July 30th ~ Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg is situated on the eastern border of France with Germany and is the official seat of the European Parliament. They are the second largest port on the Rhine River after Duisburg, Germany as well as a hub of rail and road transportation.
A BIT OF TRIVIA: In 1728, the world’s first school for midwives was opened in Strasbourg.
Our day started off with a canal cruise that included a brief amount of time on the Rhine, but the majority was winding around the Grand Island on the Ill River, (a tributary of the Rhine). We were fortunate to get the front row seat on the canal boat which allowed me to see the controls and to occasionally sit in the doorway to snap pictures through the open window.
The German city of Kehl, sits right across the river on the eastern bank of the Rhine. Over the years, Strasbourg has changed from French to German and back again more often than Michael Phelps has won gold.
“Strasbourg’s historic city centre, the Grande Île (Grand Island), was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988. This was the first time such an honour was placed on an entire city centre.” ~ Wikipedia
There is a heavy military and police presence throughout the city.
Large garbage trucks were used as blockades at each of the bridges that lead onto the island. Police asked for identification and did an individual hand check on any bags being carried before being allowed entry into the center of town or the cathedral.
Just a few examples of the blocked bridges, but we saw numerous blockades while on our canal cruise.
Our canal cruise was followed by a walking tour through the UNESCO old town section where we admired more of the half-timbered buildings and striking architecture.
The Cathédrale Notre Dame is the crown of the island.
First some shots of the exterior:
“Built between 1176 and 1439 and with a 142 metre tower (the highest cathedral tower in France), the cathedral is undoubtedly Strasbourg’s finest architectural highlight. Visitor can also walk up to the viewing platform cathedral platform (320 steps, 66m) for a spectacular view of the city.” ~ Wikitravel
In 2000, a terrorist plot to blow up the cathedral was prevented thanks to the cooperation between French and German police that led to the arrest in late 2000 of a Frankfurt-based group of terrorists.
The interior of the cathedral is quite spectacular.
But the biggest hit inside the cathedral is the Astrometric Clock. Our timing was not good, but it is recommended to get there at noon to watch the clock change hours.
“The event in itself is very short and can be under whelming unless the spectator keeps in mind that it is truly an amazing feat for a nearly 300 year old clock. When standing in front of the clock, be sure to look up and to your left to see the statue of the clock’s architect looking at his masterpiece.” – Wikitravel
We had some free time which allowed us to wander around both the Grand Island and the Petite France sections.
“Petite France is the name given to the small area between the rivers, just south of the Grande Île. It is home to some of Strasbourg’s prettiest and most photogenic streets and buildings, with half timbered townhouses (maison a colombages) leaning out over the narrow cobbled streets.” ~ Wikitravel
Petite France resembles Colmar (which we had visited just the day before), with the picturesque half-timber houses and intricate metal signs over business doors.
Just FYI, there is free entry to all museums and the cathedral platform (320 steps, 66m) on the first Sunday of every month.
And one final picture to leave you with a brighter ending to a security heavy day.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful that extra measures have been taken in an attempt to keep tourists safe during these unsettling times. For the most part on our travels, we feel very safe, but when security is ramped up even higher than normal, one has a tendency to be extra vigilant.