Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Last Treats

I bought some chestnuts from one of the roaster/vendors
and took them back to my hotel to munch.
Once carefully peeled,
they were tolerable,
but rather dry and made me thirsty--
quite a bit like a boiled potato in texture,
though a bit sweeter.
I recall I did like them quite well chopped in bread stuffing.
I much preferred my Usual Treat,
which, thanks to the warming weather
(rain and all)
I enjoyed at my favorite ice cream cafe, Franchi:

The flavors are mango (right, darker) and
The latter is my FAVORITE sorbet.
I don't think I've ever been to Strasbourg
without having some.
It's a Tradition.

Last Day in Strasbourg

On my unexpected additional day in Strasbourg,
I visited the historic hospital wine cellar (above)
and tried to visit the medieval hospital chapel (below)
but could only see the exterior:

Then I went off to the university to double check some articles
and make some photocopies.
I kept turning up new references.
This was good for my research,
but bad for my plans for the chocolate museum
(another time, perhaps).
In the evening I got to stroll around the Christmas markets
one last time.
The Place Gutenberg was graced by a "blue glass tree":

And the ice skating rink at the Place de la Cathedrale
was very lively.
They were playing 80s music.
It was kind of a trip to hear the Bangles
("Manic Monday")
pouring out over the speakers.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Strasbourg Sunrise

I had planned to observe sunrise today from above the clouds,
somewhere between Paris and Strasbourg.
But when I got to the airport at a horridly early hour,
I found that nearly all the flights were cancelled
due to snow.
(About 2 inches of snow.
Bet they wouldn't cancel flights in Oslo for that!)
I got put on a flight for tomorrow,
going home via a totally different route.
In fact I get to go through Amsterdam.
I quite like Amsterdam airport,
and I have a three hour stopover,
so I am *hoping* I will have enough time
to take a quick trip into the city via shuttle
and revisit the Oude Kirke--
all my pictures of it from last year's visit
got stolen along with my camera.
Anyway, I get an extra day in Strasbourg,
and I was fortunate enough to get a hotel right away,
very close to the train station
(the view is from my window.)
Ignoring my baser self
(which wants to go back to bed)
I am going off to the city hospital.
There is a historic wine cellar there,
open to visitors in the mornings.
Yes, this IS related to my research, as a matter of fact.
And if I get enough material from the hospital,
I shall treat myself to an excursion
at the Chocolate Museum.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snowy Christmas Market

Research in Freiburg

Gargoyles aside, the real reason I went to Freiburg
was the choir portals,
which were carved by the Parler workshop.
Above is the north choir portal.
Below, a detail of the Creation sequence on the archivolts,
showing God with the spheres of the heavens
(looking sort of like a trimmed onion held upside down,
decorated on the exterior with stars):

The creation of plants:

Probably my favorite:
the creation of birds and fishes
(I think that is a lobster in the water mass by God's left hand):

Thanks to this project I have been noticing archivolts more attentively.
It's amazing how many details are included.

Gargoyles at Freiburg-im-Breisgau

The snow and ice highlights gargoyles in amusing ways.
Ice spouts for mouths, dripping off hats...

Most of the gargoyles have been outfitted with a modern water channel
(visible here to the right of the icicle)

For Some Reason, though,
they omitted a water channel in the gargoyle at top left
(look closely):

This mooning gargoyle is rather famous,
and famously is oriented toward the city Ratshaus.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Season of Lights

The short daylight hours
and dark cold of this time of year
are always depressing for me,
but the numerous lights help alleviate that gloom.
I expect that's one reason the lights are so popular;
they dispell the darkness
and make the night beautiful.
Strasbourg certainly is lovely in the evening,
ablaze with lights of all kinds:

I was surprised and amused
to see all the stuffed animals that people use
for house front decorations here.
(Teddy bears!)

The 'grand sapin' at the Place Kleber is grand indeed.
It towers over the five story buildings nearby.

I love the little streets by the cathedral,
decorated with real pine branches,
lights, bows, ornaments...

