From Cologne to Colmar, from Germany to France, a few hours and a bridge to cross over a river called the Rhein, an area that has been moving from France to Germany and from Germany to France. German in character with tinges of french finesse, the Alsatian dialect is actually the same used across the border in Baden-Wurttemburg. Things are changing though; Alsace is getting more french as new generations are getting french education and identity, deep inside though its heritage remains the same. Its cartoon like downtown, colourful housing, cheerful people in the street just gives you a surreal feeling of comfort, more of a dream… I wonder if it’s that poetic to its inhabitants.
From Cologne to Colmar, the food is typically the same but the french touch takes it to a different level. Define the french touch? I’d start backwards from the way it’s served, the plate is enticing, garnished with appeal. And as you take your first bite, you notice the rich seasoning with herbs not to mention the extent to which it’s cooked variably to give you the best taste. A palette for your eyes, a feast for your mouth; It’s just that rich. On the other side of the Rhein, the food will be served, it’ll be plenty and it’ll be good enough.
Alsatian white wine glasses are typically the same serving you the region’s variety of Pinots, Muscat, Riesling, and Gevurtz Traminer. The later two are typical german grapes, Riesling on both sides is also different, the german side is sweeter while the french is dry with fruity notes.
Architecture point of view, the traditional german homes around the Rhein area look exactly the same as the Alsatian one; cut stones on ground floor and then half-timbered upwards. In Alsace, the village houses are all centred around a square or a town hall as a meeting point for gatherings and commercial exchanges. The french side is brightly and cheerfully coloured ornamented with flowers specially the red ones (lipstick), corn, herbs and other decorations.
However regardless of where you are, the timber has a lot of symbolic features; for example the cross is a sign of fecundity, the losunge of motherhood and femininity, there is a chair like sign that looks like a distortion of the cross symbolises the chief house. There are also inscriptions and signs on the timber used for multiple reasons; biblical, luck, star signs and one of the most redundant is the “huit couche” or the symbol of infinity for longevity and plenitude. You may as well find a cartouche over the house door /entrance symbolising the profession of the house owner.
The walk in alsatian town centres is simply fun, easy on the eyes, there’s also something about these structural imperfections as the timber relaxes, some houses are actually bent… It is flawed and therefore human!