Last episode ended with our impromptu exploration of a local historical church, after which James Kline, Andy Wahlberg, and Jaci and I took Ben’s advice and drove out to explore the Ecomusee d’Alsace.

The gist of this unique park and “living museum” (gleaned from our visit and a small English booklet we bought) is to create an Alsatian rural village as it might have appeared from Medieval times up to the early 20 century.

A key goal and accomplishment has been saving centuries-old buildings (homes, farms, trade shops, even a pigsty) from demolition by relocating them here, piece by piece, timber by timber.  The oldest remnants they’ve salvaged go back to at least the early 13th century!  Other homes are more recent 1700-1800s.  But all have been rebuilt, restored or re-created using original methods and materials, all very ingeniously super-low tech.

A fascinating time capsule of the past, it includes buildings, farm implements, furnishings, and technologies that range from the 15th through the early 20th centuries.  It would take much more than the 3-plus hours we spent here to absorb it all.

Woodcarver Jim Kline found an astounding array of ancient wooden crafts and wares to inspire him.

Authentic clay and straw construction

Entire period “time capsule” rooms

An early 1900s beauty salon.  More like a “torture chamber for the well-coiffed woman.”

In the distance: a large “fortified house,” a kind of mini-castle from the 13th century

View of the Medieval-style gardens from its top floor

Europe’s once-common white stork has been successfully re-introduced in the Alsace region, and the Ecomuseum must have a hundred of these man-made nests – and a similar number of birds.  Most were in use, and we shot tons of photos trying to capture their activities.

We have many more photos taken on this gorgeous day, but suffice it to say it was both an extremely interesting and a relaxing place to visit.  We had to drag Jim away kicking and screaming, as he was so at home there…but it was time to get back to the festival!

Walking afresh into the first room of this unique museum space, I realized I hadn’t had a chance to actually take any of it in.  I still didn’t – but I at least made a quick run-through for some photos for posterity.  Here are some nice random examples:

We could only walk into a few of the more nondescript train cars.  Others like this Orient Express-style train could be viewed through the windows.  This is one of the beautifully preserved staterooms of the train that formed the backdrop for our concerts.  Inside, assorted costumed dummies portrayed period passengers (insert joke here about other assorted dummies outside).

My favorite was the 1845 single rail bicycle. Apparently, you just pushed yourself along with your feet. What a great piece!

Meanwhile, back in the luthier exhibit room…

Some of the many harpists that Yaouen had booked to play throughout the museum areas for the two afternoons of the festival came in for the last hour of Sunday.

I observed many visiting musicians trying out some of the various harp guitars…

…while outside, Jason and festival attendee Jon Pickard from England did some impromptu duets.  Interestingly, both of these modern instruments are all-nylon-string versions, from subs to supers.  Jason is playing the 2013 Woolley, Jon’s is a recently completed 23-string experiment by luthier Stuart Mewburn. Forum readers have been following its progress (and challenges) for some time now.  The end result is wonderful, plays and sounds great, and Jon is an excellent player!

Some of the unique design and practical features

I noticed a new Kline CD on the table; this is a brand new sampler culled from 5 of his CDs.  Jim put it out so he can carry just this one thin “Greatest Hits” package around to his shows.   I took home a few copies to offer on Harp Guitar Music.  Hey, did you know that I’m currently the only U.S. source for Jim’s CD catalog?  The industry may be dying, but I’m still selling them to new customers, so in your face, Spotify!

We had another receptive audience on Sunday evening, everyone did different tunes (but ask me about Bach, sometime privately…inside joke).

Yaouen gave a final heartfelt thanks to all of us and everyone who helped put on this special event.  We’re all grateful and proud of Yaouen for making it happen!  And Pierre?  He not only handled it with aplomb, he would again host his huge Manouche Guitar festival just a week later!

Then it was hugs all around, but we reluctantly had to call it a night.  Hope to see all of you again!

OK, Phase 2 of my Harp Guitar Working Vacation was now successfully completed, but I wasn’t remotely done yet.

The next morning, we had plenty of time – in theory – to get to the airport, drop off that wacky Mercedes and make our short hop to Paris.  But, as you remember my warning from Part 1, France was not about to let us go that easily (and Switzerland was no picnic either).  Here, I could write another whole chapter but will spare you the horror.   Just make sure you never book your car on the wrong side of an imaginary dotted line between two countries, even if they share the same building and you can throw a stone from one’s parking lot to the others’.  To be fair, Enterprise eventually did manage to find their car and release our contract (some days later), and the $100 “incorrect parking lot” surcharge was a small price to pay for the supreme privilege of being able to re-join civilization.

A short flight later, Jaci and I found ourselves in two different lines for shuttle connections to our respective flights from Paris; so a quick kiss and wave, and we were off – she to return to work back in L.A. and I for the next phase of my exhilarating, if rather exhausting, Harp Guitar Working Vacation.

Next: Boston or bust!