There’s nothing quite like museums to pack a load of learning into just a two hour span, to connect with a place on an intellectual level, and simply to get out of the rain.
Yesterday was a perfect day to combine all three of those elements and delve into the history and culture of the region that I’m calling my temporary home. I braved the rain for a walk to the Alsacien museum and then spent the subsequent two hours with an audio guide pressed to the side of my face as I wandered through the exhibits. I was enamored enough with the knowledge pouring into my mind from that little phone shaped device that I wasn’t even concerned with the number of other tourists who had probably touched it before me.
It’s amazing how many little details you can learn. Sure, none of them will help me pursue my goals in life, but they will enrich my experience in Strasbourg. For example, I now know the hallmarks of a traditional Alsacien chair and that wood furniture in this region was made entirely with fir wood at a time when the rest of the continent favored softer woods. Useful? No. Interesting? Yes. I found myself completely in awe with the little details which will help me have a deeper understanding of the worlds around me in this city.
Even the museum building itself was a true experience. My immediate thought upon entering it was: this is NOT the Smithsonian. The museums I am accustomed to in the USA tend to be big buildings with vaulted ceilings and spacious passages. The Alsacien museum was tiny by comparison, cramped in to it’s little space (although really it was three old houses stitched together) and with much narrower aisles as the buildings retained their original rooms, but had been filled with artifacts in every nook and cranny. Furthermore, American style museums favor very straightforward and easy to follow layouts, sometimes even with maps on the wall or in pamphlets to aid you. The Alsacien museum was a complete maze. Half the time I was unsure how to get to the next part of the exhibit. Once, I got so confused I retraced my steps all the way back to the beginning before returning to right where I had been! So even if you don’t like museums, I found that the Alsacien (and perhaps other European museums) is worth a visit just to marvel at the difference between it and the American way.
Strasbourg makes visiting museums even more accessible with deals and special museum days. I purchased a student pass that lets me into any museum (or really any venue) at a reduced price and I believe tourist passes are available too. As if that’s not enough, on the first Sunday of every month (oh look; today!) all museums are free… So I guess it’s time to get off the internet and go explore!