Old trench of the first world war on the Ballon d'Alsace in France.

© Jef Wodniack/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Ballon d’Alsace


Three régions (Alsace, Franche-Comté and Lorraine) converge at the rounded 1247m-high summit of Ballon d’Alsace. The mountain is a scenic base for walking in summer; the GR5 (grande randonnée 5, a long-distance hiking trail) passes through, as do other trails, including those heading to the bottle-green Lac des Perches (four hours). There’s cross-country skiing on well-groomed forest tracks in winter.

Between 1871 and WWI, the frontier between France and Germany passed by here, attracting French tourists eager to glimpse France’s ‘lost province’ of Alsace from the heroic equestrian statue of Joan of Arc and the cast-iron orientation table. During WWI the mountaintop was heavily fortified, but the trenches were never used in battle.

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