Friday, July 28, 2006

Travels to Alsace and Southern Germany: Part 1

Day One:

It can be trance-inducing to watch the fields of Northern France whip by as you drive along to your destinations. Wheat, soy, corn, sunflowers, beets seem to blur together. Then you enter into Alsace, the most northeasterly section of France. 'Wait, wasn't that hops?' you say, startled out of your trance. 'Isn't that cabbage?' you say as the silvery crops punctuate your view. 'Dear God, miles and miles of grapes in every direction!' you gasp.

Then, you enter Strasbourg.

Everything that your mind was taking in with the crops gasps again at the beauty of the architechture. Soon you are surrounded by architecture so different from the other Northern cities you've seen. A cathedral that was breath-taking comes into view. It's surrounded by a square with charming houses of all kinds. A busker sings opera accompanied by a violinist. It only seems appropriate. You wait in the blistering sun until you finally tromp inside and wait in the sweltering dark with way too many other people hoping to catch a glimpse of the cathedral's astronomical clock do it's little noon-time dance. After having the history of the clock explained to you in three different languages, twice, you finally get to see and hear it. 'Death' rings a bell, Jesus 'blesses' the apostles that mechanically wander pass him. The metal cockerel crows for every four apostles that go by... It seemed such a long wait for such a short whirl of the clock. I wouldn't have missed it for the world though. Things like this just don't exist in Canada as far as I know.

As you exit the catherdral, there are a number of little restaurants you can patronize in the church square for lunch. We chose 'Aux Armes de Strasbourg', a brasserie. Here I experience my first taste of Franco-Germanic food. I wanted to taste regional things on the trip as much as I could so I had a 'jambonneau', ham section on bone, while the men shared a large dish of choucroute (Sauerkraut with meat, meat and meat). The ham I had was not bad but I just loved the mustardy potato salad with it. It balanced the meat taste really well. I tried a bit of the sauerkraut and still found it a bit to strange for my liking yet. I even allowed myself to sip a tiny bit of the beer the Frog was swooning over and found it didn't actually make me regurgitate like most beer.

After a trip altogether too short in Strasbourg we were whisked away south to visit a castle, Haut-Koenigsbourg, atop one of the "mountains" of Alsace in the Vosges ranges. I just wish I could have visited on a less oppressively hot day since I was highly irritated by the end of it all. A shame, since it was such a nice castle with such a great view over the plains of Alsace.

We ended our day at a little country inn where we were to sup and to sleep. Again, such a pity about the heat as it was a cute little place. Unfortunately, practically any food there could make you sweat and its typical European non-reliance on A/Cs made any breeze on your skin feel like you won the lottery.

For the dinner I again wanted to choose something local. I chose too much for the heat and something so totally wrong for a hot day. After a fairly typical French shrimp coctail, I had Alsatian spaëtzlé with Munster cheese sauce. It was good to begin with and then the power of the Munster kicked in. The heady aroma of that cheese is NOT what you want to smell or taste on a hot day. The rosé-style pinot that we had with it only enhanced the cheese taste to the max. I admitted defeat not even quite half-way through. By the end I was literally begging for lemon sorbet just to cool my overheated body.

Four showers later and giddy with heat-sickness, Frog and I, thankfully, laughed our way to sleep as we heard what seemed to be bigger and bigger farm vehicles drive past our open window. We imagined tanks and space shuttles to be the next to go past. It was enough to have a good chuckle as cool breezes finally started allowing a little sleep for us a couple hours after sundown.


sher said...

AHHH, what a wonderful trip you're having!!!! Thank you for sharing those pictures and the guided tour. I loved looking at them.

Nerissa said...

I'm glad you're enjoying it all, sher dear!

Melissa CookingDiva said...

what a fantastic journey! Enjoy and take lots of photos :-) Un abrazo...

Dawn said...

That sounds like quite an experience! I hate being in the heat as well, so I understand. I love the photos of the fields. That's one of my favorite things about living in an area with farmland.

Pamela said...

Looks like great fun! Isn't Strasbourg amazing!!

You're just about in my neck of the woods now! Are you planning on coming further south into Switzerland?

christine said...

So nice to read about your travels, and the photos are wonderful. Sorry you're experiencing such heat. Hope it cools off soon!

bea at La Tartine Gourmande said...

Fun, very close to where I am from!

neil said...

It's still cold where I am and we would happily eat that food without a qualm!

Hope you got to try some of the fantastic wines. If I was only allowed to have white wine from one spot, this would be the one.

Nerissa said...

Melissa: Un abrazo right back atcha, babe! I'm taking a good number of pictures. Check out my flickr for updates.

Dawn: It certaintly is an experience I will never forget! Being a Pacific Northwest kinda gal I'm not used to the heat. Hence, I'm not used to it. You'd love to be in my central base then. There are farmfields all around as far as the eye can see. In fact I would say most of Northern France is farmland dotted with lots of villages and a few town/cities.

Pamela: Strasbourg blew me away! I'm afraid Switzerland is not in the works. We've already finished the Germanic tour and are heading out soon to Bretagne. Maybe next time round. :(

Christine: Thankfully the heat has tone down the last couple of days. I cannot tell you how grateful I am. I'm glad you are enjoying the travel posts.

Bea: Now I'll be wondering which part of France you claim as your home. Is it in Alsace?

Neil: Well, If I could have FedEx'd it to you I would have but it long since been turfed :( My tummy just wasn't happy with such thick, fatty food on such a hot day. It was well over 35°C in the dining room!

Yes, the wines were certainly an interesting feature of this trip. I think there was only one that I didn't like.

Anonymous said...

I've never been to that part of France (or Germany), and my heart did a flippy-squeezy thing when I saw the photos. So beautiful! Thank you for posting pictures.

Initially, I wasn't sure whether to be repulsed or delighted by the photo of the melon concoction... the liquid looks fairly murky, but Oh Man I dolove melon. Mmmm.


Nerissa said...

Raineth: I certainly has its own beauty around here. The way people talk about the crowding in Europe, I expected to see endless cities, etc. In fact, there are farms EVERYWHERE in the North. Granted, you can't walk a couple kilometres in any directions without hitting a little village but little villages are what many of these places are.

Yes, the melon-tea apéritif certainly wasn't the most charming looking of drinks but if you love melon, trust me you would have LOVED it.

bea at La tartine gourmande said...

It is Lorraine, but close to Alsace!

Alsace said...

Traveling to France's Alsace is visiting two countries at the same time for it is on the boarder of France and Southern Germany. And Vineyards in every direction.