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Lens, Wheels, Skates, Keyboard

Colmar

Petit Colmar

Along with Strasbourg, Colmar is the highlight of Alsace, widely considered to be the most distintive and picturesque province in France and indeed anywhere. Colmar is much smaller and lacks the attractions and bustling atmosphere of its larger cousin. What it has in abundance is the same distinctive architecture and small-town charms. Colmar was indeed a pleasant rest stop on the home stretch of our trip.

Colmar is perhaps best-known to history buffs as the scene of fierce fighting in WWII. In January 1945, around what was known as the Colmar Pocket, the American 3rd and 7th Armies succeeded in driving back the Germans across the Rhine. Today it’s a major stop on Alsatian Wine Route. It is also the home of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, most well-known to Americans as the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty.

Numerous crisscrossing canals carried traffic in the old days. Now they provide picturesque waterfront to shops and restaurant. In La Petite Venise numerous floral-bedecked bridges afford excellent views of the charming facades of the half-timbered houses. This is a little section known as Quai des Tanneurs.

A walk around Colmar’s Vieille Ville is most memorable in the early morning, when the only people on the street are locals opening their stores, setting up tables in cafes, or hurrying to the market. This is Alsatian charm at its finest.

In front of the Hotel Saint-Martin.

Splendid half-timbered houses near the former Custom Building.

At the corner of Av Raymond Poincare and Av Georges Clemenceau is maybe the only Gothic water tower anywhere.

La Fontaine Bruat, by Bartholdi and Choain, commemorates the commander of the French fleet during the Crimean war. The statues at the foot of the fountain represent Africans and Oceanians.

La Fontaine Roesselmann, at the corner of Rue Turenne and Rue Du Manege, features a statue of a 13th-century provost of the city. This is another work by Bartholdi.

The Unterlinden Museum is the most well-known attraction in Colmar. Housed in a former convent of the Dominicans (a religious order known for its austerity), the Unterlinden Museum contains an impressive collection of medieval religious paintings, many exhibits of local life, as well as many more modern paintings and even Roman artifacts. Its centerpiece is the dramatic 16-century Issenheim Alterpiece by Matthias Gruenewald. Other exhbits include an impressive armor collection. While I was here there were also several amazing engravings by Martin Schongauer. Directions: In front of the Tourist Information Office in Place Unterlinden. Entrance fee 7 Euros, 5 Euros if you’re under 30.

Calling Colmar’s canal district Petite Venise is more affectionate than accurate, since it consists of only a few canals and quais. Visitors can even ride on a Petite Gondole, in reality small canoes with an electric motor. It is undeniably picturesque, however. The real Venise would be hard-pressed to come up with more charming facades of colorful half-timbered houses. This photo was taken from Bd St Pierre.

First impression of La Petite Venise: flowers everywhere.

La Maison des Têtes (the House of Heads) is everybody’s favorite Colmar attraction. The fascinating looking building was built in 1609 by an affluent merchant, who later became the town’s mayor. The gable is topped with a statue of an Alsatian cooper by Bartholdi. You’ll find it, where else, on Rue des Têtes.

Frédéric Auguste Barholdi is Colmar’s most well-known son. His Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886, as a gift of friendship from France to the US. In Colmar you can visit the Barholdi Museum as well as the the house where he was born. There also many public works by Barholdi, notably the statue of General Rapp and Bruat Fountain in Place Rapp.

Former Colmar Customs Building.

Facades near Place de la Cathedrale.

The cathedral.

More half-timbered houses.

A painted exterior.

The high-end Roche Bobois furniture store which has a location in downtown Boston.

A narrow alleyway.

Colmar’s version of the famous gondolas.

Ornate Cast-iron shop signs remind me of Rothenburg.

The “waterfront”.

Nothing special about this photo, except that it’s the very last frame (#37) on my last roll of film. Oh well, maybe it’s time to leave :)

Lodging

Sumptuously appointed Hotel Turenne is only about 5 minutes’ walk from Petite Penise. This 2-star hotel feels like it should have more stars.

Last visit: June 2003 Pros: Extremely picturesque, small-town charms you’d only read about Cons: Not many attractions In a nutshell: Lovely