Editor’s note: I often write dispatches after visiting a new city, but I wanted to try to use my skills as a radio guy for this post and perhaps begin a series of audio journals, postcards, or dispatches giving a taste of a city through my eyes and ears. I walked through the streets of Strasbourg and produced this piece..perfect to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea and an open imagination. Script and photos included.
(Music: Yann Tiersen – “Le jour de l’ouverture”)
People warned me these days would be dark and trying. Sure I am in France, in Springtime, but rain is often the unwelcomed host of visits like these. In Brussels I was kissed by a fledgling rain cloud, which caused not enough to warrant panic. But above me now on the French-German border the sky is clear…the sun is bright…and my ears are eager to absorb this place in sound. Here is my walk through the streets of Strasbourg.
This is a city alive. Despite being one of the richest cities in France it is still a city. It feels like a city. Compact cars with inefficient mufflers scream constantly.
Tomorrow’s heroes rush to save lives in speeding, flashing chariots. And residents march with a purpose, or drink coffee without one .
Strasbourg has changed hands between the French and Germans nearly a half dozen times over the years and some residents feel like cultural nomads. The train station illustrates the complexity—the older German-style train station is actually enshrouded by a polished glass exoskeleton.
Tourists and locals of all shapes and sizes recline on the expansive and soft emerald island beyond the tracks and engines. The grass is welcoming, but most loungers are on phones talking about things and places far from this lazy Sunday. A group of young loungers, all with long hair, strum quietly on cheap guitars not wanting their music to be heard. Life is mirrored in real time by the scores of polished glass panels enshrouding the station.
Less than 300 thousand characters live in Strasbourg.
A middle-aged man shuffles slowly toward the train station—his IV bag swaying from a rolling companion. Further still down this street is a busy Kebap shop.
The cook cuts and rotates the meat on the griddle with care and skill.
Modern light rail cars slide quietly along carefully laid track in the roadways.
Nearby..flows one of the three rivers feeding Strasbourg. A fisherman with long, deep sea poles dips fragile bait to lure fish which may or may not be there. A boat full of tourists disturb the otherwise typical waterway surrounding Strasbourg’s Grande Isle, or main island.
In the heart of the city is its Münster—a one-towered cathedral and seat of the bishop. The cathedral was built Catholic but turned Protestant for a time, explaining the odd astronomical clock chiming near the beautifully carved stone Tower of Angels. Outside the Münster a crowd has gathered. A man dressed in leather sings soprano.
It is fitting this dispatch end on the streets, though. Strasbourg, after all, means village on the road, and was a major trade route and through-point for thousands of years.
Children power their chariots with excitement through this alleyway. Their father stops to take money from a cash machine. These sounds are rich, and typical of a city, but beneath them…peeps the slightest song of a piano.
Despite the traffic, and legions of people, Strasbourg is aesthetically pleasing to the eye…and with this subtle song, I was glad to hear something more than sirens and trams. I don’t know what song it was..perhaps something reflective and fitting. At any rate it was the perfect ending to this day on these European streets.
(Music: Patrick Leonard – “The Madison”)
More info on the music used:
Yann Tiersen from the album Les Retrouvailles
Patrick Leonard from the album Rivers