a brief history of beautiful Strasbourg // France

February 16, 2018

On our third day of our Rhine River cruise (when we docked in Kehl, Germany) we had the amazing opportunity to spend the day in Strasbourg, France. This was December 31st and to spend the last day of 2017 in Strasbourg was a true dream come true for a myriad of different reasons. 
If we are connected on Instagram (and if not I would love to connect with you there because I love pictures *smiles*) I shared the day that we went to Strasbourg what a beautiful full circle moment it was to be there. In 2013 (almost 14 years before standing on that bridge) I had desired to study abroad for a summer in Strasbourg so much. For a variety of different reasons (and other opportunities that presented themselves) I decided to go in a different direction. I had always dreamt of going to this adorable French town and to be standing there on that last day of 2017 with my precious mom felt like a dream. It was a gentle reminder of how God gives incredibly good gifts to His children and the beauty that lies in our journeys. 

We had loved our time in Colmar (the day before) and we were so excited to head into Strasbourg for the day. This was actually one of the best programmed days that I felt Viking had set up for those of us on the cruise. We had the morning tour (included in the price of the cruise) and then the tour ended around 11am. At that point you could choose to return to the ship (and eat lunch if you wanted on board) and then at 2 and 3 o'clock they had shuttles that left Strasbourg to head back to the ship if you wanted or you could stay the whole day and leave on the last shuttle at 4:30pm. If you chose to return to the ship for lunch you could catch a shuttle back to Strasbourg for time in the afternoon at 1:30 and 2:30pm. 

We LOVED the freedom of this day and the way that we truly had time to explore this city on our own. We loved the introduction to Strasbourg through the guided tour and then we loved the opportunity to truly immerse ourselves in the city. We choose to participate in the guided tour and then we did Mass at the Strasbourg Cathedral (which was absolutely breathtaking), eat lunch in Strasbourg and spend time exploring on our own. It was truly one of our favorite days and I can't wait to share all about it with y'all! I have so many pictures and because of this I am splitting up my posts about Strasbourg into several posts over these next few days. I hope it brings back sweet memories for those that have visited and inspires those who haven't had a chance to head to this beautiful area of the world. 
Today I wanted to give a brief history of Strasbourg like our guide did for us and share some of our pictures from entering into the old town or city center section of Strasbourg. 
Strasbourg is the capital and largest city of the Grand Est in France and is the ninth largest city in France in general. In world politics and world organizations Strasbourg is not only one of the de facto capitals of the European Union (along with Brussels and Luxembourg) but also is the seat of the Council of Europe, the location of the European Court of Human Rights, and European Parliament. The city is also now the location and seat of the International Institute of Human Rights (something that y'all know that I am passionate about) among other institutions.
Strasbourg's historic center (where we spent our time exploring) was made into a World Heritage site in 1988. It was actually a very big deal as it was the first time that this type of honor was given to an entire city center and not just one building or location. 
Strasbourg has a complicated history that is immersed deeply in the Franco-German culture. Over the centuries (although it has been violently disputed throughout history) it has become one of the most important cultural bridges between France and Germany. The University of Strasbourg (which is the 2nd largest university in France) and the peaceful coexistence of Catholic and Protestant culture along with the largest Islamic place of worship in France (since 2012) has brought about a city that has forged its way through deep waters and remains a testament to the strength and resilience of people.
Our tour guide (who was honestly one of our favorites) spent a great deal of time talking and explaining the depth of the historical conflicts and how this has affected him and his family personally. The passion to which he spoke about national pride was something that impacted all of us on our tour. 
For nearly 900 years (from 362 to 1262) Strasbourg was governed by the Bishops of Strasbourg. In 1262 though (in the Battle of Hausbergen) the citizens rebelled against the Bishops rule. At the end of the battle, Strasbourg became a free imperial city. Nearly 400 years later in 1681 (after the conquest of Alsace by Louis XIV that I mentioned in my post about Colmar's History ) it became a French City. 
Almost 200 years later (after the Franco-Prussian War) in 1871 the city became German again. This last until the end of World War I in 1918 when the city reverted back to its French heritage. Like Colmar, Strasbourg fell into Nazi Germany control during World War II in the defeat of France in 1940. For the next four years it was German. This period of history and time for families was extremely difficult. Similar to Colmar, men were conscripted into the German army without a say in their choice and the seeds of violence ran deep within this city during these years. 
At the end of 1944 it became French again and has remained a French town, gaining the title of capital of Alsace in 2016. 

In addition to the numerous wars that affected Strasbourg, the city also played a part in a variety of historical moments in history. Strasbourg played an important part in the Protestant Reformation and it was also one of the first centers for the printing press with Johannes Gutenberg. While the city has dark moments of terror that it endured (the Strasbourg massacre in 1349, the Reign of Terror in 1793 and the the Nazi Occupation from 1940-1944) it has emerged not only as a cultural icon but an historical one that at the end of the day wrong can be made right despite the darkest of hours.
I can't wait to share more about this beautiful place in the coming days. Have y'all been to Strasbourg before?

Interested in reading more posts from our Viking River Cruise on the Rhine River? Simply click on the links below! 

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