Bonjour encore, Strasbourg!

Despite the pandemonium experienced during the final leg of our German road trip, we managed to travel to Strasbourg in three hours.

‘We are like an old pro now, aren’t we?’ I chatted to mum as we strode towards Hotel Cathédrale from La place Gutenberg. We were there a mere seven days ago and acquainted ourselves with the area already.

Bonjour, our one night nest!

Last time we were in the city, we only had a few hours to explore the place in reality. It was in a late Saturday afternoon when we arrived and had to leave for Würzburg next morning.

This time, we reach the city by lunchtime, therefore, we had ample time to explore the place further. Mum and I dumped our luggage in our hotel room and went out to see what Strasbourg’s Saturday was really like.

Saturday was market day, and there were stalls laden with antiques and crafts all around La place Gutenberg…

At one stall which specialized in vintage and second-hand books, I asked in my basic French if they had any book of Caroline et ses amis by Pierre Probst. An old vendor in a director’s chair with a Panama hat on looked very surprised and asked me why I knew about the books. I answered him in my basic French again that the series was my childhood favourite.

Caroline and her friends on summer vacation in original French…

Then, the Japanese version with which I grew up…

I loved all the characters in the series…

and especially Youpi, I loved the most because he was the naughtiest…

And I named my aunt’s Yorkshire terrier as Youpi as well!

It was before we had a family dog, and Caroline and her friends really made me fantasised about the life with furry friends…

The old man apologised that he didn’t have any Caroline book in stock and I had to walk away from the stall empty-handed.

It would have been wonderful if I could read the book with mum again…

Some years back, I did managed to buy a few copies of the vintage Caroline series at one of the antique bookshops in Passage Jouffroy, Paris. The books smelt rather musty, but they brought back all the memories of my early childhood.

‘Now, let’s stretch our leg further, mum!’ We turned northward and walked towards Rue des Grandes Arcades…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Lost in Germany

Unlike the previous day, the morning of our departure started with a downpour. Well, that explains why last night was very so sticky! We agreed as we packed our luggage.

Oh, poor you!

Below our window, there were a group of weekend cyclists who were pondering what to do with the pouring rain.

We checked out shortly before 9 o’clock and steered our car towards Strasbourg.

My Google Maps estimated the distance from Salem to Strasbourg as 188km and the journey would take a little more than two and half hours.

However, the actual journey turned out to be not so straight forward…

During our road trip, we always admired German style of doing things, like their automatically rotating toilet seats at their motorway services, efficient and cheap public transports, etc. However, we were not at all impressed with the way they managed their roadworks.

In Britain, any roadworks or events would be signed well in advance, and any associated traffic diversions would be clearly signposted too so drivers wouldn’t get confused or go astray.

I can’t remember exactly where, because I was in a state of panic, but somewhere between Hornberg and Gengenbach, there was a long tunnel going through underneath the mountainous region. Up until that point, we were making a good progress thanks to Google Maps, and feeling pretty optimistic. Then, we arrived at a traffic crossing and beyond it, we could see the opening of a tunnel. Once the light changed to green, the satnav directed me to cross over and head for the tunnel.

‘OMG, what’s going on here?!’ I saw a road block which was barring the entry and a red lamp was shining at the top of the entrance. Do you mean the tunnel is closed?! And where is an alternative route?! It was a dead end and I could do nothing other than a three-point turn.

For a while, we drove around like a headless chicken. The satnav didn’t understand why I was not following the navigation and kept on insisting on me to turn around and go back to the tunnel. ‘Oh, shut up!’ I cursed and scanned my horizon for any road sign indicating the alternative directions.

Then, we ended up on the street which seemed to be leading to a town, and the street was very crowded. It appeared that those behind the wheels were also in the same boat, lost and confused by the closure of the tunnel.

We sat behind the queue for a while, feeling let down by the nonchalant attitude of the German highway agency. Why didn’t they put up road signs? Not all the drivers were local and most of us rely on satnav nowadays. I never experienced anything like this in the UK or France. Aren’t you a bit careless, you German traffic control? We weren’t very pleased.

The town we drove through at snail pace was busy with the Saturday shopper’s. Some stretches of the street were cobbled instead of tarmacked, and rows of colourful bunting were stretched across the street lamps. We would have enjoyed the scenery and even been tempted to make a detour to have a coffee break if we weren’t so horribly lost.

After the town, we (and our fellow drivers) found ourselves near a large business park. What do we do next? Up until that point, I was still listening to Google Maps and following its navigation. ‘Mum, I have to ditch the satnav for now.’ I turned my iPhone off because I had a sinking feeling that it was directing us towards the useless tunnel again. As I made a U-turn, we saw a coach which was a few cars ahead of us making a U-turn in the forecourt of the petrol station. Oh god, no one knows where we are heading…

We decided to follow the traffic ahead of us, hoping if they were locals and knew the alternative route. But no, a bunch of us ended up at the mouth of another blocked up tunnel shortly afterward. And again, there was no road sign. We all scrambling to make a U-turn in haste, and the scene resembled the one from the cartoon, Wacky Races!

