Today we rode 37.27 km from Boofzheim to (and around) Strasbourg.
We awoke to a chilly morning. The temperature was in the low 40’s Fahrenheit. I tossed and turned all night in my very light sleeping bag, not because I was too cold but because it felt like it wasn’t breathing and I was very cool and clammy all night. The sleeping bag is very lightweight REI Travel Sack. It is only rated down to 55 degrees. The bag Mila has been using is rated to 45 degrees. They are both very lightweight summer bags as we were originally expecting to have finished our trip by about now. We’ll see how our luck fares with the Fall weather coming on. Jette’s bag is a very warm sleeping bag that I bought from a climber when I was in the mountains of Northern Pakistan near the Hunza Valley more than 20 years ago, so she’ll be toasty warm regardless!
We packed up camp and headed to the local grocery store, which happened to be a huge “Super U” for breakfast and food for the road.
After breakfast it was back to the canal path.
As we got close to Strasbourg, we began to really see boats on the canal. We passed more WWII fortifications. As we came into town the path was below the level of the water and the canal was lined with trees. In the age before automobiles when the canal commerce was in full swing, I can imagine that this served as quite a dramatic entrance to the city.
Once in town, we went straight to the Gare Centrale (central train station) to enquire about tickets to Mainz. Mila waited outside with our bikes and Jette and I went into the station to talk to a ticket agent. We had to take a number and wait half an hour or so. Although she printed us some timetables and route options. the ticket agent seemed unsure about the German train options. She insisted that there were no direct trains or express trains that would take bicycles, even from Strasbourg to Frankfurt. The routes she was suggesting had 3 or 4 o5 transfers. Not fun with loaded bicycles. She did say that buying tickets for the German part of the journey would be cheaper if we bought them in Germany. We left without buying tickets to find some food.
We stopped at a donner kebab restaurant not far from the station and refueled. While we were eating, I searched for a hotel on my phone. We found a couple of options nearby. The first was fully booked but the second one had a room. We unloaded bikes got settled into the room. There was a teapot, what a luxury! Mila and Jette took advantage of the internet connection and I went back to the train station. We had decided to buy a ticket to one of the first German towns on the route and then explore our options from there. I rode to the train station, asked the information desk about the rules for bikes on trains and bought tickets to Appenweier, a German town just East of Strasbourg. The tickets were only about 16 Euros for all three of us on a regional commuter train, not tickets or reservations necessary for the bikes.
With tickets in hand and it was time to go explore the town. We headed to the Strasbourg Cathedral. It is truly an amazing building. It is an impossibly tall and striking example of high Gothic architecture. The scale, the ornate detail, and the excellent condition of the exterior boggle the mind. As you approach it through the narrow streets of the city and catch your first glimpse of it towering over the rooftops, it seems impossibly large and impossibly detailed.
According to Wikipedia:
At 142 metres (466 feet), it was the world’s tallest building from 1647 to 1874 (227 years), when it was surpassed by St. Nikolai’s Church, Hamburg. Today it is the sixth-tallest church in the world and the highest extant structure built entirely in the Middle Ages.
Described by Victor Hugo as a “gigantic and delicate marvel”, and by Goethe as a “sublimely towering, wide-spreading tree of God”, the cathedral is visible far across the plains of Alsace and can be seen from as far off as the Vosges Mountains or the Black Forest on the other side of the Rhine. Sandstone from the Vosges used in construction gives the cathedral its characteristic pink hue.
There is no doubt that, in its time, it must have struck awe and fear and wonder in the minds of the people and communicated quite clearly the power of the church.
Architecture aside, our friends Helen and Patrick were married there, and their daughters Eva and Elise were christened there, so that added a nice personal touch to our visit.
On Helen’s recommendation, we searched for their favorite cookie store and carousel in the neighborhood, so it was an evening of treats.
As the sun got low in the sky we decided it was time to find some dinner. We wandered the side streets of the neighborhood but ended up back at a touristy place on the plaza in front of the cathedral. Not our typical choice, but it was getting late and cold and we didn’t want to spend any more time looking for other options. It turned out to be delicious and the waiter was quite a friendly character who bantered with us in English and got Jette to order in French. It was also the first day of school for the local medical school and the new students were being hazed in public. There were groups of them in nothing but white lab coats, covered in shaving cream (or some kind of foam) singing bawdy songs to passers by or doing other silly things. There was also a big group of young people with signs saying FREE HUGS! I got a hug.
After dinner, we rode back to the hotel and enjoyed hot baths (sorry no photos!) in the hotel room. The simple pleasures are always the best!