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Colmar & Staufen 09/2016

We spent most of Sept. exploring Colmar, France (10 days), Staufen, Germany(10 days), & Strasbourg (3 days). We flew to Strasbourg, then took the train to Colmar. We used public transportation for the entire trip. In Colmar we stayed in the Gites Karcher owned by Georges & Nathalie Karcher. The gites are located on the grounds of the Robert Karcher & Sons Winery near the heart of Colmar. Our gite, Muscat, was clean & neat. The kitchen was well equipped: we prepared several meals w/ items purchased from the local markets. The sitting room, bedroom & bathroom are good sized & comfortable. The gite is located away from the main streets, so it was very quiet. Nathalie & Georges are wonderful hosts; they answered all of our questions about where to dine, what to see, where to shop, etc. The harvest was just beginning during our stay, so we saw how they make cremant. We sampled freshly squeezed grape juice. One of their employees, Fanny, took us on a tour of the winery & guided us through a wine tasting. The Pinot Noir is delicious. You won't go wrong staying with the Karchers. We loved Colmar: so much to see & do. We saw most of what Rick recommends, & our favorites, the Hansi Museum, Bartholdi Museum & the St. Joseph market are musts. We walked at least 20 km/day. Best resto: Aux Trois Poissons. We also spent full days in Selestat/Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg, Turckheim, Kaysersberg, Munster, & Eguisheim. Each town has museums, churches, shops & parks to visit. Hiking into the vineyards above these towns for panoramic views is a must. Munster is a great place to see nesting storks, & Munster cheese is to die for. The Vosges Mtns. are beautiful & we plan to hike them on our next trip to Alsace. From Colmar we traveled by 2 buses & a train to Staufen, Germany. The trip was easy, 1.5 hrs., & inexpensive: a good way to see the Rhine countryside. In Staufen, we stayed at the Gastehaus Kaltenbach owned by Gunter & Gaby Kaltenbach. The Kaltenbachs are gracious hosts & do everything possible to make your stay enjoyable. Here we opted for sleeping accommodations only, although rooms w/ kitchens are available. The spacious room was clean & comfortable. The bathroom was larger than our home bathroom! The breakfasts are fantastic, with much freshly prepared eggs, fruit, cheese, & delicious coffee. (You can buy the coffee at Edeka & take it home.) The guesthouse is on a farm on Staufen's outskirts with stunning views of castle ruins, the Rhine Valley, Black Forest, vineyards, orchards, & Vosges sunsets. The Kaltenbachs provide lots of tables, chairs & grills for outdoor dining, so we suggest buying picnic food at the Staufen shops & markets, then picnicking at your favorite view. Hiking trails into the Black Forest are just outside your door. Once you reach to top of the hills, it's one stunning view of the Rhine Valley after another. Trails are well marked; maps are available at the TI. Besides forest trails, there are easy bike/hike trails to nearby towns. We walked up the Neumagen River to Etzenbach where a delightful Oktoberfest was in full swing at a shooting club. And don't forget to use the KONUS card provided by the Kaltenbachs. We rode trains & buses for FREE throughout the Black Forest w/ this card. We rode the train to visit Freiberg & Offenburg. Staufen is easy to explore w/ many fine shops & restaurants. Don't miss Cafe Decker for Black Forest Cake & Hirschen Hotel for schnitzel. The Kornhaus is great for lunch. In Freiberg, drown in Germany's best hefeweizen at the Hausbrauerei Feierling beer garden, then visit the Schlossberg & Munster, before returning to the beer garden. We used the KONUS card to return to Strasbourg. There we stayed in the Hotel Grillon, about 300m from the gare. The Grillon has a helpful staff. The room was clean. We walked most of the city, visiting the Notre-Dame, Alsace Museum, EU buildings, Vauban Dam, & Orangerie. Have lunch on a boat docked on the River Ill, too.

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Oh how lovely it was to read your review of STAUFEN im BREISGAU! I lived there for 2 months while I attended the Goethe Institute in preparation for studying at the University of Heidelberg in the 1970's. I lived at the house of an old doctor who seemed to be famous in that town, I think for exploring the African wilderness or something. I spent many wonderful days there exploring that cute town with its Schnapps factory (Schladerer Schnapps), and the ruins above the town. Famous also for Goethe's Faust, it was the Black Forest opposite of my hot, dusty, Central California town; dramatic storms whipping the chestnut trees, black clouds rolling in every summer afternoon.... Small-town Germany with all its old habits; the town closed up every day from 12 - 3, so all us students learned to take naps; and we were given student-lunch vouchers for lunch at various restaurants who were sick and tired of us students, and the church bells ringing 5 times a day - at weird times - 6 minutes long - and it was a real bell-ringer, not an automated thing - ha. I remember the shopgirls every morning, in front of all the shops, with a bucket and a hard scrubbing brush, throwing soapy water in front of their shop doors, then scrubbing the soapy water down into the live-streaming gutters. (OK, I don't know what to call those: there were narrow gutters constantly flushing clear stream water through the whole town as its natural cleaning stream....make sense??)

And it gives me joy to think that Cafe Decker by the river is still there - it was the "Fine" cafe during my student days, and I went there only when I had a special occasion. I still have some postcards from the Cafe Decker. Hope you loved Staufen!