A perfect city
If the Universe is such a dazzling beauty, it is due to the fact that its movements are regulated by mathematics – the divine combination of numbers.
Have you ever wondered what determines the artistic value of the monuments that the generations admired? The choices made by the constructors are not accidental. The beauty of things depends on harmony, and harmony – on the right proportion, that is on the ratio of parts, lines, colors and sounds. The relationship of architecture with the symbolism of numbers is undeniable. The basis was (and still is) the “golden number”, in other words “divine proportion” or “golden ratio”: 1.618 = Φ. The number of Phi has extraordinary aesthetic qualities and even ancients already knew about. Why am I writing about this on the occasion of Strasbourg? While it was here that we were looking for the medieval examples of this extraordinary golden proportion. If you are interested in what Strasbourg has in common with the Golden Proportion and what else is worth seeing here, then stay with till the end!
How to get to Strasbourg?
If you don’t have cheap flights to Strasbourg, you can always check Baden-Baden. We got here from Haidelberg by Flixbus (only 9 euro), but we flew by Ryanair from Warsaw to Baden-Baden (for only 10 euro).
During our 10 day’s trip, we only used airbnb. The prices were unbeatably better compared to hotels, and the locations were always great. However, in this case, the pluses of our flat in Strasbourg are coming to an end. I am glad that we spent only one night there, because the place was (at least for me) terrifying. Perfect set design for horror. An old, medium-sized apartment, very dark, dingy, with lots of strange things. From expired jars of coffee, to ball machines, where you throw coins and some surprise will come out. We even noticed the National Geographic magazine’s from the 80s. I don’t hide that it was an exciting experience at the same time, that we slept in such a strange place, but it was also a little scary. It wasn’t also too clean. Ok for one night.
A big plus was the fact that we could come before check-in hours and leave luggages. Thanks to that, we saved 6 euros per person, because this is the cost of luggage storage at the central station!
If you are going to move around Strasbourg by tram (which we also recommend if you come by Flix to the City, or you will not want to walk to Parliament). It is worth purchasing a 24-hour ticket, which costs 6.80 euros and can be traveled by up to 3 people! A single ticket costs 1.60 euros. Remember that you can buy them in vending machines at the bus stop. Erasers are also at the bus stop. We didn’t see them on the tram, so I don’t know if you forget to validate the ticket before entering the tram, you can still do it inside. Details about tickets and public transport can be found here.
We started our sightseeing from the most postcards place in Strasbourg, namely Little France (Petite France). As I mentioned above, the only plus of our apartment was a great location. We had 5 minutes to the Petite France! Little France is by far the most beautiful district in Strasbourg. Formerly inhabited by tanners and fishermen, today mainly by tourists who occupy pubs, restaurants or hotels. Colorful buildings combined with a half-timbered style (which I adore) works like a magnet for tourists! We are not surprised by this fact, because we also spent here lots of time. What’s more, as we saw the whole of Strasburg, we came back to this place again! 🙂
The name Petite-France (“Little France”) was not given for patriotic or architectural reasons. It comes from the “hospice of the syphilitic”.
The most beautiful house in Strasbourg
We were heading towards Barrage Vauban and we stumbled upon the most beautiful house in Strasbourg. It won’t sound professional now, but luckily we are not professionals. 😀 Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find out what the house is for now! On Google Maps it can be found as Protection des Mineurs. Google Maps also claims that it is a Town Hall, but somehow this version doesn’t convince me. If you know something more about this place, let us know! 🙂
The Vauban Barrage was built on the River III in the heart of Strasbourg in the 17th century. The firewall is currently classified as a historical monument. It served as a defense mechanism in the event of an attack on the city. This interesting construction was able to raise the water level, so that the flooded lands and prevent the enemy troops from entering the city. The defense mechanism was used only once, when the Prussian forces besieged Strasbourg in 1870.
The dam is 120 meters long and consists of 13 arches. The roof of dam is now used as an observation deck from which you can admire the panorama of the city. The charming architecture on both banks of the river is a real delight, and historic homes create a backdrop for great photos!
Cathedral of our Lady
Meanwhile, you still probably wonder what does Strasbourg have in common with the golden ratio, namely number of Phi? It’s time to unveil the secret. We are now moving to dark ages (though perhaps not so dark?), Specifically to the Cathedral of Strasbourg. This is one of the most valuable examples of medieval architecture, combining the features of late romanism, with early French Gothic and mature German Gothic.
