Strasbourg is one of my favorite cities in France. It’s the largest city in the Alsace region and it has a complicated history of flipping back and forth between France and Germany, which explains the German influence on the architecture and food. Several important institutions of the European Union are located here, but neither the history nor the political significance are why I love Strasbourg. The historic city center, situated on the Grande Île, is the reason why. The chief landmark is the Gothic cathedral with its ancient astronomical clock. The church is surrounded by half-timbered medieval houses. Right next to it is the Palais de Rohan, which houses the wonderful Musée des Beaux Arts chock full of Old Masters. As the name Grande Île implies, the old town is an island and many wonderful bridges are part of the cityscape. Most spectacular are the four medieval Ponts Couverts, or covered bridges and their towers. I spent quite a long time walking back and forth across them while I looked for them, because the wooden covers are long gone, even though the name remains. I’m not the only fan of the city; famous residents over the years include Johannes Gutenberg of printing press fame, writer Johann Goethe, scientist Louis Pasteur, and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer.
Today’s expression, couper les ponts avec quelqu’un (koopay lay pon avek kelkun) means “to cut bridges with someone.” It means to break off all contact with someone. The bridges of Strasbourg help this medieval city keep in contact with the many people who visit every year. I hope they bring me back one day for the Christmas market, supposed to be one of the finest in the world. That would be a joyeux Noël indeed.