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Strasbourg, France

We had our first field study trip today, to Strasbourg! In France!
We actually had class first (bummer, right?) so we didn't get to leave for Strasbourg until 1:30. The bus ride was only an hour or so, and Aymi, Meghan, Katie and I climbed the very front seats on the upper deck, so we could see everything! It was really cool at first, until you realize that the highway isn't that much more exciting from 5 feet higher. Although overpasses did seem dangerously low...
So we got to Strasbourg and went to see the Parlement Européen, or European Parliament. It would have been a lot cooler, though, if the ceiling hadn't just recently collapsed and the entire building been shut down as a safety hazard. You know, if we didn't just get to go into the courtyard and listen to some guy tell us all about what we could have been seeing... I'm not complaining, though, all of the information was stuff I pretty much knew anyway, and it was probably a lot shorter this way.

We then went into Strasbourg itself, to the Dom. The Dom is huge! It's slightly bothersome, though, that it only had one spire. One spire cathedrals are awesome when the one spire is in the middle and the building looks like it's only supposed to have one spire. This one had it off to the side on a corner, meaning there was supposed to be another one at the other corner, and it was supposed to be symmetrical. Other than that, it was amazing. They also had this awesome clock! In one corner, there's this huge contraption. There are three separate faces - the bottom one is a calendar that takes into account February and leap years, and the middle one is a flat out clock that runs off of a solar day (so it's sometimes a little behind a normal clock, but it all evens out in the end). The top one has six little golden balls that represent the six main planets known at the time of its construction, and tracks the movement of these planets in real time (so, if Saturn takes 30 years to rotate the sun, so does the little ball. These little miniature planets turned out to only be seconds off from the actual revolutions, as well). Above the top face is a sphere that sticks halfway out, and half of it is gold and half blue. That tracks the moon, so you can tell from this clock if it's a new moon, full moon, or waxing or waning.

Now, on either side of the calendar, there is an angel. The one on the left is holding a bell and stick-thing, and the one on the right an hourglass. Above the moon-sphere there is a glockenspiel set-up (with figures that rotate) and, right in the middle, a skeleton holding a bell. On the glockenspiel bit there are four characters - a young boy, a teenager, a grown man and an old man, and each holds a similar stick-thing to the angel. At a quarter after the hour, the clock lights up and the angel on the left hits its bell, then the young boy hits the bell the skeleton is holding, then the angel, then the boy, then the glockenspiel moves over one spot. On the half hour, the same process is repeated except that, due to the previous rotation, the teenage boy is now hitting the skeleton's bell, then it rotates to the man. At a quarter till, the angel rings his bell, the man rings the skeleton's bell, the angel again and then the man, and then one more rotation so that, on the hour, the old man is always alternating with the angel ringing the bell. The point is that the clock tracks life - from childhood through adulthood and eventually an elderly age. At every hour, as the old man passes the skeleton (representing death, of course) the angel on the right flips his hourglass, stating that another hour of life has passed us by. Typical German morbidity, I guess, but it's intriguing. This will be much better with a picture.

We had an hour-long tour of the city, including petit France which i still in its basic medieval form, and a lot of it hasn't ever been destroyed (we see a lot of cathedrals and buildings that have been restored but "retained its charm." These were just flat-out the real things, which was awesome). I loved walking down streets knowing that hundreds of years worth of people had actually touched the same stones I had. That for hundreds of years children have been playing on the cobble-stones, and families have taken refuge inside the houses, and the same goods have been sold from the same buildings. It turned into an intense connection to history. Nothing has changed there for centuries.

Then we went for a good old traditional meal of Flamkuche, which wasn't nearly as good as the Flammkuche I've had near Koblenz, but we were in Alsace so it could be different.

Then we went back to the bus, hopped on, and waited. For a very long period of time.
The bus wouldn't start. We all piled out again, and the guys literally tried to push the double-decker charter bus a couple metres to try to get it started, but that didn't work either. The company had to send another bus all the way from Freiburg, which meant we had an hour to wait (this is after we'd been sitting on the curb for at least a half hour/45 minutes already while they tried to fix it), so IES treated us all to drinks at a nearby bar. We didn't get home until midnight.
And I caught a cold.

permalink written by  lost_red_balloon on September 11, 2008 from Strasbourg, France
from the travel blog: The European Union
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I'm sorry you caught a cold!

I'm really interested in this cathedral though...i wanna see pictures of the calendar/planets spheres! :)

I'm glad you're having a good time!

permalink written by  Heather on September 18, 2008

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