On Friday morning, my daughter and I started our Easter holidays short trip to France. We took the S-Bahn to the Munich Main Train Station and from there the ICE train to Stuttgart, our first stop. We were a little bit nervous because the time we had to change to the next train, the TGV, was exactly 8 minutes… The TGV was leaving at 12:55, sharp! I can almost see your smile, if you are not used to the German (or French) time concept. But, yes, the train leaves at exactly that time. On the train they even warned us that the TGV closes its doors two minutes before departure… Oh, 8 minus 2… only 6 minutes to find the right platform and jump into the right train.
As you may see looking at the picture below, we made it! We got on time 🙂 and found our hotel at a walking distance from the Main Train Station. The city we visited was a fortress or a fortified settlement by the road or at the crossing of the roads. This beautiful city is very close to the river Rhine and is situated on the Ill river.
It’s been part of the European heritage since the beginning of human occupation and celts, romans, huns, francs and allemani lived in the region leaving not only their genes, but a big influence in the language.
During the last centuries Strasbourg ( as you may have already guessed…) has changed sides very often; it has been French, than German, than French again, etc. It’s the main city of the Alsace, it’s the capital of the Bas-Rhine department and is the seat of many European institutions.
Our hotel was in the middle of the Medieval neighborhood, called “Petite France” which is surrounded by water. Walking through the Medieval streets you can really imagine the towns in the Dark Ages. During our visit the weather was also kind of dark, cold, and windy. Brrr!
Some streets in the Petite France have very old traditional names dedicated to medieval occupations such as the Rue des Dentelles (= lace, fabric), Rue des Tonneliers (cooper), Rue des Charpentiers (= carpenters) or Rue des Serruriers (locksmiths) and other townsmen like Rue des Juifs (= judes), Rue des Frères (= brothers). Another funny name that caught our attention was the Place of the Suckling Pigs’ Market?!, where you can find many traditional restaurants, gourmet shops and a weekly market.
One of the main attractions on the “Grand Ile”, as downtown is called, is the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Why are so many churches called that way? Indeed, they are dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Our Lady. The construction of the cathedral began in the 12 century, was completed in 1439 and became one of the World’s Tallest Buildings.
A good reading to get an idea of what it took to build such a magnificent building is “Pillars of Earth” by Ken Follet. Another historical novel on that topic is “La Catedral y el Mar” by Ildefonso Falcones. The former was filmed as a coproduction of German, French, Canada and other film studios.
Although the cathedral is very impressive, we found another excellent example of Gothic art, the church of “Saint-Pierre-Le-jeune” or the Young Saint Peter. This smaller church is now a protestant church which shows that Strasbourg is one of the cities where you can find catholic and protestant churches hand in hand.
The church is located in a small quiet street with a tiny garden in front of it and it’s only open in the afternoons. We went into the building and were captivated by the quiet atmosphere, the colored light penetrating the stained glass windows and, very special, the paintings on the walls. The oldest part of the church was built in the 7th century!
The organ is dividing the nave and is beautifully carved. It is placed in the middle of the church and is decorated in blue and red as are most of the walls.
At the end of the nave, there are two chapels, one with the baptismal font and wooden figures and the other one with a wooden angel with wide dark wings. The floor in both chapels is authentic and beautiful.
We went out to the cloister with a water well in the center and a very old stone cross.
It was getting dark outside, distant gregorian chants were playing and almost all visitors had left. In spite of being in a church, we were almost creeped out, so we decided to leave and have a nice dinner with live music. No, no brass bands or Oktoberfest songs, we decided to go the Irish pub that is close to the cathedral, on the “Street of the Old Fish Market”. Thank god, it didn’t smell of old fish 😉
On our last day we visited the cathedral and listened for a while to the Sunday Mass (sorry we didn’t stay longer…) Afterwards we went to the Historical Museum of the City on the same street as the Irish pub. The museum is located in Strasbourg’s former slaughterhouse built in 1588, in an area town butchers had occupied since the end of the 13th century… it sounds creepier as it was 😉
It was a very interesting visit, especially considering the divided story of Strasbourg and the Alsace. The museum is interactive and you can touch, listen, watch and read. We had big fun trying on knight helmets and trying to carry a stone bomb. We also got a good grasp of the history of the 19th and 20th centuries with its World Wars and their effect on the region.
Leaving the museum, we took a long walk along the river and decided to try a typical menu in the evening. Walking through the narrow streets we came across a small restaurant quite hidden from the tourists. It is called “Au sanglier”. Can you guess the name of the street? Yes, right, Rue du sanglier (= wild boar). Exactly, this time like Asterix and Obelix. However, as alsacienne specialties are not known for being light, we decided to skip the wild pig 😉
We made a reservation for 7 p.m. and got there on time… We first had a Kir as an apero. We chose different salads from the salad bar for the first course and a Flammekueche with crispy, thin sliced bacon, onions and sour cream on a very thin flat crust, almost like pizza, for the main course. I had a cold, fruity, but not sweet glass of white wine, called “gentil” with my meal. The name “gentil” or kind and gentle really matched the wine, which was excellent.
As a dessert, included in the menu, (Really, I promise 😉 ) we had a compote of rhubarb with some vanilla ice. I usually don’t like that vegetable in any combination, but I was delighted and enjoyed it very much.
The restaurant “To the wild boar ” is decorated in a traditional style that reminded us of typical German restaurants in Bavaria. It was a little bit macabre because of the wild boar’s head hanging on one of the wall and looking at us. The oddest part of it was, as it was during Easter time, that some Easter eggs were hanging of nice colored ribbons from its tusks…
We felt transported to the Middle Ages, but we could finish our meal.
The next morning we had a late breakfast and waited for our train to leave this nice city at 13:47 😉
I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour and the reading as much as we enjoyed our trip.