Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Visits of Christmas Markets Past - Colmar, France

Over the many years I lived in Europe, I have visited countless Christmas markets in many different countries. Last December I posted a little series on this here blog that turned out to be pretty popular among you readers.  The posts highlighted markets in Strasbourg, France, Basel, Switzerland and Munich, Germany and were cycled from an expat blog I used to author.

This year I picked three more cities for your viewing pleasure.  We've already visited the many markets of  Cologne, GermanyI will be traveling home to Germany for a few weeks over the Christmas and New Year's holidays. Undoubtedly there will be more holiday posts from there. In the meantime, I thought I would kick off the season with three more of my favorite past visited places to haunt Christmas markets.

The medieval town of Colmar is almost a 40 minute train ride from Strasbourg. Although it's much smaller, it boast five picturesque Christmas Markets. When I was reading up on the history of the city, I read that Charles the Fat held a diet there in 884. Whaaa? 

After a bit of digging, I found out that the other meaning of diet is a political assembly. There was no dieting for me in Colmar. The markets were bursting with too many regional goodies to sample. Another city that went back and forth under German and French rule, both languages are spoken here.

Colmar has the driest climate in France (making it the Alastian wine capital) but of course it was pissing rain the day of my visit but I soon forgot about the weather because I was so charmed by this lovely city.

The first market I hit was on Place des Dominicans, next to the Dominicans 14th century church.

Because the rain was coming down harder, I headed over to the Koifhus, the former customs house, an indoor market located in the oldest public building in the city dates from 1480. The market featured handmade crafts and high end antiques. No photos allowed but here is the beautiful exterior.

Around the Koifhus is the market at Place l'Ancienne Douane.

This Market's canal location made it even more charming

These casserole dishes and pottery are a specialty of the region

Then it was off to the market at Place Jeanne d' Arc which was supposed to have the most authentic local food and handicrafts.

Local Sausage specialties.

Wood crafts and delicious treats.

I set out to find Little Venice, the market I was most looking forward to. Seeing Santa in a gondola and this restaurant signaled I was heading in the right direction.

So Quaint!

A nativity scene and a live baby goat, so cute!

A little romantic hotel in Little Venice

More city views from Colmar

This had to be the craziest hat I saw the whole day. 

Despite the weather, the people of Colmar made sure all the trees had snow on them.

French for "Gay Pride Parade"?

Ahh the famous French Macarons. Yummy explosions of color.

Other sites to see in Colmar . Note: There are no flash pictures allowed in any of the museums in France. This limited what I could show on this post.

The Pfister house, a bourgeois home from 1537 and the Maison des Têtes from 1609, named after the 111 heads and masks decorating the house.

The Municipal library housed in a 14th century cloister contains a substantial collection of incunabula which are books printed before 1501 in Europe.

The Cathedral where I thought I would find the masterpiece, The Virgin in the Garden of Roses by Martin Schongauer. It turns out this painting was on exhibition at the Dominican church so I backtracked. I must have spent a half hour looking at it, simply stunning. The painting was stolen in 1972 and recovered by 1973. There is a photo essay in the exhibit detailing what happened. Link to the picture here.

The synagogue dates from 1843 has a memorial plaque to holocaust victims

I really enjoyed the Bartholdi museum housed in his former residence. Many of his sculptures are on display including a model for an ear of the Statue of Liberty. Some of the rooms have been restored with their original furniture. One of the rooms had this ceiling embellished with plates. There is one section dedicated to the local Jewish community with old ceremonial objects.

My last stop was the Unterlinden Museum. One of the main museums in the Alsace region, it houses the Isenheim alterpiece, a stunning work of art painted by Matthias Grünewald. See it here. It also houses a large collection of medieval, Renaissance and baroque paintings.

As I cut across a park, heading back to the train station, I came across this anti nuclear demonstration in solidarity to the protests happening in Copenhagen at the time. 

Goodbye, beautiful, interesting  Colmar!

Next stop... Freiburg, Germany

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