During spring of 2012, after a short rest and relaxation in the Baden-Baden baths in Germany, we decided that it would be nice to spend part of Easter in France; we decided to visit one of the most famous cities in the Alsace region, Colmar.
Alsace is the fifth smallest of the 27 regions of France, at the same time one of the most populous – 220 people per square kilometre. By comparison, the population density in Latvia according to 2020 data is less than 30 inhabitants per square kilometre, while in the United Kingdom it is 270 inhabitants per square kilometre. The Alsace region has historically even had its own Alsatian language, which could be a German dialect of French; about a third of the population is still able to communicate in Alsatian. As it is common elsewhere in Europe, many settlements have German names alongside French names.
Alsace’s largest city is Strasbourg, home to many European Union institutions, including the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights. It is also interesting that Strasbourg is the second largest port city on the Rhine River.
Easter market in the old town of Colmar
We had read before that there is a market in the old town of Colmar for Easter in France, where you can buy a variety of French country delicacies. Besides, this market is largely aimed directly at the people of neighbouring Germany, because Colmar is only a few dozen kilometres from Germany – just cross the Rhine and you are there.
We found one of the few free parking lots less than a 5-minute walk from the old town of Colmar and headed for the city’s central square. In the very centre of the old town, next to a large church, there were mobile stands with a variety of groceries. What is not quite typical for France – most of all sellers spoke German; more precisely it was probably not German, but Alsatian. Quite a few also understood English, so before buying something particular, it was possible to find out more about it.
Homemade cheese and bird liver pate
We had already bought Alsatian wine in Germany, so at the market we found good things for snacks – homemade cheese, poultry liver pate and dried ham; Italians have very similar to it called prosciutto.
A little about bird liver pâtés: for the first time in France, we couldn’t understand why there is such a big price difference for the same products – duck or goose liver pâtés, known as special French delicacies – really good stuff for celebrating Easter in France.
In fact, it’s quite simple – the price actually depends on what percentage of poultry meat is added to the liver pate. The more meat, the cheaper the pate; the higher the proportion of liver, the more expensive the pate. Of course, the prices of goose, chicken and duck liver also vary. If we want clean delicacies, then we take a clean liver pate, but if we want to eat a lot, then it is better for the liver to have more meat. Like any other delicacy, pure liver pate in large quantities is not so enjoyable.
A bit more about Easter in France. Of course, the celebration of Easter in France was not nearly the same as the celebration of this holiday in Poland, however after various open-air exhibitions and decorations, one could sense that the city has a festive atmosphere. The lively activity in the city centre also testified to that. It should be noted that lunch in France is pleasantly cheaper than in Germany. In Germany, there were many beautiful holiday decorations near private houses, however in the cities we did not observe any common holiday events. To be fair, it must be said that in small towns, however, many Germans attended churches.
We returned to Alsace about a week after our Easter in France experience to spend there another night before going home and had a little sightseeing around Strasbourg.
It was a complete coincidence that we found and pre-booked the Hôtel Au Couvent du Franciscain, built by ancient Franciscan monks, located almost in the heart of the city. This hotel has not been associated with the church for some time, however it has retained its ancient charm of the monastery. It was pleasantly surprising that the triple room consisted of two separate bedrooms. The hotel only had one star, although the location and price were very good value for money. The continental breakfast was also unusually generous for France.
Strasbourg Old Town and Cathedral
After several weeks of rain all over Europe, the weather in Strasbourg was finally sunny and very suitable for exploring the city. The grass was green, chestnuts have already started to bloom. Strasbourg’s Old Town is located on one of the islands. There are a lot of canals in the city in general, although we had not enough time to sail with one of the boats that run along them.
The whole of Strasbourg’s old town, located on the Grand Island, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. One of the most impressive buildings in Strasbourg is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg. Its construction began in 1176 and was completed in 1439. For a long time, from 1647 to 1874, Strasbourg Cathedral was the tallest building in the world and today it is still the sixth tallest church in the world, with a peak height of 142 metres. Another interesting fact about the cathedral – although it is believed that the cathedral was originally built in the style of Romanesque architecture, it is also mentioned as one of the best examples of Gothic architecture.
Shopping in Strasbourg
There are other beautiful buildings in Strasbourg, many canals, squares and simple dwellings. The city has a good public transport infrastructure, low-floor trams of modern design run through the old town. The Galleries Lafayette department store is also located in the city centre. These French stores can also be found in Berlin, Casablanca, Dubai and New York, although they originate in Paris. However, small shops and cafes along the streets may seem even much more interesting.
So, the first half of the day flew away and we had to leave France. Before ending our Easter in France trip, we had lunch and once again had the pleasure of eating a lot more food for the French euro than we would get in Germany for the same amount of Euros. Another important thing for visiting the old town – we took advantage of the fact that in our hotel parking lot it was allowed to park our car until afternoon free of additional charge.
This Easter in France trip included two other destinations for which separate descriptions are available on this blog – Baden-Baden and the island of Mainau in Germany, and a trip through the French and German parts of Switzerland.