their horses at one of the public fountains.
It was pretty neat to see and drew in a crowd to take pictures. I don't really know why we were all so impressed by horses drinking water but I think it was the setting. It just added an extra bit of charm and old timey feel to the place.
Sort of like this random cat sitting on the sidewalk in the sun close to the stand selling fresh baked pretzels. Charming right?
The old town is lined with beautiful buildings that date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The
The city and residents do a really good job preserving their buildings and their heritage.
Rue de Général de Gaulle is the main street that takes you through the heart of the entire city.
But you can also wander around the side streets as well. You will definitely stumble upon some very colorful and very photogenic little homes in there.