Remember I mentioned the Rhine was running high? Uh-huh. So high the river controllers closed the river. We were stuck at Mannheim. We were meant to be higher up the river, at Germersheim, which is why we had to travel further for our shore excursion to Strasbourg. Our tour director was on the phone for hours, rescheduling buses and tour guides. She earned her pay today. The tour started earlier and since we would be out later and unable to return to the ship for lunch, she provided everyone with lunch money to buy their own lunch in Strasbourg. It was one of the few days when the weather was poor, with light drizzle and temperatures around 10-12 degrees. I was glad I had my leather coat, but perhaps I would have been better off with the thick waterproof, less elegant garment. Never mind. The weather cleared.
These days Strasbourg is part of France. But it hasn’t always been so. As usual, the city dates back to the Romans and it has a fascinating history, which you can read about here. Crossing from Germany over to France wasn’t a problem – no control, no guards. no border patrol.
After a two hour bus ride, the driver stopped at a point where public toilets were available. There were two Scenic buses, and another couple of buses from Viking. There must have been somewhere close to one hundred people milling around waiting to go to the lav. I decided to hang on.
It’s a very pretty city with a fascinating history. Interesting that the most picturesque part of town used to be the smelly, horrible tanners’ area. It doesn’t smell anymore, of course. But it would have.
Strasbourg, like most Rhine cities, was started by the Romans, but it has changed a great deal over the centuries. It has a baroque cathedral, Notre Dame de Strasbourg, which was originally supposed to be a copy of Notre Dame de Paris. But as usual, the burghers couldn’t leave well enough alone, and added bits and pieces. Our local guide was an old man who clearly had a passion for architecture. He was perfectly willing to explain the nuances of various styles of buildings ad nauseum. Not everyone shared that compulsion, of course. That said, Notre Dame de Strasbourg is a magnificent example of Gothic architecture and well worth a visit.
One thing we found – interesting – about Strasbourg was the beggars. They are everywhere, usually silently sitting with a sign. But there were more in Strasbourg than we saw in Germany. A number of them parked outside the cathedral, and actually approached people to ask for handouts. I was surprised the Strasbourg authorities allowed it, especially when we saw a platoon of heavily armed soldiers passing through the street. (Sorry, no picture – it didn’t seem like a good idea.)
We also admired the statue of Guttenberg (built the first printing press) and heard about his lack of business acumen. Lunch was coffee and a pizza in a local café, paid for with lunch money provided by Scenic. It took a while to arrive, but it was fresh made and very tasty.
Renate, our guide on the bus, entertained us with stories about German life. Eg if you rent an apartment you have to provide your own kitchen, and take it with you when you leave. And getting a driver’s licence costs two thousand Euros – but you only pay it once. Unless you lose it for traffic misdemeanours, like tail gating on the autobahn.