I’m in France, and even though Strasbourg has been annexed by Germany more than once in its history (and many of the street signs here are in French and German), the atmosphere is different in more ways than one… the weather warmer but the attitude is cooler!
It’s a five and a half hour train trip (if your connections are efficient) from Leipzig to Strasbourg (good for catching up on blog posts!), so it was late in the afternoon when I finally got to my hotel. I’d like to say my hotel in Strasbourg is both conveniently located and shabby-chic, but a more accurate description would be conveniently located and shabby. C’est la vie!
Strasbourg is another beautiful old town very much worth the visit. Most of the sites are within an easy walking distance of one another and being on the river Ill, it has its fair share of picturesque waterways and a boat tour that gives you a glimpse at some of the buildings not so close to the city centre (and a photo opportunity), such as the European Parliament. Strasbourg is the formal seat of the European Parliament and all voting takes place here (even though many other parliamentary activities take place elsewhere).
Petite France is a must see when you visit Strasbourg (all the guidebooks state as much and they aren’t wrong). The buildings in Petite France are among the oldest and most beautiful in Strasbourg (16th and 17th century), and home to many. Formerly home to the city’s tanners, millers and fishers, the quarter is still home to many and while the cafes and shops were yet to open, the streets were alive with children being escorted to school by their parents.
Also in Petite France are Les Ponts Couverts, or The Covered Bridges. Although their covers (roofs) were removed in the 18th century, the name stuck. The three 13th century towers are looming, which are the remains of the old city walls. The towers and the bridges were used for imprisonment, torture and execution (in the 18th century I think).
The absolute highlight of Strasbourg though is Notre Dame Cathedral. Strasbourg’s Cathedral is, hands-down, the most beautiful I have ever visited (and I’ve been in a few). It dates back to the Middle Ages (11-15th centuries) and construction started (if I remember correctly) around 1016, with the Gothic spire completed in 1439. Until the 19th century, the Cathedral’s spire remained the tallest in the western world.
Boasting gorgeous stained glass windows (and plenty of them), and featuring exquisite masonry (which I learned about after lunch when I visited the adjacent museum), its most fascinating feature is the Renaissance Astronomical Clock with its animated 12 apostles (which come to life at noon as I discovered at 30 or so minutes too late). I’ll pop photos in the gallery (but they won’t do it justice).
After lunch at Chez Yvonne (dessert will feature in the galley), I visited the Œuvre Notre-Dame Museum. It’s collection of Medieval and Renaissance Art is impressive, but its history of the architectural designs for the Cathedral, and of the artisans that designed and built it, was enthralling. I consumed more than a couple of hours in there - one of the best museums I’ve visited so far on this trip.
I finished off my stay with dinner at another great restaurant - one that serves traditional Alsacien food - Le Schnockeloch!
I head to Paris in an hour or so and will spend three days catching up with my gal pal Inge, then London for a night (where I will see Matthew Modine on stage in the role of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird), then Oxford for a 6-day residential course. I might not post again until the course ends (when I’ll be enjoying a weekend in Oxford).
P.S. Even the train station in Strasbourg is an impressive old building, now completely covered by a transparent dome the shape and size (probably bigger) of airship.