Our Rhine cruise took us to visit Strasbourg, the capital of France’s Alsace region and a significant city for the entire European Union. We were taken from the present day into the past as we passed from the modern buildings of the European Council, the Criminal Court and the European Union’s Parliament into its medieval area.
Strasbourg is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its medieval heart is on an island. Known as Strasbourg-Grande Ile, it started out as the Roman camp of Argentoratum and by the Middle Ages had developed into an important commercial center. The streets’ names, such as Tanner, reflect the medieval guild system and are still being used today.
The city has several old churches and a network of narrow streets. Countless timber-framed, old world townhouses dating from the 16th and 17th centuries still line the streets. The area is so picturesque I wonder if perhaps Disney may have used it as a model for Belle’s hometown in Beauty and the Beast. Though I wondered the same thing when we visited Colmar. Not that it matters, really. No matter where you go, Alsace is just beautiful.
They’re called half-timbered houses because the massive beams that support the upper levels can be seen from the outside. What’s interesting about these houses is that if the owner wants to move, he can dismantle the house and reassemble it somewhere else. Wouldn’t that be cool to do these days….
The highlight of our Strasbourg visit
Although this is where Johannes Gutenberg invented the revolutionary system of printing with movable letters and they’ve erected a statue of him in the town square, it’s not the reason Strasbourg has been awarded such an honor by UNESCO.
More remarkable still is the massive Cathédral de Notre Dame, the tallest medieval building in Europe, which dates from the 12th century. The beautiful interior and stunning stained glass windows were less impressive than the astronomical clock with parts that move at every quarter hour; at noon is a Parade of the Apostles and a rooster crows three times, as a reminder of St. Peter’s denial of Christ.
Shame they were so strict and wouldn’t allow us to take photos of the clock to share with you. That clock was amazing!