Monday, July 11, 2011

Bonjour Strasbourg...Au revoir France

After leaving Paris, we spent our last week in the northeast of France, right on the border in a town called Strasbourg. Knowing it was the headquarters of the European Union, we had heard it was a charming town popular with European travelers. It did not disappoint.

Strasbourg is the perfect mix of old and new Europe. There are old, gothic churches and medieval buildings, still standing and still exposing their wooden, foundational beams (like the ones in the picture up top).

There are newer buildings with art nouveau and midcentury modern influences. And running through the city and across the numerous canals is a very convenient and modern tram system.

By far, the most impressive thing in the city is this cathedral, completed in 1439 and undoubtedly handed over from German to French hands a number of times since. It is striking with its peculiar orange-brown stone and its magnificent towers full of gargoyles, saints, archways, and pretty much anything else they could fit on the walls.

At this time of day, this picture is pretty true to color. With the rich blue sky behind it, it’s hard not to stop and stare.

At night, starting on our third night there and going till the end of summer, is a light show on the face of the cathedral, synchronized and choreographed with classical music. It’s a beautiful thing to watch on a warm night in Strasbourg, and a great example of the city’s influence on tourism and quality of life.

Another example of this was a show in the main square of traditional, Alsatian dances. Backed with a full horn band, it was a great way to start off our Sunday.

Another public event was this parade we stumbled upon. It was a bit strange and the whole purpose for it wasn’t quite clear. But it was entertaining nonetheless.

We used Strasbourg as a base for a couple day trips. The first was to Nancy, a town just west of Strasbourg and known for its art nouveau. If you know me, art nouveau is one of my favorite art movements, so it was definitely a treat to walk around here. While this fountain is in keeping with the art nouveau style, the arched gateway was pretty much just outright gaudy.

They, of course, had a beautiful cathedral. For me, this is my kind of cathedral It’s ornate and full of interesting details and decorations, but not overwhelming enough that its hard to look at. In the mix is oxidized and bronze sculptures and large, wooden doors intricately carved.

This is St. Epvre, the namesake for the cathedral and the square it resides in. It's also the namesake for a traditional cake made in Nancy. We got a little one, and although it was delicious, didn’t quite live up to the title of “best cake you’ll eat in your life,” suggested by a friend who lived in Nancy. Still, it was a nice treat!

The other day trip we took was to Germany! A nice walk from the furthest tram station, across a bridge is the Germany town of Kehl. Being so close, we figured why not? This is the bridge that crosses the Rhine river which separates the two countries and has defined the shape of these countries since the French-German war.

We hopped across to see the town a bit, get a taste for German culture and people, and for lunch. Happily, we discovered that a lot of stereotypes of Germans are true, including how much they like beer! It’s the best way to wash down a heavy meal of meat and potatoes.

We’ll, now we are in Hawaii and are parked here for three weeks. My phone works now, so give me a ring and lets catch up!

1 comment:

celia said...

Strasbourg is so quaint and yet has this magnificent cathedral. What a great shot of it - and as you mentioned the light show was beautiful. Good timing to be there for that parade. Pretty good taking a day trip to Germany - and of course enjoying their beer. Congratulations on your excellent adventure with Casey.