Saturday, July 14, 2012

To Colmar

The middle-aged woman next to me on the train is wearing a skirt that reaches to mid-thigh. Just a centimeter or two beyond a mini.
It's not the display of her legs that's so ridiculous - no prettier or less than mine, the same uneven complexion and cellulite. Bravo for courage in the face of new-found veins. It's that she keeps pulling it down, betrayed by the fact that sitting in a short skirt is much less flattering than standing up in one.
Every few minutes, an adjustment. With no visible difference in the extent of pale flesh exposed.
Ladies, please: if the skirt is too short, wear a longer one.

I've got just four days for travelling this time. Italy is a bit far for that, because of some inconvenient train schedules, so I'll get there some other time. September, if I dare take time off then. On my way to Strasbourg a year or two ago I was intrigued by the pretty countryside around Colmar, so that's where I'm off to. My friend in Nancy, Joanna, meant to join me with her little boy, but he seems to have come down with something and they may or may not join me later. For once I might have company on one of these outings - we'll see!

8:56 depart for Lyon. 12:05 from there for Mulhouse. 20 minutes wait there for the small local train to Colmar. Mulhouse around the station doesn't tempt me, in spite of the waterfront with its docked boats. the local pauses at:
Mulhouse Dornac: boring suburb
Staffelden: corn on one side, big houses with big yards on the other. No good hiking there.
Bollwiller: cute town with its hexagonal onion-domed church. The station parking lot is big enough to hold the cars of the entire town.
Raedersheim: major corn.
Merexheim: corn, wheat, corn.
-a crane in a mowed hayfield-
Roufflach: grain silos, half-timbered pub.
Herrlisheim-près-Colmar: there are castle ruins on the crest of the row of hills, and finally vineyards everywhere. Yea! Here I could just get off the train for a stroll through the green, though the ruins are some miles away.
All that in just 37 minutes. I'll pick up the schedule to get back to Herrlisheim - small towns are great for hiking. In a biggish town like Colmar it's sometimes hard to find the trailheads, and in a city like Mulhouse you can hardly find the trailheads at all because they're all way out in the burbs. It's only 4;30. My plan is to drop my stuff at the hotel and go for a walk, picking up a guide to peruse over dinner.
Time to go see Colmar.

It's one of those French jewels, with a large central pedestrian district where the streets are cobbled and the old-fashioned signs hang out from the shops, showing as much as telling what's there. Spotlessly clean. Old half-timbered buildings restored and painted.

The churches and other major structures have tha wonderful roofing done in patterns of colored tile. The warm yellow and red sandstone is gorgeous in the evening light.

And storks - there really are storks nesting here and there about town on the metal platforms provided for them.

I look into several bookshops and newsagents, but although tour books for the region abound, they all expect you to have a car. Except one - there is a guide for cyclists. Alas, this is (oddly) not a walking sort of place, unlike my adopted Auvergne, where dozens of hiking trail guides vy for your attention. I do eventually find two fold-out maps of the region that have red trails marked on them. One of these could do, though it would be better to have the common sort of book that describes the landmarks and has a detailed map of just the part you want.
There are only two red lines leaving Colmar anyway. One follows the river, and if I just go down there I'll find the trail. Trails are always well marked in France - once you find the trailhead you can't miss it. The other goes up toward the interesting, vineyard-covered hills, departing from a mall at the west edge of town that a bus is sure to go to, so I pass on the map.
more tomorrow...

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