Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Strasbourg

Like much of the region in which it is located, Strasbourg has been fought over for a couple of millennia, so that it is perhaps appropriate for it to be the site of the European Parliament. Nowadays the fighting is mostly done with words.
It is a remarkably easy city in which to get lost, despite the display of maps at many prominent intersections. I managed to get lost twice in the course of one walk. For some reason things look different at street level compared to the view that you get during the excellent canal boat tour.
The most picturesque part of the city is probably the medieval area called 'La Petite France' (left), where half-timbered buildings, floral displays and open air cafés are mirrored in the waterways and every turn brings a new curiosity.
The oddly unbalanced west front of the city's beautiful sandstone cathedral (right) was, if I recall correctly, the result of the whole thing taking so long to build that Gothic went out of fashion before the planned south tower could be built. The north tower, once the world's tallest building, was only completed in 1439. This tower itself survived proposed demolition at the hands of the egalitarianism of the French Revolution by the ingenious idea that the citizens came up with of placing a giant Phrygian cap on the spire and declaring it a revolutionary symbol.
Inside the cathedral the famous astronomical clock, dating from around 1842  is certainly worth a visit.




But on an entirely different scale is the tiny sculpture that at last informed me of the origin of the name Dominican (Domini canis.)  How often it is the little and easily overlooked features that convey real character and give delight.