“Get the fuck out of the way!”
“Yeah, fuck that dude.”
Wheels banging on the cobblestones, rocking like a ship breaking up on reentry and all the while, I’m in the navigator seat, pointing at turns, tapping through maps, cursing at strangers. Strasbourg out the windows of our van like a half timbered Mario Kart level, vehicles screaming out of alleyways, pedestrians lunging out from behind cars. When we finally emerged from the fog of battle, the freeway was sliding beneath us and the sun was out and we were breathless.
“How far is it to Basel?” Dad asked.
“About 2 hours.”
“Ugh shit,” he said, and a silent nod passed through the car. A nod of sweaty heads and worried brows. Were we really ready to try and navigate another city right now? Did we want to try to have to park this rattletrap in a new country with new pedestrians and new street signs?
The gas tank on the dash blinked empty and we collectively decided that our resilience
had bottomed out as well. We pulled into Comar, puzzling our situation over while the car guzzled gasoline and when we pulled away from the pump we felt no closer to an answer. All along the hillsides, skylining against the crystal blue, castles stood bristly and exotic to our American eyes.
“I wonder what’s over in that area,” Dad said, mostly just to fill the silence.
“Let’s go see,” Mom said. A considerate silence followed and then there was tapping and scrolling and yelping and suddenly we were off the beaten path and off the path to feeling beaten.
Eguisheim is a swirly snail shell of a town. Half timbered houses from the 10th century huddled around a steeple at the base of a hill topped with castles. Vineyards stretch out away from it, down the olive green hillside, beneath a pale blue sky. We parked on the outside of the town, left our jarringly modern van with its backup cameras and satellite radio sitting beside a curb that had been there for centuries. Prehistoric birds circled on six foot wingspans, bony dinosaur legs tucked up underneath them, javeline beaks swiveling back and forth, scanning. We followed the winding streets and an alluring smell to the center of town. Restaurant Kas’Fratz drew us to her and we were seated at a table outside in the sunlight. My eyes snatched up a menu item that checked all of my boxes. Fried potatoes: Check. Cheese: check. That’s pretty much all my boxes if I’m being honest. In the interim between ordering food and eating it, when there is nothing to do but sit and wait, we did just that.
The ancient birds clicked their gutteral clicks in their massive nests on all the building tops and the village streets were filled with the subdued tinkering sounds of a small town doing small town things. Scraping at a gutter, water running in a sink. The occasional shutter of a camera, clink of a glass. No cursing, no honking, no white knuckles on a steering wheel. If we were starting to feel like we’d made a good decision coming here, the arrival of lunch drove that nail home with a flourish.
What I’d initially mistaken on the menu for fried, cheesy potatoes with ground beef mixed into them turned out to be a perfectly prepared cheeseburger with fried potato patties for buns.
Where have you been all my life? The potatoes were perfectly seasoned and the crisp on them added a texture that many burgers are missing. The cheese held what could have been a real mess together and the meat was earthy and rich.
I got up into that meal. Fingers were licked, and beer was glugged and happiness was abound.
Those birds in their bushy nests stopped regurgitating into each other’s mouths, looking down on me, thinking, that guy is a disgusting eater.
We spent the next couple hours there, winding through the streets looking at knick-knacks in shops and inscriptions above doorways. We basked in the sunlight and smelled the flowers and when the time finally came to fire up the rattletrap, we were ready. We were rested, we were energized, and most importantly, we were well fed.
Check out Restaurant Kas’Fratz facebook here.