Flock around the clock in Stras­bourg

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KURO­SAWA

A STRATE­GIC city of such his­toric dis­pute be­tween France and Ger­many, lovely Stras­bourg is a popular port on river cruises, which is why I am here, off the splen­did Tauck In­spire, mov­ing at a roar­ing pace to “do” the sights in just an af­ter­noon. A visit to the fa­mous 18m-tall as­tro­log­i­cal clock in Stras­bourg’s soar­ing Cathe­dral de Notre-Dame is a must, and lo­cal guide Catherine has­tens me along to “catch the show”.

The clock was built in the mid-16th cen­tury but its present mech­a­nism has been in op­er­a­tion since 1842. Catherine de­scribes it as a “math­e­mat­i­cal marvel” and so it is, dis­play­ing the of­fi­cial and so­lar times, day of the week, the month and year, zo­diac sign and phase of the moon. We time our visit for the dot of 12.30pm when the clock goes off. The fig­ure of an an­gel rings a chime and the clock’s me­chan­i­cal rooster crows, the 12 apos­tles ro­tate around Je­sus Christ and al­le­gor­i­cal fig­ures pass by a skele­tal fig­ure rep­re­sent­ing Death. Be­fore you can say cock-a-doo­dle-do, it’s over.

“Cake?” asks Catherine. It is a rhetor­i­cal ques­tion. Stras­bourg is a city of stout tarts and con­fec­tions, their size and level of creami­ness ow­ing more to Teu­tonic her­itage than the flaky del­i­ca­cies of the French. But at the lovely Patis­serie Chris­tian there is a Parisian slant to pro­ceed­ings. Choco­latier Christophe Meyer pro­duces mac­arons with fill­ings as de­li­ciously un­ex­pected as salted caramel, green tea, pis­ta­chio and vi­o­let. A scoop of szechuan or­ange ice cream, peut-etre?

Else­where, it is all chou­croute (a meaty pyra­mid of a scale that shocks and de­feats me), sausages as sturdy as ba­tons and kou­glof, a sweet brioche-style cake mar­bled with al­monds and raisins and then dusted with sugar. There’s spiced honey cake and jolly gin­ger­bread men and, at the lovely lit­tle La Cham­bre aux Confitures (17 rue des Or­fevres), ar­ti­sanal and preser­va­tive-free jams in flavours such as or­ange blos­som, pear and gin­ger and rhubarb and elder­berry. I all but swoon.

And did I men­tion pret­zels? Salty, chewy, the size of bin lids, they go down a treat. Soon, din­ner beck­ons at an ale-house that looks like a fairy­tale il­lus­tra­tion. Some­where a clock strikes. “Is that the time?” I ask.

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