Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December's Adventure: Day 3, Strasbourg, France

On our third day of our trip, we hopped into the car for a two hour drive to Strasbourg, France, which is south of Kaiserslautern. I've visited Strasbourg once before this spring but never did get to writing about it (oops!). The nice thing about my prior visit was that it saved me some research for this visit since I basically already knew the layout of town. In other words, I knew exactly where to go since I had already bumbled through some wrong turns during the previous visit. Yay for learning!

From my last visit, I knew that the wise thing to do with my car was leave it in the Park and Ride lot on the edge of the downtown. I chose the Rotonde parking garage which is just west of downtown. It's super convenient because the tram is just outside the parking lot and it's a quick journey into town. Even better yet? It's super cheap! To park in the garage and ride the tram into downtown and back is only 4 euros for up to seven passengers. It's sooo much cheaper and less stressful than parking in the city (more P+R Strasbourg info available here).

We didn't have a set plan other than visiting the cathedral and the Christmas market. After we took the tram into town, we came across the first Christmas Market at Place Kléber, a square. There were just a few booths and they were all non-profit organizations. We decided this would be an excellent place to drink some vin chaud ("hot wine"), the French version of glühwein. After all, once must drink hot, spiced wine at Christmas markets and supporting non-profits by purchasing it from them is even better!

Lovely vin chaud. Now, how to get the deposit back?
My cousins both speak a bit of French from learning it in high school so they ordered successfully. I tried to order some wine using French and it was a mess. Some of it came out in German and instead of 3 glasses of wine we received 2 glasses instead. Eep. We finally got everything sorted out and my cousins had their glasses of red wine and I had white. It was tasty and similar to glühwein. Finishing our glasses, we were then left to figure out how to get our deposit back. We even had to figure out if we had paid a deposit for the cups. It's pretty standard practice if the cups aren't the cheap disposable ones. We spent a while watching other people to see what they were doing and finally just took the cups back to the stand and handed them back. We were rewarded with our deposit being returned. Success!

We learned that each year, there is a special guest country to the market. This year, the guest was Croatia, being honored for recently joining the EU (as of 1 July 2013). There were some stalls in the Place Gutenberg set up with Croatian food, crafts, and information.

Then we moved on to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a major landmark of the city. Part of the building was started in 1015,  but the Gothic spire was not completed until 1439, according to Strasbourg's Tourism website. We marveled at the amazing church, noting the astronomical clock inside and the elaborately decorated facade.

I made special note of the super creepy stained glass window showing scenes from Hell. I was especially alarmed by the white devil (? I think that's what it is) that bears some resemblance to Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster from the children's film Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Freaky.

Creepy creepy! Bumble, is that you?

Beautiful church facade, evil gnome poisoning the vin chaud outside (maybe not).
That was enough of creepy stained glass windows. As we toured the rest of the town, we found something else that I've since seen repeated in other European towns: Santa Claus in various stages of breaking into people's homes. More pictures of this phenomenon will follow, of course.

There is more to the visit to Strasbourg but that will be another entry since this one is super long as it is. The next entry will be full of additional excitement (! maybe): how we ended up (sort of) on French television in Petite France; saw gnomes gone bad (and it was bloody!); went mountain climbing in the French burrito restaurant; and went into giggling hysterics over weird mannequins. I'm sure you can't wait.

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