DAY 17 in Lörrach, Germany & Colmar, France & Basel, Switzerland:
Street after narrow street of half-timbered, half-painted houses, Colmar is a charming, old medieval, storybook town dating to the days of Emperor Charles the Fat. Colmar offers a cobblestone dreamland of Renaissance homes to explore.
Now here’s a funny story. We weren’t actually supposed to make it to Colmar. Initially, it had made it into our gallivanting around Europe, but due to time constraints and our intention to immerse ourselves as much as possible into every place we head to, we decided to take Colmar and Nice out of our itinerary.
But we did make it to Colmar, and this was how it happened.
The sky was still dark as we boarded the train in Munich and chose a carriage which had seats and where we had a table at our disposal. We were just settling down when two guys walked in and said “13A… 13C…” We had eye contact right at that instant, and I clearly had “Oh shoot!” written all over my face for he burst out laughing and pointed at me, “Haha your expression when I said that!” They said that it was alright that we were in their seats and we remained where we were, by the window. They sat next to us, our new friends from England.
“Where are you two headed to?”
“To Lörrach with a stopover at Basel, and you two?”
“6 hours to Paris, then another 6 hours to Barcelona.”
Jay Lynch from Durham, who studies Marina Biology, and Deniz Davulcu from Cyprus, who studies Law. Both study in Hull and that was where they became buddies. They were doing a trip around Europe too, but going in the exact opposite direction, so while we could tell them everything about Spain and Italy, they could give us a head’s up from Holland… like that old guy who ran out of a dark alleyway with some white powder in his cupped hands. “Do you want cocaine?!”, an offer which they declined. Whatever that powder was, it sure wasn’t cocaine; the elderly male threw it all on the floor and walked away in a fluster! Deniz added that the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam was his favourite! Miriam let out the biggest grin when he said this. 🙂
They told us about a nerve-wrecking story they heard from a traveller they met in Prague: One mixed dorm, 5 guys, 1 girl — 1 sleeping girl. Two guys came back drunk and tried to disturb her slumber by shaking her bed. They stared at her in a way which made the storyteller fear for her safety, so he sat by her bed and made sure nothing happened to her. I didn’t want to imagine what could’ve happened if he wasn’t there to protect her…
Wait, only 6 hours from Munich to Paris?! I didn’t know that!
“Where are you from… how old are you both… what do you study…”
(They were so surprised that we were only a year older than them! They said that most of the people they met were 23 years old and older!)
Our conversation was suddenly interrupted when a tall, lanky guy walked in our carriage and informed us while looking at the seat labels above our heads that he was in seat 13B. He ended up getting an evacuated 13A beside his 13B, Jay and Deniz moved to 13C and 13D while Miriam and I moved to the other side of the aisle.
He was Achim Bogdahn (on his way to Paris, too), who when Jay had put his earphones on, what Jay was listening to. “Gregory Alan Isakov,” Jay told us, smiling widely, and passed his phone and earphone to us to have a listen. Achim later revealed to us that he was a DJ from the Bayerischer Rundfunk (Bavarian Radio). He grew up in Erlangen and Munich and later studied Evangelist Theology in Munich, Berlin, and Glasgow. Glasgow, the reason for his good English. Check him out! www.br.de >> podcasts
Good conversations, good laughs, bad accents (I tried to say ‘smoothie’ with the Scottish accent and failed miserably…) and a reluctant goodbye later — ‘Come with us to Paris!’ — we alighted at Basel (there was some weird/ cool travellator for our luggage so we didn’t need to lug them up flights of stairs!) and got onto our train to Lörrach, as we munched on the peanut-lentil veggie wraps we had packed.
Driving along Lake Constanz, our train tilted so much it almost felt like the ground was about to swallow us whole. Also, we left the grey clouds behind us… ‘we out-trained the clouds’.
‘Every new friend is a new adventure… the start of more memories.’ — Patrick Lindsay
Auntie Petra and Reshem (pronounced ‘Ray-shum’, I originally pronounced it as ‘Rays-hem’… I really don’t know why I did) picked us up at the train station, full of smiles and disbelief as they noticed we had nothing else other than our tiny carry-ons. I’ve never met them prior to that day but somehow I felt a familiar presence when I was with them. They were incredibly friendly, warm and welcoming, which was such a breath of fresh air after the uncertainties of so many new faces the past 2.5 weeks.
