Posts Tagged ‘Alsace’

Alsace hardcore


I haven’t posted about the fact it’s snowing because, it’s Alsace it’s what happens in the winter. P1110883I guess the closest I came was through hinting at it in the post yesterday showing the planters on our balcony with a covering of snow. The first picture shows the courtyard of our flats, notice the covering of snow, it is not melting, it must be cold – probably below zero.

Picture 2 shows the flat across the courtyard from us. You will notice that they have both P1110884windows wide open. On a day when the apple weather app. on my mp3 device, there are other mp3 devices available, shows the temperature as -3 and The Weather Channel app. has the temperature at -1 but feeling like -6 then big style respect to the Alsace hardcore.

Everything’s coming up lovely


When we left for our Christmas break in the UK, which I wrote about here, we had some bulbs starting to show Birkenhea bloomersin the planters on our balcony, their green shoots poking out of the soil. This made me sad as I was afraid they might not survive the winter.

I’m not a big fan of the winter, more specifically things getting darker through the autumn and then staying dark in the winter. So occasions like Monday when the sun was shinning after 16:00 and it was still light after 17:00 are welcome signs of the improvement coming. Similarly the arrival and flowering of bulbs, when younger indoor ones that had been planted for me and given to me usually by my mother or other relative, whilst of late more that we have planted in the special planters on the balcony. The first photo is of myself in the 80’s trying to be arty and take a photo of myself taking a photo of myself and to my right are the daffodils I had received that year.

P1110881On my return I was pleased to see that the shoots had not died off in the cold weather whilst we were away but they had prospered and grown. The picture here is of them in the sun this morning. I’m so looking forward to them blooming whilst today I just enjoyed cycling in the sunshine on my way home from work, even if it was cold, and seeing the sunshine on the neighbouring buildings out of the window.

SNCF drop a bollock


Having booked tickets with the French national rail carrier, SNCF, they have my email address and SNCFsend me occasional emails letting me know about good deals etc. Just as any sensible company does their marketing. However, their recent email (above) was a a bit of a mistake. They tried to entice me onto the train to visit Christmas Markets. Living in Strasbourg, the ‘Capital of Christmas’ why would I want to go anywhere else to a Christmas Market?

OK the city is rammed – it was very difficult walking to the pub to see City defeat Newcastle 3-1 yesterday due to the large number of people, and, I may wish to visit other markets, having got bored of Strasbourg’s? So lets take a look at where they suggest I go, one of the historic ones in Dresden, Bautzen or Vienna? One of the major attractions, say Dortmund, Erfurt, Nuremberg, Dresden, Stuttgart or Augsburg? No, of course not they are all in Germany or Austria and this is the French national rail company. The choice I was offered are:


Metz? Seriously, Metz? When it’s so close to Meh? But more important where do they say Metz is? Alsace. As any fule know Metz is in Lorraine. Oh dear SNCF.

I’ll keep holding on


I have written before about the fact that I am converting, what is a much bigger vinyl collection, in terms of numbers, than I had thought it was, to MP3 before. The most recent time here(It is about half way down). When doing this I discovered there some albums I thought I had in my collection but I discovered were no longer there. Two that fall into this category are More Songs About Buildings and Food by Talking Heads and Velvet Underground and Nico. The first I managed to buy again from  eBay a few months ago and I have enjoyed listening to it again. The second is still not in my possession. Cycling down one of the main streets in Strasbourg, perhaps that’s why it got the name ‘Grand Rue’, I passed this record and clothing shop pictured left and my eye was caught by what was in the window. I have inserted a close up picture if you cannot picture what it was that caught my eye. Yes, the album I need to add back to my collection. The bugger is that I have been working for the University a lot lately. It is good in that they pay well. It is bad that they do not pay for work done between September and December until March. So, I’m earning a decent whack but haven’t got my hands on any of it. I have done some work for the regional engineering apprenticeships organisation but I get the first installment of my pay from them at the end of the month. There is no point asking you to guess one of the first places I shall go when paid but until then it is a case of hoping that no one else who wants this album sees it before I get paid. Which will happen first?

The title of this piece comes from a fantastic song by The Action, enjoy, although the film is very old, here:

St Luke’s Summer


According to the Oxford Dictionaries website St Luke’s Summer is “a period of fine weather around 18 October (the saint’s feast day).” That is certainly what we’ve been having recently here in Strasbourg. Today the weather was sunny and the temperature reached 23°, it has been warm for the end of the week and it is forecast to last into the beginning of next week. It is wonderful seeing the sun so late in the year, people are sat outside cafes and you can go out without a coat, although being France, every French person is still wearing a scarf although there is no need.

