Yesterday’s travels brought Kayla and I to the French town of Strasbourg, capital of the Alsace region and site of the Dancing Plague of 1518, which caused around 400 people to eventually die from heat exhaustion and heart attacks after dancing for weeks because they could not stop. While we did dance a bit in the street, we managed to survive and discovered a city full of churches, rivers, and zombies. Yes, zombies. They didn’t seem to be concentrated in any one area, but we did see a sign that said “Zombie Walk.” The rest of the sign was in French, but we understood enough to know that this wasn’t typical for Strasbourg.
Our first stop, as usual, was the tourist office to pick up a map. There wasn’t a
specific walking tour outlined in Strasbourg’s tourist map like there was in Freiburg’s, but we invented our own path, starting off in Petit France. Petit France sits on/around the five branches of the Ill river, which means it is a section of town full of bridges and beautiful views. The area started out as a place for flour millers, tanners, and traders due to the natural waterfalls (a perfect place for mills) and soon expanded to be a major trading post, especially for wine from the Upper Alsace region. What resulted was a network of cobblestone roads and buildings perched along the many branches of the river, giving this section of town, despite being crowded, more of a small town feel—singing the opening song from Beauty & the Beast just felt right.
At some point (probably when we stumbled
upon a flea market), we wandered out of the Petit France neighborhood and into the rest of Strasbourg, crossing Gutenberg Square (he invented the printing press there) and catching our first glimpse of Strasbourg’s Notre Dame. Aside from the rose window, the rest of the stained glass and the organ, the main thing to see inside the cathedral is the astronomical clock. The clock apparently dates back to the sixteenth century, and you can learn both the date and the time from looking at the clock. Aside from being a timepiece, though, the clock is a piece of artwork. We weren’t there at the right time, but it comes to life, acting out “the apostle’s parade” at 12:30 each day.
Once we left the cathedral, we were on the hunt for lunch, so we were happy to
stumble upon a crepe cart in Place Broglie in front of the Opera house. After devouring our crepes, it was just a short walk to Place de la Republik, the National Theater, and the National Library. Unfortunately, the library was closed for renovations, but walking around and looking for an entrance led us to yet another church, which was across the street from the university (and a statue of Goethe)…you can see how easy it was to find interesting things in Strasbourg!
After visiting Goethe’s statue, our next goal was the wine cellar underneath the hospital. Whether or not the hospital is still in use was unclear, but they did coexist at one point. Right now, the cellar is a large tunnel full of massive barrels that hold the wine and a small wine store. After taking a
quick look around, we set off in the direction of Kleber Square to look for dinner. We ended up finding a nice little bakery where we bought sandwiches (and dessert—there was a deal!) before settling down on a bench in the square, where we witnessed quite a bit of commotion. During our time in the square, we saw 1) a bridal shower/baby shower (not sure which) zumba-ing, 2) A group of protesters march in, chanting something in what I can only assume was French, 3) People with cartoon head costumes on casually handing out flyers for Domino’s pizza.
After dinner, we still had about an hour before we needed to catch our train, so we decided to wander around a bit. This round of wandering lead us to discover one of the most colorful churches I’ve ever seen, Saint Peter the Younger. The arches, the ceiling, the columns—everything was painted, which was refreshing after seeing so much stained glass (don’t get me wrong, I like the stained glass, but the paint here made an impact). Our final stop in Strasbourg was, like usual, the train station, and we made it back there without being attacked by any zombies, so I’d call that a good day.