February 19, 2014

My Sunniest Strasbourg

This "winter" makes living in Western Europe look easy!

I spent the first day of my trip to Germany going back to France.

Today, the grand day of February 19, 2014, the sun smiled radiantly on the cobblestone paths and colorful half-timber homes of medieval Strasbourg.

Like people, cities charm best when warm and bright. 

I have always wanted to go to Strasbourg (and Lyon - more to come on that later!) since my 6th grade country report on France. While researching the "what-to-see-and-do," I began to understand there was not going to be a "wow factor." The sites are pretty basic for a French or European city; a few grand churches, pretty sidewalks, commemorative statues, and shopping.

I'm okay with not being "wowed," but I didn't expect Strasbourg to gently befriend me, leading me down quiet streets, across unique bridges, and through ivy-covered corridors. Strasbourg was a pleasant friend to wander with; never intimidating, always inviting. 

The tasteful blend of German and French cultures actually made for a weed-free version of Amsterdam: similarities of river canals, foot bridges, Germanic architecture, bicyclists everywhere, and the tram tracks underfoot and wires overhead.

The astronomical clock inside the grand Strasbourg cathedral had a most intriguing detail. The "time teller" figurine at the center of the clock was a skeleton! This is quite a distance from the typical jolly old man, cuckoo bird, jousting knights, dancing jesters, or whatever other icons of cuteness you can think of. It made me stand there an extra minute, wondering what the significance of that chosen symbol was - "Death controls our time?" "No one will escape death/time?" "Dead men tell no tales?"

I spent half an hour on a bench by the river, soaking in sunshine and fresh air. I ordered my lunch off of French chalkboards, trying the local tarte flambĂ©e and a white wine. The most beautiful building I saw all day was...a high school. 

Most awesome high school EVER.
Strasbourg is a perfect day trip from Paris, or a relaxing home base for exploring the Alsace region in France and/or the Rhineland in Germany. If you don't speak any French, it's probably better for you to sleep on the German side, and use the simple over-the-border trains to access the delightful river island that is Strasbourg.