May 142011

Today was Saturday.  Saturdays are a more significant day for us here than in the states.  This is because here, it is really the only weekend day that counts!  Sure, Sunday is a day of rest.  But, really, it is a day of forced rest.  Shops aren’t open.  Buses barely run.  Only a few pizzerias and ice cream parlors are even available for emergency food- oh, and McDonald’s.  This Saturday we had a long agenda.  First into Strasbourg to see the cathedral & town center, then over to Ikea, then down to Offenburg to check out that electronics store of the difficult directions.

Getting There:  The trip to Strasbourg was a little stressful, but eventually uneventful.  Our directions were filled with turns and street names that never really materialized.  Luckily, though, there were huge signs all over directing us (and the main flow of traffic) into the City Center and toward the great, Gothic, Strasbourg Cathedral de Notre-Dame which had dominated the local skyline for the better part of 1,000 years (the first version of the church on that site was started in 1015- in the place of a Roman temple).  

First Impression:  My first glimpse of the cathedral itself threatened to send a chill down my spine.  Its ornate, dark spire is passingly reminiscent of some vampiric castle from those unsettling tales that predate the fluffy undead so popular with the teens of today.  My next impression (and many of those to follow) was of simple awe.  The structure is immense.  We read later that the spire reaches 142 meters, making it the tallest building in “the modern world” for 4 centuries after its completion in 1399!

Photos:  The rest of this part of the story is probably best told through pictures.  So, without further ado:

[reminder, enlarged photos can be viewed by clicking on them-they will open larger, and if you click on them again you can see more details]

A taste of Alsace on the way to the cathedral
First good look
The main doors
Some nice statues
DS learning the history of the saints- the other door had virgins being tempted by the devil!
66 meters to the panoramic view just beneath the main spire
First Balcony
View from the first balcony.  Already not too shabby!
This appears to be some OLD graffiti

A neighbor building
View from a bit higher
Dizzying Heights, but not at the top
The top is filled with carvings like these- we think they may have been patrons?
The kids & me in front of the main spire
See, there we are!
The main spire- close up!
Lovely city
Yeah, that is a 15€ view alright!
DS peeping out one of the many windows along the stairwells
This pigeon had built its nest on the stairs down- I suspect she built it during non-peak hours!

 A few interesting features:

Flying buttresses
Even the gutters are ornate

 Once we got down, my legs were actually shaking.  We stopped for lunch at a creperie and splurged on the usual 3.50€ sodas and waters for every parched one of us (that was more per drink than most of us spent per meal).  The fellows below played lively music throughout.  David and I managed to order our food in three languages- all of which the waiter spoke.  Upon pressing, he admitted to speaking a 4th: Greek!

French Mariachi?  They mostly played jazz standards, Dixieland and show tunes.
On our way out, we splurged one more time- on a few special cookies and a lollipop for DS

We didn’t go on the carousel, but we did admire it.
Cookie Trove (and a lollipop)

We hit the top of the spires just about at noon and got to enjoy not only the panoramic view, but also the pealing of bells from all around Strasbourg.  I have included a very brief video to give you just a taste of that experience.

Offenburg, briefly:

After the trip up the cathedral, we decided to cut our visit to Strasbourg short and head down to Offenburg instead of continuing on to Ikea.  It made sense at the time, but I am not really sure why.

For the record, the directions to the Media Markt were just a big a headache as we feared they might be!  In fact, things got SO bad, that we actually drove all the way back to Kehl (in the rain), printed out new maps, confirmed our orientation and went AGAIN.  In the end, we did find the store and a couple others that will be useful in the future (a Home Depot clone called Bauhaus with a built in backerei was of particular note).  We also found the correct path to our (looking likely, knock wood) potential new apartment.  So, despite the frustration of the drive, it did prove quite educational.

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