An afternoon in Alsace

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Mark waits in the lobby for the excursion to Colmar to begin.

Although Mark and I could have spent Sunday afternoon, after our Black Forest tour, walking around Breisach, we decided to go on the optional Colmar tour. Although many excursions are included in the package price of the Viking River Cruise, one or two optional excursions are offered most days. On our cruise, the optional excursions ranged in cost from 29 to 59 euros per person.

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On a Viking bus enroute to Colmar. You can see the ear piece and cord for my quiet box. Photo by Mark Grote.

Colmar is in Alsace, France and across the Rhine from Breisach, Germany. It is a beautiful, restored medieval village with pedestrian-friendly streets and canals. It is known for its half-timbered houses. Colmar is also the birthplace and hometown of Frederic Augusta Bartholdi, famous sculptor and designer of the Statue of Liberty.

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Statue of Liberty in Colmar, France.

Some number (and I think it might be about 19 if memory serves, but don’t hold me to it) of small copies of the Statue of Liberty exist throughout the world. Of course one would be located in the hometown of its designer.

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Our tour guide, Andy.

We exited the bus with our tour guide and walked to a town square where the famous Unterlinden museum is located. (As an aside, I found out at the end of the tour, through idle small talk with him, that our tour guide was Andy Locke, once member of Edison Lighthouse, the band who wrote and sang Love Grows Where my Rosemary Goes. As that was one of my favorites from back in the day, I thought it was kind of interesting.)

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Unterlinden Museum in Colmar, Alsace, France.

The Unterlinden museum is housed in a 13th-century Dominican religious sisters’ convent, according to Wikipedia. And I believe it judging by how it looked. It was a beautiful building, but sadly for us, was under renovation at the time of our visit. We did not go inside.

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Colmar half-timbered structures.

We continued on our walking tour of Colmar with Bertholdi’s home and museum as our final destination. You don’t have to be very far into the town to understand why it is known for its half-timber homes. I believe our guide Andy explained why the bottom floors were built out of brick or stone and the upper floors out of timber, although I can’t recall the details. I think it had something to do with fires and the ease of rebuilding the upper levels. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me right now, but it did at the time. Unfortunately I haven’t mastered the art of simultaneously taking photographs and making notes. And my memory in these situations is next to useless.

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Here is a close-up of the timber detail.

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Prayer room in Colmar home.

This was also interesting, yet remains a bit foggy in my mind. The second or upper floor of some of the buildings in Colmar was built to jut out over the wall of the lower floor. Andy explained this to us. Mark remembers it had something to do with individuals who wanted to pray at home. The Catholic church was upset that people were not coming to church to pray, so they made a rule that you cannot pray if you are above another room that may not be holy. Homeowners got around this problem by building little corners on the second floor  that had no room below them for their home chapel. I looked it up online with no success. If you know something about this I hope you’ll let me know.

The architectural detail in Colmar really is beautiful and interesting.

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We gathered on the cobblestone walk in the business district of Colmar while Andy talked. I strayed to the edge of the group and tried to shoot photos.

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Kougelhopf, traditional Alsatian cake.

Around the corner, Andy stopped at this bakery to show us the Kougelhopf, a traditional Brioche bread or cake from Alsace. My google search returned primarily French sites that I couldn’t read, but I did find this English recipe on a blog. Our mouths were watering as we stood outside the bakery looking in the window. Shortly after, a young woman came out carrying a tray of coconut macaroons for us. Prearranged, I’ve not doubt, but a nice touch.

01-Colmar-church - 2014-06-14 - -15We continued on past Saint Martin’s Church.

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St. Martin’s Church, Colmar, Alsace, France.

Originally constructed for a college in 1234 – 1365, St. Martin’s is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture. The patterned, colorful roof tiles are striking, and can be seen in one of the below photos. If you click on the above picture and look up at the top right of the church, you will be able to see a stork’s nest, also more clearly visible below.

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Stork nest in Colmar on top of St. Martin’s Church.

You can see the colorful roof tiles more clearly in this photo, as well as some of the gargoyle-type sculptures on the church. If you think these storks are cool, wait until you see what we saw in Strasbourg.

The flying buttresses, visible in the second photo of the montage above, are important structural supports found in Gothic architecture.

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I was glad Mark and I had opted in for this tour. The architecture was beautiful and interesting.

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Our final destination on our tour was the courtyard of the home of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, now a museum.

13-Colmar - 2014-06-14 - -25This is a view of one of the pillars beside the front door taken from my seat on the step. We had been walking for a while and it was time for a break.

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I can’t really say for certain, but I think this may be one of the last sculptures Bertholdi created. Again, no luck with Google. Our guide Andy left us here for free time to explore or shop on our own until we rejoined the group and returned to the bus about an hour later.

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Mark and I used the time to take more photographs. Isn’t this building with its decoration amazing? I think those might be frescoes.

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We also stumbled upon a memorial to those who died serving the Resistance during WWII. Evidence and stories of destruction from WWII accompanied us through the entire trip.

17-Colmar - 2014-06-14 - -25 This canal ran past our tour’s meeting place by the Unterlinden. We would have the opportunity to see more canals in Strasbourg and then Amsterdam later in our trip, as well as many more bicycles.

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I’m pretty sure we stopped at an outdoor cafe for a glass of wine before meeting our group, but I can’t recall where.  It might have been here. Then we loaded back on the buses and returned to the Viking Tor for cocktail hour followed by dinner. The evening entertainment was a visiting ensemble with a mixture of music from ‘From Rhine to Seine’ in the lounge. Mark and I were too tired to enjoy it so we went to bed early.

The Viking Tor set sail for Kehl, Germany across from Strasbourg, Alsace, France at 11:00 p.m.

I’ll leave you with a slide show of photographs that Mark took in Colmar of the many, varied signs we saw.

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Next up: Day 3- Strasbourg

See links to other posts about the Basel to Amsterdam Viking River Cruise.


15 thoughts on “An afternoon in Alsace”

  1. I’m glad you all opted for this tour, as well. I love this series of posts, Christine. The next-best thing to being there! By the way, that photo of you looking out the window is wonderful.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    1. Thanks Joss. I’ll be puttng up Strasbourg soon. It’s beautiful part of the world. I have an ancestor from Alsace-Lorraine, so I am very interested in the area and hope to go back some day.

  2. Hi Christine, My husband and I just returned from this same Viking River Cruise about a month ago. I am still organizing my photos and came across your blog while researching some facts (all that information received during the trip does indeed tend to get muddled). We had the same tour guide, Andy, on our tour of Colmar. I overheard him telling someone of his past rock and roll life.
    You did a wonderful job featuring the highlights of your day in Colmar–one of many great cities on this VRC trip. It’s fun to recall all the wonderful sights, sounds, and tastes experienced–isn’t it? I’ll be checking out your other blogs. Have a good year!

    1. Thanks for sharing your trip. If you put up photos somewhere online, let me know and I’ll take a look. Revisiting this post more than a year later now, makes me yearn to do it again. What a great trip. It took me a long time to deal with all my pictures too. Have fun.


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