22.5.95 (Mon)

I am now on a train heading for Milano. It will stop at Strasbourg, my destination, at around noon. Finding a seat in the first class compartments was again difficult. Though I have the ticket, I have not made a reservation, like most other passengers. I have decided that I will make reservation of train seats for the rest of my journey.

Ah. Luxembourg. It was green and very green. Yesterday was a Sunday so almost all shops were closed. There was this parade on rue de Notre-Dame at 3 pm. The Tourist Office said it was to celebrate a festival called "Octave". People from villages all over the country marched around the city centre. It was however not a spectacular or exciting parade.

I took the walk introduced in the leaflet obtained from the Tourist Office. I took the longer trail, i.e. 7.5 km, but again it was not as enjoyable as I had expected. I was scared while I was walking alone in a park. I also went to the Casemates, which was in fact a restored ruin. The original castle must have been huge but all the guidance and information at the place were in language(s) beyond my comprehension. I could not even guess what they were about. This is another piece of evidence of the poor popularity of English on the Continent.

What made me angry/sick was that at the tourist attractions in Paris, there were all kinds of information in Japanese, but not any in Chinese. People took it for granted that an asian face like mine is Japanese. Though I actually can speak some Japanese, these were not very nice experiences.

Last night, I checked into a hotel called "Carlton", just a minute of two from the train station. The price was astonishingly low, just 1100 BF. The lady at the Tourist Office told me that the toilets of this hotel were down the hall and asked if it was fine by me. I said no problem. But it turned out that the bathroom was also detached and shared by all. That required some getting used to. I of course managed to be the first one to use the bathroom. But the hotel was decent enough at that price, though the floor kept creaking with every step I took and every move I made, even while I was in bed.

* * *

It is warm today, except a little chilly with wind or when in the shade. Most of the time I was just wearing a short-sleeves T-shirt and still sweating.

I spent about three hours walking around Strasbourg. Well, not as beautiful as the guidebooks describe. At least it could not be compared with Brugge. The city maps, i.e. both the one I got from Hong Kong and the one I bought here, were impossibly HORRIBLE. Many street names were missing, some were in abbreviations. I don’t know how the tourism authority expects tourists/strangers to use them. I myself was lost in the streets several times.

The Cathedral of Strasbourg was truly impressive and I could go inside for free. Other buildings were nothing special. They could not be compared with those in Paris, at least. The "Petit France" was a pretty place, but Brugge’s waters surely were better than it.

The one good thing of Strasbourg is the hotel I am in. It is right opposite the station. As usual, I looked among the hotels nearest to the station so as to unload my baggage as soon as possible. The Place de la Gare was surrounded by hotels and this one looked newest and most modern. so I checked in. The room I have, which has no view unfortunately, has a private shower and toilet!! Bravo!! And it is only for 290 FF per night, which is curiously cheaper than the one-star "Guy Lussac" in Paris (this one is a two-star hotel). The room is clean, pleasant and installed with a TV. I am delighted even though I don’t watch much TV, especially French ones.

Having got tired of Strasbourg, I then went to Colmar, which is only half an hour from Strasbourg. The experience there was awful. I didn’t have any meaningful information with me, not even a map, and there was no Tourist Office at the station. Roadsigns with the pictogram "i" were everywhere but all pointing to different directions. I could only refer to the maps along the roads and at the bus stops. A vending machine selling city maps just shamelessly ate the 2 FF I put in. The map it produced was trapped on its way out so there was no way of getting it. It seemed impossible to get to anywhere just by following the road maps, especially under the hot sunshine. Yes, so hot that it was discouraging. I eventually got very tired and hungry and gave up. So what I did during this trip were mainly walking back and forth on the busy and dusty rue de la Republic, trying to get to the centre Ville or returning to the station. It was exhausting.

I had a donar kebab for dinner and watched an old American musical movie on the TV. Having been to Colmar, Strasbourg appeared to be a much nicer place to be when I took the little walk to buy my dinner. At least I felt safe and much more at ease here. I saw the tram here which was really impressive. It looked like a space shuttle or something.

I am going to get a 7:47 am train to Zurich tomorrow. I hope Switzerland won’t let me down.

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