Colmar is located in the Alsace region of France which is perched at the north-eastern tip of France on the border with Germany, a region which has over the centuries been fought over many times and been occupied by either France or Germany, giving it a rich history and an environment which is an interesting blend of the two nationalities. The region is rich with forests, quaint, well-preserved villages of pastel half-timbered houses, and, of course, vineyards which seem to go on forever. Colmar is often described as the most beautiful and well-preserved city in the Alsace region.
With a population of around 65,000 souls, Colmar is a perfect size for a small city in France—big enough to have numerous museums, galleries, and large and small churches, as well as lots of good shopping and restaurants, and a well-preserved old town with many pleasant pedestrian only streets and interesting historic sites. Most of the streets wind their way sinuously through the old town, making the strolling experience one in which is rich in anticipation of what is waiting for you around the next bend. There are no long vistas that connect one area to another, and that works just fine for a small city. Most of the buildings in the old town are 4 to 6 stories high, a good scale that is not overwhelming yet provides building facades which have a definitely strong presence on the streets and plazas. The most picturesque sectors of the old-town are characterized by lots of the quintessential Germanic half-timbered houses, pastel colors, cobblestoned streets, and lots of potted plants on window sills.
Main attractions: Colmar has two very large churches in the center of old town, the Church of Saint Martin that is worthy of being a cathedral with its highly articulated exterior and decorated interior. The other church, the Dominican Church, exhibits the pared-down, simplified forms and lack of decoration as is customary of the Dominican Order. The two main museums are the extensive Underlinden Museum which showcases the regions history and industry (winemaking, of course), and the Bartholdi Museum which covers the life and times of Colmar’s favorite son artist Frederic-Auguste Bertholdi who sculpted the Statue of Liberty. My favorite area is the Petite Venise (Little Venice) area, a most beautiful and pleasant neighborhood located along and neat a small canal that winds through a collection of stone and half-timbered buildings, all of which excude an atmosphere of medieval Alsace. At one point along the canal is located the town’s main large market building, an eloquent structure of brick and stone which is still very much in use today.
But what about wineries??? Just head north or south of the city, and in a very short time you are in the vineyards which seem to go on forever. My next several blog entries will cover some of the most scenic and quintessential Ascacian wine villages along the Route du Vin (Wine Road) as well as hiking through the vineyards.