The last part of Trans-Siberian journey through Europe was fairly rushed since we needed to be back in France by mid-July. After two days in Warsaw, we took a 6-hour train to Berlin, stayed overnight to celebrate France’s win in the World Cup, then headed for Strasbourg, our final destination. I’d almost say the end was somewhat anti-climatic, but we were also happy to slow down the travel pace, and stay put for a few weeks.
The last time I visited Berlin was in 2006, while studying abroad in London. It was cold and rainy, and back then I found Berlin to be rather industrial and characterless. Boy have things changed!
We had less than 24 hours in the city, and while most of that time was dedicated to the World Cup, we strolled along the canal in the city centre, and marvelled at the magnificent architecture. The city is vibrant, and that energy flows in the air. Upon arrival, we hunted down a Vietnamese restaurant, PHO-Noodlebar. That bowl of pho tasted so delicious after weeks of non-Asian eating.
I was impressed by the youthful vibe and the international crowd. I had heard that Berlin has been transformed into a major hub for digital nomads and tech in general. There was a sense of that Silicon Valley flair, but not yet the pretentiousness.
World Cup Frenzy
The main event during our time in Berlin was the World Cup final. Had I known France would advance to the World Cup, I would’ve made sure we arrive in France in time. With just a day off, we celebrated from afar.
The Brandenburg Gate was transformed into a massive viewing party, with multiple screens lining the open field. French from across the city gathered with pride, but so did Croatians. The high energy was infectious, and the friendly competition between two groups of fans and the rest of us is precisely why I adore the World Cup.
Amidst the cheers, I stopped and took in the historical significance of celebrating France in Germany. If only humans would gather to celebrate their shared love for a sport more often!
Strasbourg at Last
12 train rides spread across 115 hours, and 14,645km later, we made it from Shanghai to Strasbourg! We were tired, but so fulfilled. It was a breath of fresh air to understand the languages spoken around us again. We were home.
We spent a night here before journey onward to Xav’s hometown in Les Vosges region. The city was quiet on a Monday after the World Cup win. The entire city seem to be still hung over from the previous night. The town square was still filled with tourists and motivated citizens hanging out for an outdoor concert.
Summer evenings across France are now filled with delightful light shows that showcase the incredible architecture. They usually begin after sunset and plays every 20 minutes. We caught two separate shows during our show stay at the Cathedral and another at the University Library.
If you stop in Strasbourg, be sure to book a table at Skaechele, a delightful Alsacian restaurant serving up hearty home cooked meals. The place isn’t big, and you risk being turned away without a booking. The matron is lovely and accommodating. We turned up without a booking, and she promised a table within an hour if we didn’t mind the wait. The food is well worth a longer stroll in the surrounding blocks!