Escape to Strasbourg


One of the perks of living in Freiburg is the easy access to Southeast France. I have always feared, mostly from my ignorant stereotyping, that French people refuse to speak English and this deterred me from traveling to my next door neighboring country. I would always skip France and travel to Spain instead, where people don’t much speak English as well for another reason- but that’s another story. Technically, this should have been my second time in Strasbourg, had I managed to get off the bus from from Antwerp on my way back to Freiburg last Christmas holiday.

Strasbourg straddles the border of France and Germany. It is not surprising to find the influence of Germany, particularly that of German architecture on houses and buildings. The touch of French finesse is still not to be missed on the iron balusters on terraces and windows. Strasbourg was a subjected to political and geographic tug-o-war between the two countries. Now it belongs to France but somehow retained its German name, literally meaning city of streets. I say it change its name to city of rivers. I was not expecting much difference from Freiburg having known this tidbit of its history. But as soon as I got out of the train station, my presumptions came crashing down. From the easyness of a quiet courtyard one finds on a bend of a road to a
picturesque view of the Ill from one of the innercity’s many bridges, Strasbourg’s charm simply captivates you.

I made a late escape to Strasbourg after my exam last Friday. The mind bending theories on rational choice, politics and devil shift. Gone are the days when truth and fact were simple words which held intelligible meanings. I went to a place where the most complex decision I made was to choose which cheese to buy or wine to drink.

My travel mate, Stephen, an Australian who has moved in to London, and I were at the city center by 8:30 am last Saturday. For sure we were the first tourists in town. It is always nice to take a peek of a city before it comes to life and tourists come in droves. Streets and alleys were still deserted and the crowd in the day market were mostly locals. Having wandered aimlessly for almost a couple of hours, we hopped on to one of the cruise boats that plied the route of boatmen of the olden city. When viewed on a map, the town center looks like an island, accessible thru a number of bridges that go over the moats and connect it to the surrounding mainland. Describe the xperience and view in the boat. With my student ID, I paid half the price for the 1 hour and ten-minute cruise along the River Ill. We must have passed through several bridges, each serving as a welcome arch that introduced us to the quarters of the city. The quarter of petit France, the European Parliament and aptly, the bourgeoisie of Strasbourg boast a view of the river that is to-die for.

Ride along the tide…

After the cruise we were ready for lunch, which turned out to be a disappointment though. How would it not be, when Stephen found a bug which drowned on his French onion soup? It wasn’t the type of delicacy we were expecting from the French cuisine. My small serving of tarte flambee was like robbery as we had to pay almost double yet got served half as much from what I normally get in Freiburg. Our dessert in a patisserie made up for these frustrations. The pastry I ordered was studded with plump and succulent strawberries, and the coffee that spewed from the machine produced finer coffee than what I had expected. We stacked up and brought home some more pastries for our dessert that evening.

We picked up some vegetables, foie grois and bread we needed for our surprise dinner to our hospitable host, Fred, we decided it was time to head to base camp. We prepared our version of Ratatouille for dinner. Our host praised the Ratatouille, yet felt tentative with the foie grois, which had upset his stomach some years back and explained his dislike for the exotic bread complement.

The following day, we made a day trip to Kaysersberg and Bonhomme. I have visited Kaysersberg last year through an excursion organized during my German language course. We grabbed an Alsatian beer in Kaysersberg once we got thirsty after walking and winding through the little town’s narrow streets. After our special and unique lunch of Schnitzel and pasta in Bonhomme, we embarked on a little hike up to Lac Blanc (Lake White) that was reachable via a lift or a hike up. Here I painfully- quite literally at that- discovered that hiking on flip-flops wasn’t such a smart idea. Later that afternoon, we drove to the train station to catch my 5:51 pm train back to Freiburg.

Bonhomme lift ride…

Without the view and far from the protection of the Black Forest, I felt naked in the seemingly sprawling landscape of Strasbourg. My fear of English speaking-avert French people dissipated when I got by with my German. I found it easy to leave Strasbourg despite I was smitten of its charm, knowing this getaway in neighboring France is just less than two hours away.

More photos in my flickr page

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