Retour En Alsace
Let’s go back to Strasbourg for a moment, shall we? Having just had choucroute for lunch, that most Alsatian of dishes, my thoughts naturally turn to all of the things I haven’t yet shown you about our stay in that lovely city.
It has a kind of fairy tale beauty, and the whole time we were on a river cruise around the center of town we kept saying “oh, we could live there,
or maybe we should live there,
or even there.”
I have to admit that one of the reasons I felt really comfortable in Strasbourg was because the Alsatian people, having been considerably intermingled with the German people over the centuries, tend to be much taller and more costaud, sturdier all around, than the people of the south, and for once I felt almost invisible there. It would almost be worth moving not to feel so gigantesque all the time. But it’s an expensive city, with homes and apartments on the water going for about 6000 Euros per square meter, or roughly $1000 per square foot.
It’s a trilingual city, with many signs, like these for a sort of Alsatian pizza, in both French and German
and some in the Alsatian language itself. This one says Little Alsace, showing the German roots of the language. But when I heard the butcher speaking Alsatian with a client, it had none of the rhythms of straight-up German, instead sounding to me more like the lilting song of Swiss German.
It’s a city that mingles old and new, housing the European Parliament, which divides its time between Strasbourg and Brussels,
as well as the European Council and the European Court of Human Rights.
It’s a city of stark contrasts, ranging from the ravishing exterior of the Strasbourg Cathedral
with its gorgeous though rather clunky-sounding organ,
to a police force that was in evidence in every public space, usually rousting out clusters of street people from the shopping areas. Strasbourg had an incredible number of seemingly homeless people, sleeping in the street despite temperatures well below freezing. We did see a shelter bus on Christmas Eve, a place where anyone who was cold could come inside to warm up and have a snack with someone dressed as Santa.
On the other hand, if you had money and a little girl to spend it on, there was no shortage of adorable outfits.
And if you or the kids were tired out after shopping, there was the Academy of Beer. As evidenced by the strollers, both outside and on the way in, this is a popular spot with the little ones.
Although Alsace is a famously good place to eat, because we had a wonderful apartment with a perfectly equipped kitchen, the best meals we had were, like this one, eaten at home. In fact, we only ate out three times in the entire week, and none of them were anything very good.
However, the quality of the charcuterie at the local butcher was staggering,
and even though there were two bakeries just underneath the apartment, no one minded walking an extra five minutes to reach one that was truly stupendous.
Finally, because all good things must come to an end, and because I don’t often get the chance to mention camels on French Letters, and because a couple of you asked for it, here’s a picture of Shel in his new Russian-via-Mongolia camel fur vest, with Eric and Jessica in their new Christmas sweaters and hats.
So that’s it for Strasbourg, although I really want to go again in another season and see whether the siren song still sings. And next, on to Germany!