Saturday, April 15, 2006

In Strasbourg

Strasbourg is a beautiful city. This is not the first time that I set foot here, but this time I seem to notice and appreciate things I never did when I first came here a couple of years ago in high school. We were just teens then. The city centre is full of majestic, grand buildings carved out of stone, with large windows and exquisite carvings and wall d├ęcor that is so typical of French architecture. There are also older parts of the city, with small wooden houses and street names that are reminiscent of the German influence that is rich in this region of the country. Then there are the imposing shiny structures out of glass and steel on the modern buildings and tramways in the midst of it all. At the border of France and Germany, Strasbourg is almost literary at the heart of continental Europe. In many ways, the city reminds me of Den Haag, adorned with the green, open spaces, international flair and history. Indeed, the presence of (a part of) the Europarliament, the European Court of Justice and Council of Europe makes it all the more important. Who would have thought that this is a region that endured the worst excesses of one of Europe’s deepest animosities. But today, the spirit of peace and cooperation reigns. Even so, Strasbourg is as French as the renowned national pride of the French. Names that are obviously German in origin are pronounced, or Frenchified. I could more of less guess the meaning of signs on the streets. Many words have much in common with words in other languages spoken in Europe. Still, it’s difficult to find your way, since most people can’t, or as I like to imagine refuse to, speak any language other than their own. Chirac’s charade a few weeks ago is evidence enough. I guess I should have paid more attention when I studied French classes in school all those years ago.

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