Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Day One: Stuttgart to Strasbourg

Rob is in charge of a program in Tübingen, Germany. He has students who attend this month-long language program every year, but doesn't have the funds to be the director every year. Last time he went was when we dovetailed with Study Abroad in 2011. This year he had enough money saved up to go. He finagled permission for a family member to go and bought our tickets. We were going to stop in London and do some copying of documents at an office there, but the owner was going to be out of town when the Tübingen program was going on. So we planned a trip around Stuttgart and what would be most helpful for the courses Rob teaches and the online courses he's writing.
We had two flights and they were so nice and quiet and uneventful! We got exit row seating on one of them since we didn't have any kids and that was blissful too. I watched two movies I didn't like, but it was two more than I'd seen all summer: Her and Bad Words
 We flew in to Stuttgart and arrived bright and early in the morning on a Monday. 
We picked up our keys to our car, then found the phone we'd unlocked wasn't working, so we switched to a car with GPS: a pert little white Peugeot with a large moon roof. We headed in to Stuttgart to buy some essentials like sunscreen and shampoo that we couldn't fit into our carry-ons (which is all we took -- we were trying out our lightest ever packing jobs to see how long we'd be able to live on a study abroad next summer). We wandered around Stuttgart.
Once we'd seen the downtown, we headed out and pointed our noses toward Strasbourg. Except that Karlsruhe was on the way.
So we stopped in Karlsruhe and walked around. It is a lovely university town with a great downtown and palace and grounds. It was founded in 1715 after Charles William woke up from a dream where he'd founded a new capital. He'd just been in a fight with the citizens of his old capital. Presumably it all looked a lot older before WWII when it was flattened. It was in the American sector and so it was some of the first part of Germany to be rebuilt.
 Nowadays Karlsruhe is host to the two highest courts in Germany. We ate lunch on the palace grounds and walked around until the rain picked up and we had to have a free hand for an umbrella. Then we drove a little further and got into France. 

 We checked in to our french Comfort Inn (yeah, really) and parked the car there, heading in on foot through the area known as Petite France. Here you can see the cathedral, one of the famous bridges, and the most pinterested building in town, that darling one with gables in the roof and wisteria growing up the front. If Europe used a Chinese-style calendar, 2014 would be The Year Of The Scaffolding. Rob disagreed, but then I pointed out that 2009 was The Year Of Ripping Up Your Pedestrian Zone and 2011was The Year Of Unfinished Subway Lines, and he had to concede that nearly everything worth seeing this year had scaffolding on some part of it. OK, not the mountains. But we're not there yet!
Strasbourg was charming and French in everything from the shutters to the rooflines to the plantings.
We were pushing ourselves to stay awake until a reasonable European bedtime and pull an actual all nighter. Rob does this all the time on his trips abroad. I always drop off to sleep at the first horizontal surface I come to.

Darling half-timbered building. Called fachwerk in German.
Strasbourg, right on the border of Germany and France, is part of the Alsace region, which has ping-ponged back and forth between the two. As you can see here from the street signs, it straddles both in language, architecture, cuisine and more.

 Rob and another building which gets photographed and distorted a lot on Pinterest. 
 But we were here to see this beauty: the Strasbourg cathedral. Since Rob teaches cultural history in Germany, he is hard-pressed to find examples of gothic architecture. This one, preserved on the French side of the border, is one that he often uses in class but had never seen in person. We went inside, and saw the amazing astronomical clock and the pulpit. But when we came out . . .

 It began to rain. And not just a little sprinkle. This was a full-on deluge of biblical proportions! Rob and I took shelter in a doorway across the way and watched the gargoyles do their job. We had new respect for these grotesque creatures watching the water spout out of their mouths from level to level. 
 After about half an hour we were able to come out and look around. We had crepes in a little place across the plaza.

 Then we wandered back the way we came and fell gratefully into bed. It is making me tired just thinking about it now!

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