Published: September 12th 2010September 12th 2010
So I have now been in Strasbourg for more than a week! I have already had too many adventures to share, so I'll just share a few of the most recent ones. Yesterday I took a trip to the Vosges Mountains and hiked 15 kilometers of so up to Mont St. Odile. This "mountain" was pretty sad by Colorado standards, only 700 or so meters, but the French apparently don't use switchbacks for trails. We covered most of that elevation as directly as possible, which made it equally difficult to keep up with Hannah on the way up, and not respraining my ankle/ falling off the trail on the way down. In a showing of excellent planning, I wore jeans, a long-sleeve base layer, and brought a jacket and umbrella. I was extremely prepared for rain, snow, freezing temperatures, etc. But unfortunately not heat... I spent the majority of the time sweating profusely, walking like a cowboy to avoid chafing, and drinking large quantities of water. Despite my planning failure, the hike was fantastic; the amazing train system took us right to the charming villages of Obernai and Bernardswiller, where we then hiked through vineyards, Alsacian forests, and pastures. We also
went to a "cave" for a wine tasting.
When we walked in, the vintner was extremely friendly and immediately let us try two or three wines, but unfortunately, she and the menu only dealt in French. When I saw the menu, the three wines we had tried all said "TTC" and varied from 4-6 euros. I assumed this meant per tasting, which meant we had collectively spent 60 euros in about 6 minutes. Luckily, this did not in fact count for tasting, and was actually the cost of an entire bottle! Needless to say, I got a very nice Reisling, and Shane got 3 very nice other Alsatian wines to haul back home.
I have now reduced my "getting lost" percentage to close to normal State-side levels, which are still not exactly good, but at least I am now expert in asking "Ou est l'eglise sur avenue d'alsace"?!". Strasbourg follows the typical French tradition of making the use of roads and navigation as dangerous and impossible as usual, and I continue to think that my dad's theory that the French have actively designed their roads this way as a defense mechanism is accurate. Roads refuse to remain named
a single thing for more than 2 blocks; for example my road is called the avenue d'alsace/vosges/foret-noire. Food and drink are insanely expensive here, and not accordingly delicious, which has prompted me to become a connoiseur of the Doner Kebab and the Pasta Box, as well as all food across the German Border, which is delicious AND affordable. Alsacian beer is basically a synonym for Fischer Brewery and Kronenbourg, niether of which live up to what New Belgium does in Colorado, but Alsacian wine does not disappoint. My small hike through the wine country has crystallized my anticipation to do the Alsatian Wine Route to unbearable levels, which is problematic since I have about a month until I can actually realize this fantastic trip.
This has already gone long, but I will give a brief summary of the events of our single day in Brno, of the Czech Republic:
We arrived in Brno after yet another 6 hour bus ride full of tiny roads and unreadable signs. The city itself was old, and run-down, but also full of extremely modern architecture and the largest concentration of KFC and McDonalds I have yet encountered in Europe. We visited the
"Bronx" of Brno, where we saw firsthand what kinds of conditions the Roma (gypsy) people lived in (bad), and got introduced to the Roma problem in general (very bad). We also saw a passive house which uses 10% the energy of a typical home in Europe. The best part of Brno was probably the few chances we got to explore, when we found an open air market and bought fresh raspberries, stawberries, and cider. I subsequently got sick from eating so many raspberries and spent the next lecture constantly reminded about that poor decision. We also visited a Czech beer hall, where we ordered gourmet beers and I got to try Carp, which is, as previously stated, an amazingly delicious fish. It should also be noted that this was all done with $16 USD, making Czech Republic officially the cheapest place I have ever been.
Although we were only in Brno for a day, it will have an outsized place in my memories of that trip, and was without a doubt my favorite destination on the trip.
Next Stop: Vienna!
There are more photos below