At the border between France and Germany, the Jardin des Deux-Rives serves as a beautiful link between the two nations.
Spanning 40 hectares on either side of the Rhine, the park is divided into a French section (25 hectares) and a German section (15 hectares). They are connected by a stunning cable-stayed bridge designed by Marc Mimram, which almost erases the concept of a border. Symbolically, it hosted world leaders during the NATO summit in April 2009. In the evenings and on weekends, both Germans and French enjoy crossing it on foot or by bike to stroll in the park or along the Rhine.
I always feel something special when I cross the bridge towards Kehl. This once desolate part of the city has transformed into a lively area, even featuring a tram service.
The park is quite different from other Strasbourg parks like the Orangerie, the Citadel, or the Botanical Garden. I particularly enjoy hopping across the border, revisiting my childhood in the themed gardens, or gaining some height at the Weisstannenturm. It's also a part of the Forts Trail, a Franco-German cycling route that combines nature and history. Shall we explore the Jardin des Deux-Rives together?
Discovering the Jardin des Deux-Rives
The French entrance is near the equestrian centre, just a few steps from the Rhéna clinic. You start with the Planet Trail along the vast car park. The planets of the solar system are aligned on the path and represented at a 1/16 billion scale. The Sun is separated from Neptune by a 281.5-metre path, ending in semi-circular water walls and the beginning of the Mimram bridge.
The park is then divided into several lanes. The large esplanade is not particularly interesting, in my opinion. It's just vast stretches of unshaded lawns. At best, it's an ideal spot for children to cycle or scoot. You can also see some kites when the wind picks up.
To make it more interesting, you should explore the nooks and crannies. Here, you'll find children's playgrounds, picnic tables, and even self-service barbecues.
Enchanting Themed Gardens
The most fun part of the Jardin des Deux-Rives is getting lost in the small themed gardens located to the right of the bridge.
In the first one, you can relax on a sun lounger in a small natural haven. Next to it is a small wooden playground for children. Then you enter the Flower Game. Wooden stems of all colours are planted in the ground and surrounded by wooden logs that form a snail, which my daughter and I enjoy hopping over.
In the Garden of Treats, a wave of a magic wand shrinks you down. Everything is oversized. Jam jars tower over us, and we have to literally climb the garden chairs to sit down for a treat. There are also orchards that remind us of our childhood. For me, it brings back memories of raspberry picking in my grandmother's garden.
In the Child's Dream, the winding path takes us to the Smurfs' world with mushrooms transforming into houses. We enjoy going up to the cabin and waterfall and observing the plants from the pier.
Change of scenery to Water, that's life. I'm not so much marked by the precious liquid. I feel more like I've been transported to an arid region, perhaps Andalusia or Mexico. The plastered wall of a kind of salmon is pierced by small windows that allow walkers to discreetly observe the cacti and the thin stream of water flowing by.
Finally, the Franco-German Human Rights Garden is an area of free expression created by schools and children from both countries. Here you can see the iron silhouette of Strasbourg artist Tomi Ungerer, a favourite with young people. The garden is topped by a small hill where giant crayons grow.
The Mimram Bridge, a Link Between Two Countries
Back on solid ground or gaining some height, the Mimram bridge is a lovely link between France and Germany. The two lanes reserved for cyclists and pedestrians converge onto a platform that completely erases the notion of a border.
It was here that Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, and other world leaders gathered for the NATO summit in 2009. Standing 10 metres above the Rhine, I feel deeply European. Some lovers even leave a padlock to seal their love.
Germans and French cross paths almost naturally. Then you descend on the other side where the Jardin des Deux-Rives becomes der Garten der zwei Ufer. Straight ahead, the path takes you to the rose garden and the city centre of Kehl. Ideal for some shopping or an ice cream.
Otherwise, you can continue your walk along the Rhine. To the North, you'll find Kehl station and Villa Schmidt, famous for its brunches. To the South, you head towards the water games for children and the Weisstannenturm.
But before we talk about that, let's pause for a moment to look at the artworks at the foot of the bridge. They symbolise Franco-German friendship. There's a statue by Joseph Fromm where two people hug. Between them, a lovely perspective opens up on the Rhine and the bridge.
The Weisstannenturm, an Observation Tower from Kehl
As you venture into the German part of the park, you'll find a water play area for children that's very pleasant (and quite popular) in the summer.
In the distance, you can see a strange wooden tower. This is the Weisstannenturm or White Fir Tower in English, which stands at 44 metres high. I enjoy climbing it. At the top, the observation platform offers a superb view of the Rhine, the Black Forest, and the Vosges. It's particularly beautiful for sunrise or sunset.