Monday, January 12, 2009


While Michael took the suitcase etc back to the car, I went to the tourist bureau to hire some self guided cassettes so we could learn a little about what we are seeing. I asked whether they knew of any other accommodation in the city centre and was pleased to find out that the Hotel Cathedrale which sits opposite the Cathedral of Notre Dame has some vacancies for tonight. So we go and check in to a room overlooking the Plaza and the front of the Cathedral. At 150 euros, it is a little more expensive than we would like but, gee, where else can you get a view as good as this? As the room was vacant last night, they say we can have access straight away, so Michael gets the luggage again! Australians are warmly welcomed and everyone is so friendly.

Heart attack time this morning when I thought I had lost my passport. I knew that I had it at the Tourism Office as I needed it for identification for the hire of audio guides. After an hour searching there, this hotel, the last hotel, the car and all points in between, we decided to check with the local police to see if anybody had handed it in there. The receptionist at the hotel offered to phone them which we gladly accepted. The lost and found office was still closed for lunch, so she tried the tourism office again. This time the woman who served me answered the phone and she straight away said that she was holding it as security for the handsets. Gosh, could have kissed the lot of them!! Saved us an (presently unwanted) 2 week trip to Paris, lots of heartache and a heap of money.

That sorted, we headed into the Cathedral Square to begin our tour. The history of Strasbourg dates back before the birth of Christ. While none of the current city architecture is quite this old, today we have seen buildings that ring this Square dating back to the twelfth century.

But the dominant feature of this, one of the main squares in the City, is of course the Cathedral. It is going to be very difficult to really give you a good idea of the immenisty and the impact of this church. To start with, the cornerstone of the cathedral now standing was laid in 1190 on the site of earlier churches. The ceiling of the church towers are 66m the floor level and the spire towers a further 76m. And then you walk inside...

Now, those of you who know me well will know that we did many churches while we were in Europe in 2006. BUT, most of those pale into the ordinary when compared with the Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Strasbourg. It is so difficult to describe the impact of walking into this masterpiece of so many artisans.

The first thing to take your breathe away is the sheer size of the church. You feel like an insignificant piece of humanity as your senses try to cope with being confronted with such a huge and beautiful monument to faith. The ceiling of the towers through which you enter soar 66 m (216.5 feet) above you. Then as you eyes begin to become accustomed to the dimmer light inside, you realise that there are the most stunning stained glass windows all around you - albeit, many metres above!

As you move to the rear of the aisle, you also get a truer sense that this church is not just high, it is also large in area. There are alcoves, chapels, windows, an ornate swallow nest organ suspended high above you, fonts, candles, the choir (altar) and more.

There is bright colour and faded murals that you first miss, there are modern LCD diplays that detail the highlights, ancient carved texts in languages of ages past, and even grafitti dating back to the 1700s. The work of the many artisans that contributed to the construction of this masterpiece, the masons, stonecarvers, carpenters, weavers, glass workers all stand proud testament to their skill.

When we had taken all in that we could inside, Michael climbed the 329 steps to the flat roof where the spire starts, taking photos of the Church from on high and the views out over Strasbourg. We were told that on a clear day you can see to the Black Forest in the east and to the mountains in the west - we will never know as it was quite hazy - a legacy of people heating their homes in this chilly weather.

It is just too hard to try to describe this wonder of the ages, so we are attaching a few more photos than normal and will upload the others to a Picasa album.

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