With 8 days down and 7 counting, Alsace was to be the “anything goes” part of this trip. That meant driving the 105-mile stretch that is the Alsace Wine Route, eating fromage blanc at a mountain hut, and even a visit to Monkey Mountain for a good gawking at Barbary Macaques of all things. But the focus here is the village of Munster, because apart from the cheese that goes by the same name, we discovered on the first day that local residents included more than the usual human population. On a morning at the open-air market I hear this hollow, rapid, klac-klac-klac-klac-klac-klac sound amidst the confusion of shoppers and traffic. Looking around I see nothing until out of the corner of my eye, a large shadow swoops overhead and I jerk my head upward. What I saw was so unbelievable that at first I thought they were fake. Aren’t those birds the ones that deliver cute things in small packages? I can make out a little over a dozen in the image below, but in reality there must’ve been at least 12 pairs nesting on the chimney tops in Munster.
According to historical statistics, the birds nearly vanished in the sixties due to insufficient numbers migrating back from north Africa. So for 3 years, the powers-that-be raised a few storks in captivity to prevent them from flying off for the winter. A happy ending, as now the large birds are seen in many Alsace villages and considered as the “symbol” of this region.
What’s for dinner? It came as no surprise that the food in Alsace leaned on the heavy side through german influences. Choucroute garnie (sauerkraut with salted and smoked meats), Beef Vigneronne (like a hot pot meal – cubes of meat cooked in red wine), Sauerkraut & munster cheese (a meltingly hot casserole served as a starter), and Tarte flambée (a really thin-crusted pizza topped with cream, munster, diced bacon, and onions) are just some of the traditional dishes we tried. We also became acquainted with the local practice of eating munster cheese with cumin seeds sprinkled on top. Hard to believe that I didn’t explode.
Highlights of LabarocheAOC regulated cheese: Munster
Where to buy: Munster (a few miles down the mountain from Labaroche)
Bed & Breakfast: La Montagne Verte
Favorite restaurant: Caveau Bacchus 2 Grand Rue (Katzenthal)