On the first day of the cruise portion of our trip we deviated from the group plan to tour the Black Forest and a cuckoo clock factory based on some rather mediocre to negative reviews. Instead we chose to walk the small town of Breisach. We had been warned the shops closed at 2pm but it seemed everyone had left town already since on this Saturday morning the place was deserted.
Breisach’s most recent claim to fame seems to have been that it was almost the site of a nuclear plant. Its most noteworthy feature is the famous St. Stephansmünster (St. Stephan’s Cathedral) that sits upon the city’s highest point. Of course after trudging up the steep cobblestone streets we found this too was closed, so had to resort to reviewing some rather odd sculptures located throughout the town without the benefit of any explanatory English guides. Later I learned this was a sculpture by Helmut Lutz commemorating the 50th anniversary of the town of Breisach voting to declare itself for a united Europe in 1950.
As we wandered the back alleys of Breisach we did happen on some community gardens with a significant garden gnome population, lending credence to their viability in Germany at least. Apparently the origins of garden gnomes is hotly contested, but is believed to be Germany. Gnomes have become controversial in serious gardening circles and have been banned from the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show until 2013, when they were allowed in on their 100th anniversary for that year alone.
We were also able to observe a local craftsman at work re-leading a roof. This has to be a rather specialized trade and one not allowed in California since there were no Prop 65 warnings nor did the worker wear any protective gear .
We had opted to do the Colmar, France side tour and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.
This medieval town in the Alsace region has lots of half-timbered houses, canals and pedestrian friendly streets and provided great opportunities for people watching and shopping.
Sometimes it seems you can just see the “European” in a person’s face.
We learned how the medieval signs not only depicted the trade practiced in the particular building, but provided a political commentary on the times. Frequently the French were depicted as more refined compared to the then conquering Germans, depicted as animals or more lowly life forms
Colmar was the birthplace of Jean Charles Bartholdi, the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty, so his sculptures featured prominently at the entrance to the town as well as around the various squares.
Some Quick Observations:
Kids are kids everywhere
There is not enough time to eat everything you see
Even after a million half-timbered houses and medieval structures, the next new one is interesting
There is also never enough time to check out each unique shop