Strasbourg, the capital of the Alsace region, has been a European crossroads since its founding by the Romans. The city lies at the heart of Europe where the Rhine River intersects the main trade route from Germany across the Vosges mountains to Paris. Centuries of inhabitation by the Huns, Franks, and Carolingians have all left their mark here. Today, the city's population of over 400,000 is imbued with centuries of French and Germanic influences while preserving a distinctly Alsatian identity.
Strasbourg is also a crossroads of ideas. It became one of Europe's printing capitals after Gutenberg set up shop in 1434. Intellectuals such as Erasmus, Calvin, Goethe, and Pasteur have bolstered the city's reputation as an centre of learning. The great currents of Western thought from Protestantism to Humanism to Republicanism and even Situationnisme have had a profound impact here.
Today, Strasbourg still overflows with cultural activity from the homespun to the avant-garde. Cyber-cafés are tucked into streets that look as they might have two hundred years ago. An ultra modern tramway takes commuters through medieval neighbourhoods and sleek new commercial districts. The city boasts an opera, ballet, and national theatre company, numerous museums, parks, and more cultural events than anyone could possibly attend. International institutions such as the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, and the European Court of Human Rights meet in Strasbourg. Thousands of international students and scholars from across Europe study in Strasbourg and add to the city's international flavour.
Strasbourg is an excellent place to begin exploring the surrounding Alsace region. The Vosges mountains form a verdant backdrop to dozens of colourful villages such as Obernai, Saint Hippolyte, and Ribeauvillé. Visitors can explore the Alsatian wine country along the Route des Vins which meanders through the Rhine valley. Plus, Strasbourg's location at the eastern edge of France places Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and Switzerland only a short train ride away.