September 9, 2014 – Today was our final morning in Switzerland. We loved the mountains, food, and how walkable and uncrowded our town was. After breakfast we headed into town to the grocery store for some sandwich supplies (bread, cheese, meat), juice and chocolate for a picnic lunch later in the day. Then we grabbed our packs and started the train journey back to Interlaken. It was bittersweet leaving the mountains, but the double decker train we got to Bern helped make up for it. This part of the country was definitely more crowded and built-up than where we stayed the past few days, and also flatter.
We had a layover in Basel, where we occupied our time by buying Swiss truffles (mocha and chili pepper were the favorites) and walking from the Swiss to the French part of the train station. This involved walking through a few wooden doors and past some uniformed, armed, very serious looking French border agents.
Our train to Strausbourg might have been slightly older… complete with curtains, fraying seats, and grinding gears as the train picked up speed. We passed through some older parts of the french countryside, with abandoned buildings, pretty but tired towns, and lots of farming.
Strasbourg was definitely a change from where we were, and definitely a city. It was also a challenge for us to go from German/English/a bit of French to we’re-close-to-Paris-now French. I’ll never look at the lost foreign tourist in NYC the same way again, all the credit to them for travelling in a giant city with a language barrier.
We settled into our hotel and then headed out to the Strasbourg Cathedral, about half a mile away. We walked through the cathedral twice before finding the sign for the stairs (outside, around the side). The cathedral is beautiful inside, with soaring ceilings and multiple levels of stained glass. The area it’s in is also quite nice, with older buildings, outdoor dining, and a large pedestrian square.
The climb to the top isn’t difficult, and we thought it was neat to walk up the stairs that had become worn in the middle from hundreds of years of other people taking the same trip. The cathedral provides a great view of the surrounding town, as well as part of Germany about a mile across the river. We were also interested in the old graffiti carved into the tower; the newer carvings were from the 1800s, and we found a few from the 1600s and 1700s as well.
We were fairly tired by this point, so we headed back to the hotel. Along the way we stopped at a pastry shop, for an almond croissant and a millefeuille (crispy pastry and cream, topped with a chocolate drizzle). Admittedly we originally wanted an almond pretzel, but, well… our pronunciation wasn’t that good, we were tired and just basically ate whatever we were given. The people at the shop were very nice though, despite our obvious lack of French language ability.
So, by now it was dinner time. This was the point in the trip that we were running on fumes, but we consulted our list of pre-selected restaurants and decided to walk out to the Petite-France section of the city. This was a very pretty area, with small winding streets, old buildings and a nice riverwalk. We found where we wanted to eat dinner – La Corde a Linge – a restaurant with plenty of outdoor seating under an old tree by the water.
Up next was the tricky part – trying to figure out how to get a table. We watched other people come up and sit down, though some people talked to a waitress first. Eventually we spotted a table for two, set with dinnerware and menus, and sat down. We seemed to have correctly interpreted how to find a table, since the waitress then came over and asked us if we wanted to eat (nod) and drink (more nods, yes please). We ordered some drinks and we each decided to get spaetzle – the cream and mushroom sauce with the noodles was fantastic. We took the long way back to our hotel, over old bridges, past towers, and along the small river that winds through the old town.