So now finally, here is the real story at STRASBOURG that you have been waiting for!! (Though you, like myself, will soon absolutely fall in love with this city from just reading my story below, I couldn’t miss out the fun details up until Strasbourg. So now here it goes!)
From Basel, Switzerland it takes only about an hour to reach this unique French city. Interestingly, the moment we entered French border you can tell that this is FRANCE for you notice the buildings changing like this (picture below), a style that you won’t notice in Switzerland!
The train route from Basel to Strasbourg passes through a nice green scenery. Thus, for about an hour, I was able to admire beautiful nature while day-dreaming of what we were about to discover at this unique city, Strasbourg! Ah just passing through these green, blue, and whiteness made me peaceful while my friend dozed off under the warm sun.
Before we knew it, we were here, at least!!! We have been waiting for this moment for days (as you have for this story!) so we couldn’t wait. And so was Strasbourg. For the moment we stepped into Strasbourg’s train station, we noticed that Strasbourg was ready to share us its unique identity. As we searched for the correct direction to enter the city, we had to stop for few minutes at least to admire even Strasbourg’s train station’s unique figure!
And oh wow, not only did the train station looked unique from both inside and outside, but the weather was also amazing!!! Check out this blue and white sky here. You can sense the cool summer breeze even from this photo for many locals were also out and about to enjoy this wonderful weather!
The city map told us that this was the road to the city center. We smiled at what was presented in front of us. Already, this looked very French and it was indeed!
So why is Strasbourg unique? And how has it become so unique? To that question, one should first look at the map. Not only is Strasbourg located close to Germany, but it has been the center of Alasce region of France.
Today Strasbourg is the capital of the Alasce region of France and is one of the nine largest cities in France with nearly half of a million inhabitants in the metropolitan area spanning across the river into the German city of Kehl, on the eastern bank of the Rhine. While it is French, one will notice many speaking in German. The mixture of German and French influence lives today not only in the language but within Strasbourg’s food, architecture, building, and society! The city is also famous for hosting a number of important European institutions such as the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, the European Ombudsman, the Eurocorps, the European Audiovisual Observatory and the European Parliament.
For tourist, like myself, Strasbourg’s historic city center, the Grande Ile (Grand Island) is the major attraction point that you will not want to miss out! The Grand Ile was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988, the first time such an honor was placed on an entire city. And no wonder it has been! For even today, in 2012, every corner that my friend and I walked into we couldn’t stop ourselves from being dazzled by the beautiful historical architecture within this area.
It is also important to note that other than being a tourist and political attraction, Strasbourg is also an important economic center for manufacturing and engineering. It’s port is the second largest on the Rhine after Duisburg, Germany. In terms of city ranking, Strasbourg has also been ranked third in France and 18th globally for its innovation few years ago.
But even without knowing this background, because the city center is so unique and pretty, one could easily enjoy a nice meal with some white wine at any of the cafes here and enjoy a pleasant walk. In fact, that is precisely what my friend and I did. While the museums and the EU Parliament visits are worthwhile visits too, we decided to enjoy a bit of bohemian breeze as we took a stroll along the Grand Ile to explore the city. Within the next few hours, we simply walked, took pictures, ate a lovely meal over Strasbourg’s white wine (Verre de Gewurztraminer), chatted, and walked a bit more to discover every bit we could of this beautiful historical UNESCO site!
Hence for those future visitors wondering what to do at Strasbourg, I would suggest you to just pick a time frame, pick a starting point and just ENJOY a walk! We walked for few hours and still couldn’t finish seeing everything so one could easily spend a pleasant and a relaxing afternoon/morning/or evening there by oneself or with friends and family. (Good weather will probably help too, for we were able to enjoy an amazing view thanks to the nice weather!)
But if you really insist me on providing few suggestions, perhaps my list of “why I loved Strasbourg” can help you think of how you want to make the best of your visit at Strasbourg.
Three top reasons why Miss Kang loved Strasbourg:
1. Strasbourg’s unique architecture: While I have observed unique architectural sites during my visits to other cities, my few minutes walking in Strasbourg made me realize how unique this area was. The buildings and cobble streets was completely different and adorable! The color, the design, the location all seemed to come together in one nice imagery. Here are some shots I took as I wondered around with glee.
2. Entering, by coincidence, into Cathedral Notre Dame: Built between 1176 and 1439, the Cathedral is Strasbourg’s finest architectural highlight. However, the beauty of this site was that we walked into it by accident. The 142 meter tower turns out to be the highest Cathedral tower in France. Personally, my visit here felt dramatic because it showed up so suddenly out of the blue. We were walking, walking, and turned a corner to suddenly discover…WOW. We stood in front of it speechless for few minutes.
The entry is free so we had a quick look inside to be dazzled again.
Before I could finish gasping from this unexpected historical site, I was amazed to learn that there was another site to check out. The old Astronomical Clock inside the Cathedral is one of the few that keeps track of many aspects of time and space. In fact, because it is so complicated, if it ever breaks down it takes ages to fix it. So the staffs are careful to take good care of it. I mean, look at this. Wouldn’t you want it kept in good shape?
For those who want to continue enjoying this atmosphere, one could easily pick a cafe to sit at in front of the Cathedral and enjoy a coffee, a wine, or a dessert!
3. Delicious Food and Drinks: If one goes to Italy for Pizza and gelato, one should go to France for pastries and FOOD. Interestingly, when I told my French friend how much I now want to move to France to have French food after my weekend at Strasbourg, she laughed and said that Strasbourg food is rather unique to other French areas. (But I’m sure she was still happy to take the credit that French food was delicious!) Perhaps I should make a second visit to Strasbourg to verify this feeling and compare with other French cities. But the food and the wine we tried at Strasbourg were absolutely delicious! Ok, we were a bit tired, but I am certain that now this Strasbourg wine that I have tried is going to be one of my number of ones. I mean look at this! Doesn’t this look yummy?
Plus it probably helps to have an amazing view like this as you enjoy your meal!
The white wine we had, which I had two glasses within that day (a large consumption for those who know me), is a Strasbourg specialty “Gewurztraminer.” It’s a bit of bubbly but rich at the same time. I’ve had different wines before but this one is the first wine that I’ll claim as a favorite. In fact, we were both sad that we didn’t keep track of time to buy one bottle back home. So if you are in town next time, can you do me a favor and taste it and cheer with it for me? Merci!
Even the simple citron tart was delicious! The taste, my friend described, was delicious because you could taste the original food ingredients. As in it felt fresh and real!
The other fun part, personally, was that I got to, surprisingly, make use of my elementary French! I took a course for about an year on my own, but I really haven’t kept up with it, which my French friends teased of often. But it was nice to learn how much I could recall and made use of the basic daily conversations!! As I watched how my friend ordered food or how I myself found my way to the train station by asking directions, I got excited by the thought that I still had my language!!
We enjoyed our time here so much that we actually lost track of time. When I realized I had only fifteen minutes left before my train when I was still enjoying my wine, I decided to run to the train station. By the moment I took a seat on my train with a huff and puff, the train started taking off. That was a close one. I almost missed my train. But it was so lovely. All the way back to Vienna, I continued dreaming of the delicious and beautiful time I had.
And that is how I finished off my 8th Trip. The journey of midnight at Salzburg, sunrise at Zürich, a reunion at Basel, and a good evening at Strasbourg. Within 48 hours I will be traveling from Austria-Switzerland-France and back.
(Continue reading and you can learn about Miss Kang’s 9th trip back to Tuscany, Italy!)