Catching up with Colmar

I haven’t felt much like shooting this summer, and I think I just figured out why: I still haven’t finished sorting through the 6,000-plus images I took while traveling with Esteban last December! Well, let’s see what we can do about that backlog, shall we?

“Have you been to Colmar?” That was the response I’d often get when I asked friends about day-trips out of Freiburg, Germany. They’d wax poetic about the beautifully preserved medieval center …

Colmar street 1050309 BLOG

Colmar morning 1050474 BLOG

… the Christmas markets …

Colmar market 1050353 BLOG

Colmar market 1060073 BLOG

… and the canals of “petite Venise.”

Colmar iconic photo 1060155 BLOG

Colmar canal 1050442 BLOG

But try as I might, I couldn’t figure out how to actually get there (at least not without a car).

A train used to connect Freiburg and Colmar — which are only 45 miles apart — until the bridge over the Rhine was blown to smithereens in 1945. Since then, the tracks have ended abruptly at the German border in Breisach.

Breisach river 1050123 BLOG
Crossing the Rhine on a bus. (“No train for you!” said the Nazis.)

Wie kann man nach Colmar fahren?” I asked the teller at the Banhof in Freiburg. Stifling a laugh at my horrible Akzent, she told me to take the train to Breisach, and then the bus.

Esteban and I have an unhappy history with buses — we once got stranded in rural Tuscany — but getting to Colmar could not have been easier. Here’s a synopsis, as a service to future travelers.

Getting from Freiburg to Colmar by train

Take the ICE train from Freiburg Hbf to Breisach. Get off the train in Breisach (there’s only one stop) and walk across the street to the bus stop.

Breisach bus 1050117 BLOG

Look for route number “1076” on the sign. When the bus arrives, pay the driver (about €9, if memory serves) and you’re on your way.

Breisach to Colmar 1050116 BLOG

If you are at all a history buff, the sights from the bus alone will be worth the price of admission. Our bus driver wasn’t especially talkative, so I’m not sure whether these trenches were Napoleonic or a leftover from World War II. But I’m pretty sure they’re historic.

Breisach to Colmar 1050128 BLOG

Once you get to Colmar — about a 45-minute ride — you can get off at either the Theater stop (closer to the old town) or at the train station. Please note that there is no luggage storage in the train station, so plan accordingly.

And once you’re actually in Colmar, try to step back from the overwhelming “holy-moly-this-is-beautiful-why-didn’t-my-mother-give-birth-to-me-here?” first impression, to notice the zillion little architectural details. Like the old merchants’ signs …

Colmar deet 1050284 BLOG RZ

… this whimsical (but macabre) weather vane above a butcher’s shop …

Colmar deet 1050484 BLOG

… and these Victorian-era boot-scrapers.

Colmar boot scraper 1050736 BLOG

Colmar boot scraper 1050785 BLOG

Colmar boot scraper 1050849 BLOG

If you’re curious about the rest Esteban’s and my adventures in Colmar (including the day we almost caused a fire), you can catch up here.

Otherwise, here’s a synopsis of our last morning. It got off to a hazy start, which I was sure would burn off …

Colmar sunrise 1060181 BLOG

… but instead, a thick fog soon enveloped the entire city. It felt so different in the subdued light that I risked missing the train to Strasbourg to squeeze in one last stroll.

Colmar fogbound 1060207 BLOG

Colmar fogbound 1060228 BLOG

Colmar fogbound 1060256 BLOG

Colmar fogbound 1060273 BLOG

Colmar fogbound 1060278 BLOG

There is much more to say about Colmar, but Strasbourg and Paris and New York and Chautauqua await. So, for now, I’ll leave you with one last look at this beautiful medieval town. Back with more travel adventures soon!



    • I agree, knotrune! I felt fortunate to spend my last morning there exploring the city amid a real “pea-souper.” 🙂

  1. These little German towns always look like miniature villages to me. The way they look so neat and clean makes me think they aren’t real; which they probably aren’t, since the Allies bombed the bejesus out of them during the second World War and they’ve had to be rebuilt. But I really love the last picture in your series. Seeing it makes me feel one step closer to understanding Cubism.

    • “Seeing it makes me feel one step closer to understanding Cubism.” You are so witty, Xpat — and when you *do* finally understand Cubism will you explain it to me, please? Grin.

      I also loved your observation about how quaint and almost manufactured these little German (or now-French) towns look. One thing I should have mentioned in my post is that Colmar is unique in that it was never bombed. The city was besieged for a while and there was a lot of fighting in the surrounding woods, but what you see is pretty much intact as it was built. Astounding, isn’t it? I really was charmed by the place; it was like walking around in a fairy tale.

    • Thanks for your sweet words, dear Rochelle. To my husband’s eternal horror, I am almost always awake by 4:30 or 5, no matter the day, season, or time zone — so when we’re traveling I need only sneak outside at the first hint of sunlight. Of course, this means I’m usually snoring by 8 so I sometimes miss the sunset. 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing how to get to Colmar from Freiburg. It was very helpful. We’re on our way to do this tomorrow and I was getting a little confused by some of the other things I was reading. Great pics too! Thanks!

    • I’m so glad my post helped! And i’m also a wee bit envious — you’re in for a treat. Have a wonderful time, and if you think of it please drop me a line if you decide to do your own post about it. Thanks for stopping by!

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