In March 2019, Anya and I went walking in Alsace. We carried all our belongings in our rucksacks and walked from one small town to the next, where we had pre-booked accommodation.
They were different times then!
You had to pre-book accommodation – something we have always preferred not to do – because tourism was booming.
The cities of Europe were busy with organized groups, especially Chinese.
However on our walk between the towns of Alsace, we didn’t encounter anyone. The weather which turned cold shortly after we began, bringing with it heavy snows, might have discouraged some (the main tourist season being from May to September).
Alsace was originally a mixture of Germans, French and Jews. The architecture is overwhelmingly German dating from the Middle Ages. It’s a province of France which until the end of the Second World War was hotly contested between France and Germany.
In the morning, when we left the medieval town, the early morning sun illuminated church spires and the sloping roofs of the houses. Cast shadows on the walls and turrets and danced on the cobblestone streets.
We basked in the promise of spring. High in the town portal, storks tended their nests.
We ascended a mountain side passed vineyards and higher up, through forests.
The air echoed to the sounds of streams and rivers.
Clouds obscured the sun. Brought cold air and snow.
A different kind of magic appeared, as sudden as a conjurer’s trick.
The magic of silence.
The trees, flecked with snow, were still shy of leaves even though it was spring.
Our boots sunk deep into the crisp snow, leaving a trail of deep prints behind us.