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Sunday, 31 October 2004
Rico’s village


This is a view of the village of Riquewihr, near Colmar, as seen from the South-facing Schoenenbourg vineyards.

According to the Alsace Wine Route site I link to above, Voltaire owned three vineyards here at one stage. This is not exactly what we were told on our tour of the vineyards. We were told that Voltaire had lent the king of France a large sum of money and that the town of Riquewihr was listed as surety for the loan. If the king had defaulted on the loan repayments then Voltaire would have taken ownership of the whole town.  While the one story does not contradict the other it is strange that the tour guide didn’t mention that Voltaire did own three vineyards (either before, during or after the loan). He did tell us that Voltaire never physically visited the town.

The name of the town supposedly derives from the name of a Roman who settled in the area, by the name of Rico, and has been through many variations (Germanic and French) before settling on the current spelling. The talking guide described him as Italian but I have to believe that he got it wrong.  This wasn’t all the talking guide got wrong, despite his cozy North England accent.  He couldn’t pronounce his varieties of grape and, most irritating for me (although I am not sure why) kept referring to the Wine Road instead of Wine Route.  For some reason the Alsatians generally translate Route des Vins literally.

Posted by bigblue on 31/10/2004 at 12:11 PM
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Saturday, 30 October 2004
Schwendi Fountain

Schwendi Fountain Colmar

This is the Schwendi Fountain which I referred to yesterday. It is situated in the Ancienne Douane Square (in front of the old Customs House), and was created by the artist Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi in 1898.  It depicts Lazarre de Schwendi (1522 - 1583) who fought in Hungary and led the army which took the city of Tokay. He is supposed to have brought the grape variety from this city, also known as Tokay, back to Alsace where it became popular and is used to produce the wine with the appelation Tokay Pinot-Gris. In the statue, Lazarre is grasping some sprigs of this grapevine in his right hand.

The above statue is one of at least 13 monuments, statues and fountains by Bartholdi which can be found in the city of Colmar.  As I mentioned yesterday, Bartholdi’s more famous work is his statue entitled Liberty illuminating the world (1886), also commonly known as The Statue of the Liberty in New York.

It was the philosopher known as Voltaire who described Colmar as

A little religious city, full of harassments, where everybody confesses, everybody hates…


Posted by bigblue on 30/10/2004 at 01:40 PM
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Friday, 29 October 2004
The Monochord

Monochord Colmar

In the old town district of Colmar, opposite Schwendi Fountain, we found this man playing a remarkable instrument which he had made himself. He called it a monochord, which struck me as a strange name for an instrument which resembles three or four different instruments hobbled together.  The main body of the monochord resembles an old pedal sewing machine.

Colmar is the birthplace of several famous artists, including Auguste Bartholdi whose works include the Statue of Liberty (now in New York).

Posted by bigblue on 29/10/2004 at 12:38 PM
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Thursday, 28 October 2004
Petite Venice

Petit Venice Colmar

Colmar has a section known as Petite Venice. According to the guide book, the renovation of this area was completed in 1974. As you can see from the photo, there are gondolas available for short rides through the district.  On two occassions during the day we were in Colmar, we spent a lot of time waiting for gondolas. Unfortunately they were running late, and didn’t arrive for the designated hour of departure and so we gave up waiting.  It was 26 degrees Celcius, and tiring to wait.

The canals have fish in them (we saw some, and a fisherman), but have a bluish hue and a foul odour.

Posted by bigblue on 28/10/2004 at 12:49 PM
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Wednesday, 27 October 2004
Strange sights in Colmar


Over the past weekend Pinkie and I also spent some time wandering around Colmar, capital of the half of Alsace known as the Haut Rhin.  It seems that Colmar was spared heavy bombing in both World Wars as the old medieval city remains intact.  Regarding the photo above, we spotted several women walking around with headgear fastened with quaint bows under their chin.  It was a surprise, as I had thought that all the Alsatian true believers had moved to the USA.

There were about 7 or 8 women in these garbs who appeared to be leading a larger group of women (and one man). They came to the restaurant where we had lunch, when I noticed that they were speaking a Germanic language, possibly Swiss.

Obscure fact: The longest and most prestigious race-walking event in the world is the 530 km Paris to Colmar walk.  Female competitors do the somewhat shorter 300 km from Chalons-sur-Marne to Colmar.

Posted by bigblue on 27/10/2004 at 12:01 PM
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Tuesday, 26 October 2004
Douaumont map

Douaumont map

Here’s a map of the destoyed village of Douaumont, found on a plaque at the crossroads leading down to the chapel. The nearby fort was the target of the (surprise) German attack in February 1916 that destroyed the village.  The fort was then retaken by the French in October 1916.  The village of Douaumont was itself taken 16 times during the battles. 

As I mentioned yesterday, Douaumont is the highest point around Verdun so the fort (which was built in 1885 from stone) was of strategic importance. The walls of the fort were reinforced, with a 1 metre layer of concrete over a 1 metre layer of sand.  In yesterday’s photograph you can see the scars of the battle where the village stood. Much of the landscape around Douaumont is scarred in the same way. The battle of Verdun lasted under two years, but 400 thousand French soldiers, almost as many German soldiers and several thousand US and Canadian soldiers perished.

Posted by bigblue on 26/10/2004 at 11:12 PM
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What file extension am I?

One of these timewasters ....

You are .doc You change from year to year, just to make things tough on your competition.  Only your creator really has a handle on you.
Which File Extension are You?

Posted by bigblue on 26/10/2004 at 10:08 PM
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This is the site of the former village of Douaumont, which was destroyed in the initial German assault in 1916.  At the time the village had 288 inhabitants (11 men died as combatants in the First World War).  The chapel at the bottom of the road marks the site of the original village church. There used to be houses on each side of this road (and the road leading to it, off picture). The site of each house is now marked with a wooden placard listing the family name, and occupation of each house. 

On the second Sunday of every year the former inhabitants, their decendants, and friends of the village gather for a memorial in the chapel. 

It is believed that the village was occupied since Roman times. The name derives from the Latin words for “Divine Mountain”. Douaumont is the highest land in the vicinity of Verdun.  It is one of 9 villages that were destroyed in and around Verdun in the First World War.

Posted by bigblue on 26/10/2004 at 12:38 AM
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