France 33 - an ecomuseum and a stork with a problem bottom

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June 10th 2012
Published: June 10th 2012
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We paid our bill, washed the back window of the van which was filthy, unplugged everything and set off for Colmar with a detour on the way to see the Ecomuseum which is situated in the small town of Ungersheim to the north of Mulhouse and on our way to our next stop Colmar.

We are starting to notice that we heading home. it is beginning to feel more northern European than southern. The temperature has dropped considerably. We are not sun worshippers but the tans are beginning at times to look distinctly rusty.

The scenery on the way was wonderful as we entered the Vosges with vines plying their way up each hill or as they are known locally as the Ballons. They did look like balloons if you used your imagination. Beautiful scenery at every corner and at every vista.

On the way we discussed the advantages of the motorhome - ease to drive and we both love the higher seating position which gives you uninterrupted views of the road and the countryside. The ability to go to the toilet when you want to without having to queue at motorway service stations. Being able to cook or eat a meal when you fancy it. Yes it can be awkward when you want to visit somewhere and perhaps a caravan and car would be easier but I dont think either of us would swop the van for a caravan. We have got used to making up our beds and they dont take that long at night nor to put away in the morning. And most definately we are pleased we didnt buy a van with the cooking arrangements at the back and seats along the side. This was our first choice but having spent three weeks in the van it is lovely to sit in the back on the bigger seats and have a view from all three back windows. It is much lighter too in the van. We need a BBQ and a table to place it on. The smell of wafting BBQ cooking has made our mouths water at times. The oven isnt that practical for cooking or grilling due to the mess and I am missing bacon butties. .

We passed the sign for the Ecomuseum when we were deep in conversation. Having missed it we had two choices left to us - to go back and retrace our steps or to try to turn right and right again down the country lanes and hope to eventually reach the museum. It is situated on the site of an old coalmine and its workings. We thought that it would be relatively easy to try the local lanes which eventually would lead us back to the museum. We passed through the pretty villages full of flowers and immaculate in every way. They didnt look like architypal coal mining villages but each looked as if they were entering into some kind of best kept village. Coal tubs and winding wheels gave a clue to the industrial heritage and in the distance the derelict buildings and the headstock reminded us of the past and in some ways of home - Denbighshire in the heart of the North Wales coalfield and Derbyshire also the heart of the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire coalfields.

The museum at Ungersheim is a very substantial development, in which an impressive number of houses have been carefully restored to recreate a village as it was before industrialisation.The achievement is particularly effective because the houses, school, town hall and other buildings - 72 in total - were
Ungerseim Ungerseim Ungerseim

she gets in on all the pictures
all in a state of ruin elsewhere and have been carefully taken down, brought to Ungersheim, and reconstructed and restored. It is the largest ecomuseum in France although we did wonder at the title which seemed odd. There are accurate recreations of workshops, blacksmiths, farmlife, shops and life in the middle ages and beyond. . Reenactments of life in Ungersheim and demonstrations of the work carried out in the village add extra colour and interest to a visit although we missed most of these. .

We eventually found our way back and parked on a large car park which was already full of motorhomers who had evidently parked overnight despite the fact that they should not have wild camped. It is interesting to see how many motorhomers particularly the Dutch,Germans and French who put their vans on blocks, bring out their chairs and tables and pull out their awning despite being told not to on aires . As we arrived the bus arrived with about 40 schoolchildren and I had to push my way through to the reception desk . We had some trouble persuading the receptionist to let us in at the reduced pensioner rate of 18 euros. Sometimes it is easy to find the reduced rate prices. Other times the price is hidden away as if to stop you finding it. Perhaps being unemployed and carrying a UB40 - now those of a certain age will understand that term - would be easier than proving you are a grey haired nomad.

As we walked onto the site it reminded me of St Fagans in South Wales where welsh houses have been re-erected or Flambards village in Cornwall. There was even a whiff of Portmeirion. The houses were all very colourful and had cottage style gardens planted with all manner of shades of Bearded Iris that I would have been proud of and yellow and orange day lilies. Outside each house was a machine which told the history and age of the house, where it had come from and what it was used for. Useful but it took such a long time to listen to the blurb and a number of people hovered round waiting for it to finish which meant that you felt awkward just standing around.

The first house we visited was a pretty wooden and blue hairdressers shop, Inside were all the furniture
Ungerseim Ungerseim Ungerseim

The old and the industry
and fittings needed to run a local hairdressers/barbers business. Old fashioned chairs that looked like dentists chairs, ancient porcelain wash hand basins and hair dryers that looked as if created by a madman with the sole purpose of sucking the living daylights from our brains before spitting us out husklike and brainless. That is aside from the crisp and curled locks left after the singeing from the electrodes. Hairdressing has come a long way luckily.

A school room set up for the young children desks familiar to us from the 50's and 60's. Our desks in primary school were probably throwbacks to the Victorian schooldays. Pigs rolling in the most foul smelling muck outside the farm, chickens and geese paraded around the town for feeding. A small castle, a garage smelling of oily rags, a gare with train in the station and a river and mill building.

We even found the local house used for the production of wine and yet another producing honey. A wonderful visit , the sun shone on us and there was so much room to lose yourself in. EAch house different to the last one and each a different colour from its neighbour.

The other thing we noticed were the storks.Having read that Alsace was famous for storks I was looking forward to my first encounter. They are such large white ungainly birds with long spindly legs and bright yellow long beaks. All the tall houses around including many of those in the museum were fitted with platforms for the storks to build their nests. Each nest was made up of large twigs and small branches and inside sat two young chicks waiting for mum and dad stork to return with food for them. In flight they looked like some kind of prehistoric bird circling the sky. The funniest sight we saw was on one nest on a tall building were mum returned and baby turned its back upon her. The baby stork turned its bottom to the world and before our eyes squirted the biggest and smelliest white poo I have ever seen. The baby bird managed to project the contents of its bowels yards out of the nest and one would have to have felt sorry for any unsuspecting soul beneath the nest who would have been covered in it. I guess though they say that it is lucky for a bird to poo on you - just think how much luck you would get with this amount of poo - there was a lottery wins worth.

We had hoped to get lunch but failed miserably and had to wait until we arrived at our next camping site in Colmar. This time Camping L'ille on the river and within walking distance of the town. This time in Colmar and not Mulhouse. We had high hopes to visit the town and take the train to Strasburg over the next few days.


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