Sélestat is a non-tourist jewel of Alsace

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Sélestat, is a German shepherd town with a lot of half-timbered houses and old cathedrals that to this day has not yet been exploited by tourism, so it retains its charm. The city was sung by Erasmus of Rotterdam and is the birthplace of the Christmas tree. In addition, geographically, Sélestat is the center of Alsace, but with all this, for some reason, tourists often pass by this interesting city.

A city between two big cities

Sélestat is very conveniently located between the tourist towns of Strasbourg and Colmar. Getting to Celeste is extremely simple, from Colmar it takes only about ten minutes by train, from Strasbourg a little more, about twenty minutes. The only drawback is that the city is located a bit far from the Alsace wine route, so tourists are less likely to come here, to visit the twisted Riquir and Ribeauville, and the small Obernai, which is certainly a more touristy destination.

Facilities to visit Sélestat

However, something ingenious has been done for the tourists who decide to visit Sélestat. An excursion route has been established along the city's sidewalks. The direction of movement and points of interest are indicated by signs mounted on asphalt or tiles. There is a similar approach in Dijon, with its owl plates, and it seems extremely useful and attractive, as it integrates very well with the urban landscape. The official route extends for about three kilometers, more or less. This means that it is more or less possible to do the whole route in one hour, if you don't want to stop too long to observe or have a drink, of course.

Even so, Sélestat is a city interesting enough to spend a whole day in. The rush to visit places is never good advice, and prevents us from soaking up the essence of the place and trying to have a certain rapprochement with the inhabitants of the city, which is always very enriching. In addition, depending on the time of year, we must take into account that at four o'clock in the afternoon it begins to get dark, which makes our day even shorter. 

Location of Sélestat

The city is located on the river Ilé, on the border with Germany, 40 km southwest of Strasbourg and 40 km northwest of Freiburg. Sélestat is the most important city in the county of Celeste-Ersten. The area of this city is 44.4 km², the population was 19,459 people (2006) with a tendency to stabilize: 19,332 people (2013), the population density is 435.4 people / km².

History of the city

The medieval history of the city is closely related to the Hohenstaufen . Hildegard de Burensky, the widow of the founder of the dynasty, Friedrich Burensky, the grandmother of the Emperor Barbarossa, built the chapel of the Holy Sepulchre around 1087, which her sons handed over to the Konk monastery in 1094. In 1095, they introduced the cult of Saint Faith in Alsace.

Frederick the One-Eyed Man, by whose command the city wall was erected in 1216, granted the city the rights of a free imperial city. Since then, the city has been governed by both the church and the bourgeoisie. Under an agreement with King Rudolph I, the city's government was transferred completely to the state. Then the heyday of the city began: trade developed, new city fortifications were built and the city accepted a monastic order within its walls. In 1354, it entered the Decapolis , a union of the 10 free cities of Alsace (Alsacia).

During the Renaissance, the city became the capital of humanism. The Latin school and the humanist school, whose library has survived until today, were known throughout Europe.

The Reformation, the Peasant War in Germany and the Thirty Years' War led the city into decline. After the peace of Westphalia in 1648 and under the Nimwegen peace treaties of 1679, Sélestat, like the other cities of Decapolis, became part of France. The prominent French military engineer Sebastien Le Pretre de Vauban erected new fortifications in the city, Sélestat became the site of the military garrison. After the administrative reforms of the French Revolution, Sélestat entered the department of the Lower Rhine.


A short tour of the city

The first thing a tourist sees when he gets off the train at the Celeste station is a large water tower. The French, with their more typical Italian pathos, call it the Water Castle (Château d'eau). An interesting fact, the roof of the tower served as sand for the "war of the birds" when the Germans captured Alsace, they installed it on the roof of their imperial eagle, when the region passed to the French, they put a giant cock on the roof. 

Now all this is the European Union, it seems, therefore, the roof is empty. From the train station to the center of Sélestat, about a ten minute walk. The second attraction we can find on the way is the Synagogue. The late 19th century building is not overly interesting, but the area around the synagogue is very picturesque.

It is possible to have lunch at the restaurant of the High Koenigsbourg castle. Here you can taste German dishes more easily than French ones, although the German shepherd cuisine of this area can be a mixture of both countries.

Later you can find a fountain in the shape of a Christmas tree (in spanish: árbol de Navidad), so to speak, which suggests that we are in the homeland ... of the Christmas tree. In the local chronicle of 1521 there is a record that is the first written reference to the tradition of putting a Christmas tree in Christmas. This is why Sélestat is considered to be the birthplace of the Christmas tree.

The symbol of Sélestat is the New Tower. Once the city wall passed through here, and the tower had a defensive function. It is advisable to approach it and look at the frescoes that decorate the tower. The scene of the Crucifixion is visible from one side, from the side of Knight's Street there is an interesting fresco representing all the artisans of Celeste. There are clocks in the tower. Its mechanism was made by the same master who made the clocks in the Cathedral of Strasbourg.

Sélestat is a German shepherd jewel to be discovered, and it is worth making a small detour in the tour of this area of Europe to enjoy its wonders and its charm.

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