Tue 26 Nov - Strasbourg, France

A good shakedown of Strasbourg... A surprisingly beautiful city.

The dismal weather from last night had disappeared overnight and we woke up to a cold and crispy morning, with temperature around 0 degrees Celsius.

No breakfast was included in our room price and at 7€ each, we figured that we could do better outside. So, after a bit of sleep in until almost 8am, we walked across our street to a Boulangerie on the corner and bought ourselves half a baguette with ham and salad to share.

No tea was unfortunately on offer there, but we realized that we had seen a Schmacka Mackers aka McD at the square opposite the train station so we took a punt that they sold tea there. They did. So, we had brekkie at Maccas so to say (or at least their nice tea and the great baguette from elsewhere).

Back to our room afterwards to get ourselves ready for a day of wandering in Strasbourg, which turned out as follows...

The trams of Strasbourg are something else, with enormous windows all around which make you feel like you are in a fishbowl. Very nice and modern though.

This building had painted ornamentals around the windows where none real was to be found. Note the painted third window on the top floor.

Strasbourg seems, to us, to have an identify crisis everywhere, between French and German, and even among its people.

This guy even had a half German half French name (no, not the guy standing next to the sign, he has a Swedish name...)

Strasbourg has these 3 narrow Quais, small land spits parallel to each other, connected via bridges and presumably where ships loaded and unloaded their cargo once upon a time.

They also each had an observation tower, which you can see behind Di.

Connecting from where Di stood above and the other side is Barrage Vauban.

The Barrage Vauban (Vauban weir) is a weir erected in the 17th century on the river Ill west of the "Petite France" district, which is were we are staying, and was constructed from 1686 to 1700.

It is several stories high and today houses sculptures in its main level and a panoramical terrace on its roof.

This is how it looked inside from one end to the other.

Of course, we had to check out the panoramic views at the top, and a "selfie" was totally in order.

In the distance and standing tall and high is the Notre Dame cathedral. Until 1874 the Cathédrale Notre Dame was the tallest church in the world and even today it is the 6th tallest and its tower dominates the Strasbourg skyline.

Back at the Barrage Vauban, there is a lift to take disabled people up to the terrace. Unfortunately, today it was "lift off" (gotta love these lost in translations). Come fly with me...

And this is how it looked along the Quai between 2 of the canals.

Old German in action... "Frankrich" ???

Strasbourg looked absolutely stunning along the canals and Di could not stop saying "It's beautiful". Well, yes she could but then she said "It's stunning" instead...

These guys had a bit of a peculiar job...

Pigeons seem very common here and some roofs had more of them than others. Yep, they seemed to like this one. Why that would be the case we could only speculate on. Perhaps the roof was warm, I.e. not so well insulated...

When we say that the buildings came in all different shapes or forms, we mean it. Some of the older buildings look twisted and turned and seemed to be propped up by their neighbors, a bit like in Amsterdam.

We assume that the little shelter to the right was (or still is?) used for loading and unloading from a boat.

First of Advent is coming up this weekend and Christmas decorations and markets are being put up all over town.

Strasbourg is supposed to have had the very first ChristKindl Markt, or Christmas market, so it's a big deal here. Some of the decorations are quite elaborate.

Note the restaurant to the left and we think a bar to the right almost down by the water. Would probably be great spots for dining and drinking in summer. A bit nippy now we would think but they are probably heated well inside.

Hans next to one of several locks.

Di can be so easy to sell to sometimes. The lady in this shop provided us with free samples of her bakeries and Di then felt obliged to buy a bag for 6€. The macaroon cookies were nice enough but you didn't really get that many of them for that price.

One of the things to see in Strasbourg is Place Gutenberg with a statue of the man himself.

Not many people know that apart from being the inventor of the first mechanical, movable printing press in Europe in 1439 and the publisher of the Gutenberg Bible in 1455, Gutenberg lived in Strasbourg between 1434 and 1444, where he was an apprentice goldsmith, set to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Around the base of the statue base are notable scenes showing the impact of Gutenberg's work on different continents (or so we assumed based on what we could see). On the American side, Benjamin Franklin could be seen in the crowd.

Maison Kammerzell is on the Place de la Cathédrale, opposite Cathédrale Notre Dame and is considered the best preserved medieval building in Strasbourg.

The spiel said that Maison Kammerzell was built in 1427 and although it had been renovated several times since and some German Renaissance style was added in 1589, it has kept its essential late Gothic style and charm.

And we arrived at the tallest building in town...

Back to the spiel for some info... Until 1874 the Cathédrale Notre Dame was the tallest church in the world; today it is the 6th tallest and its tower dominates the Strasbourg skyline.

The ground on which this magnificent edifice stands has been used for religious purposes for over 3000 years: in 12 BC a Roman sanctuary was built here with shrines to at least three of their gods; when Christianity arrived in the region a temple to the Virgin Mary was built over the ruins of the sanctuary.

The 1st cathedral was built in the 7th century and was replaced by a larger one in the 8th century. This in turn was supplanted by yet another one in 1015, a Romanesque building with wooden naves which burned down in 1176.

And yes, you can walk up in it, not all the way to the top of the tower, but to an observation platform where the tower starts.

Hans was on his own again as Di would not have a bar of climbing it (something about scared of tiny spiral staircases... could that be called stairophobia...?)

Up and up and up in a clockwise spiral it went...