Getting up in the dark is no fun but seeing the dawn break is a consolation, as can be seen from the first photo above. The second picture has the Protestant Seminary on the right and the church of St Thomas, sometimes known as the Protestant Cathedral of Strasbourg since the return of the city to France in 1681, behind it. The building on the left is a block of homes and the people on the foreground are standing on St Thomas’ bridge.

Finally, another picture taken at dusk on the banks of the Ill as the sun sets. Being seen as something of an interloper people are always asking me, do you like living in Strasbourg? Then I just think about these views as part of my daily journey to and from work and there really is only one answer. The sun shining in October is an added bonus. Thank you St Luke. I don’t know what you did to earn the sun and good weather around your day but it is welcome, now time to go to Franchi for the best sea salt caramel ice-cream, the definition of to-die-for.

Up with that sort of thing I will not put


Earlier this week I came out of work to discover these students holding

up these blank banners. What’s it all about? Questioning only revealed that they would be doing this for two days around the University campus. Then the student on the left, who I was talking to, handed me the piece of paper on the left. Ah, it’s to do with some chap called Gaëtan Bulourde and features the French for ‘sign’ and seems to be taken in a Dutch speaking place. Fortunately the back was more revealing. Ah, so it is a piece of perambulatory art by a Belgian artist supported by Strasbourg’s theatre to celebrate 20 years of the Carte Culture, which gives cheap access to cultural activities in Alsace to students. I learn from the facebook page I linked to earlier that also this week there have been a group of Alpen hornists playing at various places around the campus, well I missed them. But, you need not as here they are pretending to be a Didgeridoo:



Eric the Half a Bee went the Monty Python song that some of my colleagues at school took great delight in walking around the school singing. During the last week I received a notice on facebook that there was an open day at a Honey producer in south Strasbourg.

So, after she had finished her Sunday morning observances JTO and I headed to the southern end of the tram network I have written about before. There was then a walk, the direction both of us had but didn’t quite know exactly. However, between us we managed to walk in the right direction and we came upon a street closure which then led to the street containing the honey producer. On our left was a someone providing rides upon Shetland Ponies, we were faced with the Strasbourg society of small animal keepers, and you knew they weren’t keeping them as pets and to our right were a number of other stalls down the street in front of the honey producer’s factory.

One of the first thing that happened was that we were caught by a couple of children (second picture) seeking for us to pay €5 towards the tombola. The winners won a pot of honey every week for a year, which was an attractive prospect, but more importantly, contributed towards the cost of training Frédéric, a student from Ziguinchor in “the luxuriant delta of the Casamance”.

We walked around the stalls which included everything from clothes made in Venezuela to artisanal soaps and cosmetics, where JTO bought some soap. We watched some people being shown a working hive and then walked into the yard of the factory and were asked if we wanted a tour, which we did. A very nice man then explained the process they go through to make the honey, the importance of pollination to the agricultural economy and showed us the equipment they use to take hives out into various places around Alsace which pollinate different plants for the farmers but also results in the company getting honey from the exercise. The hives have to be moved at night when all the bees have returned. If they are moved in the daytime, those who are out of the hive will not find their way back, even if the distance moved is very small.

After the tour we got a tasting, which went down very well with a group of children with us at the time. It wasn’t so bad for those of us slightly older either, getting a taste of honey that was being produced in front of us.

After the tasting we bought some honey and headed home. An instructive day about the importance of bees to the economy, and in the process to make honey. Here’s the song in full…..

A voté


Which is what is said when you drop your vote into the box when voting here in France. Tomorrow is the second round in the French Legislative elections. Unfortunately I will not be voting. The first round of the elections took place last Sunday and in most places there was no-one who won more than 50% of the votes, so there is a run off between the top two or three candidates this Sunday.

Where I live in the centre of Strasbourg (Strasbourg 1 constituency result pictured – I like to think of it as Strasbourg City, or Strasbourg Centre constituency) we had the only Parti Socialiste(PS) deputé in Alsace elected last time, in 2007. This time Armand Jung is through to the second round with almost 42% and the UMP challenger has 28% so hopefully he will be back representing me after tomorrow.

