Into Germany – Strasbourg (France) and Ulm, Germany

Monday morning saw us driving further north toward Strasbourg. We had a choice from Colmar, to either go via Strasbourg or the Black Forest. We were both a bit intrigued by Strasbourg, the former capital of the Alsace region and current host of the European Parliament and Court of Human Rights. So, we decided to head that way first and come back from Germany via the Black Forest for some gateaux!

A final dog walk along the river at Colmar before a short hop up the road to Strasbourg. We were literally running along the Alsace wine route with the Vosges mountains in the distance, but felt we had enough wine stocks after so long around Bordeaux. The Alsace region has passed back and forth between Germany and France over the last two centuries and the very German sounding place names definitely feel much more German than French.

Strasbourg Cathedral

We we managed to get a spot in Strasbourg within a 30 minute walk of the city in a very nice campsite surrounded by nature. The cycle path going directly into Strasbourg was busy with commuters as we walked in during the late afternoon, we could have taken a smart electric tram into the centre of the old town but decided we would rather stretch our legs. We nonetheless headed to the final tram stop at the Place de l’Homme de Fer to orientate ourselves. This turned out to be a major transport hub of buses, trams and lots of people in the midst of a busy shopping area. It was crazy busy, Strasbourg having France’s second largest student population, it was quite a culture shock after so long on the road and we quickly retreated to a bar in the older Petite France area of the city and refused to venture further.

The menu was full of various pork items, schnitzels, sausages, sauerkraut etc of the Alsace version, bar snacks were sausages and pretzels. The local Meteor beer was very German but very nice, in a modern bar but with a very French classic Citroen van for decor in the middle, demonstrating the very mixed culture which is Alsace.

The next day, we decided to give Strasbourg a better chance and headed to the very impressive and imposing Cathedral and back through some of the older streets of Petite France. The colourful half timbered houses of the region and river side location made a much better impression away from the worst of the crowds. We also managed to try some of the tarte flambée for lunch which everyone had been eating the night before. Large very thin pizza-like flat breads using crème fraîche, onions and lardons as a base (bacon bits or veggie version without) instead of tomato purée, topped with cheese and mushrooms. They were really tasty, you kind of roll up the slices to eat them, people were even eating a sweet version of desert.

We had just a taste of sunshine in the evening, but it is a lot colder by coming just that bit further north and east. Wednesday was raining steadily all day and cold, we decided to do some miles and strike out for Germany. The easy, fast moving toll-free roads in Germany made that journey go smoothly and we were soon in the city of Ulm. The large, well equipped and well maintained Stellplatz for €12 /night next to the sport centre was just as good as we remembered from our previous travels Germany. There is a sauna, ice rink and swimming pool next door but all the pools appear to be outdoors, even the sauna pool but it felt bitterly cold for that to us. The rain did not ease all afternoon / evening, so we had a rare day indoors.

Thursday, we decided we really have to brave the weather and see the local area, starting with dog walk along the river Danube. The wind was bitter but we soon warmed up as we got going alongside the scarily fast flowing river.

Ulm church spire overlooking the Danube

Mid-morning we followed the riverside path the other way into Ulm, toward the vast spire of the church of Ulm, according to local tourist information, the biggest church spire in the world. It is certainly impressive and apparently on a clear day you can see the Alps from the top. Sadly, this was not such a day and we wrapped up for the warm, wistfully looking at the forecast in Bordeaux which was 24 degrees today.

The old town of Ulm is cross-crossed with canals, more half-timbered houses and dominated by the the central Münsterplatz and Ulmer Münster church, unfortunately partially shrouded in scaffold. Imagine having to put up that scaffold!

Wonkiest hotel in Ulm

We saw the ‘worlds most wonky hotel” verified by Guinness World records, a half-timbered Hotel Schiefes built in 1406. An extension built in 1443 on less solid ground meant the south wall tilted away from the house, impressive how far the wood could stretch. It has been shored up now by a stone wall and some concrete piles apparently, but it must still have some fairly sloping floors upstairs, assume the beds are levelled at least for sleeping.

Herrenkeller dating back to 1395

We marvelled at the take-away food places with goulash and various meat dishes served hot with queues out the door to taken away or eaten on shelves around the shop.

We were pretty chilly from our couple of mile walk along the river and decided to find somewhere warm. This being our first stop in Germany, yet again we needed to survey the local cuisine. We opted for a very cute traditional Herrenkeller restaurant, originally brewery, with forbidding looking double doors and a full length curtain to negotiate on the way, but thankfully we were not the only ones there. The wooden tavern was arranged around a central chimney / oven. Kevin tried the local German ravioli, which classically was vastly over-engineered versus its Italian counterpart. Not for the Germans the scanty scrap of meat and flimsy parcel of pasta. The local variety was packed with meat on multiple layers, more like Beef Wellington than ravioli. Amazingly having lived on salad and fries in Germany last time, they even had a vegan / vegetarian menu for me too.

German engineering applied to ravioli 🤣

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