Thursday, 31 January 2013

Howls Moving Castle meets real life

Day 198 28.01.12 Mulhouse to Colmar

Typical Colmar view, SO Howls Moving Castle!

Little Venice in Colmar, France. Colourful half-timber houses on the river.We get up and potter over to Super U to buy a few bits for sandwiches and some drinks before getting the van ready to go.  We head over to a couple of supermarkets on the way out of town that the CampingGas website promises sell our gas canisters.  The first one doesn’t and the second only sells new canisters not refills.  As a result they are crazy expensive, looks like we won’t be having heating for a while!  It’s a real frustration as driving through town was really stressful thanks to narrow roads, terrible drivers and numerous diversions.  We need to get some wifi and find somewhere that refills cannisters sharpish!

The journey to Colmar is pretty stressful too with lots of traffic.  Our first parking spot was a no-go as the parking specifically for campers only allows you to stop on the side of a busy road for a maximum of 4 whole hours at a whopping 2.80 euros an hour, gee thanks Colmar! (sarcasm intended).  We end up around the corner once more on the side of a busy road but this time free!

Heading into town we’re thankful for a mild day, there’s sun in the sky and we don’t need coats for once!  Arriving in the centre of Colmar I am overwhelmed by its beauty.  Chris and I are huge fans of the Japanese film makers Studio Ghibli, particularly their film Howl’s Moving Castle.  The main village in the film is based on Colmar and nearby Riquewihr and the similarities are clear to see.  Maison Pfister is the most obvious building that can be seen in the film as the bakery run by the main character’s sister.  It’s a magnificent building with a wooden balcony, pointed roof and religious paintings around the central section.

Colmar riverside, France.  Colourful timber front housesChris is won over quickly by all the antiques shops we stumble upon.  Only he could end up in a conversation about Japanese swords when neither he nor the shop owner speak the same language!  The wooden fronted houses are immaculately maintained and painted a multitude of different colours.  Most shops have intricate ironwork signs hanging down in a medieval style and the shutters on the windows all have a different shape carved into them.  This level of co-ordination must take lots of organisation!  It pays off though in a magical, fairytale city that wins you over in an instant. 

Colmar rooftops and churchWe soon find ‘Little Venice’ with its multi-coloured houses beside the river and it’s just gorgeous.  It was a picture of this area I spotted in a French magazine in a launderette that made me want to come here even before I knew of its link to one of my favourite films.  It’s just perfect here, it’s so easy to see how this haven could inspire artists.  

Even in winter the town is full of colour.  Each house has window boxes outside, no doubt in bloom in Summer this place is even more stunning.  At the moment though it’s hard to believe that this place could be in any way improved, its utter perfection.  Almost every building has intricate carvings around the windows of its brightly coloured fa├žade.  Those that do not have exposed beams have detail expertly painted on instead.  Every way we turn we are in awe of the beauty of this little town, I simply cannot believe that somewhere this spectacular exists! 

Maison Pfister in Colmar, also the bakery in Howls Moving Castle
As the weather takes a turn for the worse we seek shelter (and free electricity) at the mediateque with a view and a half over the rooftops.  Less than an hour later its closing and the fire alarm starts blaring.  I’m not sure whether there was an actual fire or they just really wanted us to leave!!!  We head back to the van for dinner, films and a difficult night’s sleep on a noisy road.

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