Left Strasbourg and took the rural roads, specifically the wine route road to get to Colmar. The main road would have only taken one hour, but the plan was to visit the small towns along the way, so we arrived in Colmar three hours later. What a great choice! The villages along “La Route du Vin” were so charming and quite busy as was Sunday, so a lot of French people getting away for “le weekend”.
A little aside, we left Strasbourg early, so stopped at the first little town for breakfast. All of a sudden, loud music blaring from the main square just a few meters from us…..wonders never cease….the locals doing Zumba. In addition to this, a bus load of tourists arrive and a few of them, along the periphery of the square, are trying to shake to the music…..really bad, but at least made us smile.
We continue on our along the winding roads and marvel at all the picturesque scenery and the beautiful little villages. The thing that is most striking is the hundreds of flowers that that are planted everywhere. Entrances to the villages, window boxes on the houses, store fronts, etc. They also decorate houses and store fronts with all sorts of decorations, sounds odd, but pictures below should give you some idea.
Colmar is the wine capital of this growing region. The route winds along 170 kms., there are 119 wine producing districts, 15,600 hectares of vineyards, 4,200 winegrowers of which 890 sell their wine and the area opened in 1953. The nearby Vosges hills block the rainfall from the area so provides excellent growing conditions. They mainly produce white wines…pinot blanc, sylvaner (haven’t tried this varietal yet), riesling, muscat (tried this, very good), pinot gris and gewurrztraminer. The red is a pinot noir and they produce a “cremant d’Alsace” similar to a prosecco/champagne (very nice as well). Finally a selection of desert wines. Someone commented that we seem to be doing a lot of drinking….well “yeah”, we are in France after all!
I spoke is the Strasbour blog about the german influence, and it continues here. A sampling of the names of the small towns along the wine route…Orshwiller, Bergheim, Turkheim, Wintaenheim, etc. Of course, also french names….Husserons les Chateau, Saint Hippolyte, Saint Nabor, Saint Leonard. Man oh man, the french certainly like to name their towns after saints…..wonder if that is because we are so holy….or if we need forgiveness for our sins! Notice I included myself here!
Made a few stops along the way, including Sainte Odile, a monastery dating back to the 12th century. Is still used today, and part of the monastery has been transformed into a hotel and one can come here as part of a pilgrimage or for a holy retreat. Beautiful scenery as the monastery sits on top of hills overlooking the valleys. A heavily treed area just below the monastery, leads into the vineyards. Can’t stop too long here, so no time for a retreat. Need to help the economy and drink some wine.
The views from the higher points on the wine route and the countryside simply beautiful and the towns so charming!
Our hotel in Colmar just a block from “Petit Venice” and the old town. The canals are very shallow and not very wide. They have small punt boats that will take you along the canals, and at one point you must bend down to ensure you don’t hit your head on the arch of the bridge. The old town here is quite large and love the winding streets. Once again, we have asked the hotel for restaurant recommendations, and always good.
Last night we ate at a restaurant adjacent to the canal and while we were eating we saw what looked like a white muskrat swimming in the canal. All the french people were so excited. I asked the waitress what is was and she said a “ragondin”, and she went on to say that the reason everyone was so excited is the fact that it was white, she said they were normally brown. Had to find out from a google search what kind of animal this was. It is a “nutrea” an aquatic rodent. Once Robin found out the english name, he told me that nutrea’s are often referred to in James Lee Burke’s books and the settings of these book are in the deep south of the U.S. The lady at the front desk this morning told us that some people make some sort of a pate from the ragondin……not something I’ll be trying anytime soon..just looked like a big rat in the water…no thanks!
Speaking of animals, you see pictures of storks everywhere here. We found out that the storks are the official bird symbol of this region. Apparently the storks are retuning as the corn crops have just been cut down, so they feeding on the remains of the crops. Unfortunately we have not seen any, of course with the exception of their pictures on tea towels, casserole dishes, aprons, oven mitts and umbrellas and all other useless paraphanelia that tourists might buy! No, I won’t be bringing any of these items back home, not my style.
On our second day in Colmar, we headed off to complete the wine route. We winded our way up into the hills to explore ancient ruins ” the three castles”, more like watchtowers, but still interesting to see. We took the time to do about a half hour hike in the forest near the ruins. If one had more time in the area, certainly a lot of hiking trails in the hills.
Whenever we have been driving in the countryside we have seen crosses in front of the vineyards, something we have have seen everywhere in the French countryside during our travels. On one of the traffic circles as you enter Colmar, you see a small version of the Statue of Liberty. Colmar is the home to Auguste Bartholdi, the designer of the Statue and other major installations.
We notice not as many tourists here in Colmar as in Strasbourg. Nice change.
Typical wine glasses in the area are short and have green stems. At least the don’t have pictures of storks on them!
Love what happens when locals walk into a restaurant or cafe. They look around and say ” Bomjour Monsieurs/Dames”, so basically ackowledging everyone who is there. Can you imagine walking into Starbucks and saying “Hi Ladies and Gentlemen”.
I usually order a cappucino when we stop for a break and sometimes served with whipping cream on top…yum. This morning I had the scariest cup of cappuccino.
Out in the countryside again today to visit Chateau Haut-Koenigsbourg. A wonderfully restored castle originally built in the 12th century. Located above the wine valley.
As we were leaving the restaurant last night, the waitress said “Bonne fin de soiree”…”enjoy the rest of your evening” . I love the french language! Really enjoyed Colmar! Off to Switzerland tomorrow morning.