Strasbourg: The Heart of Alsace

My first impression of Strasbourg was one of ease, accessibility, and relaxation.

The canal in Strasbourg gives the city a relaxed feeling.

Soothing, isn’t it?

Strasbourg, after the sprawl and bustle of Paris, was a welcome relief.  I was staying with a friend who has an apartment in the central neighborhood of Petite France, so I was close to everything.  From one side of the surrounding canal to the other was an easy walk, especially since most of the cobbled streets are closed to automobile traffic.  The Teutonic influence on Alsace is immediately apparent, not only in the architecture but also in the language spoken:  German was everywhere, as well as French.  I am perhaps one of the few non-German speakers in the world who likes the sound and construction of the language, so this gave me a little thrill.

I’d had an idea that Alsace — relative to Paris —  would be a vision of restraint, given its proximity to Germany, a country I consider highly disciplined.  That was, until I came upon this:

Pain d'Epices, buy the kilo.  The slab I bought, about an inch thick, cost 40 euros.

Pain d’Épices, purchased by the kilo. The slab I bought, about an inch thick, cost €40.

And this:

Yes, that's nougat.  Care for a slab?

Yes, that’s nougat. I tried the pistachio & almond, and it was delicious.

And, finally, this:

at the Farmer's Market

at the Farmer’s Market

No doubt one can purchase these foods in a similar manner in other parts of France, but this was my first encounter with the practice.  Can one have both discipline and great hunks of nougat?

It might be that they burn off these indulgences with bracing hikes up to the top of the Strasbourg Cathedral.  Here’s a view of Strasbourg from the top of this grand old “dame”:

So lovely!

So lovely!

And a stomach-churning view from the narrow, tightly-spiraling staircase, heading down.

I was glad to be alone in the staircase, because I had to stop several times and lean against the wall to keep my head from spinning.

One of the only times in my life I was grateful to feel caged in.  My head was spinning for much of this descent.

Thank goodness I could relax afterwards with some good Alsatian lager and a tarte flambée.

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