A Sweet Escape, Strasbourg and Colmar
Covid-19 has destroyed entire tourism industry. I haven’t been traveling since September when the second wave hit the globe. It seems impossible to travel abroad in this harsh time but I still want to escape from where I am. Eventually, I decided to visit Strasbourg, a city next to Germany which is famous as a sweet Christmas town.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, there was not a big Christmas Market this year unfortunately. However, it was not a bother for me to discover this city. Like an island, the old city is situated between two rivers. The river runs to Rhine to the east of the city. In the history the city was conquered by Germany and France from time to time so what we can see nowadays are the relics from Gothic time and plenty of Renaissance architectures.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg is the third tallest cathedral in France. Comparing with Notre-Dame de Paris, this one left me more gloomy and cold sensation probably because of the height and darkness inside. The pink appearance also made it unique in the city. Victor Hugo praised it as a “gigantic and delicate marvel”. Near the cathedral, it was full of shops and restaurants in typical timber framing houses (maisons à colombage). Sadly I was the only tourist in town and the owner was the only one inside the store. Not far from cathedral, here we have the Petit France quarter, the UNESCO site. Because of the location next to the river and canals, it used to be home to the city’s tanners, millers and fishermen. Even though it was cloudy, this area still looked sweet! A funny story is that, the name was given actually disgracefully as the former hospice of syphilis, AKA France disease.
Out side of the old town to the north, it is the Neustadt, a new city full of neo-renaissance buildings constructed by Germans. The streets were clean, wide, just like in Nordic countries. From here by a tram we could arrive to Germany in 30 min.
To the south of Strasbourg, in half an hour by train, I arrived in Colmar. This city became a trending touristic site for Chinese people thanks to a TV show that was filmed here years ago. Besides, the huge amount of timber framing houses and little canals attracted millions of visitors every year.
Although Colmar is a much smaller city comparing with Strasbourg, less population offered me a more tranquil environment. As a consequence of Covid, tourism has stopped and somehow I felt the city was under my feet. When I walked randomly on a narrow street, a local merchant’s eyes were full of surprising joy while saying “touriste!”. The most famous attraction, Petit Venise was so empty that nobody appeared in my photos. Otherwise this must be a place full of crowds and passengers. It happened that the sun came out and the sunshine lighted up the colourful houses. Such a picturesque scene in from of me! Another spot of the city is the wild apple trees. From train station to centre and along the canal in Petit Venise, I could find them everywhere. Winter didn’t stop them from bearing fruit, giving the dull weather a hot blush.
In the condition of closure of museums, the activities that I have done during the trip were unintentional. The best might be probably down to tasting the local food, which made me feel an escape from what I usually ate! Very similar to German food, Alsacien gastronomy is about meat, meat and meat. The price is not much less expensive than Paris but the portion is huge! In the Petit France quarter of Strasbourg, I visited the restaurant Les Chef d’Oeuvre d’Alsace 3 time during my short stay. A part from sweet-ending-taste beer, no matter the steak or veggie spaghetti, the dishes were served in extra large portion with efficiency. A pizza look dish, tarte flambée might be the highlight in this bistro. Many people own a prejudice on the service of French restaurants. However, the owner here was like a father living next-door, smiling and caring for the guests.
Perhaps the best time to travel is summer when the flowers are blooming and the sky is clear. Being trapped for months during the lockdown, running away from Paris could be a whenever relief. Thinking in another way, it was grateful to discover more about France and its charm in a special moment.
由于疫情，各地的博物馆都关门大吉，除了悠哉闲逛，阿尔萨斯地区的美食为此次旅行画上重音符。嗯……当地的猪肉大杂烩真真让人大快朵颐，蒸五花肉、熏五花肉、烤香肠、熏味肠，还有猪颈肉，再配上当地的酸菜，再肥也不觉得油腻，果然靠近德国的地方就是肉食者的天堂。当地的特色tarte flambée令我流连，像披萨一样的形状上融化着不同的奶酪，再撒上蘑菇、熏肉和洋葱，便宜又大份。当然，在斯堡的这家Les Chef d’Oeuvre d’Alsace 餐厅一定要品尝当地酿造的葡萄酒和具有德国气息的啤酒。作为饭后甜点，也不要忘了去L’Atelier 116烘培店点一份松软甜美的黑森林蛋糕。哎……为何巴黎没有这样大份美味的餐厅？