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.


冬日逃脱,斯特拉斯堡和科尔马

新冠下的旅游业奄奄一息,自从九月份的严禁开始,人们便难以出行。在漫长寒假里,出国旅行俨然成为幻想,而我又不甘于困在巴黎浪费难得的假期。在衡量完预算和安全后,最终我选择了法国东部阿尔萨斯的斯特拉斯堡和姐妹城科尔马。

斯特拉斯堡是欧洲家喻户晓的圣诞城市,然而由于疫情,今年的圣诞集市也许是史无前例的迷你, 但这并不意味着此次旅行就索然无味。与其叫斯堡,不如称它斯岛,因为古城夹杂在两条运河之间,两条运河向东汇入莱茵河,自古以来斯特拉斯堡便是德法争夺的地理要塞,在两国历史上反反复复的战争中,我们如今能看到三种不同样式的城市:色彩缤纷的传统木骨架房,残缺不全的哥特式建筑和大气磅礴的后文艺复兴建筑。

斯堡的地标圣母院是典型的哥特式建筑,也是市区里保留不多的哥特式建筑,相比巴黎圣母院,全法第三高的教堂给人严峻阴冷之感。但从外观,高耸的塔尖也给建筑师更多发挥空间进行雕刻。粉色的建筑材料也显得灵趣可爱,连雨果都曾称赞“伟大而精致的奇迹”。在教堂附近便是一堆又一堆的木骨架房子,不论是在德国还是法国,到处都能看到它们的踪影。在斯特拉斯堡,世界文化遗产小法兰西街区不仅有着各种颜色的木骨架房,还有13世纪修建的拦河坝、连环拱桥和上面的4座眺望塔。值得一提的是,小法兰西街区的命名不是什么光彩的事迹,而是因为当时混杂居住着许多船工、渔夫、手工坊人、商人等等,性病于此泛滥,让没见过世面的德国人以为是什么神奇的法兰西疾病。

在斯岛外围便是新城,北边和东边的新城主要由德国占领期间建造的,因此风格像极了北欧,道路也没有古城区那样狭窄,搭乘有轨电车,半个小时就能抵达德国边境城市。

从斯特拉斯堡乘火车不到1小时,就到了驰名中外的科尔马。相较于斯堡,科尔马仿佛世外桃源,再也没有拥挤的人群也没有喧嚣的街道。作为一座旅游名城,疫情刷新了当地的街景,空旷的小路上没有几家店铺还开着。正当我漫不经心的闲逛时,偶遇当地老人,老人看到我眼睛缓缓瞪大,语气中带着激动与欣喜,“touriste!”。当地商人们会多么向往疫情结束游客纷纷归来的那一日啊!类似于斯堡,科尔马也是一座因水而生的小城,运河旁边是明信片里常见的小威尼斯街区。相较于斯堡的小法兰西,科尔马的小威尼斯显得色彩缤纷娇小可爱,没有游客的我可以在此尽情拍照。不论漫步在哪,我都能见到野苹果树,红红的果子在灰蒙蒙的冬日尽显姿色,给小城抹了不少鲜艳。

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?

也许夏季仍是来阿尔萨斯旅游的的最佳时机。当鸟语花香,天空放晴,我也想像画报里那样乘船环游小城运河。不过在这特殊的一年,能来此逃离巴黎的浮躁和昂贵已实属不易,又有大餐与美酒能够享受,何乐而不为呢?

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