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Published: March 19th 2018
Strasbourg, also known as Capitale De Noel (Christmas Capital) is a must visit around the winter festive period. We visited during the Xmas break of 2017. The timing could have been better, as we were bang in the middle of the holiday period from Xmas eve to St. Stephen's day (celebrated on 26th of December in Alsace region). The shops were closed and many were resting at home spending time with their families. Yet, we found our own ways to walk around and explore.
From Paris, we took the rather long and tiring bus route to Strasbourg on the 24th of December. If we are to go there again, we would either drive or take a train. On reaching Strasbourg around 5 PM, we rushed to the famous Christmas Market to explore it as much as we could in the one hour that was left before most of it closed for the year. After spending the last Christmas loitering through the innumerable Christmas markets in Cologne, it felt like just another market. Similar shops selling lamps, gloves, caps and lots of wine. What never seizes to delight is the Gluhwein (Hot wine). The smell of Cinnamons, Cloves and the tinge
of Lemon is delightful.
After a quick tour and taking in as much as we could for the evening, we strolled to our hotel, a serviced apartment near the Strasbourg Central station. Montempo Aparthotel offered us a very economical and functional room. It was evident that it was built for the money conscious travellers.
After resting for a while, we stepped out in the hope of Witnessing the Christmas Mass. To our disappointment, the cathedral was full by 11:30 and all we could do was to stand outside and listen to the cathedral bells ring in Christmas. After walking around for a while, the bitter cold and the tired legs forced us back towards the hotel. It didn't help our cause that the mysterious way we took ended up inside a historic hospital compound.
The next day, Christmas day, was again bitterly cold. We got out and walked to the most happening place in town, the area near the Cathedral. It was surprisingly crowded for a Christmas day. We had planned our day to start with the walking tour of Strasbourg and explore the rest on our own. The tour was very interesting with the local guide
explaining stories of the Roman times where the city was frequently invaded to the more recent history where it changed hands frequently between the French and the Germans. It was fascinating to hear the story of his Grandfather who changed his citizenship 4 times and another man who had his brother fight for the German army while he somehow ended up on the French side. It was interesting to have our attention brought to the subtle architectural differences between the French part of the city and the German side. Another fascinating story of the city was related to the easily dismountable apartments of Strasbourg. The earlier residents used to have their apartments designed by carpenters with large blocks of wood, have them filled with mud or limestone to construct their apartments. These houses gave them the freedom to shift whenever they felt like. A noisy neighbour or a better neighbourhood, one easy solution! 😊
We treated ourselves to some very nice and warm Flammkuchens and Flam's which was a short walking distance from the cathedral. No matter what you try, DO NOT order the desert Flammkuchen with baked apple slices. They ruined the whole experience for me. 😞
Thanks to Sharanya who somehow found out that there was a Christmas choir in a cathedral nearby. We listened to the French rendition of 'Holy Night'. We spent the rest of the day walking around the city exploring the beautifully decorated alleys and window shopping. Walked back home satisfied. Christmas day well spent.
Day 3, 26th December, was St. Stephen's day, a festival celebrated in Alsace region. Another day with very few shops open. We had decided to explore the outskirts of the city by public transport (read, incredibly good looking Trams). The public transport ticket was exceptionally cheap (24H tickets - 6.80 Euros for 3 people). The walking tour the day before helped us understand that there was a new tram line that opened only the year before which connected Strasbourg with the German border town of Kehl. Crossing the Rhine river, this trip was a memorable one even though the German side of the tram line was unremarkable as if the Germans were unimpressed by the whole attempt and furore over a tram connection. Große Sache!! After walking back across the river, we got back into a tram to reach the happening Kleber Place. The large Christmas
tree there was still attracting the selfie crazy crowds.
Up next was Church hopping. We visited the Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune Protestant Church which was one of the older churches around. With very few visitors and relatively old interiors, this church had an eerie feeling to it. Next up was the more famous Notre Dame De Strasbourg. A small queue before we could enter the cathedral gave a hint of what to expect inside. Even the giant hall full of tourists could not take away the charm of the place. The giant painted windows, the main dome with paintings and the giant pipe organ stood out. Colourful candles added to the beauty of the hall.
Last day for us, 27th of December was well spent with all of our time spent finding and enjoying good food. First, some good breakfast of tarts and cakes at a local bakery and then a dash for one last bite of Flammkuchens. We barely had time to finish all of this and run to catch our bus which was waiting for us when we reached the bus station. We sat in our seats, happy and stocked up, for the long journey.
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