My days in Europe – 4 – Kehl and Strassbourg

After having hectic weekdays and even more hectic weekends, finally we decided to slow down a bit and so on the fourth weekend, we decided to simply do some shopping and also to visit some place which could be covered in one single day.
So on Saturday, we went to Heidelberg and Mannheim for some shopping. Also in Mannheim, we went to see a very nice park called the Luisen Park.
For Sunday, we had plans of going to Strassbourg, in France, whose present day importance lies in its being the site of the European Council.
On Friday, upon hearing of our plans of visiting Strassbourg, one of our German colleagues, who has his residence in Kehl, on the border of Germany and France, invited us to visit his home. That was our first chance of seeing a German household.
Now there was one incident that brings a smile on my face even now when I think about it. What happened was that we had to catch a train at 8:55 AM to reach Kehl.
I woke up at 7:00 but then was feeling lazy and dozed off again. At 8:00 AM I was startled by the ringing of the phone. My colleague, with whom I had to go to Kehl, had already been ready and he was calling me for breakfast. Now I had less than even a half an hour in which to get ready and have breakfast, as we had to walk down to the train station which would easily have taken us about twenty to twenty five minutes.
It being such a less time, I asked him to have his breakfast and call for a taxi or else it would not be possible for us to catch the train.
He went ahead and at about 8:25, when I reached the breakfast table, he was peacefully having his breakfast, without any sign of urgency. I thought that I’d pick up an apple and we would proceed but he asked me to sit down and have the breakfast with all the time that I would need. I asked him if the taxi was on its way. He said that since the train is at 9:55, so we have lots of time. I thought may be he did not know the time correctly, so I showed him the tickets, which clearly said 8:55. He said that he has asked the receptionist and it is 9:55. By that time, I was totally confused thinking that may be there is one more train and we could use the same ticket for that as well, it being a weekend travel ticket. By this time, he also had a conspiring smile on his face, so now seeing me so confused, finally he revealed that the watches had been set back by one hour, for the day light saving time!! So it was actually 7:55 there, when I was thinking it to be 8:55.
Phew!!
Then having all the time in the world to have breakfast, I satiated my hunger pangs with buttered croissants, apple, peach, and what all was available at the table, with even spare time to digest it all.
Then once the taxi arrived, we went ahead towards a new destination.
The journey was long and we had to wait at several stations like Karlsruhe, Appenwier, before we finally could reach Kehl.
Had a funny incident at Appenwier, but may be I’ll tell that some other time.
Upon reaching Kehl, I realized that due to having too much time in hand, at the hotel, I had finally forgotten to keep the notebook in which the address of my colleague was written. But then again, my colleague surprised me by taking out a card in which he had noted the address. Once out of the train station, we were a bit confused as to whether to take a cab or walk down the street to reach the address.
So first we started on our own towards the left from the station and we found one middle aged man cycling down. We stopped him for directions and even though he wanted to help, he could not do so because he was coming from France. For us it was something fantastic that people are coming from one country into another on bicycle :-). Then we went back towards the station and went inside an oriental restaurant to ask for directions and a lady very graciously showed us the locations on a map, even though she did not speak English quite comfortably. But by then we thought that it would be better to take a cab. And that was a good decision, as we found out that our colleague’s home was not quite so easy to locate, in a first visit, as we had thought.
Once there, we were greeted by our colleague and his wife. They insisted on our having lunch with them after which he gave us a map of Strassbourg along with directions on what to see there, in the limited time that we had.

He then took us out to show the Rhine river and also to the bridge that divides the river into the German and the French parts. So here we were in the middle of the bridge, wherein if I stepped to one side, I was in Germany and in France, if I stepped to the other side! Interesting, isn’t it?

We bade him farewell at the train station in Kehl, to continue our journey towards Strassbourg.
Now the city of Strassbourg, is quite an old city, existing since the time of the Romans.
After the Romans, came the Alamannis, the Huns and then the Franks, who gave it its present name. Strassbourg was once also a free state, but that status was revoked during the French revolution and in the times of the World War – II, it even became part of Germany from 1940 to 1945 AD.

Today it is the seat of the European Parliament and the European court of Human rights, along with the Council of Europe.
So much for the history and importance of Strassbourg. Once we reached there, we decided to go to the first place mentioned by our German colleague and that was the Cathédrale de Nôtre Dame, which is built with pink sandstone, in the Gothic architectural style at around 1190 AD.

It was a beautiful church and we spent some time in exploring the church from inside as well as outside. It was quite an imposing structure. We then decided to take the boat ride on the river Ill, so that we could at least have a glimpse of maximum number of places that were to be seen in Strassbourg.
So our journey started at about 4 PM and with the audio guide on the boat, we got to know some of the history of Strassbourg, along with the sights of important buildings and bridges of the city. The boat ride reminded me of the boat ride in Paris and of the canals of Venice. In the boat ride we also had the experience of passing through the closed gates canals at the point where two rivers meet. First the gates are closed so as to raise the water level by several feet, in a matter of a few minutes, in order to enable the boat to reach the level of the second river. Upon the return, the gates are closed to reduce the water level so as to again reach the level of the first river! By the time the tour was complete, fog had again descended upon the city and we were feeling quite cold, as we were not having enough warm clothing with us, as when we had started from Germany, the weather was beautiful and sunny.
Nonetheless, we went back towards the train station to catch the train back to Germany and on the way back, we passed the same church and one can imagine the height of the church by the fact that at that time, we could not see the top of the church because of the fog! In fact the height of the church is about 142 meters.
We did not have enough time so I had to return disappointed on not having seen the Petite France, which is a world heritage site.
We reached the hotel uneventfully and then the realization came that this was the last weekend of that trip and we would be returning to India on Tuesday.
Thus with lots of good memories and enriching experiences, my first trip of Europe came to an end.
I have already started looking forward to another such memorable trip, though I know not when and to which new places will that take me to! But one thing is for sure, I would love to visit some of the places that I went to, again and again in this lifetime itself. Amen :-)!

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One thought on “My days in Europe – 4 – Kehl and Strassbourg

  1. wish your wish comes true… How about around the world in few years?.. not a bad idea isn’t it!! Another peice of running commentry without any break in the flow..!! wow! you are keeping the style contast.. thas great! Have a great time..as much as you can cherrish..!!

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