Strasbourg and La Petite Pierre

Day 1 of my brother’s visit was spent in Karlsruhe, eating crepes and having a wander around. He had been before (about seven years ago!) so it was interesting to see what he remembered. Of course, some of the things he might have found familiar are now no longer visible due to ongoing construction for the tram tunnel!

After checking the weather for various places, we decided to make our first trip of the week Strasbourg simply because it wasn’t supposed to rain there! Strasbourg is about an hour’s drive from Karlsruhe (or between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours by train, depending on whether you take the express of regional transport). I didn’t actually take as many photos in Strasbourg as I normally would on day trips because I’ve been several times before (there’s only so many times you can photograph the same building!), but here are a few:

After walking around for a while and taking in the “main” sights (cathedral, canal), we decided to stop for lunch in the Petite-France area. It’s pretty touristy down there, but whatever. We were tourists, right? 😉 I decided to go traditionally Alsatian and have Tarte flambĂ©e (actually not 100% traditional, because while I did go with the baon and onion topping, I chose one that also included cheese… because cheese! No further explanation necessary).

Tarte flambée, or Flammkuchen in German
Tarte flambée, or Flammkuchen in German

Once we’d eaten, I wandered down the water’s edge and attempted to take a photo of a mother duck and her ducklings. I swear I’ve seen ducklings in Strasbourg every single time I’ve visited! No matter what the time of year, there are ducklings! (The one exception is the time I went for the Christmas market, but we were nowhere near the water then.)

Strasbourg

From Petite-France, we wandered down to the Barrage Vauban… the Vauban weir. Inside the weir there are sculptures and, when we were there, also an exhibition showing the various suburbs of Strasbourg as they used to be and as they are now they’ve been incorporated into Strasbourg (most were originally little villages). Vauban, who built the wier, was actually a military engineer and built numerous fortifications, all in a very specific style. On top of the weir, there is a panoramic terrace with a lovely view of the various bridges.

After walking around for a little longer, we decided to head back to the car. Instead of heading straight home, we used the sat nav to look for places of interest in the general vicinity and came up with La Petite Pierre, where there was supposedly a castle. It meant a bit of a detour, but still wasn’t too far from home, so we added it as an intermediate destination. Also, Jan told me the name of the village means “little rock”, which amused me because that means anyone whose name is Pierre is actually named rock! (Yes, the mame Peter actually means stone or rock as well, but that’s not the same as having the actual name Rock). By the time we arrived, the evening sky was the perfect colour for taking photos! Here’s the castle and the little church beside it:

In the grounds of the castle there was the following sculpture, carved entirely from a single tree branch. I thought it was cool!

There was some kind of exhibition in the castle, but none of us was really interested in seeing it, so instead we wandered over to a little garden/picnic area opposite. There, we found large stone coats of arms from the neighbouring villages. I’m pretty sure the hat on the first one once belonged to the Sorceror’s Apprentice 😉 Sorry, but I don’t actually remember which villages/regions the coats of arms were for. Any French people out there want to help?

On the way in to La Petite Pierre we had driven past a tearoom, so we decided to have a walk back down the hill and head there for a drink. On the way back through the village, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of a tiny door with carvings of girls carrying pretzels on it. It looked to me like it should be in a fairytale!

La Petite Pierre

The tearoom turned out to be fascinating… crammed full of all sorts of odds and ends, from various different teapots (okay, not that bizarre) to shoes randomly hanging on the wall. Sorry my second photo is a bit blurry, but I’m sure you get the idea!

After a quick look at the menu, I decided a hot chocolate with cream was the way forward.. and once it arrived the cup and saucer just begged for me to take a photo! We also all decided to have a piece of cake – lemon meringue pie for my brother and I and something with bergamot for Jan (I tried his – the bergamot doesn’t taste quite as perfumy in cake as in Earl Grey tea but it’s still not my favourite thing in the world!). My meringue was slightly chewy, but not too bad.

Once we’d finished eating and drinking, it was time to return to the car for the drive back to Karlsruhe. Day trip one done! next up is Basel, which I’m counting as my July trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge. Stay tuned!

