Tuesday, March 25, 2008


For our Easter holiday weekend (no school yesterday!) I took a little trip to Strasbourg. Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region, which switched hands between France and Germany as a result of several wars. Until the 20th century in fact, when France got Alsace back after WWI, German was the language that most people spoke. Strasbourg is super cute. The old, traditional houses are made of plaster and timber and painted different colors, and the centre ville is surrounded by the River Ill. I spent a lot of time just walking around and looking at the houses and getting to know the city. It was really interesting to be in a city in France and yet not really feel like I was in France, it felt much more international. And yes, I heard German everywhere, all the time.

I hit up four different musuems. I'm kind of cheating to say that though - three of them are in the same building and not terribly large. I saw the Museum of Alsatian Life, which I really found interesting. I like learning about how people live/d their lives, seeing the traditional clothing and cake molds and things. Remember, me = nerd. My favorite museum was the Museum of Archeology. I love that stuff. I love seeing the history of human innovation and discovery. Who first thought it might be a cool idea to stick a seed in the ground and see if it would grow, and why on earth did they even try it? Or to make pottery? And not only to make pottery, but to decorate it and make it beautiful? What in the human soul demands that there be some sort of ceremony for the dead, and a life after death? I find this stuff fascinating. They also featured skeletons with congenitive abnomalities or diseases and that was super interesting: the spinal cord of someone with spina bifida, the skull of someone with some kind of eye problem (didn't understand exactly what, but something about how they operated on it and the person survived. Wow!). Then in the Merovingian section (time right after the fall of the Roman Empire, or early middle ages) there were two skulls that had been altered during the persons' lifetimes by binding. The skulls were peaked, they had been tied during infancy to grow like that. It was frustrating though because they had absolutely no explanation as to why it had been done and what purpose it served, so I will have to try to do some research. I also saw their Beaux Arts Museum (definitely skippable, I kind of cruised through) and the Decorative Arts Museum. These three museums are housed in an old palace, so the DA part preserves the old decor (and also has a china exhibit that I didn't look at). I like seeing fancy rooms. I also saw the glorious gothic cathedral, bien sur. Didn't do any shopping, because my bank account is completely vide. Man do I need our next paycheck!

Food in Strasbourg: as you might expect, lots of sausages, beer, and potatoes. Cheese too, actually. I wasn't so impressed with the traditional dishes, however. I liked all the potatoes and cheese stuff, who doesn't like crispy sautéed potatoes with melted cheese? The problems were flammekuchen (or tarte flambée) and kugulhopf. Flammekuchen is basically a very flat pizza crust, spread very, very thinly with fromage blanc, topped with onions and lardons (pieces of ham) and then baked in the oven. They've created other versions too, since it's like pizza, so I had one without lardons and one that had tomatoes and olives and onions. I wasn't impressed. I am not a big fan of thin crust pizza, and I like cheese and sauce on my pizza. I don't really see what flammekuchen has to offer me. It's hard to eat, too, crispy crust doesn't cut very well. Kugelhopf is a cake, looks like a bundt cake. I think I might have just had a really bad version because it's supposed to be sweet and eaten at breakfast, but the one I had was nearly inedible - dry as a bone, not at all sweet, just nasty nasty. It tasted like what I would imagine the non-gluten, non-dairy, non-sweetened cakes taste like. Yet again France left me wanting a gigantic burrito or a really spicy curry or Italian goodness from Rome. I've been craving Thai food recently, I might have to get some of that soon.

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