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September 18, 2008

Strasbourg France

Filed under: Germany 2007, Travel — anotherheader @ 8:55 pm

Strasbourg street

Strasbourg street

In the middle of a perfectly reasonable trip to Germany, a trip to France broke out.

The dart thrown at the map today landed on Strasbourg, just across the border in the French Alsace region. Strasbourg is about an hour’s train ride from Karlsruhe and I really wanted to see the Strasbourg Cathederal, one of the largest in the world. The only problem is that we only had guidebooks for Germany, which for some reason, did not work for France. In any event, I figured I’d wing it—the main sites are always close to the main train station, aren’t they?

Stepping off the train, the first thing you notice is that everything is in French. Not sure why that caught me by surprise, but it did and now I had to figure which of the 38 words that I know in two languages was proper to try to use before waiter gave up and used English. By the way, we’ve noticed that the wait staff, in response to a dumb stare from a patron, usually tries English.

Strasbourg Cathedral

Strasbourg Cathedral

Modern transit in a pedestrian mall in old town Strasbourg

Modern transit in a pedestrian mall in old town Strasbourg

Outside the train station, the first thing I noticed is that none of the roads were straight in Strasbourg. The all curved around elegantly from the train station. I guess if I had a guidebook, I’d know why. The other thing I noticed is that the roads in the city were largely “pedestrianized” (probably not a word, but it should be!) just like many of the cities in Europe. I think they’ve figured that the existing roads would never work well for cars and they might as well make them work for pedestrians and they closed the streets to all but delivery traffic. What is interesting about Strasbourg is that they decided to run their light rail system on the

Strasbourg

Strasbourg

Yellow

Yellow

surface right through the pedestrian areas. It certainly saved them the cost of burying the system. Curiously, they also chose an ultra-modern, ultra-sleek design for the light rail cars. The combination of the modern transit in the middle of the road in an historic center of a European city is a bit shocking.

Finding the cathedral was not an issue. No amount of curvy streets or shocking transit cars could distract one from the commanding presence of the cathedral. Strasbourg Cathedral is somewhat unique in that it has a single tower, replete with Gothic splendor. It does look, however, as if they planned a second tower but gave up after seeing the effort it took to build the first. Or, perhaps, they feared that the French Army would blow it up. But really, there’s no point in trying to describe such a structure (check out the pictures). It is worth the visit; the astronomical clock is particularly interesting.

Gargolyes in action in Strasbourg

Gargoyles in action in Strasbourg

Chocolate jewels

Chocolate jewels

Another observation about Strasbourg is the number of high-end chocolate shops. It seems too trivial to call these chocolate shops, as they were more chocolate jewelry stores that displayed their chocolate creations much like art. The prices also seemed closer to a jewelry store than to a candy store.

The train returned me to Ettligen in time for yet another vegetable-free dinner. It seems to be hard to get veggies in Germany, particularly anything green. Even the asparagus is white. At least I had a salad in France!

Church of St. Pierre de Jeune

Church of St. Pierre de Jeune

Strasbourg pics: http://picasaweb.google.com/brainbucketster/Strasbourg

Strasbourg Cathedral

Strasbourg Cathedral

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