A visual journey of the French countryside: Valley of Munster
January 1, 1970
by Katrin Mišel
We get so caught up in our urban lifestyles that I wasn’t psychologically prepared for what the valley of Munster had to offer.
We left Strasbourg in the sunshine, but as we approached the valley, a wave of dusty orange clouds rolled overhead and transformed the atmosphere into dusk-like conditions, even though it was only a bit past noon. The mountains ahead of us were brown and grey, the vineyards and crop fields blanketed by haze. I started to wonder whether it was a good idea to come out here in this dithering weather. There were rows upon rows of vibrant, yellow vineyards climbing up the hems of the mountains, the rest of it covered in bountiful and lavish red, orange and yellow foliage crawling up past the horizon. We reached the edge of the mountain and started up the tiny roads which climb the slopes and in a quarter of an hour of breathtaking views and intimidating heights we reach the little wooden cabin.
The view from here was magnificent – the valley with the soft mountains, cows grazing in a pasture, small farm houses, forests, dirt roads and not a soul in sight. There was an absolute silence here in comparison to the urban Strasbourg life (where I currently live). There is always a sort of background drone in Strasbourg which is completely absent here. We opened the windows to stir up the stagnant air, and instead of the constant hum of distant cars and buses, all you could hear was the cows mooing and a dog barking in the yard of a nearby farm. It was almost as if it was quiet enough to hear my own thoughts, there was a completely different state of mind in this stillness. It wasn’t a lifeless stillness either, but a serenity which lulled you into a quiet awareness of everything which was going on around you. In this kind of silence, you could almost perceive reality on a whole different level.
Life in the valley
People here mostly live in small cabins just like these ones around here. There are either farmhouses with large terrains, or little run-down residential houses whose age was apparent but who were very well taken care of nevertheless. We got a chance to meet a few of the people who live here, and everybody was incredibly friendly. I was surprised to see that each and every house’s yard had at least one dog in it.
The city of Munster
The actual city of Munster is very petite and peculiar. There is just one main road – Grand Rue (the heart of every city in france, no matter how small, probably has this characteristic Grand Rue, translated as big street or main street) – and a 10-minute walk will allow you to walk through the entire center of the city. Scattered throughout the village were many shops with produits du tiroir, or products which were made in the valley which you can’t find in any other place. Notably these little shops had wine, cheeses, honey, jams, liquors, sausages and other delicatessens which are characteristic to the region.
It was funny to see a horse in the city (see photo below), as well as a free edible garden. In the photos below there’s one with a small sign that says nourriture à partager, which means food to share. There were all kinds of fruit trees and berry bushes, as well as vegetables.
On yet another photo, you can see a characteristic Alsatian building. Basically 99% of the architecture was in this style.
And don’t let the breathtaking views let you forget to eat…
A friend of ours who knows the village well recommended us a traditional restaurant called La Schllitte. On the menu were all the dishes that are most characteristic and common in the region of Alsace (the north-east of France) – all kinds of meat (beef, pork, bacon, sausages, duck, chicken, lamb, veal, you name it), with homemade fries, sauerkraut (very popular here!), and their sauces – red wine sauce, black pepper sauce, etc. Also, it’s very common to see goat cheese on menus (apart from cheese in general) – in salads, in sauces, in sandwiches, or pretty much anywhere. This whole region is a vegan’s nightmare. If you want to see a monster dish which combines all of the meats I mentioned, you can go take a look through the photos on the TripAdvisor page of La Schllitte, there’s no way you won’t notice it.
As an entrée, I had a goat cheese salad, and as the main course the plat du jour or the recommendation of the chef, which ended up being spicy gambas with wild rice. I admit it was good, but I regretted not trying something more Alsatian.
On the way back up the serpentine roads to our cabin, as night began to fall, the valley painted a breathtaking canvas of the deep blue sky with just a hint of light still peeking out from beyond the horizon. A sea of tiny orange lights glistened from the houses, lighting up the valley like a starry sky.
Animal life in the valley
During our stay, we probably met more animals than humans. Cows, donkeys, poneys, horses, chickens, you name it. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
So if you’re ever in the area, this is a great place to go to take a break from the urban life for a couple days (or more, it never feels like enough). If you take a cabin with no WiFi like we did, you’ll really get a feel of the countryside. This little breather from buzzing technology and ringing phones, vehicles, polluted air, and city people is essential for anyone currently living in the city. Even if it’s not Munster, go ahead and find a place like this to escape to for a weekend, it’ll do you a lot of good.