The good news is that there had been fears that there might be a Front National(FN) deputé elected in Alsace but there was not. It was thought if they did not elect someone straight off then they might get candidates though to the second round. In fact they have only got one through to the second round of the elections, and that in a ‘triangular contest’ i.e with a PS and a UMP candidate. So hopefully they will not get a candidate elected in Alsace. The map shows that the vote of the FN from the Presidential election got stronger the further you got from centres of population, with the blue getting darker as the votes for the FN increased.

Other things to look for  include the result from Strasbourg 2, or Strasbourg South as I like to think of it. This seat has been held by the UMP since the 80’s and had Ostwald moved into it as part of a redistribution before the elections which brought in 27,000 voters believed to lean more towards the right. Despite that the PS led in the first round  and it looks like we might have Alsace’s second PS deputé.

In the third Strasbourg constituency, imaginatively called Strasbourg 3, or Strasbourg North to me, there was a huge commotion because the PS mayor of Schiltigheim, who had been selected to fight the seat for the PS, was forced to stand down as part of a deal with Europe Ecologie-Les Verts(EELV). Here there is an all woman slate with a female EELV candidate and PS substitute. Their task is much harder, only being ahead by 39% – 37% and a lot will depend upon how the FN vote splits between the different candidates.

Otherwise, nationally in the first round a number of PS deputés were re-elected but only one UMP deputé and that was here in Alsace. One of the things I like about Alsace is how Christ is a common surname. So, one of our existing deputés was J. Christ and he is in front on the first round and looks like he will be re-elected on the second round. It does the heart good to imagine the French equivalent of the Speaker, which could be Sego if she overcomes her little local difficulty, shouting Christ in Parliament to call him to speak! (Although one thing that came out before the election was that he didn’t do too much of that- the UMP excuse being that he was busy on Parliamentary committees showing not much changes the world over.)

Nationally the issue is whether the Vague Rose will result in the PS electing enough deputés to govern on their own or whether they will need support from other parties. All will be revealed tomorrow night.

Votez tôt, voter souvent


In case you missed it, yesterday there was the first round of the elections for President here in France. As none of the ten candidates got more than 50% of the vote there will be a run-off between the top two scoring candidates in a fortnight. From the DNA here is the result, both here in Alsace and nationally:

As you can see this frontier region voted in greater numbers for the UMP party of the current président Sarkozy, and put the politically right but economically almost communist – so probably best described nationalist populist Front National in second place and the national winner, Parti Socialiste candidate François Hollande in third place. The story was different in Strasbourg, which in contrast seems a leftist island in this right-wing region:

As a sad election statistic geek I love it that in France the results are published by polling station on the council’s website. Here is the comparison for the polling station I vote at, though obviously I could not vote this time, compared with my city, region and the country.

But what does it all mean? Here is a round-up of what the French newspapers are saying,  this is the view of the politics department at Nottingham University about the accuracy of the French opinion polls, here is the BBC’s version of what happened yesterday, this sets out what YouGov thinks will happen in the second round of voting. Published this morning in the DNA is this graphic showing the change in the percentage of votes for the extreme right, right, centre, PS, Green, extreme left and others since 1974:

Trans Germany Express


Well not quite all, the last time you left our happy travellers they had reached Szczecin, close to the Polish/German border. After arriving a search was made for life but nothing much was found open by the station so an hour was killed in the waiting room with a Polish 24 hour news channel for comfort. On the news it was OK but a panel discussion about Polish disasters, like the rail crash that week, with detailed stories about people’s problems in the train were not the best in view of there being a train journey facing us. So we headed for the platform and waited for our train. It arrived and we got on. Berlin bound. I finished writing the earlier post and then we cracked open a bottle of wine we found in a shop near the station. We had no glasses but I’d managed to find some by going to a group of people sat in the foyer of the end carriage where there was a party taking place, and getting a couple of glasses.

I’ve seen fridge magnets saying ‘life is too short to drink bad wine’ but I think those people have not been on a Szczecin – Berlin train leaving after 20:00. It was like Ribena and at 10%, like Ribena.

We got talking in German and English to nearby passenger Uwe, whilst his mate slept. Uwe said his mate had slept during the day whilst he was out looking around the city. They both seemed to have consumed plenty of beer and had plenty of beer and vodka for the journey. During the discussion he said that his parents were from Silesia and had moved to East Berlin, and that he and his sleeping friend had been there to look at a place which had previously been German and look at the German parts of it. On arriving in Berlin we discovered that there was a special deal on the German railway of €10 for a day return to discover Szczecin.

