Metzeral meltwater

Spring in Freiburg has taken forever to arrive this year. So when we heard it was going to be 24 degrees last Sunday – by far the hottest day of 2013 so far – we decided to head to the hills. After a night catching up with friends in Strasbourg (where we used to live and work) we hopped on a train to somewhere near Munster, home to one of the stinkiest – and yet very tasty – French cheeses.

When we left Strasbourg we didn’t quite know where we would be getting off – we often go with the flow when we travel, and this trip was no exception. In the end we decided to let the train choose our destination for us. We simply stayed on it until the last stop, Metzeral, which apparently stems from a latin word meaning “little dry stone wall”, and took it from there.

The first thing of interest we saw was a large church on a hill overlooking the village. We had nothing planned and so went to take a closer look.

Eglise de l'Emm

On the way up we saw numerous memorials for soldiers killed in battle. The inscription above the church entrance was also in memory of soldiers, in particular those from Metzeral, who lost their lives during World War I. Now that I’ve had time to do a little research, I have subsequently learnt that this village and the surrounding area was the site of a particularly gruesome battle in June 1915 (read more about it on this interesting blog). It’s hard to believe that so much devastation happened here – it is such a serene and beautiful place now.

After a quick rest and a bite to eat (with my German roots and love of sausage coming to the fore),

we headed back into the village and bought some supplies from the local boulangerie/general store. We still didn’t have a place to stay and so we asked the nice lady if there was anywhere she could recommend. It turned out that she did: Auberge et Chalets de la Wormsa, situated a little further up the valley. We weren’t sure what to expect but were really happy when we finally arrived. The campground has a number of individual cabins, each with a small kitchen and small bathroom. It felt a bit like we were at a French version of Concordia, although the sustainable practices here are way behind to be honest.

Chalets de la Wormsa

Our chalet:

Wormsa chalet

Keen to explore the area, we set off on a hike to a local lake. The manager had told us about a nice trail that leads straight out of the property and past a couple of “waterfalls”. Fifteen minutes of hiking later and we were greeted with this view of the Wormsa valley:

The way to Fischboedle

Ah, what a difference a bit of sun makes! It’s hard to see on the above photo but that’s a ski resort up in the top right of the image. We passed by mossy rocks (which Vicky was very excited about – apparently moss like this is rare in Greece) and started to head further uphill. As we climbed the sound of water became increasingly louder…

Metzeral moss

But we never expected to see a waterfall quite like this:


The meltwater from the snow above meant that the waterfall was really raging. Standing on that rickety bridge made you feel like you were going to be swept away. Check out the view from the bridge:

Metzeral meltwater

And the higher we climbed the more waterfalls we came across:


Until we finally arrived at the Fishboedle lake at the top of the trail. It looked more like something you would see in Yosemite National Park than in a small Alsatian (not the breed of dog, but rather from this area of France, Alsace) valley:


As we headed towards the water’s edge, mesmerised by the Wuestenrunz waterfall in the background, we nearly squished this rather friendly looking couple of frogs, or perhaps it was just a lazy frog catching a ride.

Friendly frogs

But then we saw others doing the same thing, and even one couple who had other ideas (now that’s a pissed off frog expression if ever I saw one!):

Froggy style

And then in the lake there were hundreds more getting down to business. We’d stumbled across a frog orgy!

Frogs mating

A fellow hiker explained that the smaller frogs are actually the males. During the mating season, which begins in March/April, they compete with each other to get a “piggyback” (or should I say a “froggyback”?) from one of the females. After a male has finally succeeded in wrapping his front legs around a female’s waist they remain in this position for about a day. The female will then lay her eggs, usually at night, and the male will release his sperm at the same time in the hope that the eggs are fertilised. You can clearly see the eggs/spawn in the above photograph.

After watching in voyeuristic amazement we thought we should give them a bit of privacy and started to walk around the lake and back to the campground. On the way we came across another amazing waterfall that looked like it was straight off a postcard,

Fischboedle waterfalls

some really beautiful butterflies (does anyone know which species this is?): *Update – the butterfly is commonly known as the Peacock. Thanks for the info Elena!*

Beautiful butterfly

and my first ever European snake (again, I don’t know what species this is – do any of you?) *Update – this “snake” is not actually a snake at all, it’s a slow worm (a type of lizard). Again – thanks for the info Elena!*

Alsation snake

For the rock climbers amongst you, there were also some nice bolted routes along the way. The route below started at the right of the tunnel before going under the overhang and making its way up to the top.

Nice climbing routes

The view on the way down wasn’t quite as impressive as on the way up, but it was nice all the same. We both agreed that it will look a lot nicer in summer when the leaves on the trees are out – a great excuse to come back in a couple of months!

Wormsa valley


  1. Hi Chris, the butterfly you saw is called Vanessa Io (and Vicky will probably know the mithologic story of “Io”: the butterfly is called like that because of the round spots looking like eyes, a way to let enemies think that it is a more dangerous animal); as for the serpent, I might be wrong of course but it seems to me that it is what in Italian we call “orbettino”, which in fact is not a snake, it’s very frequently found in the mountain and is totally harmless.
    Now time to go to bed for me, tonight we had the “première” of the new Tagora play at the Camionneur and I worked all day and night on it… Tomorrow we have a second round, then again on 7 and 8 May at Cube Noir and then off to the Hague for Feats in May! Good luck with your exploring! Elena

    • Thanks for the info Elena! I hope the play went well again tonight – I miss you guys. Unfortunately I’ll be in Greece for the Cube Noir dates but I’ll be thinking of you!

  2. Anastasia says:

    Guys, I liked that trip very much !
    Plus the “froggy” style was such a great surprise !

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