Sunday, September 30, 2012

Strasbourg – September 25th

The Hotel Le Rapp is nicely located near the center of Colmar, but in a quiet location. It’s a good size room with lots of hot water and the bed is firm yet comfortable. All good things, but sleep still escaped me. So, up early to take the train to Strasbourg with the plan to be onsite to see/hear the cathedral chimes around 12:30.

Gare de Strasbourg
At the Colmar train station, small and compact, we decided not only to get our tickets to Strasbourg, but also see about the tickets to Basel, Switzerland (Bâle in French). The woman who assisted us with tickets, figured out we were old enough for discounted train tickets to both locations. I guess becoming an old fart has its advantages. It is interesting to note that even with the discounts, the Prem 1st class TGV ticket purchase was less than the 2nd class tickets to Strasbourg. Right before we turned away, she also suggested that we wait to take the second train, as it was faster.  What a delight she was, so much for the old “rude French” adage.

Ride to Strasbourg was quick and uneventful. Strasbourg train station is a big bubble.  It was a gloomy, gray day, which did nothing to help the city stand out. It certainly doesn’t hold the charm of Colmar, but then again, it is a much larger city. The star of Strasbourg is its cathedral (Cathédrale de Notre-Dame), a perfect example of delicate Gothic architecture. Its pink/red sandstone coloring is almost as famous as the Cathedral.

However, it is the height of the structure that is most imposing. The Cathedral was begun in 1176 and finished in 1429.  It was the tallest Cathedral in the world at its completion. Can you just imagine what the impact of this imposing structure might have been on its medieval visitors?  I found it overwhelming even surrounded as it was by other tall structures.  The Cathedral still holds the position of third tallest Cathedral in the world today.  Which is pretty amazing considering it has survived – the French Revolution, the Franco-Prussian War, World War I, and World War II.

As I stood in front of this imposing structure on the Roman square that fronts it (at over 2,000 years old it’s spectacular on it’s own right), and look left, a dark, half-timbered building caught my eye.  It’s actually quite hard to miss given the light coloring of all the other buildings that surround the square.  It was the home of a wealthy merchant in the 16th century.  The building has been left intact, as citizens of the city believe it symbolizes the capitalism on which the city was built and still prides itself.  Located at the crossroads of Europe and the Rhine River, Strasbourg took advantage of its medieval location by taxing goods passing through.  This robust economy helped pay for the cathedral.

We made our plan to be at the Cathedral in time for to see the astronomical clock chime.  According to our friend Anne, it was not to be missed.  But as we were gazing at the Cathedral and the merchant’s home time was moving along as it has tendency. Unknown to us, they close the cathedral at 11:45A and shuffle everyone out.  If you want to see the l’Horologie, you must pay for the privilege.  Well, before we made it inside they had shut and latched the doors. Frustrated we stood back pondering our approach to this dilemma when we saw a young man wait for the exit to open and dashed in after the people had exited.  Heartened, we thought “why not?” and off we dashed. It worked; we made it inside; granted for a short time before we too were escorted somewhat unceremoniously out.  But enough time to gather pictures of the gold-leafed organ that hangs off one of the columns, the elaborately carved pulpit, beautiful stain glass windows, and, yes, a quick shot of the infamous clock.
The Organ

The Pulpit
However, as I said, our success was short-lived and out we went.  We were trying to decide if it was worth spending another 4 euros to witness the clockworks and thought better of it (4€ can buy a glass or two of wine you know). So we wandered about the church taking pictures and enjoying the beauty of its Gothic exterior.

Stain-glass Window

Since Strasbourg is situated along the Rhine River we thought a stroll along that waterway the next best thing on our agenda. As you recall, Colmar has an area called the Petit Venise, well, Strasbourg’s answer is Le Petit France. A pretty canal/lock system that is adjacent to the Rhine. We wandered this area enjoying the flowered window boxes and bridges until the sky opened up.  Weather has been hit and miss rain this trip and this was a hit, major hit.
Homes along the Rhine

The Petit France intrigues Betty
We determined this was our cue to head back to Colmar for some lunch, wine, and, hopefully, better weather.  The train ride back was interesting.  An elderly French woman kept asking me all sorts of questions in French, which for me was another “deer caught in the headlights” moment.  Luckily a young French fellow provided the needed assistance.  However, this situation brought me to an observation, more on this trip than ever, the French are speaking English, especially the younger among them. Accordingly it has been a much easier when asking for assistance. Well, unless you are an elderly French woman requesting assistance from a less than capable American woman…sigh.

Back in Colmar the rain had found its way here as well. We decided to take a very late dejeuner (lunch) at a Wistub on the canal in Petit Venise. We enjoyed – Tarte Oignon avec salade verte and a glass each of Edelzwicker.  Our lunch was lovely. At the end they brought a couple of candies. Popping them into our mouths we were taken back – eucalyptus cough drops had nothing on these things.  But we were informed they were a digestif (the Alsatians are quite focused on how things move out of the body apparently).

We took a stroll in the rain that was much lighter than in Strasbourg and finally ended up back at the hotel.  Since the weather wasn’t cooperating, we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in the room catching up on work and the blog.  We did pop out later to the Monoprix (grocery store) and picked up wine, a couple of Alsatian cheeses (tome & muenster), honeycrunch apples, bananas, and a ciabatta with green olives.  Took it back to the room for our evening repast.

And so ends the Strasbourg day...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You absolutely MUST frame some of these pictures! They're magnificent. c&tomtom