When we left Maastricht in the Netherlands, we drove to Strasbourg via the west side of Germany on the autobahn. Should have taken about four hours, but turned out to be about six hours due to stops and road construction. I guess just like anywhere in the world that has a cold season, road work has to be done in the summer. Must say that we were travelling at 130 kms per hour, yet being passed by most cars. They know how to drive, no one stays in the fast lane like in North America where we seem to have people that do not understand the meaning of fast lanes.
Our hotel in Strasbourg was just on the edge of the old town, so a perfect location, not noisy. Got settled as we were spending two nights here then headed out to discover the old town.
A little history about the Alsace Lorraine region. The region was created by the German empire in 1871 after it had annxed most of Alsace and the Moselle department of Lorraine, following its victory in the French Prussian war. In the early 20th century, the increased militarization of Europe, and the lack of negotiation between major powers, led to harsh and rash actions taken by both sides in respect to Alsace-Lorraine during World War I. As soon as war was declared, both the French and German authorities used the inhabitants of Alsace-Lorraine as propaganda. Th French jailed french who they thought sympathized with the Germans and the Germans occupied some french homes. German authorities developed policies aimed at reducing the influence of French. In Metz, French street names, which had been displayed in French and German were changed to German only and the “germanization” of the area started in 1915. In 1919 after the war, the Treaty of Versailles annexed the area back to France. Then comes WWII. Although the area was not annexed back to Germany, they did take control of the area and in 1942, people from Alsace and Moselle were made German citizens by decree of the Nazi government. It reverted back to France in 1945 after the war.
It is no wonder with this kind of history that the Alsace Lorraine area is a confluence of French and German. Most people we have come across in this area, waiters,hotel staff, store clerks, etc. all seem to speak a minimum of three languages. (German, French and English). What a gift. One still sees the german influence in the architecture and some of the street signs stiil have both french and german on them. Most menus in the area are in french and german as well, and lots of the local Alsatian food also bears the german influence.
One thing that was immediately noticeable here in France was that we saw people begging, both young and old. The economy here in France is still struggling and has high unemployment among the young people. We did not see any of this in the Netherlands, but of course, that may have just been where we spent our time, not sure.
When one is in France, you must speak of the food. With the german influence being so strong, one sees choucroute (sauerkraut), spaetzle, and lots of sausage on the menus. The food served in this part of France is in large quantities, which does not happen in other parts of the country. One thing I love for lunch are their “salade complete”.. This refers to a salad which will normally have vegetables, nuts, cheese and sometime meats. Believe me, enough salad to share. On one evening in Strasbourg, we opted to go to a traditional Alsatian restaurant. Very cosy and the food was delicious. I had magret de canard on a bed of choucroute (duck breast – one of my favourite meats in France) and Robin had Baeckofen (a stew cooked for 3-4 hrs comprised of three types of meats, mutton, beef and pork and various vegetables). The word means baker’s oven.
Another specialty of this region is Tartes Flambees. Bread dough rolled out very thin and covered with creme fraiche (sour cream) or fromage blanc (fresh cheese) and are served with different topping. Think thin crust pizza with cream!
The weather has been fantastic here in Europe, since we arrived, if not too hot! +30 C most days. So we have stopped for the odd afternoon thirst quencher. Usually a dark beer for Robin and I have opted for Aperol spritzers, Kir Royale or Cremant d’Alsace (their version of champagne). Not sure if good for our waistlines, but sure taste right at the time. Will definitely have to hit the gym when we get home with all the wonderful food an drinks.
I am pretty sure I have mentioned this in previous France blogs, but I love some of the French expressions. “Je vous ecoute” which a waiter will say to you when he is ready to take your order….the literal meaning is “I am listening”. Another is “Bonjour or Bonsoir Messieurs/Dame” literal meaning “Hello Mr./Mrs”.
When walking through the old town on our first full day, we noticed armed guards in the main square by the Cathedral, not surprising considering everything that has gone on in France in the last few years. This is somethimg that I believe we will see more and more, unfortunately.
Beautiful Cathedral here in Strasbourg. An amazing pipe organ and lovely stained glass windows. Nice water feature outside the cathedral along the Palais Rohan.
As in other cities/towns we have visited, we have seen a repeating theme of art work….here in Strasbourg were statues of women’s faces, interesting.
Visited the Musuem of Modern and Contemporary Art. Enjoyed what we saw, but unfortunately the exhibits on the second floor were being changed over, so closed to the public. Beautiful building along the canal.
On our second day in Strasbourg we took a trip along the canals and river . The history of the various buildings and areas we passed through were given and a good way to get an overview of the City when one is short of time. Along with some of the historic buildings, we also saw the Council of Europe buildings and the European Court of Human Rights.
Really enjoyed Strasbourg, a must see if in this part of the world. Has everything a great European city has to offer – history, culture, art, cusine and its own unique identity.
P.S. Please excuse spacings and any typos…the blog program I am using and my Ipad not on the best of terms!