The Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of Strasbourg plays during opera performances at the opera house, but I also attended a concert of theirs at a somewhat out-of-the-way and run-down concert hall called the Palais des Fêtes, which was inaugurated in 1903.
It was quite an ambitious concert program featuring three works by Max Bruch (1838-1920) in the first half, and the Symphony No. 2 (A London Symphony) by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) after the intermission.
The connection between these two was that Vaughan Williams was once a student of Bruch's in Berlin, as I learned from the printed program.
I bought a ticket at the door for EUR 11.00, and since the seats were not numbered I chose one on the balcony where I could see which instruments were playing what and when. This was especially interesting in the second half, since Vaughan Williams provided ample solo passages for several instruments.
Second photo: Inside the concert hall Palais des Fêtes.
Third photo: Downstairs in the lobby during intermission.
Fourth photo: People outside waiting for admission before the concert. This is an old and quite plain concert hall, and the outside doesn't seem to have been painted for decades.
Fifth photo: The Palais des Fêtes and adjoining buildings on Rue Sellenick.
This is an old theater, the Théâtre Municipal, first built in 1821. It was destroyed by bombs in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War, but was reconstructed two years later, following the original plans.
The National Opera of the Rhine performs here, and also in the nearby cities of Mulhouse and Colmar. They only do 54 performances per year, of 13 different operas.
The performance I saw here was fine musically, but I'm afraid the staging didn't work at all. I should have guessed that something was wrong because of the strange wording on their website: "Based on an original concept by Christoph Loy." Since Loy is one of my favorite German stage directors, I had high hopes for the production, but evidently he walked out on the first day of rehearsals (not at all typical for him), and somebody else had to take it over. (I haven't heard the whole story yet.)
Second photo: The pillars at the front of the theater. I took this photo on a holiday, otherwise on a nice day there would have been tables here from the Opera Café.
Third photo: Place Broglie with the opera house at the far end.
Fourth photo: A side view of the opera house, with one branch of the Ill River in the foreground. (The river has split into two branches at this point, so the center of Strasbourg is on an island.)
The sales area to the right of the entrance on the ground floor has been recently modernized, but otherwise this theater has been kept in its original 19th century style. The 1143 red plush seats have obviously been reupholstered in recent years, but are still small and very close together. Evidently people were smaller in the 19th century than they are today.
Tickets are expensive. I paid EUR 46.80 for a seat in the second gallery with only a partial view of the stage.
Second photo: Looking up at the galleries and the ceiling.
Third photo: A statue up near the ceiling.
Fourth photo: The large intermission hall on the level of the first gallery.
Fifth photo: There is no cloakroom in this theater, but at all levels there are numerous numbered coat hooks, one for each seat. I took this photo on the level of the second gallery.
Friends told us about this and it really is fun. When in Strasbourg, find the large park called the Orangerie. When you enter the park, you will hear a clacking sound. Follow your ears and you will find the storks. Their beaks clacking together make the sound. There are several animals and birds in the enclosure but the storks are free to fly and you will see them throughout the park. They are beautiful and fun to watch.
For wine buffs you can find some of the oldest wines in the world, dating back to the 15th century, in the Wine Cellars of Place de l'Hopital. It is actually a hospital, then and now. The original hospital intended to be self-sufficient, and that meant making its own wine, a profitable tradition that continues to this day. Once you make it through the dark cellars you can buy a bottle of their most modern offerings in their wine shop. Or you can buy a bottle in one of the supermarkets in town - they're quite popular.
Tucked away on the less visited side of the river is the Cour du Corbeau, or Crow Yard. It's like stepping back into the 16th century - a quiet courtyard off the busy main street with little to advertise its existence. It's a little secret of the locals that went largely ignored until the square was renovated and turned into a four star hotel. It still looks beautiful though.
The French National Anthem, la Marseillaise, was first played here on the 25th April 1792 upon France declaring war with the Austrian Empire. The anthem was written by a Strasbourger, Rouget de Lisle. After this rousing night of patriotism it must have been an incredible insult when the square was renamed by the Germans, after their invasion, Adolf Hitler Platz. That was probably part of the reason General de Gaul came here after the war to give a great speech to fifty thousand patriotic French Alsatians.
