Sandy and Yoli drove us high into the forested hills that look down on Munster. They took us to a large old farmhouse restaurant with rustic chairs and tables where a few ducks gathered in the vast lawns sweeping down into the woods below. It was a rare experience, as I would imagine to do this, you would need to know a local, and have a car – we had both.
Sandy is a ‘way back’ friend from Australia, living with his wife on another ‘high up’ hill on the other side of town. When he is here he has lots to do, and amongst other things spends time keeping friends with the environment.
They have a small home-made lake beside their 4 storey ‘maison’, and intend to turn it into a small hydro scheme for their own and their guests’ power needs, and more. A lone young non-paying tenant quacks as he paddles around unaware that he lives on an innovative renewable energy source. Just below, this same water provides sustenance for their ‘hard worked’ raised vegetable garden. They are way ahead of the Paris agreement and with a much closer renewable energy target date.
Even in the village valley below, the magic of Munster has its high spots. The tallest of them all – a now silent chimney, reminds the locals of their once prized textile mill. Now the high peaked roofs of medieval times have become the busy hub of this story-book village. They are once again home to the near sacred and prized migratory storks of Europe. The Spanish call them Ciguenas, the Latvians regard them as part of their soul, while the Alsatians just want them back, and that’s what the folk of Munster have done.
Yes, they are back, and in high numbers, but it took years of dedicated work to primarily remove their migratory plans for Africa, which had, for a host of reasons, resulted in their premature death. Yoli also told us of the half-ton nest which begins often with the erection of a wheel, their home’s foundation provided by the village. The return of the stork not only helps the planet, but renews the energy of their village protectors.
Not far away in Colmar, the stork appears again, but not as the town’s favourite son or daughter. Maybe their choice is the gorgeous multi-coloured stone cathedral that dominates this variegated old city. Or the curious mix of colourful architectural delights that entice you down the humped or v-shaped cobbled streets. For me, it is probably Petite Venice and its silent canal with those previously talked of delights reflecting in its near still leaf-covered waters, its non assuming medieval bridges completing the picture.
There were other things too. Back in Munster, Sandy drove us everywhere. There were the various walking tracks not taken, because the hot sun had got their first. Then the German and French trenches, a ‘Venice canal’ away from each other, the simple crosses on a mowed hillside marking the final home of their mandated occupants. But most of all were the short walks and long talks, and just being with friends. This was our short but memorable Alsace journey, but one that will last long in our memory – au revoir.