The atmospheric town of Saverne in Alsace Lorraine is a favourite stop for many French river cruises. With the Marne-Rhine Canal, which connects two rivers, running through Saverne its reputation has long been connected to its position near these waterways. The town is also famous for its two impressive castles – one in the centre, one overlooking the plains – as they have such strong ties to the region’s past.
Mysticism and Reality: Saverne’s History
Saverne has been a key town in this region since Roman times. Then it was known as Tres Tabernae Cesaris or Caesar’s Three Taverns, as there were three taverns at this site.
Home of the Unicorn
French river cruises that stop at Saverne are not complete without a visit to the famous Badbrunne Fountain. Local legend says that a unicorn once dipped its head into the waters of the fountain, giving it healing powers. This tale dates back to the Middle Ages and, since then, the town’s symbol has been the unicorn. See if you can spot the statue on the Grand Rue.
Battles and War
The town’s more recent history is less magical, though no less interesting. During the Franco-Prussian War the town became part of Imperial Germany. However, it was reclaimed by France at the end of the World War I. French river cruises through the area allow visitors to learn about the central role this town played in some of Europe’s most dramatic episodes of modern history.
Known for its striking façade, Rohan Castle, also called Chateauneuf, is a beautiful example of eighteenth-century neoclassical design. In the 1700s, the palace was one of the residences of the archbishops of Strasbourg who ruled Prince-Bishopric of Strasbourg from the thirteenth century to 1803.
The memorable façade is constructed from sandstone and was the brainchild of architect Nicolas Salins de Montfort. These days the building contains an excellent museum alongside a cultural centre and primary school.
Outside the town sits the imposing Haut-Barr Castle. The sixteenth-century castle was built by Jean de Manderscheid and perches four hundred and seventy metres above the town. However, the history of this site reaches back further than the 1500s. A medieval castle once sat here, though it has been in ruins since the twelfth century. The current chateau was built across three large rocks. A narrow footbridge known as the Devil’s Bridge connects the smallest rock to the main castle area.
From up here, it is easy to see why this site was chosen. The location provides incredible views across the plains – on a clear day you can even see the spires of Strasbourg’s churches. It is for good reason that this castle is nicknamed ‘the Eye of Alsace’.
I hope this has given you a brief insight into the fascinating culture and history accessible from one of the French river cruises in this region.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK’s most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury French river cruises. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.