The streets of old Strasbourg, like many German towns we were to see, were not laid out in a perfect crisscross pattern. Rather, they seem to have grown up somewhat haphazardly. Often streets follow rivers, creeks or natural geological formations like cliffs or escarpments. We wended our way in a general direction which Tom claimed would lead to the old cathedral area. We were hungry, or at least, I was, and I saw many interesting restaurants and shops along the way.
Finally, we were in the square around the old cathedral, called the Cathedral of Notre Dame. It is a totally imposing structure with detailed and ornate stone carvings across its entire front. Just over the door arches the figures of many saints. Above the entrance, fully three stories high, looms an even more impressive rose window. Shadows of the late afternoon sun had already started their progression across the square.
The first thing I wanted to do was to see the inside of the cathedral. There were towering vaulted ceilings and glorious stained glass windows that harkened back to another time when this building was indeed the center of all civic life in Strasbourg. It was very dark inside. Towards the front was an enormous bank of votive candles, most of which had been lit in prayer or memory of some soul. I went ahead of Tom and Vicki and sat in a row of chairs there. The altar was magnificent, but I knew that the ambient light wasn't sufficient to generate a picture. The environment of this cathedral was so clearly evocative of a powerful, transcendent God, that I was pulled back in memory to days when monks prayed and choirs chanted.
When we came out of the cathedral, food was on my mind. The menu was posted on the window of the restaurant La Cigogne nearby. This is where we decided we would have dinner. Since it was quite late in the day, we were in the shade. We had a perfect view of Notre Dame Cathedral across many tables of locals and tourists. Even though I was near exhaustion from 36 hours of nonstop activity, it was good to just sit here, rest and observe. I got out my camera and began taking a few pictures, some of which you can see immediately following.
In Europe we noticed that restaurants definitely have different practices than in the U.S.A. Very often, when we entered a restaurant, no one came to seat us. We were expected to sit down. Maybe in 5, 10 or even 15 minutes someone would come and take an order. At La Cigogne there were at least three waiters, and there was a distinctly "professional" rapport between them. When they weren't serving, they stood in the doorway and made comments about the patrons or other events nearby. You can see our waiter standing in the picture to the left. I thought he looked like a typical Frenchman.
After a while, our French waiter came and took our drink orders. Tom and I ordered Riesling to drink, which came in distinctive little glasses with green stems that we saw all over Germany. Vicki had a coke. We drank a toast to our successful voyage. Another thing that is different about Europe from the U.S.A. is water. If you order water there, it won't come in a drinking glass. The waiter will ask you if you want mineral water or not. Then he or she brings a bottle, which you pay for. My brother was insistent that you could drink tapwater in Strasbourg, which he proceded to demonstrate back at our room. Occasionally, since I have gout and have to drink a lot of water, I also tried the tapwater in a couple of places and nothing ontoward happened to me.
We ordered our meals, which you can see in the picture to the left. This was definitely the best meal I had in Europe. Vicki's food, seen in the upper left, was Soupe l'Oignon Gratinee for 35 DM (Deutche Mark) and Salade Milanaise at 58 DM. Tom had the Tom Choucroute Royale for 89 DM. It contained sausage and other kinds of meat, like pork hocks. Jim had the Suprème de Saumon à la crème de Riesling at 79 DM. This was the best salmon I had ever eaten. It had a mustard-Riesling sauce, and was served with green beans and potatoes. We also had Alsacian bread with our meal. For dessert, we split an Alsacian Apple Tart, another winner.
While we were sitting at La Cigogne (The Swan), we were entertained by a couple of street musicians who were really quite good. You can see on the right the flute player we heard first. He looked like a South American Indian. I was quite impressed and went over to listen to him and to take this photo. Immediately after he finished his "session" he came directly over to our table and presented himself. I gave him a tip. Later on, we also heard a German accordian player who was excellent.
Created by Jim Andris, September