We headed into Colmar early on Wednesday, wanting to beat the heat and crowds. Colmar is a small city with a beautiful old core and a wonderful museum.
We easily found parking in the lot near the big movie theater, a few blocks from the tourist office and the Unterlinden Museum. It was just 9, so we decided to begin with the museum, before it got crowded. The museum is in a 13th century former convent, and is best known for the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald. The altarpiece was made for a monastery which treated those with Saint Anthony's fire, a disease people used to get from eating fungus-infected grain. (Hey, isn't travel educational?) The altarpiece was made of several panels showing scenes from Christ's life, which opened up like two books on either side of the main picture. The museum has a nice collection of Roman and early Gothic art, and then you get into the former chapel where the panels of the Altarpiece have been hung for viewing, along with models so you can see how it originally fit together. It's stunning.
Downstairs are rooms of historical relics from the area, dating from neolithic times. And upstairs are more pieces of regional art, as well as some modern works. A very nice museum, on a scale that isn't overwhelming.
When we finished, the temperature was already over 90. We followed a walking guide from the Michelin Green Guide, which would through the old part of Colmar, "Little Venice." A a few small canals run through town, and this is where the tanners and fishermen used to live. The houses are the traditional Alsatian style, beautifully restored. You can even take a flat-bottomed boat through the canals.
We also visited several of the town's churches, and saw the lovely 15th century Virgin of the Rose Bower. We didn't get to the Musee Bertholdi, about the Colmar-born designer of the Statue of Liberty. One wonderful building is the Maison des Tetes, a Renaissance townhouse decorated with hundreds of carved heads.
We were pretty wiped out by this point, and a heavy lunch sounded unappealing in the heat. We drove out of town and found a little place in Turkheim for some nice salads. Turkheim is another lovely village, and I can see now how people can say that the Alsatian villages all blend into each other after a while. Turkheim has a nice feel to it, and you get away from the small tourist plaza very easily.
We drove up the mountain road west from Turkheim toward Munster, where the vines gave way to forests and then grassy hillsides with cattle and farmhouses. We stopped at a town where a shop was selling local foie gras products and got a jar of mousse., just the foie, salt and pepper. At another town we found a cheesemaker, and got a small wheel of munster. I was very amused by the filling-station milk dispenser in front of a dairy. On the way home we stopped at one of the farms selling fruits outside Sigolsheim for some apricots.
We headed home, and had the mousse, bread, cheeses and apricots for dinner. The Huegel reisling was lovely, rich and more citrus than sweet.