InterRail #2: Seeing the sights of sunny Strasbourg
Strasbourg wasn’t an official stop on our Easter InterRail route, but being only a short distance from Freiburg, we decided to jump aboard the train and pop over the border to jolie France for a day of exciting explorations and for me, discoveries. As always it was an early start and we were on the 0755 ICE (Intercity Express) train from Freiburg heading to the next stop, Oldenburg, where we had to change and catch the connecting train that would take us directly to Strasbourg. All in all the journey took about an hour and the connections were really easy.
From Strasbourg’s main station we slowly meandered towards the city centre, crossing onto the Grande Île (Grand Island) where we speedily found a small cafe off Place Kleber and sat for a short while indulging in a warm drink to set us up for the day.
I had forgotten how great the french Chocolat chaud is!
From Place Kleber we walked in the direction of Place Gutenberg, which was kitted out with stalls and a kitsch-y carousel before turning left onto Rue Mercière, a small street lined with souvenir shops and cafes.
At the end of the street stands the magnificent Notre Dame cathedral in all its glory. You may be wondering why there only appears to be one tower. It is not a case of photo-shopping gone wrong, but the cathedral is in fact missing one of its towers. Apparently original designs indicated that a second tower was planned for, but the cathedral’s foundations were and are only able to support the one lone tower.. how sad! Nonetheless, the Notre Dame de Strasbourg has to be one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen with such intricate detailing both inside and out.
Naturally we ventured inside the cathedral (surprised to find that it was free to enter) and spent some time battling with the many tour groups for the best view of the famous astronomical clock. The clock is particular attractive to visitors as at half past midday each and every day, a procession of figures featuring Christ and the Apostles begins, bringing the clock to life. Whilst we did not actually see this, the clock in itself was rather impressive with many decorative figures placed strategically around the clock itself and lashings of gold leaf adding to the spectacle.
The astronomical clock
Once we had finished our short ‘tour of the church’ we spent some time wandering around the surrounding square, Place de la Cathédrale where we admired the many white and black timbered buildings, typical of the Rhineland.
Another quintessential trait of Strasbourg’s buildings can clearly be seen in this area – the roofs are distinct and very steep and have a great number of ‘sitting dog’ or ‘training’ windows (known as ‘Schleppganten’). My wise mother informs me that because the buildings were unable to have cellars, several storeys of storage space were built into the attics, with the small dormer windows allowing in light.
Before leaving the Cathedral and square behind us, I had to stop and say hello to this fellow..
Just around the corner from the Cathedral is sumptuous Parisian-style Palais des Rohan. Nowadays the palace is home to a number of museums which allows you to explore the interior, including a number of apartments and ceremonial rooms. After taking a quick peak into the Palace’s courtyard we made our way towards the river and crossed the bridge to admire the Palace’s riverside façade.
With rumbling stomachs signalling it was approaching lunchtime, we slowly made our way along the river in the direction of undoubtedly the most beautiful and charming part of Strasbourg – la Petite France. However before we made it there, there were several more notably interesting buildings and streets, and irresistible spring flowers.
After walking the length of the esplanade we finally made it to Strasbourg’s most romantic district. La Petite France is where the river splits into a number of canals which run through the district, past the medieval half timbered buildings and emerge ….
A fun fact for you all (or maybe just me?) is that this area used to be the location of the tanners and slaughterhouses – hard to believe when it looks so pretty!
We stopped for lunch in a small restaurant called L’Assiette du Poète and had such a delicious meal. At only 17 euros for a 3 course lunchtime menu including an amuse-bouche it was great value, though if you have a big appetite you might be left still feeling peckish once the meal is finished, but apart from that I cannot fault the place at all – 5 stars from the Dovastons!
After lunch we continued with our walk, investigating small side streets and of course venturing into the souvenir shops, though bar batteries for my camera and a postcard or two we left empty handed. After a good afternoon of exploring we decided it was about time to make our way back to Freiburg, but not without a few last photos!
As Renè Descartes once said,
C’est quand le meme de converser avec ceux des autres siècles que de voyager
– Travelling is almost like talking with men of other centuries