An April 2005 trip
to Strasbourg by Re Carroll
Quote: Strasbourg is an intriguing mix of old and new, French and German, young and old.Rather than suffering an identify crisis, the city blends all the pieces together to create an atmosphere of joie de vivre at its best!
Modern Strasbourg is a big city, home to the European Parliament and the University of Strasbourg where Goethe, Napoleon and Pasteur studied. With a tight schedule, I limited my explorations to Vieille Ville, the historic Old Town. The area is just made for exploring on foot with its lively outdoor market and pedestrian only streets and alleyways filled with interesting shops and restaurants. Culturally, Old Town is no slouch with numerous museums and picturesque Petite France quarter. You can’t help but be charmed by the 16th century half timbered houses, covered bridges and small canals and waterways.
By far the most well known sight in Strasbourg is the Cathedrale de Notre Dame. Built from red sandstone with an impressive rose window and 142-metre-high spire, this masterpiece of Gothic architecture took over 250 years to build. Although the spire is currently covered in scaffolding, it doesn’t detract from the Cathedral’s impressiveness.
The best part of a visit here is the overall vibe best described as relaxed but energetic, a result of centuries old history happily mingling with modern society’s youthful idealism – joie de vivre at its finest!
Be prepared to eat well in Strasbourg – after all, this is where pate de fois gras was created and the Alsace region is well known for its white wines. Strasbourg makes a good base for exploring nearby towns like Nancy and Metz or visiting some of the wineries along the Route du Vin.
German efficiency is obvious, with amenities that include Internet (2.25€ for a 15-minute card), laundry (reasonably priced at 5€ per load), a bar, a restaurant, a locked luggage room, ping-pong tables, a TV room, a basement disco, a games arcade and pool tables. Hotel-like extras include wake-up calls, a mail and message service, a currency exchange, safety-box rental, and a small shop selling souvenirs, stamps, and postcards.
CIARUS tries to cater to all ages and types – baby cots are available for those traveling with children and business executives can take advantage of the meeting rooms available for rent. The hostel is also wheelchair accessible.
> Reception is open from 7am until 10pm; otherwise, a night watchman is present to ensure security and quiet. Check-out is 9am. No alcohol, food, or smoking is permitted in the rooms, and guests are asked to avoid making noise after 10pm. If you’re looking for a party-type environment, this is not the place for you.
A self-serve breakfast, included in the price, is served between 7 and 9am during weekdays and until 10 am on weekends. Compared to other hostels that offer a measly roll and jam, CIARUS makes sure you start the day right with juice, hot drinks, cereals, breads, and yogurt. The restaurant also serves lunch and dinner and will even prepare meals for takeaway – all at an additional charge, of course.
The hostel accepts MasterCard and Visa. Prices range from 16€ per person in a six-bedroom to 39€ for a private room.
Take bus no. 10 (1.20€ one-way) from the train station to Place de Pierre and the hostel is just a few blocks away. During the busy summer months, I’d suggest making a reservation in advance, as this is a popular place.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 14, 2005
7 Rue Finkmatt
The menu is an intriguing mix of German and French specialties. Tarte flambee (similar to quiche), salad Nicoise, beef and béarnaise, sauerkraut, melon and smoked-ham salad, and pork hocks were just some of the entrées listed on the multi-page menu.
I had bouchee, chopped chicken and veal in a delicious cream sauce served in puff pastry and decorated with fresh herbs. Included with the meal was a separate bowl of egg noodles and a basket of rolls. Diners at the next table ordered salad Nicoise and pork and sauerkraut. The salad was served in a huge white pottery bowl, more than enough for two hungry people to share or four to six to sample as an appetizer. The sauerkraut and pork was another huge portion with eight types of pork – wurst, hock, ribs, etc. It was served in a big iron pot over a brazier to keep the meal warm.
Desserts were too tempting to pass up, although it was a difficult choice with offerings like crepes, crème brulee, and apples in pastry with raspberry sauce. I’d highly recommend the apple pastry, as not only was it delicious, but flambéed with Calvados brandy, it was a wonderfully dramatic finish to a very good meal.
Prices for an entrée average about 12€ and my meal, along with a one-fourth pichet of house wine and dessert, came to 20€. On weekdays the restaurant has lots of specially-priced meals including an appetizer and main course or main course and dessert for 13.80€, or an entrée and wine for 15€.
Dauphin is a nice place to stop just for a drink, but the large portions, good prices, and pleasant service make this an even better bet for dinner.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 14, 2005
Brasserie du Dauphin
13 Place de la Cathedrale
Attraction | "Palais Rohan & Musee des Arts Decoratifs"
A main part of the Museum is the Cardinals’ Apartments with entry through the Salle du Synode. This huge entrance hall with its high, gilt edged ceiling and massive paintings really set the scene for the rest of my self guided tour. All the rooms were opulent with gold encrusted ceilings and priceless tapestries from the 1600s. I particularly enjoyed The Bishops’ Sitting Room with its gold and white décor and the busts of eight Roman emperors placed on pedestals around the room; the Emperor’s Bedroom where a panel was carved with Napoleon and Josephine’s initials and the Chapel with the original Corinthian pilasters and paneling still in place.
As well as the apartments, the museum features extensive collections of antique furnishings. The largest was an extensive display of porcelain and ceramics made by Strasbourg’s Hannong factory from 1748 to 1760. There were so many glass cases with sets of dishes that it started to become rather ho hum, although porcelain collectors would be in their glory. I was more interested in the clock room with clocks from 14th to 18th century and another display featuring 20th century mechanical toys – planes, trains, automobiles and everything between.
Of the three museums housed in the Palais Rohan, Decorative Arts is the one that would appeal to the widest age group with toys for the kiddies and lots of history and displays for the adults. Admission is €4 per person and the museum is open daily from 10am until 6pm, except Tuesdays. There are no English pamphlets but if you ask at the entrance, they will lend you an English guide that details some of the main features in each area.
The Palais Rohan (Rohan Palace)
2 Place Du Chateau
Attraction | "More Palais Rohan Museums"
Musee des Beaux-Arts - Located on the second floor of the Palais Rohan, the Fine Arts Museum is very understated in terms of advertising or fancy displays. Instead the contents speak for themselves. Room after room is filled with paintings from the 14th to the 19th century including works by Memling, Botticelli, Raphael, Goya and more.
It also hosts temporary exhibits and during my visit I was entertained with Homme animal, a satirical look at the similarities in traits and characteristics between man and animals. Humorous cartoons, political satire and oil paintings were used to get the point across. One of the most interesting displays was a set of drawings by Andre Legrand (1619-90) comparing facial characteristics of man with hawk, cow, donkey and cat.
Musee Archeologique is located in the basement of Palais Rohan, a fitting place since the museum deals with the foundations of Strasbourg and the Alsace. Several million years of Alsacian history, from 600,000 BC to 800 AD are featured in 21 rooms. All the objects on display were discovered in Alsace starting with primitive tools dating from 600,000 BC. Large poster boards in English and French provide an overview of displays in each room but the individual objects are only labeled in French. Most of the rooms dealt with the Gallo Roman period from the 1st to 5th century AD. During this time, the Romans constructed roads along the Rhine, the River Ill and the foothills of the Vosges. Finds from the Roman camps included pottery, glasswork, tools and horns. Jewellery from The Donon, a large sanctuary to the solar god Mithra was displayed as well as sculptures and funerary chariots. One of the more interesting displays was the skeletal remains in clear glass cases embedded in the museum floor – macabre but effective!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 14, 2005
2-5 place du Chateau
Abbotsford, British Columbia