Our tickets were only to Ostbahnhof but we managed to stay on to the Hauptbahnhof which is where our hotel was, well with a name of Central Inn at Hauptbahnhof that’s what you would expect. But having left the station and headed to the road of its address we discovered we were some way off. After various diversions, around 20 minutes off. After we had been helped into the building by the nice young women hanging around near it and walked the 2 floors up we got into our hotel room. The promised wifi didn’t work so it was not possible to download podcasts for the next days journey or upload already written posts.

However a good sleep was had as we woke up late the next morning and I had to forego a shower and shave to check-out on time. We headed to the Hauptbahnhof and a communication failure resulted in me thinking we had to vet to Ostbahnhof when we didn’t. I had been   about getting to the Hauptbahnhof to try to find the right platform to get to the Ostbahnhof and not get caught by the guards, at the same time JTO had discovered we actually got the train from the Hauptbahnhof so we didn’t have to go to the Ostbahnhof.

I was very pleased to see a bus to take us straight to the Ostbahnhof outside the Hauptbahnhof, no worry about platform, no worry about guards, so we jumped straight on and I paid for us to go to Ostbahnhof, only to hear we didn’t have to. Well it was an interesting journey through the centre of Berlin and I saw more of the everyday parts of the city than I had ever done. We got to Ostbahnhof to discover our train left from their anyway so we could join it, just hope no-one asked for our tickets. The most important decision now was to decide what to have for breakfast.That done we got on the train, our tickets were not checked and we headed off across Germany for home. The first part was flat with birch and fir forest and the occasional habitation or clump of windmills.

Change at Hannover and we went through central Germany over valley and through hill down to Frankfurt. From there I know the journey much more, on to Mannheim, which I would like to visit, together with Ludwigshafen. Much more interesting than the sterile Heidelberg which we had visited before. Then onto Karlsruhe before joining the Schwarzwald on our left as we passed Baden-Baden and the journey into the Rhineland plain to Offenburg where we detrained before getting the local connection to Strasbourg and home. After Karlsruhe, particularly past Baden-Baden, the train runs along the plain with the Schwarzwald rising up on the left, through the cultivated fields and villages and small towns with the distinctive local houses and it feels like all is right with the world.

In 1982 I spent the summer mad about the album, New Gold Dream by Simple Minds, and I saw the band play live at the Top Rank in Reading. When I went to university in Liverpool that Autumn I didn’t have a record player so I relied upon the radio and a few cassettes I had made and that album was one of them. I still didn’t get bored with it. Then the band chased after commercial success, they wanted to have hits in the US and play stadiums. I fell out of love with their music. Then I heard a song on the radio, Chelsea Girl from an earlier album and loved it and bought the album at a second-hand record shop in Reading. Then a friend gave me a copy of another earlier album Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings. I had recently traveled over the channel to Europe, if you ask me to be more specific to visit a friend in Germany, near Koln and the record sounded so clean and shiny, so travelling fast across Europe it seemed to be the soundtrack for what I had done. I have written here before about my love at the time for Germany, and about the fact I am converting albums to MP3 files. I did the 1980 records fairly early on and have recently been doing the 1970’s. This meant for the first time I had New Gold Dream and Celebration together and played them as we crossed Germany on shuffle, as we crossed Europe. It just seemed that they were not just the “windy words and oversized anthems” but just how fabulous the band were. As they said in a recent interview, “using sequencers and industrial textures to create an unsettling disco-rock travelogue….Going through these amazing landscapes my head was full of movie, book and characters…. We were speedy…Driving to Rockfield with 20 grammes… it was an innocent, young thing.” To me it was speed, Europe, shiny, new.

It seems I am not alone in thinking this as the band have released their first five albums as a box set. I wonder that they chased the dollar after New Gold Dream and were successful at it. They had the actress wife and everything that comes with the lifestyle. Now, having banked that they have realised the choice they made, to go for the money and not continue with the artistic credit for ground breaking albums. They are doing publicity to promote the new box set. The two main members of the band are going on about the artistic worth of the early work. It is true. For me the early albums are good. But they made a choice to chase the dollar and were successful at it. It just seems wrong now for the band to be trying to say, “Ah but we were worthwhile once and should have our place in history for it.” No, you became known for some dross, lowest common denominator songs seeking hits and money in the US in the 1980’s, nothing wrong with that. The point is you cannot have it all ways and re-write history as a ground-breaking historic act as you claimed you were afterwards. For me, I’ll continue to love the music and listen to it as I travel across Europe. It will represent to me travelling across Europe, especially ‘Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings’.

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