After 10 days in Switzerland. It was time to leave this beautiful country and find out what lie ahead of us on the next part of our journey. The rest of our time would be spent in France. We said goodbye to Gruyere, packed our bags (that were still to heavy) and headed for the one room train depot in the village below.
Our Journey to France would take us north through the heart of Switzerland to Basel where we would change trains and enter France on the eastern border along Germany. Our ticket read: "Tilting Train" under the type of equipment. I was anious to see just what this meant. We found out as we crossed the Jura mountain range just outside of Montreux. As we would round the hairpin turns winding through the mountains the train cars would tilt to compensate for the uneven terain. I had never seen this before but it was truly an unforgettable experience. As we traveled north, I began to notice a marked difference....not in the terrain but in the culture. We left the chalets behind and with time...half timbered rooflines began to appear. The names of the villages changed from familiar (to me) french names to german. By the time we reached Basel...we knew we were in German speaking Switzerland.
Another 5 minute change of trains with the "way too heavy....overpacked" luggage left me exhausted. But once onboard, the train pulled out and I saw the words...Next stop...Colmar. With a rush of adrenaline I was refreshed and excited....My first entry into France in 40 years. We pulled into Colmar with no fanfare. All we could see as we pulled into the station was industry, abandoned houses and graffiti. I didn't tell Karen but I had a sinking feeling that perhaps I had made a mistake booking 5 days in Colmar...would this be our first disappointment of the trip? I began to walk through different scenarios in my mind. If this was not what we had hoped for - we could rent a car and travel into Germany for a few days or we could travel a few miles north and stay along the wine road that made it's way through the French side of the Black Forest. But first we would make our way to the apartment we rented and hope for the best.
We grabbed a taxi and we were on our way to the old city center. We were not sure where the apartment was so we got out at the Almadine Cafe. My instructions were to call "Jacqueline" and she would give us the keys and take us to our apartment. By this time I was sure we had made the right decision to stay in Colmar. For a midwest boy to walk these streets...streets and buildings that were built in the 1200's...I was overwhelmed with the sights and sounds. Half-timbered houses, french being spoken at each turn by passer-bys...this was a town to behold. It was now that I felt very inadequate. This was to be the first time I had to engage in conversations other than bonjour...ca va, au revoir and ou est le...... Jacqueline did not speak english and I had to engage in a real conversation...I was nervous as I dialed the number and on the other end I heard..."Halo". I did it! She could actually understand me and I her. It seems like such a small step but after years of studying French and dreaming of this moment...I felt like Leonardo de Caprio on the bow of the Titanic! I was on top of the world!
Our apartment was on the top two floors of the building in the picture above. With one final burst of adrenaline fueled energy, I dragged the luggage which had become my nemesis up 5 flights of old rickety stairs to a perfect apartment...exactly as we hoped it would be and began excited conversations about what was in store for the next 5 days.
You can google "le piment Colmar France" and see our apartment.