The cathedral was erected in the years 1176-1439 from red sandstone on the site of an earlier burnt building from the years 1015-1028, which in turn was part of an even earlier temple erected in the Karoling dynasty. For 227 years, from 1647 to 1874, the cathedral was the tallest building in the world. Currently, the Strasbourg Minster with its 142 meter tower is the 6th highest church in the world. However, it still retained the title of the largest building in the world built of sandstone (as I mentioned during the entry about Dresden, where is located the second largest sandstone building). 🙂
The number of Phi and other interesting convergences
Since you already know that you are not dealing with the first better Cathedral, built by people of the dark ages, let me intrigue you even more. The dimensions of the Cathedral are also not accidental. During its construction, a golden ratio was used. The golden proportion consists in dividing the segment into two parts, so that the ratio of the length of the longer segment to the length of the shorter segment is the same as the ratio of the length of the longer segment to the length of the entire section. In architecture, the idea is to have as many elements as possible to have this characteristic attitude. If you still do not quite feel this topic, read about it here. I guarantee you that even if you don’t like mathematics, this topic will really interest you.
What’s more, in the Cathedral of our Lady, not only the Golden Division was used, but also the profile of the Great Pyramid is built into its façade. Interestingly, the pyramids at that time used to lay deep under the sand. Its dimensions were not known (the dimensions of the Pyramid represent the record of the number of Phi).
To make it more interesting, the present science doesn’t confirm that the Ancients knew the exact record of the number of Phi. Egyptologists believe that the proportions that the ancients used in their buildings were accidental. Is it possible, that all this would be just a coincidence? Can you use the golden ratio without knowing it? And why, so many ancient and medieval buildings were constructed on the principle of a golden division? 🙂
Interior of the Cathedral
Once you find the profile of the Great Pyramid in the facade 😉 don’t forget to enter the Cathedral. The entrance is free. As befits a gothic temple, the interior is dark, tall and austere. Noteworthy is the Solar Clock, which is located in the right part of the Cathedral. Unfortunately during our stay (I think I have Déjà vu) the clock was covered with scaffolding and not much was visible…
Place de la Cathédrale
In the square on which our cathedral is located, there are many beautiful half-timbered buildings. It’s worth hanging your eye on them a bit longer. I remember the “thinner” building covered with orange paint. If you stand back to the facade of the Cathedral, you can locate it on the left.
You will also find here a lot of pubs, restaurants, and souvenir shops. It is also worth paying attention to the Rohan Palace, which is located right opposite to the Cathedral. It is a former residence of priests-bishops and cardinals. Currently, there are 3 museums: Fine Arts, Decorative Arts and Archaeological.
We decided to walk to the European Parliament building. From the city center it is only 2 km, so it is a route for about 30 minutes. Thanks to this, we found ourselves in front of the Rhin Palace. This building with a massive dome is located in the German (north-eastern) district of Strasbourg (Neustadt). After the Franco-Prussian war, Strasburg faced the question of an official residence for the Emperor of Germany. A decision was made to create a symbolic building for the imperial power, and after a great debate, a square Neo-Renaissance design was selected, inspired by the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. The Rhin Palace is surrounded by beautiful gardens, where residents of the city relax. We also took a 20 minute rest here! 🙂
Strasbourg – the capital of Alsace (and Europe)?
After about a 30 minute walk we approached the building of the European Parliament. As we expected, on that day nothing happened there (in the end it was Sunday). 😀 Maybe it’s good, because thanks to that, there were not many people around and we could take some pictures easily. I will tell you in secret that last year I submitted applications for an internships – I dreamed of internships in this European Institution and at the same time the possibility of living in Strasbourg (yes – you could choose cities for the internship period). I was very surprised by this fact, because those who are more interested in the topic probably know that only few sessions are held in Strasbourg, and the rest of the debate takes place in Brussels. Not everyone likes this wandering parliament, because it costs lots of money.
Au Brasseur & Tarte Flambee (flamekuche)
One way walking to Parliament was fine, but we decided to come back by tram. I got so terribly hungry that I almost died there. 😀 On the recommendation of our friend, we went to Au Brasseur, where you can try traditional Alsatian cuisine. The prices here are decent, but before you go there, I recommend reading the menu, which is exclusively in French. 😛 We ordered 2 Flambee tarts – one for sweet, the other, classic one. This mysterious dish is a cake made of bread dough baked on a stone, served with bacon, cream and onion in a classic version. Of course, different variations are possible. Generally it resembles a pizza, but in my opinion it is much weaker in taste! 😛 Honestly, I didn’t like this dish. I was very hungry, so I ate without fussing, but these are not my tastes! Still, I’m happy that I tried it. Unfortunately, there are no photos, because when they brought us food, I didn’t have time to take some pics! 😀
What else does Strasbourg offer?
It was quite late when we finished our lunch. We decided to have last walk around the surrounding streets. In fact, in most of them can be found a colorful, half-timbered building that I adore. Therefore, I liked Strasbourg very much! 🙂 In addition, there are many churches in the city. At least 8 of them (except the Cathedral) have the status of a monument. We noticed the Church of Saint Paul from 1897.
That is all I have prepared for you from the capital of Alsace. Strasbourg was just the first stop in this wine region of France. We are very happy that we arrived here, because we really enjoyed. Especially if you’re tracking the golden proportion in architecture! 🙂
If you’ve alredy been to Strasbourg, let us know how did you like it! 🙂
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