Header image by Natalie Rapoport. Antoni Gaudi. Sagrada Familia. Barcelona.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Colmar - the Alsatian Treasure.

As the legend has it the city of Colmar  was founded in the 9th century and was chosen as a place where Carolingian Emperor Charles the Fat held a diet in 884.
Well, he certainly wouldn’t be able to do that today as the city among other things, including admirable medieval architecture and intricate layout, is a culinary delight in and out , one of the gastronomic centers of France and no doubt a gourmands paradise and an Alsatian delicious treasure along with Strasbourg.

I can only imagine how heavenly beautiful it might be there around Christmas time when this velvety cute city is lavishly decorated and sparkles in myriads of festive lights and smells deliciously of hot savory specialties and freshly baked pastry. here

Entre nous the city is very charming in summer time too, blooming with flowers.
Not to mention irresistible light and delicious Alsatian wines.

Colmar is the town of a very human scale. You can easily walk through every nook and cranny in one day and it would be a perfect day trip from Strasbourg.
Lushly green, calm and relaxing and charming in every inch.

Big contemporary cities are demanding, rough on texture, have sharp edges and spiky skylines. They possess their own beauty and attractive in their own way enticing with events and happenings , ever changing cultural life and interactions. They also can make you feel anonymous and small either you are a participant or just a passing by spectator.

Small European towns are so much down to earth and so much friendlier and softer. Speaking of Colmar –it is velvety and cozy as a huggable fluffy Teddy bear. Sheer pleasure. It’s neat and composed, welcoming and warm and honey sweet as a beautiful pastry masterpiece.

Many well preserved ancient towns are sleepy hallows today , quiet and a bit alienated, unremarkable otherwise, enveloped in time blanket. Just aging with dignity minding their daily business and keeping their stories to themselves.

Colmar is flooded with tourists and bursting to the brim with attractions. Bright and lively, very outgoing and as happy and proud as a pretty girl in a new dress at the first ball. And incredibly postcard photogenic. You can’t make two steps without Oh! and Ah!
Like those fairy tale fold-and-pop-up children books: you turn and some pretty vignette pops-up begging to be admired: timber houses freshly colored in bright hues, steep roofs and turrets, antique shops, patisseries and restaurants signs centuries old, modern world brands boutiques and everywhere les cigognes – the storks. Presented as toys, posters or made of metal or wood and fixed on doors and garage gates. Stork is a symbol, coat of arms and a patron/guardian of the home and of this city. There’s a believe that their nests on the roofs insure happiness and prosperity  and many children in that home and considered a luck and get all protection they might need. That’s why quite often you can see a carriage wheel on the rooftop – it’s the invitation, the base for the nest to be build. If the storks, very loyal and family oriented creatures, like the  place they will settle down and return for years to come which is a very good sign. A sacred bird for Alsatians especially in Colmar.

Little Venice, teeny-tiny Venice is a picturesque part of Colmar filled with calm canals and hunchback bridges. 10-passangers boats with absolutely noiseless electric motors glide over the mirror surface of dreamy waters amongst lush green enchanted banks. Absolutely fantastic little journey! So quiet, serene and so romantic.
The historical core of the town is live architectural museum of the half timber houses dated back as far as early 16th century and are typical German Fachwerkhous . Can you imagine they’ve seen Louis XIV annexing  the Free City (since 13th century!) and proclaiming it French? It was shortly reclaimed by Germany between 1871-1918 and again in 1940-1945 under name Kolmar.

And though it definitely part of French heritage  the closeness to German border and fruitful fusion of two cultures is obvious from architecture and cuisine to names on street signs, spotless facades and manicured flower patches  to predominantly German speaking tourists and love to music.

Speaking of music. Since 1980 Colmar was triumphantly put back on a cultural map of Europe with the famous annual Music Festival.

“In 2013, Colmar International Festival will celebrate its 25th year under the artistic direction of Vladimir Spivakov. This is a unique occasion to look back on this quarter-century of shared emotions and success. Over the years, Colmar Festival has established itself as a major musical event in the cultural landscape of Alsace, France, Europe and abroad…

25 years of passion and musical enchantment is worth celebrating! From Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven …to Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov …, Chopin, Paganini, …Ravel…and Verdi …Vladimir Spivakov and his friends will give a dazzling demonstration at Colmar, where the general public can discover musical excellence!”  here 
More about Colmar here 

So if you plan a trip to France, Strasbourg is only 2 hours East of Paris and Colmar is half an hour South from Strasbourg. You'll fall in love with Alsace. 

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All images © Natalie Rapoport