I had been to Strasbourg previously and fell in love with it. That is why when the cruise line was going to alter our Christmas market cruise because of the low water levels in the Rhine, I was most disappointed. I needed to go back to the city that I fell in love with. You may not know it but Strasbourg is like a mini Venice with canals and canal boats for you to view the city. When I was there previously there were flowers galore, window boxes on many windows adding color to this beautiful, old city. I loved going into the French patisseries for chocolate croissants – I mean, could anything be better than that?
Before we docked near Strasbourg we had a few choices to make. We could go into Strasbourg and do the city tour and then on our own go into the Cathedral to see the Astronomical Clock and then take the 12:40 shuttle back to the ship for lunch and then gingerbread decorating OR we could stay longer and take the 2:40 shuttle back to the ship. For both of these options we could then go to Gengenbach at 4 PM to see their City Hall decorated as an Advent calendar since it has 24 windows. Our cruise director did not know what the theme was. The third option was that we could stay in Strasbourg and take another shuttle back to the ship with the last one leaving at 5:40. I decided that Strasbourg was important enough for me to stay there as long as I could. My cruise mate decided that she wanted to do both.
We got on our buses and off we went to drive around Strasbourg while listening to our guide talk about the city especially how old some of the buildings were – older than when settlers came to Jamestown in 1607!
It was a beautiful day though cold and crisp. We walked past some of the markets, stores where he recommended fresh gingerbread cookies. We saw a section where Finland was invited to have s special display and stalls. We went by where the Finns were smoking fresh salmon. When we finished our tour he showed us where we would meet a guide who would walk us to where the shuttle bus was parked. He gave us tickets to get into the cathedral, bypassing the line to view the Astronomical Clock.
I had seen it before on another cruise/tour and our guide at that time explained everything about the clock. This time it was, for me, disappointing. First of all there was scaffolding around and over the clock. We had no tour guide explaining it although there was a screen with a video that we could not see if we were standing in front of the clock. Although we were there at noon and there was some activity on the clock, it was a let down for me. What brought it to life before was the exceptional tour guide. Additionally, this time, probably because we were on a Christmas cruise and didn’t have time, we did not get a canal cruise. In my mind, the entire day should have been spent in Strasbourg. Of course, others had the option of not going to Gengenbach but really, you want to do it all.
I found two couples from our cruise who let me join them for the day. They were so friendly and inclusive and I appreciated it. After the disappointing cathedral experience we decided we need to sit down since we had stood on hard stone floors in the church for about 45 minutes. We found a little cafe where we could get coffee or hot chocolate for me. Once sufficiently warm up we walked around some more. We found the restaurant that our tour guide had recommended for lunch. It was typical French food and it was delicious. Wondering around we just admired the city, the store decorations and several of the markets we visited.
With sunset occurring around 4:30 PM, we started back to the meeting place when I spied the Finnish stalls at the market. What to my wondering eye should appear? A stand with fur hides and these were not any regular kind of hides like sheepskin or cow but rather (remember this is a stand from Finland) but reindeer hides. They were beautiful, soft and very unique. I was told this was what was leftover after the animal was used for food for the people of Lapland. Hoping that the price would persuade me not to purchase one, it did the opposite – they were so reasonably priced. The hide is now on one of my floors and it is so soft and warm these winter nights.
With paperwork in hand and the hide nicely wrapped up we continued our walk down the beautifully lit up and decorated streets in Strasbourg. Each street seemed to have different decorations and lights going across the streets. It was magical. At one point looking down a street we saw the cathedral and it front were angels lit up blowing their horns at the cathedral.
I’m very glad that I stayed to see the city all lit up as all the other markets we saw were int he daylight.
The day after we were in Strasbourg is when the shootings at the Christmas market happened. It feels so strange to know that we were there 24 hours before and that but for the grace of God, we could have been involved in the shootings. I will not let this stop me from traveling – it can and it does happen anywhere. I don’t avoid Washington DC, I don’t avoid Charleston, SC; Las Vegas, NV and the many other locations of shootings in our country. This will not stop me.