While looking at a map, did you ever decide to go somewhere just because it had a funny name? It’s something Andrew and I love to do while on road-trips. So while planning the route for our weekend in Strasbourg, I couldn’t resist heading towards Bitche, simply so I could take my photo beside the sign. Little did I know, Bitche is a lot more than a town with a fun name.
Arriving in Bitche, the first thing we saw was a sign designating it as one of France’s Villes Fluerie. This is France’s version of the Communities in Bloom, in which citizens and companies volunteer to create public garden spaces throughout the town, to compete in national and international competitions.
The second thing we saw, was a huge citadel, towering over the town. Gardens and fortifications – now Bitche was a destination for both of us.
As Andrew was driving, the car pointed suspiciously towards the citadel. Up we climbed until we found ourselves in the large parking lot. The sun was already broiling, as we stepped from the car, and I was wondering how we would survive clambering around the hill-top citadel in the heat.
Luckily, most of the tour of the Citadel of Bitche, took place inside the ramparts. An audio-guide led us from room to room in small groups while explaining the history of the siege of Bitche in 1870. In each room, videos of the main characters of the drama led us through the action. The acting was a bit melodramatic, but it certainly brought the history of the citadel to life and taught us about an event in French history we had never before encountered.
When we finally emerged from the depths of the citadel, we decided to brave the sun and stroll along the tops of the ramparts. The view of the surrounding countryside was lovely and it was easy to see why this citadel was such a strategic stronghold.
After a bite in the cafe, and a cool drink, we descended from the citadel towards the Jardin Pour La Paix (The Garden for Peace). The Garden for Peace has been blooming in Bitche for 8 years.
This garden is made up of 10 concept gardens, including garden architecture, sculptures, trees, flowers, and vegetables, with varying themes. It’s a whimsical garden full of colour and you are urged to explore the different installations.
Bitche’s garden heritage is in excellent standing. It is located in the heart of the Parc Naturel Régional des Vosges du Nord, which is classified by UNESCO as part of the Word Network of Biosphere reserves. Bitche has also achieved 4 blooms in the Ville Fleurie program, which is the top ranking, in France. They have also won the Grand Prix National de Fleurissement in 2007 and the Trophee Fleur d’Or in 2010, making it the perfect place for a garden-lover to visit.
Bitche is an easy two and a half hour drive from Brussels and is a lovely place to take a day-trip or to begin a tour of the Alsace-Lorraine region of France.
Have you gone somewhere just because of the name? Leave your crazy place name destinations in the comments below.
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