Embracing Adventure “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” ~~Hellen Keller

Strasbourg, France Part 1

This is not really relevant to the trip, but we got gas in Heidelberg before we left, and I thought the illustration at the pump demonstrating not to wipe snow off the car was funny.

In the first week of February, we decided to go to Strasbourg, France, which was not only my first trip to France but my first time venturing outside of Germany since we had gotten here. The day before we planned to go, it rained all day and all night. No real surprise for that part of Germany in the winter, but I was glad when I awoke to find the rain had stopped. Unfortunately, my relief was short-lived because the rain resumed on the drive to Strasbourg, and it continued on and off throughout our time there.

It only took about an hour and a half to get from Heidelberg to Strasbourg. Although we knew that Europe has open borders, we weren’t sure if we would see anyone at the actual border. When we reached it, there were some cars parked there, but no one was outside. We drove through, feeling vaguely like we had done something wrong, as it’s unusual for us to pass through a structure of that kind without stopping.

Strasbourg main train station

Apparently I didn’t manage to take a picture of the train station, but fortunately Ken Hawkins did on a much nicer day than when we were there.

When we first arrived in Strasbourg, we went to the parking garage of the train station (French: gare). I almost immediately got to be a bit embarrassed as I attempted to enter the toilette. I had taken a euro coin with me, figuring the custom would be similar to that in Germany in which you either deposit the coin to get through a turnstile or give it to an attendant, and had followed the signs until I reached an orange sliding door. It did not open as I approached and did not have a handle. I looked around to see if there was a button or something I had missed.

“Mademoiselle,” a woman’s voice rang out from a speaker system behind me. “Mademoiselle.” I turned and realized that the attendant was not inside the restroom as one would be in Germany but was, instead, behind a glass booth with a hole cut in it, much like one might find in a bank in the United States. I headed over there and waited for the men who were standing in front of the window to pay. As I observed one of the men receiving his change, I learned one of my first new words in French, “merci,” which means “thank you.”

When it was my turn, I handed my euro coin to the lady and received 50 euro cents back. I repeated what the man had said and hoped I was correct in my interpretation of what it meant. (My husband, who knows a little bit of French, later confirmed for me that I was.) After I paid, she opened the door to the toilette from inside her booth.

After leaving the train station, we made our way into Strasbourg. Since I had never been to France before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Some of the buildings looked similar to those in Germany, and I noticed a fair number of signs in both German and French. Being close to the border of Germany, it makes sense that some of the style would have carried over and that they would be accommodating to German speakers.

Apparently I managed not to really take pictures during the first part of our visit, so here’s a picture I took later looking over the Ill River.

I was really glad for the German signage because I know so little French I may as well say I know none at all, but I know enough German to get by. (And actually as I wandered around Strasbourg I realized I know much more German than I usually think I do because there were so many things I did not know the French word for that I would have known what to look for or what to say in Germany). The other nice thing about the many French/German signs was that I could start to learn a little bit of French from the German I knew. One of the first words I learned with this method was from a sign in the train station. When I saw “Sortie/Ausgang,” I knew that Sortie must mean “exit”.

Despite some similarities, there was a different feeling to this city than in Germany. More relaxed, maybe. There were a lot of people out, even when it was raining, and that was nice to see, but the streets were a little wider, so it didn’t feel quite as crowded. People walking in Germany also tend to be a bit more serious looking, whereas we walked around Strasbourg for about twenty minutes before I finally passed someone who wasn’t smiling. Even the parking attendant I saw writing someone a ticket had a smile on his face. Although it’s a minor detail, I also liked the fact that everyone crossed the street when no traffic was coming, even if the red figure was up instead of the green one. In Germany, there could be no traffic in sight in either direction, and if the sign doesn’t show you can go, everyone stands there until it does.

We wandered around and ended up happening upon a protest. This is not the first time we’ve done that. There was one in Cologne too. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I guessed by the pink, blue, and white flags with cut-out looking images of a man and a woman with a child on either side of them, as well as from a large sign with an infant on it, that it might be an anti-abortion or anti-gay-marriage rally. Then they played Gangnam style, and everyone started waving their flags, and I decided I had no idea what the heck was going on.

When I got home, I looked online and found out that my second guess was about half right. The French National Assembly had approved an article in a bill that would allow gays to marry and jointly adopt children. Apparently people were upset about it and responded in this way. I found out from a picture of similar protestors that the flags say “La Manif Pour Tous” which is apparently the name of the group and means “Demonstration for All”. I am still confused what Gangnam Style has to do with any of it.

I followed up on the bill they were protesting and found out that the National Assembly approved it 10 days later and then it went through the rest of the legal process, which you can read about here if you’re interested. It was finally adopted April 23rd and officially published on May 18th. France’s first official same-sex ceremony was held May 29th in Montpellier.

After making our way past the protestors, we continued our exploration of Strasbourg, including stops at Notre Dame Cathedral and for dinner. I’ll tell you about part of that next time, and I’ll have a lot more pictures.

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4 Thoughts on “Strasbourg, France Part 1

  1. Glad you had such a fun time there, even when the weather wasn’t that great! I always cross the road when there are no cars so there is at least one German who does not wait. 🙂

  2. “Sortie” means exit, you were right about that (although you switched the “i” and “e”, hehe). I heard Strasbourg has quite a lovely Christmas-/ Holidaymarket, so perhaps you guys get to check it out soon, again.

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