dimanche 12 mai 2013

Glass-drop man

There is a litany of conspiracy theories and monster quests in the world: Bigfoot, Slender Man, Aliens.... I propose to you now that there is a man who drives around France and walks into restaurants to throw one glass on the ground. 

I developed this theory because I cannot go to any city for more than 24 hours without hearing a glass fall and break. It adds a kind of trademark to French restaurants, and has become a running joke between Anna and I. I do not know whether it's only one man or an entire glass slinging syndicate, but he/they are everywhere.

From now on, know that if you walk past a French restaurant and you hear the shattering of a glass, that the Glass Breaking culprit is hard at work.

samedi 11 mai 2013

Strasbourg, terra non patria

In the département of Alsace is the fascinating city of Strasbourg, a city without two countries. All of the signs are in French and German, and everyone there speaks at minimum those two languages, usually in addition to English. The city is most famous for the island of "Petite France," a UNESCO-protected site in the Ill River. Petite France is a conglomeration of medieval-style houses in Strasbourg where you can find the best Alsacien and French food in the city. 

In our time in the city we took two trips to the massive cathédrale made out of pink sandstone. The object of my quest in the cathedral was a huge solar clock that has been in more or less continuous function since the 16th century. It is a huge clock that keeps track of the trajectory of the planets along with the time and date. 

Strasbourgeoise culture is often said to be a mixture of French and German, but I saw a lot of pieces indicative of Swiss culture, as well. For example, Alsace is the département that exports the most chocolate in France, and the traditional garb of Alsace is very German-Swiss.

The biggest time to go to Strasbourg is during Christmas/Nöel/Weihnacht. There is a huge festival celebrating the holiday, and it has the added advantage of being very near the best slopes in France for snow sports.

As far as cuisine, Strasbourg has a taste all its own. Alsace is the production center for a few different kinds of wine, mainly Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, and Edelswicker. These are all white wines, and none are a blended variety as we had come to know them from Bordeaux. 

Riesling is one of the sweetest white wines you can find, which makes it perfect for a specialty of the region, Coq au Riesling, or cooked rooster in Riesling gravy. The other major dish to try in Strasbourg is Choucroute alsacienne, or Alsace Sauerkraut. It includes traditionally three or four types of sausage.

A few other types of dishes are native to Alsace. In true Strasbourg fashion, one is know by both its French and German name, and you'll see it advertised as one or the other depending on the part of town you are in: flammeküche or tarte flambée. The easiest way to explain this dish is a sort of pizza without marinara, and usually a very specific selection of one or two specific traditional toppings including lardons, or chopped up, fatty bacon. Baeckeoffe is a kind of roast stew with carrots, potatoes, and white wine. 

In all, Strasbourg is a fascinating city with a melangée culture and Franco-German styling. We had a lot of fun, and the Strasbourgeoise were very nice.

Bier, Wurst, und Sauerkraut!

Last night, we ate at a beer hall in Frankfurt. The most impressive meal I have ever eaten in Germany was also one of the least expensive. I had house beer and Anna had the house Reisling. We split a plate of ox sausage, house-made sauerkraut, and beer bread. In total, our meal cost 17€, which
Is what our lunch cost each.

On Thursday when we arrived, we happened upon a festival in the old town center. They sold brats on buns with Dijon and beer. Twice this week, we have eaten meals that cost less than 5€, and they have been outstanding both times.

That's not to say that when we did shell out for food that it wasn't great. Here, we had lunch at a restaurant near the old town center. I had frankfurter schnitzel, which is scalloped veal with Grüne Soße, a Frankfurt specialty that consists of a mixture of seven herbs with yogurt and butter. Anna had a dish that consisted of four eggs and some potatoes with Grüne Sauce. Both were exemplary, and Grüne Soße is very good.

Sorry for the late blog post updates, but we have finally finished our classes, so maybe we can get back on track. We have to catch you up on Berlin, London, Verdun, Bordeaux, Provence... We have a lot, actually. Anyway, I'll catch you next time!