Into France - Colmar & Strasbourg
After visiting family in Germany we made our way back into France. This was the end of October and perfect fall timing for us to schedule our five weeks of touring through the old front lines of World War I and all of the associated memorials and ceremonies that are happening in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice and the ending of the war.
Our return to France started with a the old Alsace-Lorraine region that was part of Germany from 1870 but then returned to France at the end of the war. This mix of French/German heritage has lead to some amazing architecture and quaint little cities and towns. Our first stop was to spend a few nights in the town of Colmar.
Colmar is an amazing city to just wander the streets and luckily we had some perfectly clear and unseasonably warm days to take it all in. Something about being able to sit outside in little cafe's in front of cathedrals or small town squares and enjoy the local foods and Alsatian wines.
One thing that we stumbled upon here in Colmar, just across from the train station, was this instant pizza station. It had a touch screen where you could select your desired toppings and then, as it states, in just 3 quick minutes out slides a box with a steaming hot pizza for take away. As intrigued as we were we decided not to try it out so we can't comment on the quality of the pizza that this vending machine produces. Maybe the next time we are back we will plan additional time to give this a taste.
The town really is lovely, despite the fact that it is still fairly crowded with tourists for the end of October, that last photo shows the crowds trying the get their perfect photo of the canal and old housing. I imagine that the place would be full of tourists in the summer months, but it does seem that they have ample supply of outdoor cafe's to cover some large crowds.
Heading up from Colmar to Strasbourg we diverted to see the WW1 site of Hartmannswillerkopf. This is a mountain range where the French first pushed into Germany at the start of the war, it is now a large memorial, museum, and French cemetery up on the mountain, along with a lot of the old trenches that can be hiked to and explored. As we drove up into the mountains to the site the weather began to turn and soon we were in the middle of a small snowstorm. With the snow coming we decided to skip the hike down through the old trenches, and only went through the cemetery and the memorial.
Another stop that we made on the trip was to Fort Mutzig, or the Kaiser Wilhelm II fort, which is located just west of Strasbourg and was designed to protect the city from the French. It is a neat fort to get to take a tour through, and it was used successfully in keeping the French army from approaching past during the war. The downside of this site is that they don't have tours given in English, only in French or German. The upside in coming off of almost two weeks of visiting with Tina's family in Germany is that she was fully refreshed in working as a translator and so we were able to take the German tour and still understand most of what we were being told.
And then we were off and into Strasbourg for a few nights, another great city, an amazing cathedral, and once again we were pleased to find, free walking tours.
The old town is another great one to spend a few days to explore, and as the sun sets on the city the cathedral it really is spectacularly lit up.