Day 14 – Strasbourg

Strasbourg is certainly one of those cities that has had battles with identity reassurance.  Although it is now the capital of the Alsace region (of which there are 22) of France, there has been a constant quandary over the centuries.  Are German or are we French?

The city can successfully date itself back to 12 BC and in 1988 it erected a monument (of a Roman aqueduct) to commemorate 2000 years of existence.  Continued existence, however, does not necessarily mean continued heritage.  During its earliest times, it was part of the Roman Empire, then taken over by the Huns and the Franks and back to the Romans in the early 900’s.  Fast forward about 400 years and Strasbourg declared itself a free republic.

By 1439 its cathedral had been finished and was then the tallest structure in the world, surpassing even the Great Pyramid of Giza.  In another few years, Gutenberg would invent his moveable type printing press here (and the world has never been the same).

Louis XV found it necessary to increase his borders and, as a result, annexed the town.  It stayed French (although eventually losing its independent city status) until France lost the Franco-Prussian War in 1871.  It then became part of the German Empire.  By the end of the WW I, it became French once again.  However, along comes WW II, and once more the region of Alsace (and with it Strasbourg) becomes German.  With the liberation of the city in 1944, it finally became part of France for good.

Over the canals of Strasbourg are numerous bridges, one of which is the Pont du Corbeau.  Back in the late 1800’s entertainment certainly wasn’t what it is today.  Public executions were more the style of a good family outing.  There were 3 crimes that came with a mandatory death sentence – kids killing parents, parents killing kids, or being an adulteress (apparently being the guy involved wasn’t really the problem).  Those ladies were beheaded however for the other 2 crimes, the methods were somewhat more lengthy.  The guilty were put into a cage and lowered from the bridge down into the canal below.  Then raised up and lowered again.  This went on until it was no longer necessary.

The cathedral mentioned before was supposed to have 2 towers, but the north tower was the only one to be finished.  Its claim of tallest building stood until 1874.  Yet even today it remains at number 6 tallest church and still the tallest built entirely in the middle ages.  At 466 feet (about 142 meters) there are some major cities of the world that do not have skyscrapers as tall.

Tomorrow is a mixed emotions day.  The ship is left behind (with a pang of regret) but the next part of the journey begins.  Leaving Germany, France and Switzerland to discover more wonders in Austria, Italy (with a short glimpse through Lichtenstein) before the inevitable return home.  More wine bouquets to inhale, more food to savor, more sights to be engrossed by.  I can hardly wait. 🙂

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