My day started at 8:00AM this morning. I wanted to check out the remainder of Strasbourg that I didn’t have a chance to see yesterday. Even with today’s great adventure, there are still many places to explore, particularly the museums, to which I will need to return in the future.
I walked across the street to Au Coin des Kneckes in search of coffee. Apart from a gentleman sitting at a window seat, I was the only person there this morning. I could hear the groups of people last night drinking and singing here late into the night. Whoever had to open probably had a lot of work to do this morning.
Self-Guided Bike Tour
Finishing up my coffee, I pulled out the city map given to me by the hotel receptionist when I first arrived. It had all of the must-see places to check out in Strasbourg, perfectly laid out for a tourist like me.I decided to take advantage of the cheap €10/day rental bikes offered by my hotel (The Hotel Graffalgar).
Doubling as an art collective, The Hotel Graffalgar is conveniently located next to the Strasbourg train station and the main cathedral area. The staff is very friendly and offer great suggestions around the city to check out. I decided to take up the offer to rent a bike. With the city map given to me, it was time to plan out a self-guided bike tour.
I promised yesterday to talk more about the history of Strasbourg. To know Strasbourg, you have to know the broader history of the Alsace region, the vast area that has grown and shrunk in size many times throughout the course of European history, operating as a major capital / key trade point from one empire to another monarchy to another republic and so forth, starting all the way in the 1st century (and maybe even earlier).
I’m not going to re-write the entire Wikipedia article here (I’m sure ChatGPT or GPT-4 can speed that process up significantly), but it’s worth understanding that Strasbourg has been one of the major cornerstones of European and world history for centuries.
The city features a storied history, with standing landmarks dating all the way back to the Middle Ages and to as recent as a few years ago. Over the ages, politicians, artists, philosophers, architects, scientists, musicians and more have at some point or another called Strasbourg their home (e.g. Marie Tussaud, Goethe, Johannes Gutenberg, John Calvin, and Louis Pasteur to name a few).
Exploring this city is like actively exploring history itself. I don’t make that statement lightly. The vast majority of European cities can trace their roots back at least a few hundred years, likely longer than that. But it’s another thing altogether for a single location to have the influence that Strasbourg has had and continues to have across history and modern events. In some cases, the contrast between old and new, traditional and avant-garde, religious and secular, is impossible to miss. This constant push and pull seems to characterize the city's history and identity since its inception.
As always, I have to officially state that the pictures below do not give justice to the beauty, magnitude, and history of the landmarks featured. I hope you can enjoy Strasbourg vicariously through my eyes. Make sure to check out the photos from Day 1.
After biking around what felt like all of Strasbourg, I decided to grab lunch. Walking along Rue de Frères, I came across Flam’s. I had a craving for flammekueche lingered from the day before. It just so happens to be that Flam’s has an all-you-can-eat flammekueche experience. As an American, I felt obligated to take up the offer.
Recently learning about the German concept of Preis-Leichstungs-Verhältnis (translation: price-performance ratio), I had to maximize my flammekueche consumption to get the best value-per-price offered. My inner foodie was ecstatic, but my stomach did not thank me later. There is such a thing as eating too much flammekueche. Also, water pairs better than wine. Otherwise, you start to feel thirsty and borderline dehydrated very quickly.
3 flammekueches and 2 glasses of Edelzwicker white wine later, the linings of my stomach were ready to snap. I grabbed my city bike and made my way back to the hotel, where I napped for a few hours. When I came to, I decided to go for a stroll as the sun started to set. The busy day fairs around the main cathedral area were coming to a close, and many people were starting to head to the train station.
Walking along the L'Ill near Palais Rohan, I decided to grab a few scoops a few scoops of citrón and melon sorbet. Near the Pont Ste Madeleine, a jazz player was serenading a large crowd in front of a setting sun. From Pont Ste Madeleine, I walked to a busy boat restaurant. With the jazz player to my left and Église St. Paul to my right, I sipped on an Aperol Spritz, realizing that I've been in Germany (and Europe) for a week now.
As the sun started to set, I made my way back to the hotel. Thinking I couldn't eat or drink anything else, I stumbled across something I was not expecting to find – a Five Guys. I'm still trying to not think too deeply on how crazy it is to find American fast food in a city that is over 2000 years old.
While the cheeseburger was delicious (but too over-priced), I realized maybe this wasn't such a strange combination as I threw away the tin foil wrapping. For a city with such a rich, diverse, and lasting history, the identity of Strasbourg has evolved year-over-year (really more like century-over-century) to account for the changes around it. I'm sure someone a few hundred years ago had a similar thought when something appeared and felt out of place. And yet somehow, Strasbourg still survives and preserves its uniqueness. I'm glad I spent my Easter exploring this unforgettable city.
Here are some helpful links if you ever want to check out Strasbourg:
Frieden und Liebe ❤️ Paix et amour (translation: peace and love)