Saturday, 9 February 2013

Sunday sightseeing in Strasbourg

Day 204 03.02.13 Obernai to Strasbourg

It’s a short drive to Strasbourg and we’re very thankful we chose to make the journey on a Sunday.  The roads are very quiet and there are plenty of parking spaces.  We park up in a side of the road spot on the edge of town just down from a Police Station.  Whilst we’d ordinarily seek out a quieter spot, after having heard that Strasbourg has a pretty bad reputation for car crime, security is our most important concern.  Happy that we’ve found a good spot we head into town to find the tourist office. 

We find it easy enough and discover they want a euro for a map of town and a pocket guide, both of which turn out to be pretty useless for finding your way around.  We’re pretty peeved as even the smallest of towns we’ve been to have maps to give away so it seems pretty greedy.  The pocket guide informs us that all the museums and galleries are very costly too, another black mark for Strasbourg, we’re not off to a great start!

The cathedral is undoubtedly Strasbourg’s architectural highlight and with the spire a whopping 142m tall it certainly wows.  Sadly the town is so closely packed that you can’t really stand back and get a decent view of the whole thing.  We go inside but find there’s a service on so we’ll come back another time to look around. 

Beside the cathedral is the Kammerzell House a 15th century richly carved half-timber house which is quite probably the most striking we’ve seen so far.  The detailing is just breath taking for the building’s age.
The town centre is surprisingly compact, nestled in a loop of the river that’s home to lots of swans.  The river is much higher than usual at the moment and much of the riverside walkway is under water!

We make our way up to Petite France, the most photogenic part of town.  On the way we walk across the Vauban Dam Bridge where we find lots of statues and bits of the cathedral that have fallen off, its like a sculpture graveyard!  Atop the dam there is a panoramic terrace which offers fantastic views of the covered bridge, with the cathedral and pretty houses behind.  Petite France has numerous half-timber houses backing on to the river with a criss-cross of little bridges between tiny islands.  It is undeniably very pretty but it’s still not a patch on Colmar!  Many of the houses are painted white which seems a shame and the murky looking river slightly mars the area.  I’m sure I’m just being picky as I adored Colmar so much!  This area is certainly very picturesque and the prettiest area of Strasbourg by far.  Back from the river the old houses continue with wooden balconies hanging over the old cobbled streets. The balconies are apparently where tanners of the area would hang their animal hides out to dry.  It’s lovely for a city this size to have retained this historic area so well.

We enjoy a walk alongside the river (on the dry path) and down to the other side of town.  We find an attractive large church with is sadly closed for refurbishments.  Further down we come across the Place de la Republique where we find many Baroque buildings of great beauty and a central garden are which is surprisingly colourful despite the time of year.  Sadly the nearby botanic gardens I’d hoped to visit are closed until March.

Elsewhere in town we have a walk around the main shopping streets although virtually everywhere is closed as its Sunday.  There are lots of shops including a rather fancy shopping street of all the high-end labels.  Its great arriving at a new town on a Sunday as it’s always so quiet and easy to get around!  We’ve walked all over Strasbourg today and seen many of the main attractions.  We get back to the van as light starts to fade and we’re rather pooped!  

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