Sunday, September 4, 2011

Colmar, France

Colmar is a medium sized city in the Alsace region of France. Just a few kilometers from the German border, this part of France has ping-ponged back and forth between German and French control for centuries. After the end of WW2 it returned to French control, and it seems likely to stay. The German heritage is instantly clear though. From the architecture to place names to winstubs to the local cuisine (sourkraut and flammekuchen and pretzels and other Germanish things).


Alsace is pretty famous for the number of picturesque little villages. The big city of Colmar is relatively huge at 65,000 people when most of the villages like Ribeauvillé or Kayersberg clock in around 3-5 thousand. When you are traveling around the region there is literally a different village every 1-2 kilometers, so George and I had originally gone up with the intention of renting some bicycles and just slowly cycling around the region. However, as we took our vacation in the middle of August, which is when everyone else in France goes to the beach, we go to Colmar only to find that all the bike rental shops were closed.

One of those little villages

Okay, so the bike option is out lets see if we can rent a car. Crap, forgot my passport so the car rental thing is out. Can we take a bus? Buses are on holiday schedule and so are not running on Sunday or Monday (which was the Assumption holiday in France). So as we were out of options we instead ended up hiring a private driver! Yup, from now on we are doing our traveling millionaire style with a private car to provide front door access to all the sites.

Not the car we rented

For 90 Euros (around 130 bucks) we got a private guide for 6 hours who took us right up to many of the cool spots of the area. He took us right up to the front door, and then picked us up wherever we ended up. His was very knowledgeable of the area, and quite funny and interesting too. He took us to see Le Château Haut-Koenigsbourg, the beautiful villages of Rorschwihr, Ribeauvillé, Hunawihr, Riquewihr, and even the Statue Of Liberty!

Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the guy that designed the Statue of Liberty, is from Colmar

The castle was pretty cool. There are, of course, lots of cool castles in France, but this one was pretty unique in that it seems more like a really, really rich and well-fortified hunting lodge than most of the other castles or France. The Palais de Versailles or the Louvre (used to be a castle) or even Carcasonne all look like castles out of Cindarella or other Disney movies, but this one looked more like something out of The Game of Thrones or some other hardy, northmen type keep. Very woodsy, with lots of animal heads and horns and antlers decorating the walls or used to make furniture. Many other castles in France are physically more impressive, but this one had character :)

I wish we had had time to visit more of the area, rent some bicycles or a car, but at least we packed what we could into our 3 days. For more photos of the area, click here.