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Feb 17, 2002
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Feb 23, 2002
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February 18, 2002
Strasbourg, Ground Up

Click on pink-border photos for larger photos
On February 18, the day after I returned from Ulm, I drove to Strasbourg, France which, ironically, I had photographed from the air on October 18, 1996 as I flew on my way to Turkey. I had it confused with Salzburg, Austria then. They sound a lot alike, but, nevertheless, this aerial shot is Strasbourg, France. It was only about an hour from Dorrenbach, Germany.

Strasbourg, France, October 18, 1997, from 30,000 feet

Panoramic of Strasbourg Cathedral, Strasbourg, France

Church door at Strasbourg Cathedral, France
Strasbourg Cathedral, Strasbourg, France, ground up

Church Organ at Strasbourg Cathedral, France>>>

Interior view, Strasbourg Cathedral, France

I saw the famous gothic cathedral (only 471 feet tall). It had only one spire, like a giant hand shouting,"We're Number One! We're Number One!". Those French. That scaffolding looked like a band-aid

It was a looker. My camera jammed (it was in dire need of maintenance), but I got a few good photos and avoided all the little surprises the French doggies left me on the streets. The canals were pretty and the drive there was pleasant. The Strasbourg Cathedral was made of sandstone, just like the church in Dorrenbach, and when it was completed in 1439, it was not in France, but Germany. It was also the tallest building in the world, a title it took from the Pyramid of Giza, and held for the next four centuries.

Strasbourg is such a famous city, I don't know where to start. In 1439, Gutenberg invented his movable type printing press there, making it a stronghold of the Christian Reformation. Literacy was the enemy of the Catholic Church. Strasbourg is also where the French national anthem was written. The Alsace region of France/Germany has shifted back and forth between Germany and France many times in the past 400 years, last being won back by France after World War II. It seemed like a fairly sleepy town, although it had a population of nearly 300,000. It was hard to believe this was the ninth largest city in all of France.

Strasbourg, however, was a diversion--after about two hours, I drove back up to Dorrenbach, Germany to see if I could shake it out of its slumber. It was 1pm on a Monday and everything was closed. I mean EVERYTHING. There was a village public restroom I’d counted on being open, that wasn't. I guess they don’t urinate before 2pm there either. Desperate, I went to the church cemetery, but it was too visible (Ingrid could see me from her house), and finally, I went to the village bus stop. I’m so glad I wasn’t caught. I stood in the corner of the little roof at the bus stop, turned my back towards any spectators, pulled out my manhood, and let 'er rip into the back corner. It's nature. Nothing to be ashamed of. It was either that or doing it in the suit (like Alan Shepard).

All the stores were set to open at either 2 or 2:30pm. Wow--how can I get those hours? I walked around town, feeling a lot more free and light now. I found the Brunck Wine house which sold wine, but the man couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak German. I was hungry, cold and couldn’t think. I left, unable to make a decision on anything. I felt dumb because my lack of German was really hurting me.

I drove to nearby Bad Bergzaben, to McDonald's, warmed up, fed myself (I love their McNazi sandwiches and their French/German/French/German fries), and returned to Dorrenbach with vigor, sprite, and warm cow flesh in my tummy. The little store was finally open, but the lady didn’t speak English and couldn’t help me find any beer steins.

I returned to the Brunck Wine house. It was closed! I rang a bell and an old man who could barely walk, pushing a wheelchair (pushing?...directions must have been in English), opened the door. I thought he was impersonating Tim Conway but no--apparently Tim Conway had been mocking him for over 30 years. I was so embarrassed because he really couldn’t walk, and I felt like you feel when you see some old pathetic (but lovable) lady giving everything she has to help you across the street, knowing you should be carrying her walker for her instead. I grabbed the old limping man many times, afraid he was going to tumble, pull out a little microphone and scream,"Ich war rückläufig, und ich kann nicht aufstehen!"

I told him what I wanted and although we couldn’t speak each others language, we communicated. I knew some German from my brother, and for the rest I guessed or drew stick people (the international language). He brought out a shot glass and poured me some wine to taste, but I had to move the glass to make sure the wine hit its intended target. It was like a bad scene from “Young Frankenstein” when the blind monk tried to show hospitality to the monster (I was the monster). And to make things worse, sometimes I slipped and answered him in Japanese. I bought four Dorrenbach shot glasses and two bottles of wine for 6 Euros (about $5.26) as souvenirs, to go along with the brick I'd knocked out of their cherished St. Martin's church. I kept questioning the price and the old man said it was six Euros. He couldn’t even write, so I slid his calculator over to him so that he could type the price. I felt bad keeping him there in his condition, so I paid it, thanked him, and left. I think he undercharged me.

I returned, AGAIN, to the little store and spoke to the same lady. I bought a Dorrenbach coffee mug and as I was checking out, I showed her the stick people I’d drawn for the old man showing my ancestry. In German she explained she knew Kate Weiss, my last surviving relative in Dorrenbach, who’d died six years prior. We were actually communicating! I was now feeling smart. This was fun. If she'd had a calculator I could've typed her a message, but all I knew was "HELLO" and "BOOB". She said that no Weiss lived in the Dorrenbach area anymore, but that Kate’s nephew lived in Turkey. Another gentleman who knew English entered the store. I asked him where I could pick up a Dorrenbach Beer Stein. He knew of a place in Bad Bergzaben that sold them--he said it was a souvenir shop near a huge church and "you can’t miss it". Boy was he right--I couldn’t miss it because there were about ten souvenir shops near that church, and none of them knew anything about Dorrenbach steins. After an hour of meeting many new, confused people, I left. My shopping days were over. I'd written in my journal that I'd bought a Dorrenbach coffee mug, but to this day, I don't remember doing that.

The traveling was just too much--this whole trip was too much. I had a four day weekend, and was gone, on the run, the entire time. I had zero relationships at work, even though I'd tried a few times, only to end up getting a cold shoulder. I was having experiences most people only dream of, but I wasn't enjoying myself. The adventure was exciting, but empty. I was looking forward to going back to Virginia and talking to the few people who wanted to hear how my deployment/vacation went (Seaford Baptist Church not included). I was tired, and the photos show it. Like a delicious meal, you can only eat so much and then you need a little break to burp before continuing again.

Tired old man, Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg, France