June 24, 2014, Strasbourg- Of all the cities in France I visited this summer, Strasbourg presents itself in the most modern of lights, and, by a small margin, it is the cleanest. There is not an appreciable difference in ethnic make-up, nor are there that many fewer apartment dwellers here. Perhaps the presence of the European Parliament, on a day-to-day basis, leads to more social consciousness. There is also a more Germanic sense of order here, than elsewhere in La Belle France. Strasbourg was ruled by German royalty, throughout the Middle Ages and again from 1871-1918.
The first signal that this city was going to be different came at Gare Centrale, the train station. It’s covered by a plexiglass dome, resembling a crystal dirigible. (Photo courtesy of fr.wikipedia.org)
(Photo courtesy of http://www.geodruid.com)
I got directions to my hotel-LePetit Trianon. It is not, outwardly, a palace. It is on a narrow side street, though close to the commercial centre. The manager is only 25, but has a very shrewd business acumen, and will no doubt rise quickly, in a keenly competitive market. She looks like Keira Knightley, but talks like a kinder, gentler Leona Helmsley-nobody’s fool. I like Le Petit Trianon. (Photo courtesy of Hotels.com)
I had limited time to explore Strasbourg, before attending a Baha’i spiritual gathering, similar to that which I attended in Rouen, earlier in my sojourn. This was not hard, though, as the city centre is compact, and there is a reliable trolley.
First was the largest of Strasbourg’s many Calvinist churches: St. Pierre Le Vieux. (Photo courtesy of http://www.commons.wikipedia.org)
Once again, I did not venture inside any of the churches, save Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg.
The next stop was three bridges down the Lill Canal. Here was Place de la Republique. (Photo courtesy of http://www.ratestogo.com)
This is a monument to Those Dead in Winter- an homage to all who died in the harsh and combative winter of 1944-45. (Photo courtesy of http://www.commons.wikipedia.org)
On the west side is Palais du Rhin, a structure built by Wilhelm I, after Germany seized Strasbourg during the Franco-Prussian War. It is now a cultural center of Alsace. It is the structure seen in the photo above. On the east side of the park are two structures. First is La Bibliotheque Nationale d’Alsace. (Photo courtesy of generys.services.com)
Adjacent to the Library is La Theatre Nationale d’Alsace. (Photo courtesy of http://www.en.strasbourg.eu)
I crossed the street, and the bridge, to L’Opera Nationale. (Photo courtesy of http://www.commons. wikipedia.org) The statue of the golden horse attracted a few homeless people, but they didn’t hang around long. I saw fewer homeless here than elsewhere in Europe, in fact.
This area, Place Broglie, is bounded on the east by Strasbourg’s City Hall (Hotel de Ville).(Photo courtesy of http://www.prixfacone.com)
Strasbourg, like Metz, has a Temple Neuf. This served as a hospital, in the early medieval period. It lies at the south end of Place Broglie, directly west of Strasbourg Cathedral.(Photo courtesy of http://www.commons.wikipedia.org)
Notre Dame de Strasbourg casts a majestic air to what is otherwise a spare concrete desert. This Gothic giant is the main remnant of Catholicism, in what is a largely Protestant enclave of Alsace. (Photos courtesy of http://www.commons.wikipedia.com)
From here, I briefly visited Palais Rohan. This has nothing to do with The Lord of the Rings. It housed the Bourbon kings and queens, on their visits to Alsace. Today, it houses Strasbourg’s major art museums. (Photo courtesy of http://www.visiterstrasbourg.com)
The entry way is framed by an arch, on the west flank.(Photo courtesy of francoisclaude.wordpress.com)
The courtyard evokes Versailles, sans gold. (Photo courtesy of http://www.commons.wikipedia.com)
Along the Canal de Lill, I came to Corbeau, and the old Customs House (Hotel de la Douane). (Photo courtesy of http://www.panoramie.com) As you might guess, the canals take the place of parks, as the center of social life in Strasbourg.
Nowhere is more crucial to this than La Petite France, the area of three covered bridges, built by the edict of Louis XV. (Photo courtesy of http://www.shutterstock.com) Then, as now, this was France’s window on the Rhine.
La Terrasse Panoramique was the Bourbons’ window on the great river, and was built by Sebastien de Vauban, the great military strategist. (Photo courtesy of JM Rauschenbach @ http://www.clipimage.net)
It was time for me to leave the crowds at La Petite France behind, and join my Baha’i friends at their centre, on Rue des Veaux. It is in a densely-populated, but well-lit neighbourhood. Alsace has been a forward-looking area, and I felt a welcoming spirit here. (Photo courtesy of http://www.espaces-commerces.fr)
So, my time in France wound down on a very sweet note. My thanks to all the Baha’i friends in Strasbourg for the uplifting Spiritual Feast, and to all, across the areas of Alsace and Lorraine who made these two days richer and more informative than I had anticipated. It would shortly be time to return to Germany, for four quick days.