08 October, 2013

Saturday in Strasbourg and Feiertag in Freiburg

I'm long overdue for a blog post, and I've mainly been procrastinating because I was waiting for Maxim to upload pictures from our recent travels. As you can see from the title of the post, in the past two weeks we have visited Strasbourg, France and Freiburg, Germany, both of which are within 1.5 hours of Karlsruhe (traffic permitting).

Strasbourg was exciting even before we arrived because it was my first time in France! Even when I spent a year in Spain I never managed to hop the second of Spain's two land borders (Portugal was easy because it's so close to Sevilla), so this was a milestone for me. The only real difference I noticed after crossing the French border was that the road signs switched to French; since we are still within the European Union, crossing national borders is essentially the same as crossing into another state in the US. No border patrol, no passport check, just smooth sailing on the Autobahn (although French highways, unlike the German Autobahn, have speed limits everywhere).

Strasbourg is a beautiful city. Certain parts of it remind me of Sevilla, with very narrow, winding streets that cars can barely fit through and dangerously narrow cobblestone sidewalks. Other parts are more modern, but there is still a distinctly European feel that doesn't exist anywhere in the US. Describing it in words will not do it justice, so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Just to prove we were in France, here are some French flags!

I liked this street. (Bottom left in this picture is Dario, one of Maxim's roommates, who traveled with us. I don't think he knows this picture was taken, lol.)





Yes, there is an Apple Store in this gorgeous building. A perfect example of old and new coming together.


A cute little residential area we walked through.

The exit signs in the parking garage were funny :)

I think this building in the European Parliament? I can't remember exactly what it's called.
We also went to a cathedral, but honestly I've seen so many European cathedrals that I didn't really think it merited a picture in the blog. (Cathedral pictures are what Google is for.)

The week after we went to Strasbourg (meaning last week) we visited Freiburg, which is south of Karlsruhe. Freiburg was completely charming, and most of it was exactly like I pictured Germany to look like before I got here. Lots of old buildings, cobblestone streets, and great architecture. The day we visited was a holiday (Feiertag, which you may have noticed in the title, is German for holiday), so the streets were not very crowded and we were able to walk along peacefully without fighting tons of shoppers. We saw another cathedral, went to a Biergarten, saw people in traditional German outfits, and hiked up the hill overlooking the city. Again, the pictures do a better job of describing things than I will.

Martinstor (Martin's Gate), also sometimes referred to as "McDonald's Tor" (stupid McDonald's defacing a historic building!)

The best view I could get of the cathedral.

Some of the detail on the cathedral.




The view partway up the hill.
Since the day we went to Freiburg was a Thursday and a holiday, I also had Friday off, which gave me a great long weekend. We drove back from Freiburg on Friday, and on Saturday there was a meeting/celebration at Maxim's fraternity. I forget what the event is called, and I only have a minor understanding of what went on because, although I attended, the entire thing was in German. There were speeches, and singing, and a skit, and LOTS of beer! According to the official rules of the fraternity, if you don't have a beer in your hand you are not technically present, so whenever anyone came close to finishing their beer someone would bring them another one. Thanks to this, I lost track of how many beers I drank. I meant to take pictures, since everyone was dressed very classy, but apparently the only picture that resulted from that night is this one:

Dario and me. If you can't tell, Dario is wearing a monocle.
Those are the most noteworthy things that have happened since I last posted. Life and au pair duties otherwise continue as usual. I still don't have a bank account for various reasons, but that might be a topic for another post.

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