Monday, June 06, 2005

The Place 

K refers to my room as “Small House” (referencing the mock reality show in the Geico commercial). She’s right. I have a small room with a small kitchenette and a “bathroom pod” (the small plastic shower, sink and toilette unit that gets put into the rooms of older buildings). The size would not be a problem if there were sufficient storage space. I have not unpacked because there is only a sliver of a closet to put clothes in. All my stuff is still in my luggage, pushed underneath the bed. The room and the building, however, are immaculately clean, receive a cool breeze, and the bed is quite comfortable.

The neighborhood is surprisingly charming. Two blocks from the main synagogue, the area has a large and visible Jewish population. We arrived in Strasbourg just as people started Shabbat. The neighborhood is almost completely residential, with lots of four and five-story buildings that were erected after 1890. Every now and then there is a touch of Jugendstil design in a door or window. The lack of shops creates an air of being deserted.

Our building is two blocks from Avenue de la Paix, which leads into the Place de la Republique. The Germans built up the area in order to create a second center to the city, one dominated by government buildings and residences of bureaucrats. I should credit German urban planning with making interesting choices. Everyday we walk down to Avenue de la Paix to catch the tram, and the same sight greets us: the Avenue gives a clear, centered view of the spire of the Cathedral that is absolutely charming. After the Germans, the French put a war memorial in the Place de la Republique right underneath the spire.

The weather has, so far, sucked. It rained the first evening as we walked back from eating. It was overcast yesterday when we were in Colmar. Today is drizzled some as we walked around the southeastern edge of Centre Ile.
The statue in your photograph is le monument au mort showing an Alsacian mother cradling her two dead sons - one German and one French.
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