….and you get “Grench”?
Strasbourg was a pleasant 30 minute train ride from Colmar, and I got into town early afternoon and started waiting for my weekend landlord, Mrs. Berna. Traffic was holding her up, as there was a parking garage adjacent to my apartment that had a line of cars stretching for a quarter mile. Strasbourg has one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe outside of Germany, dating back to the 1500’s, and this was the opening weekend…so this was a harbinger of the crowds I’d be facing over the next few days.
The apartment was perfect, a nice studio with a fold-out bed and full kitchen…it also had a perfect location and a view of the Strasbourg cathedral. Additionally, the hallway leading to the apartment must’ve had some aromatherapy going on, as it constantly smelled like butternut squash.
Strasbourg cathedral is the symbol of the city, and I can see why, as it’s one of the most grandiose religious buildings I’ve seen in Europe. The cathedral was huge…impossible to get the entire thing in one picture. The inside was vast, and it took an hour to walk through and appreciate the beauty of everything. They had these great tapestries from the 17th century called the ‘Life of Mary’, and an astronomical clock which can calculate the exact occurrence of Easter every year. During World War II, the Nazis considered making this into a secular ‘tomb of the unknown soldier’ for the German military, and removed much of the stained glass…which was later returned and replaced after the war. Construction on this cathedral began in the 12th century, and for hundreds of years the north tower was the world’s tallest building. Again, I’m not often impressed by European churches anymore, but this is one of the best.
My first night I wandered downtown to catch the opening of the Strasbourg holiday season. The streets were mobbed with people, and it reminded me of what Times Square looks like on New Year’s Eve. I couldn’t get to the front of the crowd, but they showed all the festivities on a big screen that was right near where I was standing. I shot a video of a choir singing Christmas carols, though it was made up of what appeared to be parents and their children who seemed rather unenthusiastic about being there.
Then they brought this young girl on stage to do some songs…not sure if this is some up-and-coming French singer but if so she won’t go far. She did a rendition of that Coldplay song ‘A Sky Full of Stars’ that sounded really off-key, although the crowd still politely cheered her for the effort.
My last day in Strasbourg I went to the National Museum. The city has a complicated history, as it shuttled between German and French rule for hundreds of years…hence the dual influences of both cultures. They had a nice display of weapons used hundreds of years back to fend off invading armies, and also talked of ‘crossbow competitions’ they used to have with nearby cities…sounds very cool! I also found interesting that Strasbourg was the birthplace of modern printing, and the first documented newspaper in the early 17th century. The museum was very large, and spanned the entire history of Strasbourg, including their difficult times through both World Wars.
This city was great for just walking around, admiring all the same Alsatian architecture I saw previously in the villages…but it was interesting to see it here in a big city. I especially liked the Petite-France area, which is loaded with bridges, canals, and great views.
My last dinner in Strasbourg I had the best French onion soup I’ve ever had! The cheese was melted on a giant crouton, and kept melting into the broth as I ate…wonderful! Of course the French just call it ‘onion soup’.
Even with the crowds, I really liked the city…though I probably could’ve used a few more days.