Speeding through Strasbourg

For years, my friends have been telling me to visit Strasbourg. “It’s got lovely architecture,” they’ve said. “It’s full of history.” “The cathedral is beautiful.” But as much as I wanted to take their advice, I’ve never quite managed to leave Paris.

On this trip I had no excuse, though: Strasbourg lies almost exactly halfway between Paris and Freiburg, my two main destinations. So I decided that Sunday would be my Strasbourg day.

I almost chickened out when I saw my landlord’s travel instructions.

But he’d kindly given me a train and tram ticket along with his hand-drawn map, so I felt somewhat obligated to go.

I was at the train station by 9 a.m.

One of the things I love most about Europe is how easy it is to get around by train.

Each country’s system is slightly different, so it can take a bit of trial and error to figure out how to buy tickets, whether you need a reservation, and which cars you’re allowed on. For example, I gathered that this particular car was reserved for handicapped people and teddy bears — so I chose another.

But one thing the trains do have in common is their general efficiency and reliability: I made my connection effortlessly, and within an hour I was in Strasbourg.

I decided to start with the cathedral. At 446 feet, it was the world’s tallest building until 1874 — and it remains the sixth-tallest church in the world. What this means photographically is that it’s pretty hard to fit the whole thing into a single frame.

So I settled for shooting some of the building’s beautiful details instead.

Then I strolled through the über-touristic medieval Altstadt.

I enjoyed hearing both German and French, in about equal measure. And I loved seeing evidence of how these two nations’ cultures had blended.

Then I found my way to the river.

Strolling along the river in an old city is one of the best ways to appreciate its history. Not only does the river provide a great vantage point from which to view the architecture, but it’s also a great way to see the oldest buildings, because most cities start out along the water.

I soaked in the beautiful architectural details along the way.

And then I suddenly thought about the time. I needed to be back in Freiburg by 4 to meet some friends for a concert. It was now 1:45 … could I make it back to the station in time for the 2:30 train? I picked up the pace, even though it pained me to be speeding past so much beauty and history.

In the end, it was a swan that did me in. I paused just long enough to take a couple of shots …

… and I missed the train.

Thank God for taxis — and for this driver’s willingness to negotiate a reduced, long-distance fare.

I managed to see a lot of Strasbourg in four hours — but not nearly enough. I have a feeling I’ll be back. And next time, I won’t stop to shoot the swans.

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  1. Ah, this just further feeds the desire to visit one day! Great photos; highlights for me were the painted floral vaults of the cathedral, the river shots and horse-drawn coach signage.

    As for missing the train…let’s just assume that this swan is shy and has had a bit of an inferiority complex from the other swans always showing off their pomp & flash for the tourist cameras, and that your pause to appreciate his beauty (both inner and outer) really made his day, teaching the other birds and surrounding wildlife a valuable life lesson.

    Man, Disney should SO hire me as a writer. 🙂

    • Yes, yes! I highly recommend a visit to Strasbourg. Stat! I’d love to hear your perspective. As for your story about the swan … Disney really *is* missing out. I think you should write a screenplay and send it in. 🙂

    • Thanks, Lucy! As you can see, it’s definitely worth the trip — and it’s a quick day-trip from Paris, next time you’re here. Hope you can go!

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