Snow in High Places

Today I climbed the 200 plus stairs up to the top of the cathedral platform.
It had snowed lightly overnight,
and the views were stunning:

Beyond the cathedral itself,
the Christmas markets are visible,
and an ice skating rink which has been set up in the plaza
between the cathedral and Palais Rohan:

The bustle of crowds is much more picturesque up here,
including the Christmas carousel:

Beautiful as the views were,
it was very cold,
and I was glad to get down to ground level,
buy some hot juice at a food kiosk,
and head back to my hostel for a hot shower.

French Cuisine

This trip, a lot of my meals have been of the picnic variety.
It's quicker, cheaper, and best of all,
I can go back to my hostel and eat in my pajamas if I want.
(After a long day, sometimes that's more relaxing!)
But I have gone out for a few restaurant meals.
The other day I went out for lunch with my friend Sabine.
I had a salad:

The idea was to have something healthy,
with lots of vegetables,
but the warm cheese and bacon bits on top
and the creamy dressing
probably sabotaged that.
(It was delicious, though!)
My healthy efforts were further sabotaged by dessert.
It's so hard to turn down a chance for chocolate cake--
at least in France,
where they know how to make it properly.
Sabine had creme brulee (top in the photo):

My cake was topped with canned peaches
and a vanilla custard sauce.

My Dad is the Best

Zoom, beautiful zoom!
On the cathedral west front,
and also inside the nave of St. Thomas church:

My own camera could not capture these details so well.
Dad was so kind to let me take his good camera!
The shields on the capitals are particularly a case in point--
they are too hard to see clearly from the ground,
and this view will help me identify them.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Grocery Store James Bond Would Shop At

These are images from Kirn, a very very upscale deli/grocery.
A friend recommended the "bredel" cookies here
(an Alsatian Christmas specialty)
as the best and most authentic.
He didn't add "the most expensive"
but they are probably that too.
He was right-- they ARE very good.
Everything here looks mouthwatering.
What else would you expect
from a store that sells real truffles?

What Real French Women Wear

Okay, so French is often equated with Fashion.
And Fashion these days consists a series of ill-concealing,
unattractive clothes.
Like the window above.
Granted that it is below freezing here
and nobody (even a twenties-age twig)
would wear such a thing outdoors,
I have been crowd watching
and there are far more round-sized,
middle-aged ladies in puffy coats and elderly scarves
than the France Fashion image leads one to believe.
In fact the ladies here are so normal,
I feel very comforted.
But the question has always nagged me:
where do these women SHOP?
They clearly don't buy their clothes at the Skeletal Boutiques.
As I was going through the weekly flea market on my way home,
I unexpectedly found my answer:

This row of granny nighties, my friends,
is REAL French lingerie.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Witch's Eye

This is the Witch's Eye.
It is a cross section of a medieval tower,
fallen on its side.
It is part of the ruins of the Chateau Engelbourg,
which perches on a hill above the town of Thann.

Though there are a lot of taller surrounding hills
the road up to the castle is still steep-ish,
and atmospherically gloomy this time of year:

Santa Claus in Thann

Up on the gable, click click click...
They don't seem to have chimneys around here,
so he comes in through the windows.


Thann is an adorable little town.
Very charming.

Out Came the Sun

Finally, a bright morning!
I grabbed my cameras and headed over to the cathedral.
The winter sun position made the south side perfectly illuminated,
and a good chance to photograph details,
like these 18th century gargoyles (above)
and 14th century grotesques atop pinnacles (below):

One of my favorite west front details:
the stork
(on the pinnacle in front of the bishop in his baldaquin):

Storks are Very Important in Alsace.
They bring good luck.
Legend has it that wild storks voluntarily nested
atop the cathedral while it was building.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Why I Keep Coming Back to Strasbourg

I love this cathedral.
Day or night,
summer or winter.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Santa Claus in Strasbourg

He's here!
And there!
And everywhere!

(As per the bottom photo:
light-up Santa hats are everywhere in the shops.
I have even seen people wearing them, too.)