Sunday, January 6, 2013

Christmas 2012 in Strasbourg, France

I know I am posting this AFTER I posted something about being in Berlin for New Years... But hey, that's the order that I got around to doing it.  After living in Germany for about 5  months, this was the first personal trip to another European country that I have taken.  I'll admit, it was a semi last minute trip too.  I think I planned it, with a friend, about 2 weeks before we actually took the trip.  Unfortunately, that means that it was more expensive than it needed to be...

In the end, this was a very enjoyable trip.  We drove to Strasbourg on 12/22/2012 and stayed in the Hilton Strasbourg until Monday.  It was a nice enough hotel, but a little expensive.  If you have ever stayed at a Hilton, you know what you get since it's the same at ever Hilton.  The first afternoon/evening was pretty good.  We started off the day by walking around and getting the "picture taking adrenaline rush".  So many historical and architecturally cool buildings around that aside from stopping for a bite to eat at a pretty good pizza place (for the life of me, can't remember the name), all we really did was take pictures.  We walked until we saw a cool looking Church, then saw another in the distance and walked to that.  Realizing at that point we had no real clue where we were and backtracked until we saw what looked like an area of government building.  Giant stone block constructed buildings.  Also fascinating.

 After we wandered around for awhile, we came across Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg, which was the tallest building in the world from 1647 to 1874 (because the existing tallest church, had burned down...).  Let me tell you what, this is an amazing site to behold, and my pictures do NOT do it justice.  The first is the closest I could get to getting the entire church in one picture.  It fills you a little bit with awe, that a church like this could have taken longer to build (424 years) than the United States has been around (236 years) and is still more than twice as old (573 years) than the US...  Wow...

 I was also very amazed at the detailed work on the Cathedral, artwork, and sculptures like this completely covered most, if not all, of the front of the church.

The stained glass windows were a site to behold as well.

This may be one of the reasons so many people flock to visit the site as well, the astronomical clock.  It was hard to get a good look, since there were so many people here.  But you get that when you visit right around Christmas.

After ogling and awing at the Cathedral for awhile, we also explored the Christmas Markets of Strasbourg.  Strasbourg has a website declaring it the  "Capital of Christmas", but it's christmas markets were fun to wander through.  There are supposedly 12 of them, ranging from a couple of stands to filling up the square where the Cathedral sat, spread throughout the city.  We only had the opportunity to browse through 4-5 of them in our exploration of the city.  They are definitely worth a visit, though it's hard to take more than half a day wandering through them when each market sells similar things from festival foods, nativity scenes, ornaments, candles, roasted nuts and whatnot.  You have to enjoy the glühwein though.  Hot spiced/ mulled wine is amazing in cold weather, and they provide you with souvenir mugs to help you remember your trip!  Though every Christmas Market I've been to in Germany does this for you as well :-)

That evening we ate at La Nouvelle Poste (, which was a side restaurant that was almost tavern style.  The food was quite fantastic.  We even finished off the meal with Crème brûlée, awesome.  

The next day we enjoyed the walking tour of Strasbourg, which you can get by visiting the Tourist Office right off the front right corner of the Cathedral.  It's a self-guided audio tour that provides some great information on the history of Strasbourg.  We also visited Strasbourg's Historical Museum and used that audio tour, which was neat in that it reacted to sensors and automatically played when you stepped in front of exibits and gave a lot more interesting accounts of Strasbourg's history.  It concludes with visiting a huge model of the city that was built for military purposes and kept in the museum.  Very cool.  Finally we ended our day with more wandering in the christmas markets and food trying.  

For our last day, we couldn't think of much else we wanted to do in Strasbourg, so we went traveled south to visit a castle that was reasonably nearby.  This was a great choice.  Haut-Keonigsbourg is a fantastically restored castle that is within 30-40 minutes of Strasbourg proper. 

For those that like tour guides, there is an audio tour that will run you through the different historical aspects of the castle, from why there are dual walls and the armory (which was really interesting to me). 

I'll admit, there was soo much information in the audio tour, that after awhile I kept forgetting to hit the next section and probably only listened to half the information.  I really enjoyed the multiple cut-offs in the castle.  By that I meant that if the castle was attacked, it was designed to have multiple points where it could hold off invaders.

 Ranging from no where to hide after breaking in the first wall, and multiple drawbridges that could be pulled up at various points in the castle.  Its interesting to see how these structures were designed with defense in mind, even had it's own well inside the castle. 

I would love to have this castle in case of a zombie apocalypse.

 Suffice to say, this was another enjoyable trip.

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