Vienna: The beginning

We arrived in Vienna late on Sunday afternoon after a seven-and-a-half hour train journey (including one change in Munich). Needless to state, we were quite tired and not up to doing too much that evening! Coincidentally, fellow Germany-based blogger Stephen of Doing Time on the Donau was in Austria at the same time, also for a concert! We had originally planned to meet for breakfast the following morning before he had to catch his train, but as it turned out he got back from his day-trip early and still had some time before the concert that evening so we decided to meet for dinner instead. On the train, Jan had spent some time looking for a restaurant that served Marillenknödel (surprisingly difficult to find in Vienna) and before meeting Stephen we went to scope it out and decided it looked nice, so that’s where we ended up eating. It was a warm evening so we sat in the pretty little outdoor area.

I decided to go for the Faschiertes  Kalbschnitzel (pictured above), which is basically meatloaf. Faschiertes is Austrian German for minced or ground meat (ordinary German would be das Hackfleisch) with the meat in this case being Kalb – veal. Der Kalb is also the German word for calf – unlike us English speakers, they don’t bother with different words for live and dead animals 😉 Dessert obviously had to be the long-anticipated Marillenknödel, but I’ve already told you about them…

Once we’d eaten, Stephen had to head off for his concert, so Jan and I walked down to the Donaukanal (“Danube Canal”), a former arm of the River Danube that’s now a regulated water channel. It borders right on Vienna’s city centre. Down by the water, there are a number of little huts selling drinks with sandy areas and beach chairs beside them. Obviously a beer had to be consumed – we were on holiday after all! 😉 I chose Gösser because I remembered it fondly from when I lived in Austria.

As the evening wore on, it started to get a bit chilly, so once we’d finished our beers we headed back to the hotel where Jan switched on the football. I saw part of it but fell asleep before it was over. It had been a long day!

The next day, we decided to go to the National Library because we hadn’t made it there on our previous trip to Vienna. The library complex contains various museums, and we bought tickets for four areas. The Prunksall (Great Hall in English), the Papyrus Museum, the Esperanto Museum and the Globe Museum. The Prunksaal is absolutely gorgeous! So many old books, and such a beautifully painted ceiling! When we went, they also had a special exhibition about the First World War (which, as I’m sure you all know, was triggered by the shooting of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on 28 June 1914). Unlike other exhibitions, this one concentrated on what life was like for the people left back at home in Austria and was quite fascinating. Apparantly the Austrian Emperor, assuming that the war would be short and that Austria would win, had encouraged people to start sending in items relating to the war while it was still going on, which makes the collection at Austria’s National Library quite unique – everywhere else, documents were only sent in years after the war ended.

Our next stop was the Papyrus Museum, which contained numerous examples of writing on Papyrus, including Books of the Dead, extracts from the Koran, recipes for medicines and accounts (the financial kind). The Austrian National Library has one of the largest collections of papyri in the world and around 200 items are on display in the museum.

By the time we’d done the Papyrus museum, we were hungry and, in my case, incredibly thirsty, so we headed to the park in front of the library to eat the sandwiches we had bought at a supermarket near the hotel that morning. As we approached a fountain, we saw a crowd of people looking into the water and taking photos, so of course I wanted to know what they were all looking at that was so interesting. It turned out to be ducklings! All together now: “Awwww!”

We followed lunch with a visit to the Esperanto Museum, which was small but interesting. There was one station where you could listen to various constructed languages (including Esperanto). Then, last, but certainly not least, it was time for the globe museum. I adore globes, and this museum did not disappoint! They had enormous globes that I would need a ladder to see the top of and teeny, tiny globes. As well as ordinary globes showing the Earth at various points in history, they had celestial globes (showing the constellation), globes of the moon and even a Mars and a Venus globe. Something particularly interesting with the moon globes is that the very earliest ones only showed half of the moon… the side that could be seen through a telescope! The “back” was only filled in gradually once recording devices started to be sent up there and people actually made it to the moon! Until then, the other half of the globe was filled with explanations or symbols with a key.

Once the globe museum was done, we stopped for a quick beer then went to book a place on the tour for Dialog im Dunkeln the next day. There are no tours on Mondays, but staff are present in the building to take books. That done, we decided to try and find a place to watch the football. At the first place we tried, all the tables where you could actually see a screen were taken, so we went to the same beach hut we’d been to the day before, where there was a large screen. Of course, all the chairs there were taken too, but we sat on the ground by the water where we could just about see something. The match was pretty boring and the ground not exactly comfortable, so we ended up leaving at half time. Neitther of us was particularly hungry (we’d had a big breakfast and it was after 2 by the time we got round to eating our sandwiches), and I had a headache from spending so long wandering around museums without a drink, so we decided to go back to the hotel.

… And this seems like a good place to stop before this post gets even longer! More will follow soon. I’m counting Vienna as my June trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge.