Thursday, June 18, 2009

I see France!

Last weekend, we got together with three friends to rent a car and drive to Colmar, a town in the Alsace (German: Elsass) region of France, just beyond Strasbourg. We didn't really know very much about the town, except that every once in a while someone in Heidelberg mentions having gone there and raves about it. With five people, renting a car saved tons of money over taking the train.

On the way there, we managed to get lost somewhere near a town called Schutterwald, which sounds a lot like Shittywald if you're not paying attention. So, it took us almost three hours to reach our hotel north of Colmar, the Fasthotel. It was only 39 EUR for a double room!! Of course, it was clear why, as the hotel is located in a depressing shopping and industrial zone nowhere near Colmar. The rooms are tiny and the bathrooms are little plastic pods with towels about one third the size of what you'd expect. It looks like it could burn down any second. But, the price was right and the guy at the front desk was super, super nice and helpful!

We drove into Colmar and parked in a free tourist parking lot near the center. Yay for free parking, which does not exist in Germany! We were immediately latched onto by some guy on a bike who rode around trying to get money from tourists by orienting them as they arrive in the parking lot. Actually, it did help us get our bearings and he gave us a map which we would have had to walk across the center for otherwise.

Colmar Jun 2009

We spent the day wandering around Colmar, enjoying some Flammkuchen for lunch and taking lots of photos. The place was jam-packed with tourists and the weather was sunny and perfect. Colmar rivals Strasbourg in cuteness and...photogenicity? Is this a word? It's very photogenic. It's also considered the wine capital of Alsace, hence our grand plan to taste some wines, buy a whole bunch, and then take it back to our hotel to imbibe.

The plan worked out pretty well. Right in town you can visit the Karcher winery and try some wines any time they're open. We went in and it was empty. We tried to see if the guy would speak English or German to us, but he reported only that he spoke perfect French, and served up our first sample. He seemed grumpy, but the samples were pretty generous. Five or six later, we were more than happy to buy up and the guy was liking us more, too, and even using some English. We ended up buying six bottles for possible consumption that night - 2 Riesling, 2 Rose, and 2 Gewurztraminer, plus another bottle someone bought to take back to Heidelberg. Then we had a really great dinner at a restaurant along Colmar's adorable little canal (well, adorable in the touristy spots anyway...kind of stagnant and gross in places though) that the wine guy recommended to us before we left. We picked up some plastic glasses and snacks at a grocery store and then went back to our hotel.

The awesome Fasthotel front desk guy was still there. He and a guy from the bar opened our wines for us and let us sit on the hotel restaurant's patio even though we weren't ordering anything. Yay! Alas, we were all exhausted and only made it through three bottles. Damon and I paid the full amount on the other three and brought them home! :)

We'd decided we'd seen enough of Colmar and the next morning at breakfast, we randomly chose a town off an Alsatian wine map we picked up somewhere the previous day: Kaysersberg. We knew even less about it than we'd known about Colmar, but we hit tourist gold. It was packed too!

Kaysersberg Jun 09

The weather held up pretty well most of the day and we enjoyed yet more Flammkuchen and picture-taking, plus another wine tasting. This one wasn't as nice - nowhere to sit and the samples were about a third the size of the place we went in Colmar. But, we all bought some more wine to take home. We really need to replace our stock because we take wine to parties and serve it here a lot. This is a habit we're going to have to ditch if we ever go back to the US, where wine is much, much more expensive than it is here. :(

On our way north back out of France, we wandered off to one more stop, a castle called Haut-Koenigsbourg. We knew nothing about this either but figured it would be up on a hill and we could get a nice view over the valley from up there. We ended up having to walk about 15 minutes uphill from the parking lot, then we discovered that it is actually a really huge, restored-to-look-medieval castle which has a 7.50 entry fee! I was expecting some kind of half-assed ruin that you can just wander around for free, a la half the castles in Germany. But, it did look kind of cool and we needed some refreshments, so we paid and went on in.

Haut-Koenigsbourg Jun 2009

The cafe inside is a little too expensive but overall the castle was interesting, and worth at least 5 EUR of the entry fee. The only problem was that it seemed to have a very serious bee problem going on. They were swarming all over the place. We had great views over the plains of Alsace! I am surprised we never heard of this castle before.

On the way home we got lost again. I think it's because I am the best navigator but I was stuck in the backseat because there was another person taller than me who needed the front. ;) Tee hee. Enjoy the photos!


  1. I've been to Colmar before. It is lovely and very Franco-German. I've never heard of the castle before, but you're right, it is very pretty. Sorry about the bees. I'm really missing German weather right now. We're in the States and it is hot. No, not just hot, HOT. It was 95 at 10pm last night. Ack. I can't wait to come home. Except that I haven't been to Target nearly enough. :)

  2. LAst time I was in Colmar was to get a stupid permit for my permit I already had... Didn't get to enjoy it as much as you guys, great photos. I was a tourist back in 2002 and I still daily keep wishing to go back to the area. We hit all of the little villages and yes they are so beautiful! Show more pics! :) love them!

  3. Fun! I've been to Colmar but only by train. I've always wanted to go back by car and explore the region (and its wineries) a little more.

    I'm excited that you're coming to the Munich meet-up!

  4. Ah Colmar! Not being big wine connoisseurs the area didn't have much to offer us aside from beautiful countryside and cute touristy areas.
    So you stayed north of the city but you didn't mention the scale size replica of the Statue of Liberty... to us this was the funniest damn thing of our whole trip.
    Haut-Koenigsbourg is cool, isn't it? We got some great pictures up there!

  5. MIHH: Oooh, I don't envy you!! I'm not into the heat at all.

    Traveler: I have more but I picked the most interesting ones (I hope!)

    Jul: Can't wait to meet you there!

    Snooker: We aren't connoisseurs, just drinkers :D I think I posted a photo of the Statue of Liberty in my album...? If not, oops!

  6. Dang, you are right... I never got to the photos of Colmar... just the Haut-Koenigsbourg area.
    Looks great.


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