May 31, 2013

Alsace: German or French?

"If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.  James Michener

Al writes:  The province of Alsace lies in the extreme northeast portion of France bordering with Germany.  This land has changed hands many times between France and Germany over the last several centuries of wars.  Now is it an amalgam of French and German culture that makes it a unique part of France.  You can order sauerkraut with your crepes.  Yum!  The two towns we chose to visit were Strasbourg and Colmar.

Strasbourg is the living symbol for the hope of eternal peace between France and Germany.  It is the home of the European Parliament and has, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals I have seen on this trip...Cathedral de Notre-Dame.  Its characteristics are pink sandstone and incredible delicate, detailed construction,

two levels of beautiful stained glass,

and a gilt-edged organ.

The town itself has an Amsterdam-like feel with its waterways,

but with a very Germanic appearance.

Colmar is smaller but makes up for its lack of size with charm and world-class art.  Colmar is the home of the Unterlinden Museum which displays one of the most important works of art in the German culture, the Isenheim Altarpiece (1515).  I know that it seems strange for this important German work of art to be in France, but that is typical of this region.  The altarpiece is a series of hinged panels designed to help people in medieval hospitals endure horrible skin diseases, such as rye ergotism (a disease caused by rotten rye).  Basically, the theory is that anyone suffering from ergot poisoning does not have it as bad as the agony and suffering of the Crucifixion.  


The other masterpiece we had the pleasure to view was Martin Schongauer's angelically beautiful Virgin in the Rosebush (1473).  We were not allowed to take photos, so the Internet provided us with this photo.

The rest of our time in Colmar was devoted to delightful pedestrian avenues and people-watching.

Finally, I have an important observation.  There really is such a bird as the cuckoo bird.  I did not realize that cuckoo clocks have a bird call that is realistic.  I can now tell you there was a cuckoo bird cuckooing most of the night over our RV. 

"Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends...The mind can never break off from the journey."    Pat Conroy





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