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Sunday, 22 September 2013

Ile Boat Tour, Cathedral Treasure Hunt, Mayoral Reception at Strasbourg's Town Hall

This last week was quite an exciting one at the ISU and Strasbourg. While it was the second week of classes, it was the first with non-introductory material and I was excited to get to work! Lectures included a variety of topics like a brief history of the space industry, the electromagnetic spectrum, orbital mechanics, and international space policy. While some of it was review, it was nice to be learning more about the space industry.

We met with our Academic Advisers this week, and discussed our plans for this year and beyond. I told my Adviser my wishes, that I wished to be working for a major space industry when I was done with this Masters program. I'll have more to say on this later, but for now, I'll just say that the meeting went well, and my Adviser had a few ideas for how to help make my goals happen.

It wasn't all serious business, exactly, as Tuesday was packed with exciting tours around the city of Strasbourg!

The first was a boat tour in something called a bateau-mouche, or fly boat. Strasbourg, a city whose name translates to "the city of streets", is actually surrounded by water. The boat tour took us from the south-west corner of the city, north, and around to the north-east side before turning back.

The boat had headphone jacks at every seat and you could choose to hear the tour in a variety of language which included at least: French, English, German, and Pirate English, haha. I feel really bad because normally I would have written down the details of the tour so I could not forget them but I completely forgot. So, while you will get to see some lovely and poorly taken photos, I am not able to provide you with many details. Perhaps, I will retake the trip, maybe with some friends/family who might visit.

Oh! I did find this site featuring many places in Strasbourg as well as some writing about them. I'll try to verify and add her comments to the pictures below, but you may see her website here. (You'll have to scroll down the page to see the short write-ups she does of each area she visited)

Waiting for our tour boat
We went under many bridges

I just like the many different styles of building, all built so closely to each other

This part was difficult to photograph from the boat itself, but here we are locked in by Le Petit France. The boat is locked between two gates and water is allowed in at the sides. Over the course of a few minutes, the boat rises and we move through the lock. While I knew how locks worked, it was neat to be in one!

You may remember this area from when I toured it in an earlier blog post.

The city of Strasbourg was fortified by walls and towers, some of these towers were used as prisons.

For a bit more history, look here, you may have to translate.

Try as I might, I cannot recall the name of, nor find information about, this church. I'll go back soon.

The site of the European Council in Strasbourg
Strasbourg has been a much sought-after city historically. The Romans named it Argentoratum, the area was integrated into France in 1681, taken by the Germans in 1870, given back to France after WWI, taken by the Germans again in WWII and given back to the French after WWII. Located on the western side of the Rhine river, it is the first part of France to be reached from Germany.

As such, Strasbourg has come to be a symbol. Representing cooperation and diplomacy, Strasbourg has many institutions in and around its city centre and has been dubbed the "capitol of Europe". Site of the European Parliament, and the Council of Europe, Strasbourg is a city of peace and politics.

I do remember much about the building above except that it is a university residence and has been for over 100 years. Imagine you had a dorm which looked like this!

I will definitely be going back to this building here, the Palais Rohan. Housing three museums, this building which is far more beautiful in person, was the original city hall. However, when Napoleon visited the city, the people wanted to give him the most beautiful palace available. They decided to move city hall to another building and gave this one to Napoleon.

Below, we have several pictures of the Strasbourg Cathedral. After the boat tour, we went back to this area and we had a scavenger hunt around the small side streets. It was an amusing and enlightening afternoon as we discovered little facades, statues, ornaments, and other pieces of history which marked the area. Semi-unfortunately, the so called "Treasure Hunt" we were on was a competition and we rushed through it far faster than I would have liked. I got some photos of the Cathedral, but I plan on going back and a) taking better photos as these were much too bright/dark in certain places, b) go inside the Cathedral and c) take photos of the history lining the many streets surrounding this building.

Also, my parents pointed out to me that this looks like the cathedral from A Knight's Tale. In the scene where William goes to meet Jocelyn, they meet in a cathedral and she demands that he prove his love for her by losing. Just before he enters the cathedral, you are able to see the outside of it and it does bear a striking resemblance to this cathedral, especially the section above the main door. Now, I'm no architect, but I do see the resemblance. I tried to find out where they shot the movie, but could not, and I tried to find out what other buildings the architect of this cathedral worked on, but I could not. If anyone can confirm or officially deny this claim, I'd be interested in hearing from them.

The building is incredibly ornate. There are spires, figures, and decorations everywhere. The wings of the angels and scepters of the holy men are made of copper, now green with time and rust.

After the Treasure Hunt, which my team won by the way, we made our way to the Town Hall. You might remember that I photographed it before, it was across the street from La Marseillese. As mentioned earlier in this post, this was not the original town hall. When Napoleon made his way through Strasbourg, they gave him and Joséphine the original town hall, and moved here. We were met by the Mayor who welcomed us and told us a little more about the building. We were served fresh bread, bretzels (not a typo), wine, and juice. It was a nice evening.

I could not get a better shot of this tapestry, but it is entitled, "L'Adieu D'Hecteur et D'Andromaque". Originally an oil painting composed in 1773, this was a gift from Napoleon to the people of Strasbourg. Napoleon was a great lover of this period of history and while I don't think reading into the symbolism of this gift is a good idea, I think it looked very nice in this hall.

Now, the room adjacent to us was even nicer. It was a special room normally reserved for greeting visiting presidents and other delegates.

When something is so fancy it makes you not want to use it, does that defeat the purpose, or enhance it?

I do not recall the name of this one, but thankfully, there was a handy little guide to point out who the people were in this one.

Horace, and Dante, and Homer, and many of the Muses, among many other important people, it was a lovely mural and my lack of attention toward it now is only because I am a little overwhelmed with the history of this city.

All in all, it was a lovely day in Strasbourg. The city is small, only takes you a half hour to walk from end to end, but it is full of historical influence. Every building has a story to tell, and while I haven't taken too many chances out and about in the city, I hear the night life is pretty spectacular as well. I enjoyed the chance to see more of the city and do so with my friends here at Starfleet Academy, I mean the International Space University!

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