Place Broglie is also famous for its Christmas Market, for which Strasbourg is popular for during the colder months. It also has some of the most important buildings in Strasbourg, like the opera and the town hall.
Just across the river from the Grand Ile in the Neustadt district of Strasbourg is the Place Republique - a elegant park surrounded by some of the grandest buildings in the city. They include the National Theater, National and University Library and (pride of place) Palace of the Rhine in all its German neo-Renaissance splendour. In the centre of the green park is a memorial is dedicated to the city's war dead - the mother symbolises the city with her two children, one German and one French.
Although sitting alongside the Parliament of the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights is not part of the EU. The EU's highest court is the European Court of Justice. The ECHR adjudicates on human rights abuses in 47 nations, basically all of Europe including Turkey. The only exception is Belarus, which isn't surprising given that country's record on human rights.
Children not welcome!
Surprising, really, for a museum dedicated to one of the most beloved illustrators of children's books in the world, but they really don't seem to want children, even well behaved ones. First they insisted we leave the pushchair behind at the entrance, even though the whole museum has excellent accessibility (for adults obviously). But worse was to come inside from the attendants.
My son loved the museum. Normally he runs away at the sight of an exhibit, but despite his upset over having his favourite pushchair taken away, he quickly warmed to the museum - even saying "wow" for the first time in a museum ever when he saw a collection of toys. The paintings captured him and the interactive displays were places of great adventure. He was so excited he ran from one exhibit to another.
It wasn't running - more excited skipping. He wasn't screaming or crying or even raising his voice, but the patter of feet was obvious.
I tried to explain to Oskar that he wasn't allowed to run, but he's only two and didn't understand. I tried to hold his hand to stop him, but that caused him to fall over and start crying. Loudly. If we'd had been allowed to bring his pushchair we could have probably got him to sit quietly in that. But no, that's against the rules.
We carried him upstairs where there were no other visitors to disturb - just one attendant. We put him down and immediately we heard:
My wife, not normally pugnacious, got quite angry.
"What are we supposed to do with him?"
"Carry him! No running!"
So I carried him. But you can only carry a child so long, and he quickly got bored, so we left.
A lovely museum, if a little small, but no place for children.
Oh and no pictures allowed either.
The French renamed Strasbourg's largest central square after a hero of the French revolution. It was originally called Barfüsserplatz (later Waffenplatz) - the square of the barefoot nuns. A much more interesting name for sure, but at least the French hero, Jean Baptiste Kléber, was born in Strasbourg. He is buried here too, although assassinated in Egypt by a Kurd, and his heart rests in an urn in Paris.
Place Kleber is a wide expanse of fountains and paving, surrounded by some of Strasbourg's finest half-timbered buildings and most expensive shops.
Standing so close to the heavily fortified western edge of the Grand Ile, the church of St Thomas is as sturdy as a slab of granite, and about as beautiful. The original church, dating back to the sixth century, was apparently quite spectacular. Not so the modern St. Thomas, although the fortress like structure could probably hold off an army of landsknechts for a few days.
This beautiful house was a favourite of mine, and turned out to be a place for estranged children to rebuild relationships with their non-custodial parent. It's a most serene location, flanked by water on both sides at the narrow end of Petite France's middle arm. It seems an idyllic place with a complex and important role.
A small and curious link in the chain of islands is le Pont Tournant (the swing bridge). It's a pedestrian bridge that allows canal traffic to pass through by swinging out of its way. The whole thing is operated manually - the chain is pulled across boss sides and the bridge starts to rotate - just as it once was when the bridge was first built.
If there's one stand-out building in La Petite France, it's that symbol of a more industrious time, the Maison de Tanneurs. It's hard to imagine it now, with its whitewashed walls and polished balustrades exploding with red carnations, that it was ever the stinking tannery of centuries ago, pouring its putrid effluent into the canals below. Today it's a restaurant, if you can stomach that.
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