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FRANCE : STRASBOURG

Strasbourg lies on the strategically important upper Rhine River, on the border between France and Germany, in the Alsace région (Elsaz in German) . Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace région of northeastern France, with approximately 650,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area in 1999. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin (Lower Rhine) département.  The German name of the city is “Straßburg” . It is the city's original Germanic name.

It was not just one building but the entire historic-town-quarter of the French city of Strasbourg which was declared a United Nations World Heritage Site in 1988 – the first city to have been bestowed with such an honour.

It was once a free city of the Holy Roman Empire and became a centre of influence across Europe during this time. As such, various important and majestic buildings were established in the city at that time and a number of them have survived to this day.
The most important architectural landmark of Strasburg is the sandstone gothic cathedral  which is considered cultural world heritage. The construction of the cathedral started in the 13th century and took nearly 200 years. The dark medieval interior harbours some real artistic highlights, such as the beautiful stained glass windows. The 330 steps high tower offers a beautiful view over the city. 

Nearby the cathedral lies the picturesque Petite France quarter, which includes a number of half-timbered houses and is where the River Ile splits up into a number of cascading canals, which wind their way past some of Strasbourg's oldest buildings.  The Grande Ile (Big Island) is the heart of the city, encircled by the Ill River and Fossé du Faux-Rempart canal. Around the Cathedral, an impressive collection of museums is clustered. The central square is place Kléber – named after the brilliant Strasbourg-born military officer, Jean-Baptiste Kléber (1753-1800), who was singled out by Napoleon Bonaparte for high office in Egypt. Close by is place Gutenberg – named after Johannes Gutenberg, who resided in Strasbourg between 1434 and 1444, perfecting his famed printing press with moveable metal type. The main streets (rue des Grandes Arcades and the parallel rue des Francs Bourgeois) are remarkably small and pedestrian friendly. The Petite France area in the Grande Ile’s southwestern corner, crossed by canals, is Strasbourg’s medieval quarter and classed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Its half-timbered houses and narrow streets could not be more different from the ultra-modern City of Europe to the northeast of the city.  

Strasbourg is the seat of the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights and it hosts a seat of the European Parliament, together with Brussels. The members of the European Parliament meet in Strasbourg 12 times a year. The construction of the new building of the Parliament was finished in 1999 and cost about 400 million euros. Also, there is a total of 71 diplomatic missions and consulates in Strasbourg. 

Strasbourg is host to the permanent campus of the International Space University (ISU) and the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA), the prestigious French Grandes Ecoles that relocated to Strasbourg in 1992.  

Strasbourg has a thriving cultural life with, amongst other things, its own opera, France’s only national theatre outside Paris, two international music festivals and Europe’s only bi-national TV station, Arte. Furthermore, an international student population, some 50,000 strong, keeps the city vibrant and intellectually alive.
 


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