Day #4 - Strasbourg (France) - Freiburg (Germany)
Strasbourg comprises two main areas: 'Petite France' and the 'Grande Ile' (meaning main island).
'Petite France' is quite a sight to be seen. It is positioned in the south-west corner of Strasbourg and is home to many canals (much like Venice), cobble roads, outdoor cafes, old half-timbered houses and a general feeling that many centuries of life have moved through it's streets. We meandered around the streets in a kind of day dream as we simply soaked in this amazing atmosphere. It was quite a tranquil place, with only foot traffic allowed in certain areas. We stopped to buy a postcard at one of the lovely souvenir shops. As it is the Easter Season we saw stuffed bunnies in window boxes, alongside the regular flowers. Very cultural indeed.
Next we headed into the 'Grande Ile', the busier part of Strasbourg. This was everything I remembered and so much more. The streets were alive with pedestrians and lined with amazing stalls selling souvenirs, restaurants, cafes, icecreameries, sweet shops, bakeries with amazing goods on display...and then, right in the very centre, was the beautiful Gothic 'Cathedral Notre Dame' (not to be confused with the similarly named one in Paris). She is absolutely gorgeous! The Cathedral was mostly completed in 1284, although the 142m spire wasn't finished until later in 1439. We walked the inside very slowly, taking in every detail as we went. We paid a small fee (very inexpensive) to climb the spiral stairs leading up to the 66m high platform...422 spiral steps at that, but worth every part of the climb. From the top we could see all of Strasbourg, including 'Eglise St Paul' (another beautiful cathedral), and it's neighbouring cities. The bells even rang while we were at the top...they are massive...and oh so beautiful! Then it was back down the 422 steps (very dizzying) to the street below where we stopped for a well earned rest on the 'Rue Merciere' (the main square below). Matt & I enjoyed a cappucino while the boys had a real 'cornetto' (quite a sight to see & definately not cheap). Then we headed into a candy store to be amazed by all of the different coloured sweets. The boys got to enjoy a real French lolly pop too!
After that it was on to Germany. We got quite a shock as we arrived at the old border gates (that I had travelled through almost 20 years ago). They were burned to the ground, with protest posters around stating 'no border gates'. This was quite a statement to see! The people are free to come and go between these two countries as much as they please. Matt was very excited when we reached the famous Autobarn where speed limits are non-existant and speed is apparently of the most importance. We got up to about 140km which was quite scary, but others were literally just zooming past us on their way...amazing!
We finally reached Freiburg and decided a camping ground was definately the way to go for the night. We found a lovely camping ground (Camping Moselpark) , nesled into the edge of the Black Forest. Trees surrounded us as we set up camp with time to spare for once. We even went for a walk to watch the local frogs as they crossed the road next to the pond. The locals close this road off every night during the main frog season to protect them as they travel each day. It was quite a sight to see, with frogs literally everywhere as we walked. After our short walk we set back to camp to cook bratwurst for dinner before settling down for a well earned sleep in the tent....ahhh