Sunday, July 09, 2006

Jardin des deux Rives

Went for a picknick with some friends at the "Garden on two banks" today. It's a really special place, straddling two banks of the river Rhine, which effectively also separates the two countries of Germany and France. A pedestrian causeway (Passerelle) connects the two sides, symbolically bridging the two countries that have for too long been rivalries, and had to pay the price for it, together.

It was nice to be out and about in the open, to get away from the stuffiness at home. Between much food and drink were chatted about this and that, and since our party of 7 were of different nationalities, we had to communicate in no less than 4 languages in order for all of us to understand what one person is saying (or at least trying to understand, and trying to say). Shows if your willing, language barriers are not barriers at all.

At one point I suggested going to Germany. Armed with my camera and sense of travel spirit, some others were mobilised to join in the little covert adeventure over-river (as opposed to over-seas).

People are not much different on the 'other' side.


Though signs maybe in a different language altogether, the trees look the same, the birds sing the same songs, and the grass is just as green. So much for "the grass is greener on the other side" thus.

The one difference I did notice was the rubbish bin: in Germany the bin is clearly divided into recyclable, non-recyclable and others. It was
made of cold steel, efficient, slick and well-designed, reflecting the very characteristics
the Germans are known for. In France a bin is just a bin, made of rubber, some burnt by vandals beyond recognition. The laissez-faire attitude means 'anything goes, however, whenever', and the same applies for the rubbish. But a friend reassured me that things are changing, for the best. But I'll take a bet it'll take a few years, if ever.

We came to this quaint little play ground, where children ran around a 'boat' moored in the sand. It was perfect: open sails, a hammack, shelter to keep out the rain, steering wheel. Everything I could hope for should French train drivers go on strike when I want to go home. The Netherlands is just a few hundred kilometers up river, and we were sure if the winds cooperated I could be home in no time.

Further on in our adventure we came to this huge towering watchtower. It must have been around 10 floors high. When I saw it I thought: oh, oh, perhaps Germany is planning something again. But no worries, we climbed the tower and were rewarded with a panoramic view of the surroundings....from the cathedral marking the position of Strasbourg, to the mountains of the Black Forest in the background, to the depths in the horizon where the river flowed in both directions, to the little ducks that swam leisurely in the pond beneath. All could be seen from that height. Perhaps it wasn't built with bad intentions after all.

Then it was time to go back, back to the land of the French, or should I say Alsatians.

Which brought the number of countries I visited in the past twelve months to 10.

(Rhine at sunset)


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