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France 2001
A Bike Tour through Alsace and Franche-Comté

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg, a city of elegant weinstubs, patisseries, canals, and half timbered houses bedecked with flowers. It's also the capital of Alsace, an administrative center for the European Union, a host for the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, and home to a large, sophisticated student population at the University of Strasbourg. The duel cultural influences of France and Germany are evident everywhere; language, food, architecture and art. We were excited about spending a layover day here. We spent two nights at the Ciarus Hostel on rue Finkmatt. It is not affiliated with Hosteling International and has a feel much like that of a hotel.

The crown jewel of Strasbourg is the cathedral. It's exterior is an awe-inspiring Gothic monument to Christianity. The on-again, off-again, construction process took 260 years to finish. When completed in 1439 it stood 466 ft. high and remained the tallest building in Europe for four hundred years. One could imagine medieval peasants, when first laying eyes on it, simply fainting to the ground. It's that impressive.

We had just finished dinner at an outdoor café facing the cathedral, when to our surprise, lights began flashing across the massive west facade. We were in the right spot at the right time. Each night during the summer, from dusk until after midnight, the cathedral played host to a spectacular light show. Waves of colored lights danced across the ornately carved façade accompanied by majestic organ music booming through the cathedral square. Inside one can't miss the stained glass, huge wooden astronomical clock, and carved pillars. During the day try climbing up the spire for a dizzying view of the entire city and west to the Vosges Mountains.

A self-guided tour of the historic parts of the city is offered by the tourist office at the cathedral square. A cassette player is provided along with a city map and off you go on your own. Depending on your level of interest your tour could last an hour or two, or half a day. We found it to be an invaluable introduction to the city. The tour took us to the lovely La Petite France, an ancient and secluded haven in the city. This quarter is the 16th century tanner's district of canals, and half timbered houses.

Along the canal at Place Benjamin Zix is a picture perfect example of a tanner's house. One stop not on the self guided tour was a trip to the Kronenbourg Brewery in nearby, suburban Schiltigheim. However, we managed to include it in the day's activities. At the end of the brewery tour we all enjoyed three glasses apiece of various brands made by the company at the free tasting session. We rather liked that bar, not much on the music but the prices couldn't be beat!

If museums are high on your list you won't have to wander far from cathedral square. Across from the cathedral are the magnificent buildings of the Palais Rohan containing three museums of art and archeology. Next to the Palace is the Maison De L'oeuvre Notre-Dame, a museum holding ancient artifacts preserved from the cathedral.

A summer weekend night has street performers popping up all over the old town. In one evening we saw a Dixieland band, a Renaissance harpist, and a motley troupe of medieval-looking entertainers leading the onlookers into a Pied Piper excursion through the streets.

Yes, we enjoyed Strasbourg. But on the horizon were the exquisite wine villages of the Alsation Route du Vin and we were ready for the country.

Click here if you would like to see a slide show of Strasbourg. You will need PowerPoint program on your computer and it will take a minute or two to download the presentation. Once the slide show starts you can "right click" your mouse and select "full screen" for a full screen presentation.

If you don't have PowerPoint on your computer you may download a viewer at: Microsoft PowerPoint Download

If you want to see the photographs individually just click on the thumbnails below.



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© 2001 Bob Parry and Ed James

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