Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Colmar and the Black Forest

A barn in the Black Forest area
On our first day aboard the Viking Kvisir, we took a bus trip to the Black Forest in the morning and a tour of the Colmar World War II area in the afternoon. All  the Viking longships are named for Norse gods. Kvasir was born of saliva from Aesir and Vanir. He traveled around spreading knowledge until he was killed by the dwarfs Fjalar and Galar. They drained his blood and mixed it with honey to create the Mead of Poetry. This mead imbues the drinker with the gift of poetry, thus introducing poetry into the world. I’m not sure that this means our trip will be one of knowledge-seeking, but it does seem like a good plan since we will be entering new areas of Europe for both of us. On another note, Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware brews a Kvasir which they developed from evidence derived from a 3500 year old Danish birch bark drinking vessel found in a tomb of a leather-clad woman who was probably a priestess or dancer. The brew includes wheat, lingonberries, cranberries, myrica gale, yarrow, honey and birch syrup. This is something I will have to try.

An old church in the Forest
Our visit to the Black Forest did not include a walk in the forest, something I was looking forward to. Instead we had an hour-long bus ride to a village on the edge of the forest that consisted of two stores, a town hall, and a hotel restaurant where Marie Antoinette spent one night on her way to marry Louis the 16th and eventually lose her head.

The hotel
Remembering Marie Antoinette
One of the stores is all about glass-blowing and exhibits some wonderful examples. The store includes a forge and also has a blower heating glass with a blowtorch before doing the actual blowing. The other store demonstrates the building of the famous Black Forest cake on the lower floor while the upper floor is devoted to cuckoo clocks. Cuckoo clocks may or may not have been invented here, but they have certainly come to be identified with the region. The front wall of this store is itself a giant cuckoo clock. Inside you can purchase clocks at almost any price from a few Euros to several thousand. The intricacy and beauty was enticing, but we limited ourselves to a simple Christmas tree ornament that doesn’t even keep time.

The entire wall is a cuckoo clock
Closeup of dancers whirling by
About 200 yards from the village is an old chapel that we also visited. It sits on the road (path) that used to extend from Austria to France which explains how Marie Antoinette happened to stop here. You can still walk parts of the path, but in this area the path has been replaced by the highway.

The chapel
The old road
A road marker
In the afternoon we chose the World War II tour to the town of Colmar instead of visiting Colmar’s famous Christmas market. Colmar is where Audie Murphy won the Medal of Honor at the age of 19. 

Murphy was the most decorated American soldier in WWII
 He single-handedly held off a German attack for an hour while calling in artillery shots on his own position. Then while wounded he led the counterattack that won the day for the Allies. After the war Murphy wrote a memoir titled To Hell and Back which was made into a movie where he played the title role. Our guide was a young Czech woman who was so passionate about the story and the role of the Americans in liberating Europe that she was close to tears as she recited a veteran’s poem.

Our young guide

The road where Murphy held off the Germans
 After visiting the battle site we traveled to a cemetery atop a nearby hill and then t a small but remarkable museum in another nearby town. The museum housed in a former wine cellar has only two rooms, but they are filled with artifacts from the actual battlefields and a dozen or so full size dioramas showing the soldiers from both armies in the field and in their camps. After seeing almost nothing in Italy related to either World War I or II, it was nice to see this monument to Murphy and the museum.

Nothing special here, but it is a Mustang in a small town in France

No comments:

Post a Comment