Those cars, which were thrown into disarray with us, were all German. What do they feel about being aboandoned like this? Where is the German efficiency?!

Again, I realised how lucky I was to have mum sitting next to me. She had been driving for a long time, and she knew how to get out of the sticky situations like this. ‘Look, that coach! You remember it was making a U-turn at the petrol station?’ She pointed at a blue coach which was about 80m ahead of us. Oh yeah, it was the same coach! She suggested that we should follow it because the coach driver may have known the area well and been travelling on the alternative route already. If the coach was a holiday charter kind, it may be heading towards Strasbourg as well! So we started to follow it. The tall body of the coach was easy to keep an eye on, and mum spread our reserve paper map on her lap and trailed our progress with her index finger. I felt very reassured.

Mum’s hunch was spot on! The coach did lead us to Strasbourg. And to our delight, we saw a “GB” badge plate which was displayed on the rear of the coach when we got closer to it as the traffic slowed down after crossing the French Border. At the exit toward Strasbourg city centre, the coach in shining armour did not come off E52 like we did, and it carried on towards Reims instead.

Thank you very much for helping us even though you had no idea that we were using you as a guiding beacon! We waved at the coach as it disappeared rapidly out of our sights.

Once again, Google Map was turned on, and we headed towards an underground car park in La place Gutenberg…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Kloster und Schloss Salem

After our last “German” supper at the beer garden, mum and I strolled towards the direction from where the cyclists appeared. ‘What can it be?’ We were very curious.

Before an imposing gatehouse building, we saw a site map of the surrounding area…

The hotel in which we stayed was two white buildings in front of the brown square building “Eingang” – a ticket office & shop.

This is another map on which you can see how vast the monastery once was…

The former monastery guesthouse and the present hotel was to be built on the edge of the monastery boundary near the right bottom corner of the map.

Mum with Unteres Tor…

By the way, “unteres tor” means “lower gate” in German. The gatehouse was very substantial and impressive. Inside of the deep passage had no illumination and the opposite side of the gate with decorative steel gates looked like the end of a tunnel.

As we walked through the gatehouse, we found a plaque on the wall…

The plaque stated “Markgräflich Badische, Court Pharmacy, former monastery pharmacy founded around 1500”. Apparently, a term “Hof-Apotheke” suggests that the pharmacy was not an ordinary kind but a court pharmacy which was for a princely court. I don’t intend to delve into the history of the pharmacy too far, but I imagine the monastery must have had a close tie with the imperial court of Holy Roman Emperor as the portrait of the abbot with a badge of the Imperial Eagle in my previous post.

There was another thing which made the place rather unique. It was a name, “Kloster und Schloss Salem”. A term “Schloss” which means “Palace” in German and it may mislead some people including me as the place was once a residence for aristocrats or royals. Contrary to my expectation, the place was used exclusively as a home for the Cistercian monks until 1803. I have been trying to find out why it was called “schloss” but my effort hasn’t bore fruit so far. If anyone knows the origin of the naming, please enlighten me!

The other side of the gatehouse was a large open turfed ground with crisscrossing footpaths and pavements.

A Baroque-style building and mum…

The building used to be Salem Abbey and now it is owned by the State of Baden-Württemberg. Inside, it houses the administration faculty of Markgräflich Badische, the cultural office of Bodensee district and a museum dedicated to the former monastery.

You may wonder why the abbey, which was established in 1134, is in Baroque style? It was because the original structure from the 12th century was destroyed by a fire in 1697 and the reconstruction was done in the style of Baroque.

An impressive church in Gothic style…

The only structure escaped the fire of 1697.

The sound of pipe organ was heard through the door which stood ajar. It seemed to be the church was holding an evening service. One thing I still remember vividly about that church was the small of the place. As we walked past the opened door, a whiff of musty smell, which was like the one of cellar’s, struck our nose. It smelt very very old, we agreed.

A cross on the wall of the church…

In the middle of the turfed area, there was a bust of a man, bearing an inscription “PRINZ WILHELM von BADEN”…

His family, the house of Baden, gained considerable territory in Southern Germany after the Holy Roman Empire was finally dissolved by Napoleon in 1802. Napoleon decided to reorganise the aftermath of the dissolution by giving away key territories to secure an alliance with the prince-elector of Baden and in which Salem Abbey was included.

The statue of the prince was facing squarely a building called “Marstall”…

“Marstall” means “royal stable” in German. This ornate structure was created in 1734 for the horses and carriages of the abbot and its guests. According to the guide book, the Baroque interior was still almost perfectly preserved and it was decorated with paintings and wood sculptures by Joseph Anton Feuchtmayer. If I had known more about the abbey beforehand, I could have shown all of them to mum. Damn!!

