ALL THE THINGS
HIRSH AND SARAH'S ADVENTURES THROUGH "GREATER EUROPE"
WHERE WE HOPE TO EAT, SEE, AND DO
ALL THE THINGS THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE HAS TO OFFER
We had planned to stay in the Alsace region for three nights and have a relaxing time, but our best laid plans were thwarted by the most powerful force in nature - water. You see, what had happened was...
We had reserved three nights at a nice hotel right in the heart of Eguisheim. The plan was to post up in one place for a few days and relax. This hotel is located right on the main square and rated #1 on trusty ol' Trip Advisor, and we were lucky enough to get the last available room. Our room was very cozy, but functional and had a really nice bathroom. The bathroom situation is V important to Sarah. Just look at those adorable turtle tiles!
In order to reap the full benefits of said adorable bathroom, Sarah took a long American-style shower. Presumably because this bathroom was designed by the French and not by the Germans, the water containment engineering is all wrong. About 15 minutes too late, we noticed water had flooded not only the entire bathroom, but the entire hotel room. The carpet was drenched, wall to wall, and it was disgusting. We told the hotel staff and they said that this particular bathroom floods often, but they had never seen it flood the actual room. Doubtful. They did seem pretty impressed/horrified. Mostly horrified. After some prodding, they were kind enough to offer us another room, but we decided it was time to leave. Things had just gotten a little too uncomfortable.
So we took one last spin around the small village of Eguisheim, walking the path of the old ramparts.
We then drove a quick 15 minutes to Colmar, one of the largest towns in Alsace. We didn't expect to like it as much as we did, but it's a vibrant city with a great energy and we ended up spending about 3 hours just walking around and looking around. The town even has its very own "Little Venice" where you can take a gondola ride for a scant 6 euros. You'd pay at least ten times as much in big Venice for a similar-ish experience.
After our tour of Colmar, we really had no idea where we were going next. We whipped out our phones and found some free Wi-Fi and did a little searching. The joys of traveling on the fly! We settled on traveling back into Germany, spending the night in Würzburg at the Ibis Budget, with a drive thru tour of the French Alsatian village of Hunspach on the way. This village is especially unique because almost every building is white with the classic dark wood trim. This helped it to be named one of the most beautiful villages of France, in league with Riquewihr and Eguisheim. Very classy!
Alsace is a region in northeastern France, just across the German border. Because of its location and the fact the region has been under the alternating control of France and Germany through the centuries, a unique mix of French and German cultures persists. We found that the locals definitely prefer to speak French, will speak German if necessary, and will grudgingly speak English if forced. The cuisine, unfortunately, has not been able to shake its strong German heritage. The work ethos appears to be all French, though, because almost all businesses in the smaller villages are closed from 12:00 to 2:00 every afternoon, just when tourists' euros are flowing most freely. Don't ever change, France!
We knew about this region through a combination of beautiful Pinterest pictures and the recommendation of our dear friend, Meghan. A true Francophile, Meghan said we just couldn't miss this place. She didn't steer us wrong and we loved it. Thanks, Meg!
We spent this day touring the villages of Turckheim, Kaysersberg, Ribeauvillé, Hunawihr, and Riquewihr. The latter two are often cited as two of France's most beautiful villages (as is Eguisheim, the town where we stayed), but we loved them all.
Ribeauvillé - This town was our favorite. It just felt right. It's so beautiful and idyllic that the animation team from Disney's Beauty and the Beast toured this town for inspiration. There's even a matching castle way up on the mountain behind the town. You can see it in the distance in the second and third pictures, below.
Riquewihr - We wanted to visit this town late in the day because it's very popular with tourists, so we tried to avoid the crowds. We had dinner at a restaurant called La Grenouille, the best part of which was our very sweet waitress.
This morning was like Christmas morning! OK, so when we were spending hours and hours watching Rick Steves videos while planning our trip, he introduced us to the sommerrodelbahn. We have been looking forward to this experience ever since! The best part is, they're scattered all throughout this region, so we can continue to enjoy them as we migrate.
The sommerrodelbahn is a single person roller coaster built into the side of the mountain. You strap into your little individual car, get hauled to the top of the mountain on some sort of lift device, and let gravity do the rest. It is exactly as amazing as it sounds. We aren't supposed to take videos while riding, and we don't have a GoPro, so check out this video to get an idea. This is actually the coaster we rode!
So we arrive at this place and see that not only is there a roller coaster with minimal safeguards built into the hillside, but the complex also houses a trampoline park. We henceforth referred to the complex as the "Tort Park." Ugh, what lawyer approved this idea? But this is also why Europe is so great!
Those of you who know me (Sarah) well, know that I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie. I adore roller coasters, have jumped out of an airplane, and am looking forward to the day I can bungee jump and swim with sharks. Back when I was in law school, our old family dog, Lucy, lived with me. When Lucy turned 15, her body was falling apart and the poor old girl became pretty depressed. To cheer her up, I got her her very own kitten, Chloe. The day I brought Chloe home, Lucy was so excited that her entire body was shaking uncontrollably. I am not exaggerating when I say my entire body was trembling with excitement as I waited in line to get on this silly sommerrodelbahn, and I couldn't help but think of my beloved Lucy.
Here we are putting on our flimsy little seatbelts and hoping for the best.
And here we go!
We loved it so much, we did it twice! The experience was extra exciting for a few reasons: you're held in only by g-forces and a normal seatbelt that no one really checks, there appears to be no external braking system so it's entirely up to the rider to stop at the end of the track by using the hand brakes, they allow 8-year olds to ride alone and use their 8-year old judgment when braking, and these cars go fast.
We left the Tort Park for the attraction next door, the Black Forest Open Air Museum. Built around a farmhouse dating back to 1612, this museum focuses on the traditions and lifestyle in the not-so-good ol' days. This museum was not unlike the folk museum we visited back in Norway. The main highlights, though, were some of the workers wandering the grounds. Here are two teenage girls dressed in traditional Black Forest garb.
And our beyond precious tour guide whom we both loved. She was so sweet and proper and lovely, we mistook her for British at first. But she told us she grew up here in the Black Forest and she and her daughters used to wear the above outfits to church. Several other members of our tour wanted pictures with her, as well. She really was that charming. We wanted to pack her in our luggage and bring her home.
After about 3 hours at this museum, we headed through increasingly more beautiful parts of the Black Forest.
We went to a clock museum that we thought was going to focus almost exclusively on cuckoo clocks, but that was not the case. It was somewhat interesting for geeky people like us, but it's not a can't miss kind of thing like the sommerrodelbahn!
Then we headed to our destination for the next couple of days - Eguisheim, France!
We ended the day with a very nice Alsatian dinner at a subterranean restaurant in the village.