20 September 2012

Strasbourg is stunning

Again my refusal to do any serious research before booking my holiday turned up trumps.

The reasons that I chose to spend a couple of days in Strasbourg were because it is on the main train-line back from Munich and because I had heard of it.

I did not know then that the whole of the city centre is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. I know now and can see why. It's very old and stupidly pretty.

The Cathedral is at the centre of the city. Around it is a ring of old timber-fronted buildings all contained within a ring of water. This is the Grande Ile.

The centre is largely pedestrianised with cars only allowed in shamefully to some areas while trams slide boldly through the centre. As in several of the cities that I visited on this tour, it is best travelled by tram. In Strasbourg the trams allow you to make the most of your journey by have extensive glass, so much so that it is unrealistic to call them windows. These are glass trams.

When you get among the old buildings the impact is amazing. It's as cute as, say, Ledbury but on a much grander scale and with water too. The streets encourage you to wander and explore in the way that all the best old cities do with roads that curve just for the amusement of it.

The water comes in to its own in the south-west corner, Petite France where the quays give evidence to the times when the waterways were a main trade route, the Rhine is but a hop and a step away and is the border between France and Germany.

Now it is mainly pleasure boats that circle the isle, passing through the locks as they do so.

There are three artificial islands with several bridges between them and other paths alongside the water.

This is ideal walking territory and the hordes of tourists know that. They are well prepared for too as this part of the two is rich with cafes and bars. This is a place where you want to sit and soak up the atmosphere and you are encouraged to do so. Not that I needed much encouragement.

There was so much to take in and to savour in my first afternoon in Strasbourg from the canals, the Cathedral, the trams, the timer-fronted buildings and the gentle paths that link everything.

Strasbourg really is stunning.

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