24 HOURS IN STRASBOURG FRANCE
We began our frugal tour in Strasbourg, France driving in from Freiburg, Germany. Since we live in the northern part of Italy, it is rather easy to plan trips around parts of Europe by car. It is something we (and many other people) have always done and is a good way to explore the world around us, wherever that may be. We found an underground parking garage directly in the center of town that came up on one side of Gutenbergplatz.
GENERAL INFORMATION ON STRASBOURG
Strasbourg, France is a city of approximately two hundred and seventy-six thousand in the city proper and a metropolitan and outlying county area where over another two million people live. It is the official seat of the EU Parliament, the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, The European Audiovisual Observatory, The European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines, the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine, the International Institute of Human Rights, the Eurocorps and is one of the main capitals of the European Union. The entire area is situated very close to the border of Germany and the historic center, where we were and also known as The Grand Island, was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
Here we found the perfect mix of both French and German cultures and as it is today, it has been for centuries. You will find both Catholic and Protestant religious buildings and icons as well as the Strasbourg Grand Mosque which is the largest Islamic place of worship in the country of France.
The name of the city has changed throughout its history which dates back to 12 BC, making this city over two thousand years old. In its historic past it was known for the mining of silver and gold from the rivers that either boarder or run through its beautiful areas. In the historic area of The Grand Island you can still see the mills running powered by the flowing river waters, something that attracted many to this area for centuries as they used the waters to power the mills which ground the wheat and other farmed products from the areas.
OUR TAKE ON STRASBOURG
We were absolutely stunned by the beauty of this town as we strolled along its decorative cobblestone streets. The buildings and shops are all very colourful and adorned with carvings, statues, paintings and decorative gold metal work. While walking there you can imagine what it was like to be there centuries ago and that even in this modern day, it probably has not changed all that much.
Gutenbergplatz (Gutenberg Place in English) is named after Johannes Gutenberg, who is one of the first printing industry pioneers in the area, and holds tribute to him with a statue of him in the middle of the square. Around the square are busy streets lined with shops, cafes and restaurants. The square itself is a pedestrian zone where young and old alike can play, relax in the area or ride on the beautiful coloured carousel. The parking garage I mentioned earlier, has an entry/exit next to the carousel and a good tip is that down the stairs, where you would pay the machines for parking, you will find public toilets.
Kleberplatz (Kleber Place in English) is just a short walk from Gutenbergplatz going away from the Cathedral and is in the middle of a huge pedestrian only area. There are so many different shops to look in that, you could easily spend an entire day in this area. While we are more into experiencing the people and the ambience of places, we just browse from outside, only venturing in if there is something that one of us needs in our travels. Other than that, you can find a variety of restaurants and cafes serving all different types of food with a good number of them being priced very fair.
AMERICAN FAVORITES IN STRASBOURG
You can also find a few American food and drink giants in the area like, McDonalds, Starbucks and if you look into the ice cream shops, you might even see what we did…Ben & Gerry’s. Adrian got to have two firsts in this area. His first Starbucks Chai Latte and his first taste of Ben & Gerry’s Cookie Dough Ice Cream both of which, he absolutely loved. Also in this area, a tip is that if you need a bathroom, you get a code for the door to the Starbucks bathroom on your receipt if you order there, otherwise, ask the manager.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR
Kleberplatz is also an area where there is an outdoor market for used items such as books, musical instruments, artwork, antiques, small furniture items and knick-knacks. Through the middle of this area is a very large, beautiful and soothing water garden with a set of fountains. During the extreme heat of this summer, the children and young people were using this area to cool off by running through it or soaking their feet. Throughout the area you will find benches to sit on where you can watch people, sip on your drink, bask in the sun or just enjoy the atmosphere.
DO NOT MISS THE CATHEDRAL!
The Notre Dame Strasbourg Cathedral is about a ten minute walk from Kleberplatz on the other side of Gutenbergplatz and is really stunning. This particular Cathedral has a very interesting history as it is built on an area of successive religious buildings dating back to the city’s beginnings. The first churches in the area were built and then added to and then torn down and rebuilt. Over the course of the city’s existence many of the later one’s caught fire by accident or were burned in wars over the territory. The Cathedral that stands today was built over the course of a couple of hundred years starting in 1176 and completed in 1439. It was done in Gothic style which was very popular during that time. The stained glass windows are strikingly beautiful and the colours were emboldened with nanoparticles of gold and silver which make the colours seem to stand out. There are so many beautiful statues all over this Cathedral that it is just hard to fathom how it was all created and put together. The Cathedral did sustain damage in WWII all of which was repaired, those being totally completed in the 1990’s.
The Astronomical Clock in the Cathedral is an absolutely stunning piece of work. It is eighteen meters in height and one of the largest of its kind in the entire world. This particular clock computes when Easter will be following the complex Gregorian rule, it is pretty accurate even today indicating leap years, the equinoxes and a variety of other astronomical information. If you visit, the clock is really quite a wonder. There are animated characters that move at different hours of the day. An angel sounds a bell while another angel turns an hourglass, other characters that represent the phases of one’s life parade in front of a Death character and on the last level the Apostles cross in front of Jesus. The clock shows normal time, solar time, the days of the week are represented by mythological Gods, the months, the years, the phases of the moons and planets and the signs of the zodiac. The clock was under maintenance while we were there but, we will keep track of that completion and go back to see it without all of the scaffolds and coverings.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST…
There are many beautiful parks in the area that should be seen and enjoyed, the Parc de l’Orangerie, the Parc Château de Pourtales and the Jardin Botanique de l’Universite de Strasbourg are three worth mentioning. Every one of them are breathtaking and nothing could be more romantic than a stroll through or a surprise picnic in any of these areas. Many more parks exist and can be found with a little research or a few questions to the locals or your hotel clerk.
There are many, many, many fine art museums in Strasbourg and it would take a connoisseur weeks to get through them all. While I love museums, I am guessing that I will have to be retired before I have enough time to see and appreciate all of the pieces here. That said, you will find entry fees to these areas are either free or very fairly priced. Checking out these kinds of places is definitely something that can be done frugally.
FANTASTICALLY FRUGAL & FREEDOM
We travel quite often throughout any given year. We save money where we can in our daily lives and make sure that we do not waste time, money, food or items. We make sure we use what we have. We do not buy things merely out of a want or a whim, there has to be a need for something. In that way, we are free to, at any given moment, pack a bag and go experience a new place. We do not waste our money while travelling either. I know there are those who go somewhere and drop lots of money on expensive clothing or bags or shoes and the like, we are not those people. We do not need a bag from here or sunglasses from there. We are taking memories back with us and those memories are priceless.