The last stop before resuming normal life
I stopped for a couple of days in Strasbourg in the last leg of my New Year journey. It is a beautiful town, even if my visit was a bit marred by a persistent cough and sore throat that I caught somewhere between Barcelona and here. (Should I have worn a mask on the train? I don’t think those things work, and they are annoying. But I do have a cold and a cough now).
I had been in Strasbourg before: 20 years ago more exactly. A friend of mine from film school lived there, and I went to visit him. Coincidentally, it was also around the end of the year — I remember it because he informed me, and that was news to me then, that one of local traditions of the people in the banlieues was to burn cars during the night of New Year’s Eve. I think the tradition still goes on, but I’m not sure, as I arrived after the New Year. From that visit I also remember, perhaps by association, the delicious tartes flambées, and, other than that, just my friend’s very funny and sympathetic sister — I think she’s now married with two or three kids and no longer lives in Strasbourg.
This time I stayed in a local hostel, and I suppose it would have been interesting to meet and talk to some other travellers and hear their stories — I admire people like, say, Linh Dinh, who have an easiness to talk to strangers and extract from them their best life stories like a dentist extracting a tooth — but the cough made me crankier and even more anti-social than usual. I consoled myself thinking that you can learn a lot just by looking at people’s faces.
There is something unique about French faces. I cannot always recognize Spaniards, or Germans, or Italians, but the French… The French have something very French about them. Simply looking around I could identify them and separate them from the others… See, there is this middle-aged man with a hat and a coat that has something of Jacques Tati… That pretty blond girl at the reception with a hint of Catherine Deneuve… The brunette at the bar with a smile that is a cross between Juliette Binoche’s and Audrey Tatou’s… That other petite woman at the door who maybe looks more like Isabelle Huppert…
Or was my of weakness for French movies making me see things?
Other than people watching, I used my time to visit the Strasbourg Cathedral, Petite France, and the Alsatian Museum. I enjoyed especially that last one, a little museum that gives you a glimpse of the history of the region. The Alsace is, to me, the best part of Germany — A Germany where they speak French, eat French food and have the French charm about them! Sure, I know it’s part of France now, but it wasn’t always, and its traditional architecture of course still looks more German than French.
As most regions of the world lose their peculiarities due to the changes brought on by globalism and modern technology, it is nice to know that some corners still retain a bit of their ancient history and characteristics.
Holidays are over. As I get back, I find a letter from my landlord informing me that there will be a 25% increase in my rent in 2023, due to the high energy costs now in Europe…. So it’s time to stop travelling, and work. But let us still enjoy life while we can, for who knows what will be coming this year?