Then some nooks and crannies...

... until you arrive through the door to the left here.

As you can see, there is still more to climb if you were to reach the very top of Cathédrale Notre Dame's tower. This is, if you were allowed to as a common punter.

Still, the views were good and we kick off with a Hans "selfie".


Unfortunately, Hans did not have a map with him and having only arrived in Strasbourg yesterday, he was not able to recognize many landmarks around Cathédrale Notre Dame. A few shots from above...



The roughly eastern and western sides on the platform were not accessible as you can see with the fencing. This obviously meant that the photos were predominantly overlooking the south and the north.

It appeared that various dignitaries had been buried up there (or maybe scattered from there) in the past. This Berliner, or did he die in Berlin?, in 1766.

The Cathédrale Notre Dame also extended towards the back as per below. We did actually take a full lap around the base of the cathedral before Hans went up.

A couple of "looking down" photos... The gingerbread man is decorating the entrance to the visitors centre.

And there is Di, waiting for Hans to finish his trek to the top and back.

A quick tour of the inside was required and yes it is grand but we've seen many grand cathedrals on our travels so we have been a bit spoilt.

The natural light and windows were beautiful (according to Di again...).

Di had read that when the preacher Hans Hammer (good name!) had constructed this pulpit about 150 years ago, he decided to include a portrait of his faithful family dog, who always remembered him when he returned home. We patted it for luck as many other punters had done judging by its "shine".

Of course like all old churches ongoing renovations are underway with scaffolding outside and inside.

The interesting contraption in the foreground was not explained but maybe could have been a way to access the high candelabras.

The astronomical clock here was interesting and we felt a bit sorry that we had not paid €2 for the tour at noon as we might have learned when and how it was made.

Very ornate and it appeared accurate too.

A ghost? Just one? You would expect plenty here with the crypt dating back to 1015...

It was after 1pm and was cold outside so we thought we would walk towards Place de la Republique and then look out for a lunch location. More markets were being assembled along this tram route but we did like the trees with stumpy limbs. Not sure what they are but we guess in spring and summer they would look nicer.

Set up in full swing for the markets that start on Friday.

Vin Chaud sounded like Glühwein and we were impressed by the size of the pot to the right.

Also the last time we had seen a Beignets advertised was in New Orleans so we had a momentary flashback to an earlier stage of our trip.

Almost like Joshua Trees with their stumpy limbs...

As we've walked around we've noticed a few well armed and fit looking army guys and gendarmes, and we felt safe.

Based on the fact that this building made use of old cannons for ornaments we took a guess that it might be an office of the military and maybe this is where some of them come from.

Place de la Republique looked to be just official buildings so we turned around and went to Place Kleber instead.

We found a bistro with some people inside, and outside was offering a "Plat du Jour" of Pot Au Feu. Di asked what that was and was told it was stewed beef and vegies. Ok, worth a try.

We ended up choosing the Formule du Jour and for €13 we also got a glassful barely drinkable wine with our meal and an espresso at the end.

Not quite what we had envisaged - very plain beef, boiled to death and back, and vegies.

We found it quite plain but some French people around us were eating it too and finishing their meals so it must be how it comes. Some improvement was achieved through liberal additions of mustard, salt and pepper.

As in most places on the European continent we got good bread, which we will miss when we get home.

After our meal Di said she was not feeling well (not from the food but just a general tiredness) and headed back to our hotel for a rest.

On the way she stopped at a Supermarche for cereal and milk, fruit and some sliced cheese for bread. Our fridge to keep things fresh is the shopping bag hanging outside the window, we just hope they don't all freeze overnight.

Hans meanwhile took a wander eastwards across Place Kleber to check out what was doing with the Christmas markets setup there. Oh yes, things were quite frantic there.

Hans decided to check out Place de la Republique after all which ironically is located in to what is referred to as the "German District".

The square is on the border between the historic city and the new one with five prestigious buildings were erected here including the Parliament of Alsace-Lorraine (now the National Theater of Strasbourg) and the Palace of the Emperor (now the Palais du Rhin).

However, Hans walked around the square and its garden, looking at the various buildings surrounding it and decided that it really wasn't that interesting, hence no photos, so he moved on.

Hans then decided to wander back to our hotel Le Petit Trianon along the L'ill but on the other side from the Grande I'le (Grand Island), hence being able to look towards it. He was not the only one doing this stroll.

Some serious demolition work was in progress at one spot and it had attracted a fair few onlookers, including Hans who stood there and watched for a while. These guys knew what they were doing as the work progressed with a furious and noisy pace.

If only these guys could work on museums and historical buildings where the labourers always seem to be very fast in putting up the scaffolding then just... disappear.

We didn't notice this statue when we arrived here at Les Halles by tram yesterday. Hans was still not sure what it meant, but we have seen a similar monument with bikes on it in the south of France, celebrating "Tour de France". Probably no connection.

Also, next to this statue was the Great Synagogue of Strasbourg which was burned down and totally destroyed by the Nazis during WWII. Perhaps there is a connection there...

Lazy afternoon, and also a lazy evening in the room, with baguettes and cheese for dinner and chocolate mousse for dessert.

Hans really felt that he needed to control the volume of food intake after his excessive eating lately. That just felt unsustainable so he was certainly happy with the small dinner.

All quiet on the Franco / German front. Good night.


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