Saturday December 18, 2010- STRASBOURG. The capital and principal city of the Alsace region of northeastern France, Strasbourg is cosmopolitan. Close enough to Germany that it has a Germanic name, Strasbourg is a bit of an international crossroads, as it is home to the European Parliament, the European Court of Human Rights, and a French-German television company.
I have to say, Strasbourg was all it was hyped up to be. In fact, Strasbourg’s history city center (Grand Ile) is another one of those UNESCO world heritage sites that Europe is just so well known for. But as you may have guessed from the title of this blog post and from my previous December posts, my reason for coming to Strasbourg at this particular time of the year was to visit the Christmas markets.
Yes, I did say Christmas markets. For Strasbourg has not 1, nor 2, nor 3 Christmas markets. No. Strasbourg is currently home to ELEVEN (11!!) Christmas markets. The Strasbourg Noel website states, “Beginning in 1570, Strasbourg opened its Christmas Market around its prestigious Cathedral. Since that time, its reputation in Europe has only increased, thanks to its merchant tradition as well as its spirit of tolerance and humanism that constitute its history and identity.” Strasbourg has the oldest Christmas market in France, so this was where I needed to be!
If you know me (and you probably do, since you’re reading this!) you will know that I love traveling because I love sampling new foods. The Alsacian region of France is famed for its Bredle cookies (or Bredalas, depending on whom you ask) which are basically little buttery cookies (dried) that are bite sized and melt in your mouth. I think I bought 30 euros worth of bredles. See the photo above for examples of bredles.
The Alsace region of France is also famed for its “choucroute” aka sauerkraut served with a sausage and spitzal pasta. Since I had already tried that when I went to Mulhouse and thought that the choucroute was just a little too sour for my liking, I decided to try another Alsacian specialty called “tarte flambee.” Basically, a piece of bread (can be a baguette) that is covered in cheese and ham, baked in an oven until the cheese is all melted, and then served smoking hot! I had the Munster cheese and it was very tasty. I also ate a “bretzel gratinee” aka pretzel covered with cheese… and well, that needs no explanation.
When dusk came to Strasbourg, the lights came on.
By the time night had fallen, it seemed as if the whole world had come out to experience the magic of an Alsacian Christmas. There were so many people out and so many cameras floating around! I stumbled across a “teacher’s chorus” singing at the base of Strasbourg’s immense Christmas tree. I saw tourists, I saw locals. I drank beer at a local bar and felt truly, for the first time, that Christmas had come to France.