Along the Marstall, there were oblong buildings which appeared to house some studios and shops…

Some of them were clearly commercial premises and the others seemed to be used as a storage.

Beautiful roses were blooming here and there along the building…

The roses were very well kept and the place was spotlessly clean. But where is everybody? We were puzzled as there was not a single soul around us. ‘I guess all went home for the weekend already because it’s Friday?’ We reasoned as we pottered along the path.

Fancy meeting you here, your Majesty!

In one of the window, I spotted a bobblehead doll of Queen Elizabeth! The sight made us smile because it was totally unexpected.

Staying in Salem turned out to be a treat for both of us as the place was not too touristy, therefore, we could experience somewhat more authentic German atmosphere.

Did you know the place was given the biblical name “Salem”, which meant “place of peace”?

We sat on one of the wooden benches near the hotel and mused how the name was fitting to the place like Salem.

We should go back and have some rest, we stood up, patted our backsides and headed to the hotel.

Look mum, their door handle is so pretty!

Were these made by one of the blacksmiths who were displaying wroughtiron works in the windows along the abbey square?

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Beer garden @ Markgräflich Badischer Gasthof Schwanen

Before I start to write about our last German supper at their beer garden, let me fill you in with the history of this hotel. I still regret about not doing any homework before visiting this amazing place which resulted in me not allocating enough time to explore the hotel and its surrounding area.

Markgräflich Badischer Gasthof Schwanen was mentioned by the chronicler Franz Xaver Staiger in 1863. He recorded that the placed was called the “Gasthaus zum Schwanen” and it was built in 1665 as a monastery guesthouse of the Cistercian monastery.

Reichsprallat Anselm II Schwab, one of the abbots of the monastery Salem who was portrayed in 1749 by Gottfried Bernhard Göz in front of the Imperial Eagle…

Once upon a time, it was a monastery wine tavern and pub, and now, the place is a restaurant with a beer garden for the locals and visitors…

The beer garden was half-filled with guests who seemed to be enjoying a long summer evening with a lively conversation and glasses of beer.

Mum and I sat ourselves down at one of the tables and ordered beer…

Ahhh, how much we loved German beer! They were well chilled and rich without being too bitter. A perfect accompaniment to alfresco dining.

The menu was brought by a waitress who spoke very limited English and their menu was described in German only. Hmm, what should we do? We looked around and found two diners nearby who were eating something looked tempting. ‘Let’s try what they have!’ I pointed at their table and gestured to the waitress. She, in turn, nodded and disappeared into the kitchen.

While mum and I waited for our food, we sipped our beer and reminisced about our road trip. ‘Can you believe this beer garden is the last German beer garden of our holiday?’ We couldn’t help getting sentimental.

Then, the foods were brought to our table…

Mum had “Gebratene Schweinefilletmedaillons an Pfefferrahmsoße mit Eierspätzle und einum gemischten Salatteller” – fried pork fillet medallions with pepper cream sauce with egg tender pasta and mixed salad dish. She wanted spätzle because there would be nothing like it in Japan.
My last German supper was “Maishähnchenbrust an Rosmarinrahmsoße mit Basmatireis und einum gemischten Salatteller” – corned chicken breast with rosemary cream sauce with basmati rice and mixed salad dish. I hadn’t had rice for a long time, therefore, I enjoyed it very much.

While we were dining, we saw more than a few cyclists riding out from the gate nearby and were very intrigued by it. Maybe we should investigate what is behind the gate after dinner, we discussed as we chewed through our food…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Markgräflich Badischer Gasthof Schwanen @ Salem

When we arrived at Salem, the time was already 4 o’clock. ‘So we made it here in 3 hours then.’ Mum and I chatted as we unloaded bags from the car by the entrance of Markgräflich Badischer Gasthof Schwanen, our one-night abode. Hmm, where should I park my car? I scratched my head as the car park was already full and found no staff at the reception…

An wrought iron signpost of the hotel…

Mum posing at the front door…

Is anyone here?

I parked the car temporarily by the entrance, asked mum to stay with the car and went inside to look for a help. After sticking my head in almost every doorway on the ground floor, I managed to find a staff who processed our check-in. He also told me where to park my car and give me a sheet of paper with Wi-Fi password.

Our room was on the second floor and we climbed up their well polished staircase…

Before it was converted to a hotel, this building used to be a part of a local monastery. The history was reflected on their pared-down decor.

The place was very quiet…

Our room…

The furnishing was simple but it was well-tended and clean. As I opened the east-facing windows, slightly humid air rushed into the room.

‘Shall we go down, mum?’

We headed to an adjacent beer garden for a well-earned cold beer and grub…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Blog at WordPress.com.