We fell asleep in the cradle of Alsace, dreaming of our next…. Colmar
Colmar was a short cab ride from Eguisheim, just around 7 kms and as we stepped into Colmar we realised the dream was never to end, it was like walking right into a fairy tale, Belle’s village from “Beauty and the Beast”. The adage – “A picture is worth a thousand words” perfectly epitomizes the captivating beauty of Colmar.
After having settled into a well accoutred, cozy airbnb, The Grand Studio Colmar Centre, right in the heart of the old town, we couldn’t help but gaze around in wonderment at this really condensed form of the Alsace region. It’s century old half timbered houses, delightful little wooden boats bobbing along the canals, the flower sprinkled cozy windows and cobblestoned streets, what made it even more dreamy was a cloudless blue canvas with a lot of golden sunshine. Your cameras will never stop clicking. Every nook and cranny all dressed up, exudes the warmth and love of the creator. Old pots and pans, bicycles and jugs to old clocks, branches, lamps and hearts all magically synergised into a perfect picture.
We were amazed to see little brass triangles with Lady Liberty embossed on them only to discover that we were tricked into a little treasure hunt that lead us to all the finery of Colmar. They were actually waymarkers to a self guided walking tour trail, around 6 kilometres, doable in two and a half hours. A perfect way to see Colmar for someone pressed for time, encompassing famous sights and monuments made by the ubiquitous Bartholdi.
Now, who was Bartholdi and why Lady Liberty? Our ‘Aha’ moment…
Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was a famous french sculptor universally known for designing Liberty Enlightening the World, more commonly known as the Statue of Liberty, which was gifted by the French government to the US as a symbol of friendship and liberty. A 12 metre replica of the Statue of Liberty stands at the north entrance of Colmar to commemorate Bartholdi’s 100th death anniversary.
Let me take you through some of Colmars finest….
LA PETITE VENISE Or LITTLE VENICE
Bartholdi’s hometown boasts of the most picturesque La Petite Venise. If there has to be one thing you see in Colmar, let it be this one. The Lauch river meanders through the centre of Colmar. Step into one of the little wooden boats at St. Peter’s Bridge and let Colmar bewitch you with its tranquil charm.(6euros for a 25 minute cruise)
Footsloggers like me would be more than delighted to prance around the old town of Colmar. Old, well preserved, Alsatian dwellings in multicoloured soft hues like melting candy, a superb display of Middle age gothic architecture, oriel windows and turrets, balconies punctuated with brilliant red geraniums that make you gaze in child like wonder.
The mystery in ordinary things will make your eyes sparkle in awe. The most endearing is the striking contrast in the shades of the homes and their significance.
In days of yore, the colours of the homes were a reflection of their means of livelihood, the blue homes were the fishermen’s, the green were the farmers, yellow was for the cheese makers and the white houses were the bakers. Hearts engraved into doors or windows was a symbol that the lady was available or just about to walk down the aisle. How fancy is that!
QUAI DE LA POISSONNERIE (OLD FISHMONGERS QUARTERS)
Starting on Rue de Turenne, take a turn into Quai de la Poissonnerie, home to the fishermen and boatmen, boasts of being the most photographed streets in Colmar. A huge fire had once destroyed many houses here, but they were restored and returned to its former glory.
Make your way to the Tanners quarter named after the tanners who lived and worked here. These houses are narrow and high, as the storehouses were used to dry out the skins.
OLD CUSTOM HOUSE(KOIFHUS)
Walk back to Place del’ Ancienne Douane which is one of Colmars famous Christmas markets. The old customs house is a gothic and renaissance building constructed during the 15th century, it nowholds cultural events and houses shops and restaurants. It was used as a warehouse for imported and exported goods, it is the one of the oldest public building which played a central role in the economic life of Colmar.
THE PFISTER HOUSE
Take the Rue des Marchands to visit the Pfister house. It is the oldest building, built in 1537 and is the first example of Renaissance architecture in Colmar. Inspired by the Bible and German emperors, it gets its name from the family who owned it.
A paradise of local produce from cheese, fruits, flowers, bread, jams to cured meats. Don’t miss the outside market every Thursday. It also has a bar with a terrace where you can savour a glass of local Alsace wine. You can choose from an array of eateries and at a fair price.The local delicacies like kougelhopf and pretzel are definitely recommended.
DOMINICAN CHURCH ( EGLISE DES DOMINICANS)
The Dominican Church is known for Martin Schongauers masterpiece – The Magnificent Madonna of the Rose bush. It’s exquisite stained glass art is more than 700 years old.
Located in a former 13th century Dominican religious sisters convent in the city centre, it houses a collection of paintings and sculptures from the late Middle Ages and renaissance period.
HOUSE OF HEADS
Renaissance architecture and felicitously named after the 106 sculpted heads adorning the facades.
Colmars very own Bartholdis sculptures and works of art.
ST MARTINS CHURCH
This gothic architectural styled church is built of red and golden stone. The play of the scalloped rust and green tiles on the roof when the sun shone was astounding.
PARC DU CHAMP DE MARS
This is where our travel worn legs would often take us and we would spend most of our evenings. Beautiful alleys lined up with linden trees, the largest wooden 1900 carousel and children frolicking in the fountain. You just can’t miss the sweet specialties of ‘The Carousel delights’.
WHERE TO EAT IN COLMAR
Colmar is full of Michelin dining experiences. Remember you will need to reserve your table and secondly, restaurants wind up early . I remember us hunting for a place to eat at 10 in the night and it was quite a task.
- Restaurant JYs: A 2 star Michelin restaurant beautifully set on the Lauch river.
- Restaurant La Soi: Famous for its Tarte flambé
- Boulangerie Patisserie L’Artisane: One of the oldest bakeries and the most freshly baked
breads and pastries
- Gilg desserts: The macaroons and super creamy desserts are simply divine.
- Schwendi Bier and Winstub: Beautifully located near the Schwendi fountain and had great views from the outside terrace. One of my favourites, and of course has amazing food. A few classic specialties include the Baeckaoffe (composed of three types of marinated meat and potatoes in white wine), Tarte flambé and the Sauerkraut.
When it comes to wine, the four noble grapes of Alsace are the Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat and Gewurtztraminer. Gewürztraminer and pinot gris are my personal favourites due to its aromatic, fruity, floral flavour .The Cremant d’Alsace, Frances delicate, sparkling wine is a popular choice for many along with Alsace’s Riesling, Muscat and Sylvaner.
EVENTS IN COLMAR
COLMAR INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL
Colmar International Festival takes place every year during the first fortnight in July and showcases the amalgamation of the finest musicians and composers. Little notes of music dancing around the old town at night, sparkling, dazzling and glittering, as radiant as ever.
Christmas in Colmar is ethereal. Decked with wreaths, snow covered Christmas trees, the warm mulled wine, christmas carols, aroma of freshly baked cakes, hot chocolate and spices, and the shimmery lights twinkling with fairyland festive ness is a perfect postcard Christmas scene…. a must on everyone’s bucket list.
To read more on the beautiful Alsace, click here.