21.07.2015 - 21.07.2015 30 °C
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region. As it lies on the border with Germany, the German and French cultural influences are very evident. It is also the seat of several European institutions, such as the European Parliament and the International Institute of Human Rights.
Our visit was one of our last adventures for the holiday. After a 40 minute train trip, and a short walk, we were in the historic city centre, the Grande Île (Grand Island). This is a small area ... my rough calculation is 1km x 700m.
We only had one day, so we planned to visit the main tourist area, and use the open-air river boats to see as much as possible. As we walked into the main area of the island I felt excited. I don't know why, but I knew I would love Strasbourg. When it was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988 (the first time such an honour was placed on an entire city centre) it was stated that it is "an old quarter that exemplifies medieval cities". Maybe that is it .. it just has a lovely 'feel' to it.
The attraction which we did not want to miss was the impressive Strasbourg Cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg). (1176–1439). Visible from across the plains of Alsace, it is impressive. The intricate details of the cathedral, sculptured from sandstone (which give the pink hue), are astounding. The cathedral looks unbalanced with only one spire (142m high). Apparently originally planned to have two spires, the second was never built. However, the single spire does give the cathedral a unique look.
There is so much to be impressed with, I think one would need a full day to explore and appreciate the many wonders of the cathedral ... for example, the astronomical clock which, at 18m high, is one of the largest in the world. The clock shows the official time, indicates solar time, the day of the week, the month, the year, the sign of the zodiac, the phase of the moon and the position of several planets. It also has animated characters which move at different times of the day.
Our 1-hour long boat tour, commenced just after lunch (on a very hot day) took us around the island, and then continued up the canals to the area which houses the European Parliament, the headquarters of the Council of Europe, and the International Institute of Human Rights. Obviously there are many bridges to navigate which are, in themselves, a symbol of Strasbourg. The area of Petite France is very picturesque, as is the beautiful architecture of the houses along the canal.
This view provides an excellent image of the beauty of Strasbourg
One can while away the time ambling through the many narrow streets, checking out the souvenir shops, french bakeries, and the different stores offering enticing goods which are unaffordable, but fun to look at.
The Statue of Johannes Gutenberg, who invented the printing press around 1440, was of interested to me as, I studied at uni a little about the impact his invention had on the dissemination of knowledge by the mass production of books.
It was a long, but interesting day, topped off with a lovely relaxed dins in Petite France, and a well deserved dessert.
I think I will have to organise a home exchange in Strasbourg sometime soon so I can return to explore this interesting city more thoroughly.