Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Dam you Strasbourg!
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Rainbows and Ponies trail - or at least the Bruche Canal that runs alongside it - was built in order to transport the stone needed for the new fortifications the French built around Alsace after the annexation under Louis XIV. Louis's military engineer - a brilliant man named Sebastien Le Prestre, Seigneur de Vauban.
Those of you from Halifax know that the Citadel, like most forts of its era, is built in a modified star shape, with angled buttresses and a very low profile. That way enemy cannon could not get a direct shot at the ramparts, while your own guns were given overlapping fields of fire. Vauban was the man who pioneered this technique.
There's a small Vauban fort in Strasbourg (now a park) but his more notable contribution to the city is the Barrage Vauban. Essentially, it is a dam. If the city were attacked, defenders could blow the bridges to the old city of the Grand Ile, and release a the pent up waters of the Ill river in a flood, thus stymying invaders.
Today the dam is footbridge (though it's been closed for almost a year for renovations). When it was open it served as the Grand Finale of my city tour, as it offers the best view of the city (the header photo of the blog was taken from the viewing platform).
Inside is a little surreal. The chambers that used to hold the dam's gates and mechanisms are now occupied by the various statuary from Strasbourg's public buildings that are important enough to protect, but not notable enough to belong in a museum. So they sit, unexplained and neglected, watching rollerbladers zip by, getting crapped on by the pigeons that now make the dam their home.
Sam the Eagle has gone to a better place