I didn’t mean to visit a giant patchwork exhibition while on holiday last week, it just happened. The plan was to take the ferry from Hull to Rotterdam, drive across the Netherlands and Germany to reach the Pfalz and spend a couple of nights in Bad Dürkheim at the Wurstmarkt, the world’s largest wine festival.
We’d then buy wine at our favourite producers in the town before heading down the German Wine Route into Alsace, where we’d take in a much smaller wine festival at St-Hippolyte and stock up on Alsatian wine.
European Patchwork Meeting
All went according to plan until the morning of our first day in St-Hippolyte, which dawned very wet. Too wet for wandering around a wine festival. We looked at the various leaflets in our hotel’s reception for ideas of indoor things to do. There was one advertising the 20th European Patchwork Meeting at a place called St-Marie-aux-Mines, which I was delighted to discover was only about 12 miles away. Dear husband was persuaded to come on the basis that a) it would be under cover, and b) there would be cake. (With thousands of visitors, the vast majority female, how could there not be?) So off we went.
There were more than a dozen exhibition venues in St-Marie itself, with others in nearby villages. We never made it that far, just going round the ones in the town took us 5 hours. In part this was because the exhibition halls were spread around and we felt we should get some exercise walking between them instead of taking the shuttle buses. The patchwork on display was stupendous, in particular some rare antique Mennonite and Amish quilts. I hadn’t realised that many of the Amish communities in the USA today are descended from Alsatian exiles.
Mennonite and Amish quilts
There was also an interesting collection of modern Russian quilts, including the two below:
which are just so, well, Russian in style, aren’t they?
I saw several works I loved by a fellow Brit who works in Dorset, Kate Dowty, such as this fabulously textural and almost photo-realistic pair:
Lisa Karlsson, a Swede, showed with this quilt what could be done with just two colours:
The two quilts below were worthy competition winners:
All in all, a great experience.
Switzerland and the Albula Railway
The weather perked up the following day and we headed for Switzerland to stay with friends for a couple of nights. On one day we all drove along the Albula Valley, with its impressively engineered railway line (which has a World Heritage designation) and stunning scenery.
The second day was spent at Lake Constance. I got to wear my newly-finished gansey to keep me warm during a boat trip, and we were treated to multiple fly-pasts by the Zeppelin which is housed at Friedrichshafen airport.
The Mosel Valley
On our way home from Switzerland we stopped off for a night in the Mosel to buy more wine. We only get to Germany and Alsace with the car every five or six years and it’s good to buy wines that we either can’t get in the UK or are considerably more expensive, and to chat to the winemakers. It’s also very enjoyable at this time of year to eat the seasonal foods such as onion tart (which goes well with a glass of partially fermented new wine, still cloudy with yeast, called Federweisse), wild mushrooms, fresh walnuts and plums, and to see the grapes on the vines shortly before they are ready to be picked.
Picking had already started in some parts of the region, but in most places the grapes will be left a while yet to get sweeter. In Alsace we saw a lot of Pinot Gris bunches that were affected by Noble Rot and will eventually become SGN (sélection de grains nobles) wines and command high prices.
Now, alas, we are back home after a week of driving across Holland, Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland. 90-odd bottles of wine have been unpacked and stowed away to provide happy reminders for years to come of a glorious, early autumn week on the continent. I haven’t dared go near the bathroom scales yet but I fear that I will be on short rations for a week or two until I am back to a respectable weight.