I got a little behind here, apparently having too much fun to post pictures and so on. After our stops in Germany, though, we moved on to two two-night stays each in Strasbourg & Nancy, the major cities of the historic regions of Alsace and Lorraine, respectively.
Strasbourg was definitely the star of the show, simply one of the most beautiful cities anywhere. Just across the Rhein from Germany it has been a bridge between France & Germany for centuries, a fact reflected in the architecture, churches, and cuisine. The historic city center was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1988, the first time an entire city center was so designated, and it sure seems to warrant the honor.
The city’s cathedral, Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, in its late-Gothic style is certainly the highlight. Topping out at 466 feet it claims to have been the world’s tallest building from 1647 to 1874, but my sense is that other buildings also claim to have been the tallest in that pre-modern period as well. It is pretty well documented, though, that it is the tallest building standing today built entirely in the Middle Ages.
Awe-inspiring certainly describes the cathedral and for us it was particularly fun to watch Mat’s face as it came into view. We’ve seen a lot of these old cathedrals but if you’re from a small midwest city and haven’t been around the world a lot, it is pretty awesome. And of course if you can climb the spire you must, so we did. Great views and not really that hard.
Otherwise Strasbourg is just a fabulous city to walk around in. The canals and the flowers and the buildings are all just beautiful. The weather was perfect. There’s a great modern art museum If you walk just a little way out of the historic city you come to the European Parliament, right in the same area as the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. We found it poignant to be here while our President appears hell-bent on destroying all of it.
Strasbourg is definitely worth a longer stay, but as we knew Mat wanted to see lots of different things we stopped for only two nights before moving on to Nancy, the historic capital of Lorraine. I have to admit, after the beauty and excitement of Strasbourg, Nancy was something of a letdown. It is certainly beautiful, with the UNESCO-recognized Place Stanislaus, built in the 18th century by King Stanislaus of Poland who was also Duke of Lorraine, taking the place of honor. We had the disadvantage of arriving there on the holiday of the Feast of the Assumption which inexplicably means that nearly everything is closed. (I was reminded of our stop in Poitiers four years ago, now, when I needed to go to the emergency room on the Feast of the Assumption and got lousy service from the skeleton crew available. Note to self: avoid France on August 15!)
So after a fairly dull first day in Nancy we decided to take a day trip on our second to the nearby city of Metz, the modern capital of Lorraine. That worked out well; the train ride was, as always in Europe, gentle and relaxing. The city was interesting; the recently opened Pompidou Center-Metz, an extension of the major modern art museum in Paris, was fun to tour, and St. Stephen’s Cathedral was another stunner. The latter has the largest expanse of stained glass windows in the world, including not just glorious old windows but also windows by the modernist Marc Chagall. Impressive.
And then again, after just a two-night stop it was off again, this time to Paris.