Thursday, October 22, 2009

Location #3: Elsass Region, France

Back to the great European adventure.

Where was I? Oh yes, after four days in Munich, Germany, and a day trip to Salzburg, Austria, Marcos and I grabbed our backpacks and boarded a train with our Eurail passes in hand for our first major leg of the trip: Munich, Germany, to Strasbourg, France and on to Domfessel...

You know that rumor that pregnancy wipes you out? It's true, so I took as many opportunities to be wiped out as I needed. I'm still not sure how I managed to hammer out those 8-hour days wandering around large cities, but I am so thankful that Marcos and I had this experience for ourselves before our family grows and things change.

But back to the excitement... Our original plan was to travel directly from Munich to Paris, but hearing that my exchange family from high school was vacationing in the Elsass region of France (which is nearly exactly between the two), we decided to stop and spend a few days with them.

The biggest city in Elsass is Strasbourg, where we met my exchange sister Melisande and her boyfriend Jakob for an afternoon of exploring the city. I had been here before, but did not remember the place being this cute. It was almost overwhelming.

Strasbourg has a massive Gothic Cathedral that from the 1600s to the 1800s was the tallest building in the world! So we decided to climb it. Here we are on the roof, overlooking the city.

In high school I learned about Flying Buttresses. Above are flying buttresses that provide a counter force to the heavy roof of the cathedral, which pushes outward on the walls. I am only talking about them because the words are fun to say. Below is a normal view of a normal street in that abnormally beautiful city. I don't think there is an ugly corner of the town...

The above shot is Marcos' favorite. We were in a rush to get back to the train station and did not take the opportunity to take a photo of this spot with us in it, but I wouldn't be surprised if he brings me back here one day to complete the perfect image he has in his mind's eye. It is sort of irrepressibly adorable (and I never use that word).

And then that evening we took the train an hour further into the countryside, to Domfessel, a small village where Melisande's grandmother has lived for many years. We stayed with the Rodenacker family in Oma's house, and this was the view from our window.

And my favorite: the view from the bathroom window...

These were very peaceful days, full of sleeping in, eating very well, wandering the countryside and harvesting plums, blackberries, etc. In America we don't use the word "village" very often, but this was at its very core a French village. There was no place to purchase anything (that had to be done at the neighboring larger village), the barns were out back behind the house, and the country air was filled with the chatter of talking geese and the smell of cow poo.

One warm day during our stay in Domfessel we found a spot behind the barn and set up a table and got to grilling. And wow... the fresh meats from the butcher shop at the neighboring village were so good they put hair on my baby's chest! Melisande's mom Ruth taught us the art of salting meats such as chicken after they are grilled so that the meat stays tender.

Above, Jakob stokes the flames, and below, Melisande's parents Karsten and Ruth chat and wait for lunch. It was really a special feeling to spend time with the family that housed me as an exchange student in Munich ten years ago, and we are so grateful for their kindness. This time I came with my husband, and a baby on the way: a chapter or two farther along than I was the last time I saw them.

The spread. I promise, I would not take this much time talking about it if it hadn't been THAT incredible. Here is Marcos, enjoying his walk in the clouds.

Marcos had no idea I was taking this picture, but I needed it as proof that occasionally he gets full. Below: our wanderings in the fields, preparing our minds for the blackberry harvest.

Marcos has always wanted to try whittling, and finally had a chance. The tom cat didn't get the concept of safety circle, but I understood his difficulty in staying away from Marcos' soft demeanor. Below is my favorite photo of Jakob and Melisande. Can we just be friends forever?

What else did we do in the countryside? Harvest plums, and visit Oma, where she now lives at a not-so-young person's home in a neighboring town.

(O nein, Melisande, ich habe total vergessen die Fotos an Oma zu schicken! Kannst du mir bitte ihre Addrese geben... es tut mir echt Leid. Neulich kann ich fast NICHTS erinnern).

And then there was Le Petit Pierre, a small town in Elsass which has an old castle. Melisande and Jakob took us to wander the paths and explore the area, which looked something like this...

And that is the story of us in the countryside of Elsass, France. I hope you feel well rested, because our next stop is Paris! From country to metropolis in four hours...


Unknown said...

Awesome pictures and wonderful story-telling... I am just simply jealous of your vacation. Scenery, people, food and everything look just great.

Robbie said...

After seeing all of those yummy meats, the oatmeal i'm about to eat doesn't seem too appealing! I love that cute town, too. i hope i get to go to europe someday. glad you could go back and see your host family with your hubby!

The Kammeyers said...

Oh my goodness, I don't even know where to begin in commenting on this point... In a word: Delightful! You're right about Srasbourg, it does look overwhelmingly cute. :) Glad you guys had this chance to travel and visit friends/family. (You certainly made the most of it, pregnancy sickness & all). :)

nirupam said...

Nice experience. I came across to your post while I was looking for my friend Karsten Rodenacker. Long time ago, nearly 22 years ago, when I was an young researcher I got opportunity to work with Karsten at Munich. I met the family, the kids were 13,11, and 9 at that time. I could easily recognize my friend from your picture, and Ruth as well as. I was living in India at that time. Karsten never let me feel that I am from different culture, race. Years later I move to United States, but my experience of Munich made my transition smooth. Thank you once again to show my friend's picture.