An embarrassment of riches

We were warned. The town of Colmar was not to be missed and was bound to delight. The warnings were quite accurate. This Alsatian town was stunning, and it was like being in two countries for the price of one.

Colmar was founded in the 9th century, After many changes of ownership, with the rest of Alsace, it was annexed by the newly formed German Empire in 1871 as a result of the Franco-Prussian War and incorporated into Alsace-Lorraine. It returned to France after WWI according to the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1940, and then reverted to French control in 1945.

It feels very German and was filled with German tourists, who were also admiring the beautifully restored and preserved architecture. How many lovely half-timbered houses can there be in one city? It’s just not fair.

But there’s more. Mostly spared from the destructions of the Revolution and the wars that followed, the cityscape of old-town Colmar is homogenous and dazzling. An area that is crossed by canals of the river Lauch which formerly served as the butchers’, tanners’ and fishmongers’ quarter is now all tidied up and called “little Venice.” Gorgeous.

Colmar was granted the status of a free imperial city by Emperor Frederick II  in 1226. In 1354 it joined the Décapole city league, competing with the Hanseatic League for commercial advantage. It seems to have been successful ever since. The look – and taste – of Alsace-Lorraine is very different from the rest of France, and very charming.

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