Saturday, April 19, 2014

Rhine Getaway: Colmar, France (4/19/2014)

Still Saturday, April 19, 2014
In the afternoon there was free time or a choice of two optional excursions. Brynne and I chose the excursion to Colmar, France. Colmar is the capitale des vins d'Alsace/Capital of Alsatian Wine and is on the famous Route des Vins d'Alsace/Wine Route of the Alsace. The grape varieties of this area include Riesling, Gewürztraminer, [Tokay] Pinot Gris, Auxerrois blanc, Pinot noir, Sylvaner, Pinot blanc, Muscat, and Chasselas.
We boarded the motor coaches in Breisach, Germany, crossed the Rhein, now the Rhin (French name), into France.
Arriving in Colmar, the bus took us all the way around the roundabout, so that those on the left side of the bus could see all sides of a copy of the Statue of Liberty. The statue was dedicated in 2004, on the 100th anniversary of the death of the sculptor, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, who was born here.
We had a short walk to the vieille ville/old town. Colmar escaped much of the destruction of various wars and has a well-preserved old town.
Half-timbered building on Place des Unterlinden
Place des Unterlinden
You will see that there are many German names, since the Alsace region changed hands several times in history.
The Musee d'Unterlinden/Unterlinden Museum was undergoing renovation.
Unscaffolded section of
Musee d'Unterlinden
/Unterlinden Museum
Its most famous treasure, the retable d’Issenheim/Issenheim Altarpiece, has been temporarily moved to another museum.
Our guide, Jacques, pointed out a new next to an old building, the new selling new underwear and the old selling old underwear:
The old
We headed into the narrow lanes.
Maison des Têtes/House of Heads
(1609 German Renaissance) with 105 or 111 heads,
and a happy wine merchant on top
(sculpted by Bartholdi)
Maison des Têtes/House of Heads
Relief of man with cloven hoofs
Charcuterie/delicatessen or butcher's sign
by Jean-Jacques Waltz, known as Hansi
Pharmacie du Cygne/Swan Pharmacy sign
Apparently taxes were based on the square-footage of the foundation of the house, so extra space could be gained by cantilevering upper stories.
Upper story overhang
Rue des Boulangers/Street of Bakers
Half-timbered house with numbered beams
so that it could be relocated at will
Numbered beams
Our guide, Jacques, explains local delicacies
Jacques was in traditional German dress this morning, but became French for the afternoon.
Deli window with
Tarte flambée/Flammkuchen/cheese, onion, bacon, cream "pizza"
Confiserie/Confectionary window with Easter chocolates
Jacques said the window usually displays chocolate beer, and if you want to drink good beer, go to Germany!
Boulangerie/bakery with Kugelhopf/Bundt cake
A house with a chapel in the bay window
Commercial Easter decorations
Boîte à mouches/the smallest house in Colmar
at 25 square meters/269 square feet
Since the smallest house does not sit on the ground, the owner supposedly does not pay taxes; however, he should give the owner of the yellow house a bottle of wine each year!
Église des Dominicains/Church of the  Dominicans
Marché de Pâques/Easter market
Another butcher's sign by Hansi
on a building with blue French shutters
Sign with the symbols of Colmar
One more sign by Hansi, of Général Kléber
Jean-Baptiste Kléber was a General during the French Revolution. We will hear more about him in Strasbourg.
Mini-train for the leisurely tour
The Viking River Cruises is now offering a leisurely option of their tours that requires less walking, whether they take a different route, or use local transportation like the mini-train.
Collégiale Saint Martin/
Collegiate Church of St Martin (1235)
The Collégiale Saint Martin/Collegiale Church of St Martin has one of the two planned towers. Although most think that there is only one tower because they ran out of money, there is also the theory that the builder thought it was too ostentatious to have two towers trying to be closer to God.
The west portal has a relief of the Three Wise Men, who are popular in this region. The south portal has a relief depicting the story of St Nicholas.
South portal of St Martin
The tile roof pattern is similar to another church,
Collégiale Saint-Thiébaut in Thann

St Martin has its own stork
Place de la Cathédrale with
Maison Adolphe (1350/1371, German Gothic) on the right
Maison Adolphe well
Ancien corps de garde/former guard house (1575 German Renaissance)
Going through the archway of the guard house, we ended up at Musée Bartholdi/Bartholdi Museum in the house of his birth.
Musée Bartholdi/Bartholdi Museum
Although we did not enter the museum, we were able to enter the courtyard to see on of his sculptures.
 Les grands soutiens du monde/
the great supports of the world (1902)
Our guided tour was over, and we had about an hour of free time. It so happened that the leisurely tour group was walking by, and we joined them, having to change channels on the Audiovox receiver to hear a different guide.
Drape-maker's house with sculpture holding a rod
(note the spiral staircase tower of Maison Pfister)
Maison Pfister (1537 German Renaissance)
with frescoes on Renaissance humanism
Zum Schwan or Schongauerhaus
where another native son of Colmar, Martin Schongauer,
artist, had his studio from 1477-1491
Koifhaus/Ancienne Douane/Customs House (1480 German Gothic) 
Rue des Marchands
Place de l'Ancienne Douane with
Fontaine/Fountain Schwendi
(statue of Schwendi in 1898 by Bartholdi)
    Lazarus von Schwendi was a military leader during the Holy Roman Empire and is credited with bringing back vines of the Tokay grape (which he holds in his hand in the sculpture) from Hungary.
    Petite rue des Tanneurs/Little Street of Tanners
    The houses of the tanners were located near water and had vertical windows on the top floor from which to hang and dry animal hides.
    Marché couvert/covered market (1865 French Neo-Baroque).
    Quai de la Poissonerie/fishing wharf
    Half-timbered house plastered over
    and painted to look like stone
    La petite Venise/Little Venice, the area around the Lauch River
    Place des 6 montagnes noires/Six Black Mountains Square
    with Fontaine/Fountain Jean Roesselmann
    (sculpture by, you guessed it, Bartholdi, in 1888)
    The half-timbered houses and French shutters of Colmar's cityscape have inspired many, including Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese filmmaker who used the architecture for the setting of "Howl's Moving Castle." There is even a resort village near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, called Colmar Tropicale, replicating a few streets of French Colmar.
    Brynne and I left our second tour group and ran-walked back to the church of the Dominicans. Despite being 15 minutes before closing, they sold us tickets, and we were able to see the retable d’Issenheim/Issenheim Altarpiece, a tryptych (c. 1515) by Mathis Gothart Nithart aka Matthias Grünewald. The altarpiece has panels that open and have paintings on both sides, so it was separated into three displays to be viewed on both sides. We noted the extreme suffering of Christ on the cross in a realistic picture of someone who was asphyxiated, and the agonizing grief of Mary. Also that the Nativity takes place in the Rhineland.
    Then we looked at the painting of the "Madonna of the Rosebush" (1473) by Martin Schongauer and found the birds and the single white rose that foretells the crucifixion. After a glimpse at the Altarpiece of the Dominicans (c. 1480), we hurried to the meeting place at Place des Unterlinden.
    The motor coaches returned us to Breisach and the Viking Gullveig.
    Next: Colmar Pocket.

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