The Long Weekend
Easter is this Sunday, which means we have a 4-day weekend, with Friday and Monday off. The standard German calendar is filled with many federal and religious holidays, often times coinciding on the same day. Because of its strong emphasis on workers’ rights and enabling a healthy work-life balance, Germany forces companies to give employees these days off, at the mandate and oversight of the many workers’ unions throughout the country. If you thought an HOA in California was strict, wait till you see the capabilities and power of a German workers’ union. Companies don’t really have an option but to comply.
Taking advantage of this amazing opportunity, I’m spending the next 2 days in Strasbourg, France. Besides its rich, long history, Strasbourg is also one of the capitals of the European Union and the home of the European Council. Yes, there’s a difference. Also, it’s a beautiful city with many unique landmarks and features, but we’ll get to that later.
After a lazy start to the morning, I showered, got dressed, had a Café Crème, and jumped into the car. There was a surprise shower of a hail as I turned on the ignition, followed by light downpour. The sun was out 20 minutes later, and I was finally on the Audubon.
Driving is a peaceful activity for me, no matter how fast or slow I’m going. I could be going 175KPH or I could be in standstill traffic. It makes no difference to me. I just get way too excited about traveling from one place to another. Plus, with the views of the German and French countrysides, it’s really not that bad. I’m sure native residents would disagree. It was also the 2nd time I saw a Dodge Ram pick-up truck on the road. Next to all of the hatchbacks, wagons, and sedans, it feels so out of place.
It took about 1.5 hours to make it to the border. From what I understand, the drive should in general take a little less than 2.5 hours. That was pretty much how long it took, thought there was a delay in Pforzheim. Upon a friend’s suggestion, I was initially going to go through the Black Forest. However, the traffic patterns seemed reasonable going through Pforzheim along the A8. I was a risk to go that route, given the heavy construction in that area over the last year. I managed to make it through the traffic jam reasonably quickly, and found myself near Strasbourg after 2 hours of driving from Sindelfingen.
My car did something interesting as I crossed from Deutschland (translation: Germany) to Frankreich (translation: France) — it automatically adjusted the signage that is displayed on the controls dashboard, so I could easily see the speed limits of every road segment directly in front of me with French traffic symbols. I was impressed.
This is officially my theme for this trip. Parking on this trip so far has been a headache. It took me 45 minutes to find parking when I entered the main Strasbourg area near my hotel. I’m staying near the city center, an explicit choice I made so that I could maximize my time walking around the city, rather than being too far out and relying on public transport. Honestly, that would have been a fine, but besides driving, walking is my second favorite method of getting from Place A to Place B.
I found a parking garage nearby. Because of road closures, likely due to strikes, I had to circle around the boulevard a few times before making it into the garage. Once I was inside, it was tricky to navigate the tight corners. I eventually found a spot, but it was not easy squeezing my VW Tiguan into it. After some adept handling, and retracting my side mirrors, I made it into the spot. I hope I don’t get clipped by the car next to me. I took a picture of the license plate just in case.
The walls of my hotel are filled with graffiti and contemporary artwork. The colors are loud and the pieces jump out. There’s a certain feeling of rebellion, which I think fits the time, but also the fact that this is a French hotel and city. I mean that as a compliment in every way possible.
The room is comfortable, not too big and not too small. French toilet paper is better than German toilet paper.
An Afternoon Stroll
I’m not going to extoll how beautiful this city is, rain or shine. After dropping off my bag, I headed straight for the city center. Of course, the pictures below don’t do it justice. Tomorrow, I’ll be touring around the city and part of the broader outskirts and will talk more about the history of the city.
Strasbourg is known for particular dishes that are draw from both German and French cuisines. There are 2 in particular that I tried today, and will likely have again tomorrow.
#1 Flammekueche or Tarte Flambée
These are particularly famous for the region, and are delicious. The Flammekueche looks like it will be very filling, but deceptively it is not. I was prepared to order another one, but I fought the urge and instead filled my craving with a delicious créme brûlée. The Kougelhopf can be either sweet or savory. I opted for savory today, and tomorrow I'll go for sweet. So far, the savory was deliciouss, so my expectations are high.
It’s been some time since I last spoke, or even heard, French. It’s also a real challenge for my ears, as I transition from hearing German every day. Thankfully, both languages are similar in many respects, and identifying cognates seems to be my trusted method to getting around. Not to mention, there are enough tourists, that most people understand English.
But hearing French, and how lovely it sounds, I now want to learn it. Another language to add to my list.
Frieden und Liebe ❤️ Paix et amour (translation: peace and love)