Glorious Strasbourg, the jewel of the Alsace and second city of the European Union (whatever that means now) appeals like a city out of a remembered children’s picture book.
It’s labyrinth of winding streets and timber-framed buildings are complete with uneven rooflines, tottering chimney stacks, leaded windows, ornate signs, ancient doorways and heavy glass lanterns.
The city mixes the best of both France and Germany on the French side of the Rhine. We visited by cycling from Kehl across the river to France through the public parks of both countries.
It was interesting to compare the well-laid out and resourced public play areas of Germany’s park with the whimsical public art on the French side complete with a solar system walkway.
On the road it was a hair-raising pedal along a cycle lane that criss-crossed roadsides, pavements and tram lines.
Towering above everything at 144 meters is the gigantic but impossibly delicate-looking pink sandstone cathedral. Constructed between 1015 and 1439 Strasbourg Munster mixes Romanesque columns and porticoes with fabulous high Gothic architecture.
Today it is the sixth tallest church in the world and the highest structure still standing from the Middle Ages. Mingling with all nationalities around its sandstone walls we heard European, Asian and American accents amongst the crowds enjoying the spectacular view of the Munster’s rose window and many steeples.
Petite France, on the canals, boasts flower decked and expensive restaurants and beautifully renovated private houses that squat largely on the banks of the water. Being the second base of the EU administration the city is rich in wealth and ways to spend it.
Window shopping was enjoyable at swanky home design stores and haute couture fashion outlets. For the first time since Hamburg we saw genuinely expensive and tailored clothes on the shop window dummies and on those browsing the wares in the windows along the pavement.
Spotting an archway we discovered a cobbled courtyard decked with white parasols under which people were enjoying glasses of Alsatian wine before the French lunch. Alsatian foods mix German style kraut and smoked hams or river fish with French style cassoulets.
A crossover creation is the Flammkuchen, a light pizza dough topped with white cheese, cream and smoked ham and baked in a fired oven. Alsace even has its own bubbly – but due to French DOC regulations you must call it Cremant not Champagne!
We returned to Germany the way we had come, over the Rhine and into a warm sunset.
Simon scaled the wobbly 210 steps of Kehl’s observation tower to take pictures of the Black Forest in the late afternoon sunshine. Tomorrow we would drive Bertha over the neighbouring bridge and into France to make the journey homeward.