Friday, June 18, 2010

Wissembourg, Alsace, France

Our plan was to spend the afternoon and have dinner in Wissembourg. It was a holiday in both France and Germany--Ascension Day, the day Jesus ascended to heaven. What we didn't know was that it was a festival street market day in Wissembourg, but we figured that out quickly when we saw the cars lining the streets and people heading for and away from one particular area.

We lucked out when we entered a small parking lot in search of a space and a man offered us the space he was leaving.

Wissembourg is lush green town on the river Lauter. The amount water that flows through the town is controlled by locks such as the one we passed as we came into the festival area (lower left in the photo above).

I realize I haven't talked about food here recently, so this is my opportunity. In addition to soap, and crafty items, there were vendors selling food. We were hungry so our first stop was to taste dried sausages. These are air-dryed sausages. We bought several, translating the ingredients from French to German to English. If I remember correctly one was made with beets as an added ingredient. They all tasted good, so we bought four different kinds.

Next stop bread.

Breads in Europe are baked darker than we usually bake them here, but they also start with a darker dough that usually has rye in it (see the cut bread at the top of this display) .

Dave picked up some cheeses to try, while Wolfgang chose some cookies.

These are basically butter cookies with just enough sugar and flour to hold them together when baked. The butter is from Brittany, which is the gold standard for full-flavored European butter.

As we left the street market area, we passed a stage with folk musicians and costumed dancers of all ages. Seeing a sign for toilets, we turned down a side street in the direction indicated but found only old buildings, with no public toilets. The building in the upper center is the Salt House, where the salt tax was paid (a very unpopular tax because while salt was needed by everyone for preservation, the nobility and clergy were exempted from paying the tax).

We stopped at a restaurant (with a toilet), to sit and have coffee alongside the canal.

I think the outdoor tables were along the right-hand side of this stretch of canal. The restaurant was actually located across the street from their outdoor dining tables. We probably would have opted for eating dinner there if the waitress had not been so bizarre. She gave Wolfgang a menu, but then the people at the table near us (who were there first) needed to see a menu so she grabbed it from Wolfgang and passed it to them. So we just ordered coffee and sparkling water (and asked to see the menu). It took a really long time for her to get back to us with our full order, then when a newly arrived group asked for the menu, she grabbed it from me. At that point, we decided not to have dinner there.

Walking back to our car, we had to admit that it was a pretty good story anyhow and we decided that dinner in Mannheim would be just fine. In the meantime Dave popped into a bakery to pick up a tasty Alsatian pastry to eat along with some Breton cookies, sausage, cheese, and bread before our drive back to Mannheim.

That night we ate on the sidewalk at a French restaurant across from the dancing fountain in front of the Mannheim water tower. The fountain, designed in the early 1900s, performed a complex program, which Dave pointed out was not controlled by a computer at the time it was built. As the evening darkened, the lights in the fountain came on, giving us an even better show.

We'd left our camera back at Andrea's apartment, but I had my trusty iPhone handy so here's a quick snapshot of the fountain midway through its performance. A fitting end to a grand day and our last evening in Mannheim.

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