Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Wissembourg: ein Nachmittag in Frankreich // An Afternoon in France

February 28, 2015

My little afternoon trip to a nearby town in France was spontaneous, a trait I have learned to cherish during this semester. One of Cara Beth's friends from high school came to visit for a few days and I had left my weekend open in case we went to Heidelberg on Saturday. But Heidelberg was pushed back to Sunday and my Saturday was left wide open, so I joined a few friends and traveled the hour and a half journey by train to one of France's border towns, Wissembourg. Wissembourg is somehow part of the RNV public transport region and so was free to travel to on my student semester ticket. 

None of us had ever heard of the town or knew what there was to do (except for Shannon), so we spent a few hours leisurely wandering around the center and surrounding area. Many of the old buildings looked liked those in German villages -- in fact, most of the city was similar to German cities, aside from the signs written in French. With the lack of people (Wissembourg is not a tourist destination) and the little canals running through the town, I felt like I was in a sleepy little village and would disrupt the calm.

We explored the Abbatiale Sts Pierre et Paul, a gorgeous medieval cathedral in the middle of town. The inside was dim, with the only lighting coming through the intricate stained glass windows. Though there was not a service, choral music played inside, giving the church a more vibrant atmosphere than the usual silence. We walked around the outside and discovered a cloister housing a copy of one of the oldest known pieces of stained glass. The cloister was tucked away into the back corner and would easily be missed by all but the careful observer. 

Once back outside the cathedral, we found a greenway leading to some ruins and the beautiful nature area surrounding the city. We were able to get a fantastic view of both the city and the nearby mountains from the top of one of the hills. 

At this point it was late in the afternoon and we were all a bit peckish. We tried finding an inexpensive French cafe but everywhere we found was closed until dinnertime, so we "settled" for scavenging the supermarket (settled as in had the best time because the selection was so much better than what we can find in our Mannheim grocery stores). We each bought about 4€ worth of food -- a selection of meats and cheese and bread and juice and spreads and desserts -- and shared them with the group. We found a park close to the supermarket, put our coats on the ground, and had a picnic in the glorious sunlight.

Though Wissembourg does not have much to offer the typical tourist, we enjoyed our time wandering around and taking in the sunshine. After exploring so many German cities over the past two months, we were happy to travel somewhere a little different from what we were used to. It's the perfect place to discover when the weather warms up and the only true place to be is in the sun.

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