Alsatians are from Alsace. And no I am not talking about dogs but a French-German human subtype from a region that was in Germany, then France, then Germany and finally in France at the conclusion of WWII. My friend S is a native of the Alsace region. Her grandfather cared for the forest on the French side bordering the Rhine. He even planted trees there. S told me stories of her ancestors who grew up speaking German then had to learn French when Alsace became part of France and then their children who had to learn German when it was taken over by Das Vaterland. So on and so forth. But they all spoke Alsatian, the language and so does S. Her parents live on a farm in a village and they were curious to meet me, They had never seen an Indian in real life before! So many questions they had. The dot on the forehead, poverty, dirt, chaos, food, Bollywood film songs…I was exotic, from another world, and S getting more and more embarrassed of her parents. 🙂 Then they took me out for lunch. Real French local food in a restaurant in a neighbouring village.
Monsieur M drove me to see oil in the middle of the French forest. Oil in France! There used to be a budding oil industry in France. What would have happened if it had burgeoned and France became an oil supplier for the rest of the world? Language barriers meant I could have have proper discourse with Monsieur M but it did make me wonder. Oil producing countries have a ‘special’ place in our world. Whether as bullies or cultural and religiously rigid. Or just as hotbeds of conflict. Maybe France would have wielded more imperial power?
The little villages in the region were so interesting.
Alsace pottery is a speciality so of course I went into the local studios and bought myself souvenirs.
If I were to compare the rural Alsace region to say, Samoa, then the disparity, the idea of rural idyll and subsistence within are so vastly apart that the inequality could not be imaginable to anyone in Alsace. France tested nuclear weapons in the Pacific not so long ago. I mentioned the Rainbow Warrior only once, no one knew anything about it. That world does not exist for the French, for most Europeans. Except in an exotic sense perhaps.
I travelled a lot through the Alsace region, through wine country, wandering through medieval castles, eating organic local food, being a tourist but with an inside view. My main hub though was Strasbourg and one of the museums I visited was the Alsace museum.