Back at their home where Simren surprised Miriam (Miriam thought she was still in the Hague!), lush plants were plentiful, calming tapestry were laid over tables, intricately designed carpets were laid on parquet, book shelves were brimming with English, German and French books, and cute tiny rattan chairs charmed the living area, we had bread, greens and a potato salad for lunch.
Simren, who just graduated from university in the Hague and plans to do her Master in Paris, shared with us what her thesis was about: Venezuelan politics and how things weren’t looking too good at present, while Reshem who just graduated from high school talked about his plans to travel South East Asia for 6 months before settling down for University (he doesn’t know what he wants to study yet). Also, I cannot remember if Auntie Petra told us this during lunch or dinner, but she said that she once entered an Indonesian jungle where she visited tribes who, upon seeing Auntie Petra, had just seen the first white person in their life!
Miriam and I thought we were going to Hasenhorn coaster where Miriam, Hannah, Tim, Simren and Reshem shared funny memories from the past, but seeing as we only had the day to spend before heading off to the Mosel Valley, we went ahead with their plans: A surprise day trip to Colmar, France. Lörrach is right on the border of France and Switzerland, so it’s really easy to travel from one country to the other.
Fun fact: The Tour de France passes near Colmar.
The neighbourhoods survived the bombings of World War II, reportedly because soldiers knew they were too beautiful to touch. Becoming a recurring theme, hey? Remember the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy? They were spared also because of their beauty. People in war still have hearts, although I don’t understand how they had the heart to spared monuments and places but not human lives, their fellow men…
We walked past Colmar’s Little Venice and gawked at the beautiful roof of the Collegiate Church Saint Martin, which severely damaged by a fire but was rebuilt in 1536, exists at Place de la Cathédrale. The church has a strong gothic character, three naves and beautiful stained glass windows from the Church of the Dominicans.
Atop the Church’s roof, we spotted a stork’s nest! We found out from my Dad a few weeks later that it’s considered good luck if a stork were to build a nest on one’s roof/ balcony because they knew where the lightning wouldn’t strike (something to do with underground sewage systems, I’ve got to ask Dad to repeat himself) — a stork’s nest is never struck by lightning!
We were enjoying some drinks in a café when France won a Eurocup match (I can’t remember who was their opponent), and perfect little Colmar erupted in cheers and honks. An ‘Auto Corso‘ was happening. Basically, this is when fans go crazier than usual — they don their country’s colours (blue, white and red in France), have the same colours painted on their faces, and carry flags and horns as they scoot around the city in cars, bikes and skates, honking, singing, cheering, screeeeaaaaming.
Soon after, Auntie Petra drove us back for homecooked dinner — pasta and salad! Just before dinner, Miriam found out that her Grandma’s health wasn’t in peak condition and had been admitted to the hospital for ascites, i.e. a build-up of fluid in the abdomen. I was then told that Miriam’s Mum was flying over from Singapore, I got really worried, and Miriam was too, but she handled her emotions so well. She gave her worries to God.
Just as we were having dinner, we grew quiet for a moment and Simren looked past both me and Miriam and through the window behind us. She said something along the lines of “Sometimes nature chooses to highlight and glorify a selected portion of the landscape, like how only the houses on the hill over there are glowing in the sunset. It’s so pretty!” I couldn’t disagree, it was a beautiful sight.
Instead of taking the train from Lörrach to Basel where we’d board yet another train to Cochem, Auntrie Petra would rather that we spent extra time with them and freshen up, and then she’ll drive us to Basel Hbf.
At Basel Hbf, we purchased müsli and were proud of ourselves for having found it… until we saw the bill. Our tired eyes didn’t realise that it was ‘organic’ and that meant a 500g pack cost ‘16,00 Euros’. Let’s just say we weren’t pleased with ourselves, but the train came late and the situation gave us time to create our very own ‘train dance’ by the tracks, and that brought smiles back to our faces.
We checked into our 6-bunk carriage-room-type-thing, I almost fall off the ladder and we fell fast asleep. All turned out good.
Au revoir, Auntie Petra, Simren and Reshem!