On our walking trip in Alsace we kept coming across references to storks but also to certain people. In particular local artist Hansi and local saint Odile. Then we discovered that Kaysersberg, our final destination, had been the birthplace of Dr Albert Schweitzer – all round good person, as you will discover.
Window dedicated to Saint Odile at Itterswiller
Saint Odile is the patroness of good eyesight. She was born in Obernai and the Augustine foundation at Mont Sainte Odile was founded in her name by her father. She had been born blind but was cured at age 12 on being baptised by an itinerant bishop of Regensburg. She is buried at Mont Sainte Odile.
The Tomb of Saint Odile
She didn’t just turn up at Obernai – where there’s a statue of her in the main square – but also in the stained glass windows in several churches that we visited along our way.
Saint Odile with her attribute – a pair of eyes in a book – in stained glass at Chatenois
Oncle Hansi, or just Hansi, was the pseudonym of Jean-Jaques Waltz who was born in Colmar in 1873 and died in 1951. We came across his cute little pictures on postcards and framed on the hotel walls throughout our trip. At Riquewihr, where we stayed for our last night on the walk, there is a museum dedicated him.
Note the empty stork nest/basket on the museum chimney
There we watched a video film about his life and discovered that there was much more to the creator of the cutsy postcards than initially met the eye. He had been a French hero of both world wars. He published many satirical works and cartoons that made fun of the Germans in particular the book Professor Knatschke in 1912. He was arrested by the Germans when they annexed Alsace first in 1914 and later, having been pursued by the Nazis in 1940, he fled to Vichy France.
In addition to postcards we spotted shop signs in the villages showing his distinctive work.
And here’s a combination of Hansi and a Stork – an advertising plaque :
Dr Albert Schweitzer
When I was growing up in the 1950s and early 1960s we learned all about missionaries in school and at Sunday school – Mary Slessor, Albert Schweitzer, Gladys Aylward – the names tripped off our tongues as did our times tables. I’m not sure these days whether young people know these names.
When we arrived at our final destination, Kaysersberg, on the fourth day of walking and saw the birthplace and museum dedicated to Dr Albert Schweitzer we knew just who he was and stepped inside to have a look.
I don’t know if the missionary aspect of work is played down now. Certainly the museum opened our eyes to his many talents and achievements: organist (an authority on the music of J S Bach); philosopher and writer; theologian and Nobel Peace Prize winner (in 1952). He’d been arrested and imprisoned during the first world war for being a German citizen (due to being born at a time when Alsace was occupied by Germany).
But most significantly he was a medical doctor who founded and ran for 50 years a hospital in Lambarene, Gabon in east Africa. The hospital still exists today and the town of Lambarene now has twinning arrangements with Kaysersberg. Any profits that come from the museum entrance fee still go towards the work of the Schweitzer Hospital at Lambarene. Around the walls of the museum are pasted many quotations from his writings.
“Do something for somebody everyday for which you do not get paid.”