Monday, October 17, 2011

Alsace in the Autumn

We took the train to Strasbourg, France, from Vienna.  We chose a night train so that we would arrive in the morning.  The easiest connection was via Zurich with a change there.  We had a three hour layover in Zurich.  Ordering croissants in German is more difficult to do for us than it is in French, but we managed.  Using the restroom cost two Swiss francs, which is more than two US dollars at the current exchange rate.  Switzerland!  Everything is expensive.

We stayed nine days at a very pleasant bed and breakfast just outside of Strasbourg.  Strasbourg itself is a very pleasant and pristine town, and is the seat of the European Parliament.  We visited the city itself on Sunday, and had a nice French dinner.  An American couple stationed at Wiesbaden, Germany was at the next table and we had a very enjoyable chat with them.  Alsatian specialties were also available, which usually means andouillettes and choucroute.  Translation:  sausage and sauerkraut.

We had a rental car for this time, and so we were on the road again.  On the road again, in the French countryside, listening to Car Talk podcasts through the radio.  We have always enjoyed doing that during our visits to France over the years.  We took several drives around the region.  We visited the French national railway museum in Mulhouse and that was interesting.  Perhaps you remember that we visited its British counterpart in York a few months back.  They had some interesting locomotives and wagons.

We drove back to Strasbourg along the wine route, and stopped for lunch in a small town.  Rouffach seems a prosperous place, which is not surprising for a place that produces wine and caters to a flourishing tourist trade.  We had tarte flambee, also called flammekuchen, which is another Alsatian specialty.  Kind of a pizza. Bread dough rolled out thin, baked with various cheeses, lardons, and pearl onions.  Good stuff!  

As you can see from these pictures, much of Alsace has a Central European look, with architecture much different than is typical elsewhere in France.  The signs are pure French, and I didn't see any evidence of widespread use of the Alsatian language.  That is different than to the south in Languedoc, where the Oc language appears along with French on many signs and in usage.  (That one is a Romance language, much like Catalan.  Alsatian is a Germanic language with that grammar.)

You can visit some remnants of the Maginot Line of forts.  France built them after the First World War as a wall against another German  invasion.  It only went from Switzerland up to Belgium, and when the Germans invaded in 1940, they came through Belgium.  The forts look very much like some of the coast artillery forts built to protect American port cities.

Some of the leaves were beginning to change color.  It was pretty, but we seem not to have seen it at its height, and so it wasn't as beautiful as what we saw last year in Massachusetts and New York.

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