The Stork is symbol of the Strasbourg and the hole Alsace. When you walk all around you will see a stork. Storks have been a symbol of the Alsatian for many centuries. They would return every year from Africa to announce the coming of spring in France.Alsatian custom used to have a child who wanted a little brother or sister place a piece of sugar on the window ledge to attract the stork, in the hope it would leave the precious bundle in exchange for the treat.
December is supposed to be very cold in Strasbourg. That was not really the case during our visit (global warming, hehe!) but nevertheless, it was cool enough to make all the "vin chaud" booth a must. Vin chaud (warm wine) is sold as small, medium or large glasses. It is usually made with red wine heated in large pots with star-shaped anis (badiane), cinnamon corks and lemon pieces.
You also can buy Bretzels, gaufres (wafers), various kinds of sandwiches including amazing "tarte flambée sur baguette".
Each square in Strasbourg has its own Marchés de Noël. Though they have a lot in common, some are a bit specific. Here is the full list in 2006.
Place Broglie and Rue de la Comédie : Christkindelsmärik
Place Gutenberg : Village des Artisans Roumains (invited country changing every year).
Place des Meuniers,: Irréductibles Petits Producteurs Alsaciens
Place Benjamin Zix : Comptoir des rois Mages
Place du Marché Neuf
Place d'Austerlitz : Marché des Bredle
Place de la Cathédrale
Place du château.
They are all working from November 25th to December 24th from 10:00 to 20:00 (till 21:00 on week-ends). A few of them work until December 31st.
Photo 1 and 2 show the main alley of Christkindelsmärik in Place Broglie, the most important Marché de Noël in Strasbourg. These photos were taken on Saturday 9th December around 11:30. It was already difficult to walk because of the crowd. There will be even more visitors in the afternoon, and even more on Sunday and even more when getting closer to Christmas! If you enjoy the crowd, you will know when to come. If you don't, you also know!
The dialect spoken in Alsace is not homogeneous following the districts as it is not usually written but only spoken. It is one of the Alemanic languages that together with standard German, Francic and Bavarian, make the Hochdeutch languages (Higher German).
The Alemanic languages are three : Elsässisch (Alsatian), Schwäbisch (Souabe) and Schweizerdeutsch (Switzerland). The standard written form of these dialects is "hochdeutsch", standard German.
According to recent surveys, the number of dialect speakers is rapidly decreasing. Some 60% of the 1.6m inhabitants of Alsace speak the Alsatian dialect while only 36% of primary school pupils can speak it.
While visiting the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Strasbourg, we happened across the saddest gargoyle Sarah and I have ever spotted. We can only assume that since he was located at the bottom of the cathedral that he had done something terribly wrong and was banished to guarding the very bottom stones. In terms of gargoyle-dom, this must be one level above gum remover from the bottom of the ground. Hopefully he will have an opportunity to regain his stature at or near the top.
The Kougelhopf (in German: "Gugelhupf") is a traditional Alsatian cake with raisins. Unlike other cakes, Kougelhopf is not sweet and not intended to be served with coffee or tea. The appropriate drink to have with this cake is a dry Gewürztraminer, a variety of white wine that has a flowery, perfumed flavour.
On Place Benjamin Zix, close to Place des Meuniers,with the Irréductibles Petits Producteurs Alsaciens and next to the Petite France, there are only a dozen booth and it is much less crowded than on Place Broglie. This market is called Comptoir des Rois Mages (the Wise Men Trading Post), hence the (wooden!) camels at the entrance!
There was a service, and the Cathedral was full of praying people.
The priest read a pray, and parishioners repeated the certain places behind him. Then the organ played, the priest and chorus started singing, prayings picked them up. I listened to them, captivated by this majestic show.
Though Alsace produces mostly white wine, it is very seldom offered as Vin chaud. This booth is the only one that I have seen that offered regular Vin chaud (red), Vin blanc chaud, Jus d'orange chaud (warm orange juice) and bière chaude. My advice is that regular Vin chaud is the one that tastes better!
If you have already bought some figures for the crib, you might want to make around them an Alsatian village. In this booth, you will find every kind of typical Alsatian houses, all hand made, hand painted. Each of them is a unique piece!
I must admit I was quite surprised when I saw children playing in a playground at this house.
Why you may ask? Well, it is surrounded by water on both sides and only has a low fence to prevent them from falling/jumping into the water.
This house is the one you see near the Covered Bridges in Petit France.
This house is where divorced or separated husbands or wives, [the non-custodial parent] can come and meet their children on neutral land. Social workers and psychologists are at the house to help the recovery.
A good idea, I think so!
The Covered Bridges House is a detached house which consists of several rooms adapted to the age of the children.
House Covered Bridges
3 Covered Bridges
Tel. +33 (0) 3 88 32 74 69
On Place Gutenberg, Rumania is the invited country of the Marchés de Noël for 2006. The Village des artisans Roumains (village of Rumanian craftsmen) presents in a dozen boothes several aspects of Rumanian craft. In the middle, a group from Bucharest gave to the passers-by a sample of their traditional songs and dances. That was excellent! May be that we will go to Rumania for next vacations!
Next to the Rue du Bain aux Plantes, place des Meuniers (Millers square) hosts a special marché de Noël, the "Irréductibles petits producteurs d'Alsace" (indomitable small producers of Alsace). They propose their own production, always natural, often organic : duck fat liver, smoked eel, whortleberries juice, honey, gingerbread, etc.
However, though a great many booth offer drink and food, many other sell non-edible items. Enlarge the photos and you will see hundreds, no sorry, thousands of small figures and animals designed for the crib! The crowd was not only in the alleys of the market but also on the shelves!