Saturday, April 15, 2006

Strasbourg Tram

Homme de Ferre

Place de Republique Posted by Picasa

In and around Strasbourg: Catherdrale and Old Quarter

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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.

Petite France II

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Petite France

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Friday, April 14, 2006

In and around Strasbourg

Main canal through the city

One of the very modern and convenient trams

Street scene

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In and arund Strasbourg II

Yet another church

Trees in line

Place Broglie

Canal around Republique Posted by Picasa

In and around Strasbourg: Place de Republique

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In and around Strasbourg: Gallia

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Little Life

The walls are gray at the hospital. And the corridors long and never ending. Doctors and nurses in coats of white rush around with expressionless faces and forced smiles. Another appointment, another long wait in the waiting room filled with magazines and latest fashion tips for the modern woman. But the wait was worth it.

The black and white image of the echograph appeared on the screen in front. Like an abstract Picasso at first, it was difficult to make out what it was. As the doctor moved the stick around on the bloated belly of my friend, the image on the screen flowed and changed shape like raindrops on a window. And there it was…or rather, there he was. A big head, a silhouette of the side of his head, with visible round cheeks, button nose, pouted little lips. He moved his head in little movements, and his fingers were equally little. As we spied on him, I wondered whether he knew someone was watching him, admiring him. For he was beautiful, so little and fragile, yet so full of life. I wondered whether he realised that we know his like of sucking on his little thumb. I wondered whether he knew that that cord brushing against his little face was the lifeline connecting him with his mother, a cord that will soon be cut, but never, even after birth, be severed. A little life, in its purest and most innocent form, bathed in a pool of warmth and in the embrace of a mother’s insides.

The doctor moved the echo stick around a bit more. And a thumping, pumping device came into view. It contracted and expanded, with regular and precise motion. Immediately I realised it was the little heart of the little baby. But as I watched the ventricles open and close, frown and release again, I was memorised by it. Such power, such determination! And this all from a being so small. Everything seems to be well. His life signs, his organ development, and activities are healthy and vibrant. In fact a little too well, as the 32 week old baby is a little overweight. But no matter, for soon he will greet the world, and see the first rays of the sun, after which he has been named.

Outside, it has not been so sunny. Already one week in Strasbourg, and it’s been rainy almost every single day. When the rain left, dense gray clouds stuffed the skies. And though leaves are beginning to shoot on the ends of barren branches, and swans already readying their nests for the new-coming brood, the weather is still chilly, and wet.

But sunny days will come soon. That I’m sure of.