Resting deep within the Alsace region in what is now known as France resides a charming village known as Riquewihr. Many of our Rhine River itineraries include an excursion to this beautiful medieval destination, from our Enchanting Rhine river journey to our Rhine & Moselle Fairytales sailing. Through the centuries, this village has become a fairytale all its own. Sit back, relax, and allow us to tell you this story of once upon a time...
In the 17th century, a young woman lived in the small village of Riquewihr with her fiancé, whom she loved deeply. Her name was Marie Wolf, and her happiness did not last long. A war broke out in the region, and during the ongoing struggle, her fiancé was killed. Distraught, Marie locked herself away from the rest of the townspeople, keeping only a black cat for companionship in her grief. The few occasions she did leave her home were spent loudly wailing as she wandered the streets, lamenting the death of the one she loved.
The other villagers in Riquewihr gossiped about her strange behavior, her reclusive nature, her feline friend. In time, they took to calling her “The Witch.” With this new title, “The Witch” became a pariah of Riquewihr.
One day, Riquewihr was invaded by bandits. To protect themselves from the attackers, the villagers hid in their homes, shuttering the windows and barring the doors. The streets were empty. As the intruders rested, Riquewihr was quiet. However, that did not last long.
Due to her social isolation, Marie did not know of the bandits that had taken over the village, and she set out to walk the streets. Her agonized sobs carried through the stillness that had fallen over Riquewihr, reaching the ears of the invading force. As her howls grew louder, so too did the fears of the outsiders, who did not know her identity. “A spirit is haunting this village,” they believed, “and we have made it angry!” With that thought in their minds, they fled Riquewihr.
From then on, the villagers proclaimed her the guardian and protector of Riquewihr. This story spread throughout Alsace, and to this day, you can see witch figurines in the windows around the village and surrounding towns, warding away evil.
See these witches with your own eyes and even bring them home as souvenirs when you join us on our included excursion here on select Rhine River journeys. Follow in Marie’s footsteps as you walk the cobblestone streets on a guided tour. Sweep your gaze across the brightly painted buildings, each of which carries colors not shared by its direct neighbors – a special rule of Riquewihr. Inhale the aromas of freshly baked bread and coconut macaroons still hot from the oven wafting from both sides of the village’s main street. Savor a refreshing glass of the region’s famous Grand Cru Schoenenbourg wine and sample its delightful baked treats.
In the spring, enjoy the soft mountain breezes through the hills as the village warms from the cold of winter. If you choose to cruise the Rhine River and visit Riquewihr with us in summer, the surrounding vineyards shine a vibrant green, and the long daylight hours illuminate the streets in a beautiful glow. Fall brings with it the season’s harvest, welcoming new wine and delicious fresh produce. No matter the season, Riquewihr offers a beautiful backdrop to create lasting memories under the benevolent spirit of the witch of legend.
Talk to your preferred travel advisor and plan to visit the charming village of Riquewihr on many of our Rhine River cruises.