I can live in a museum. Nah actually I can live in a library 😉 I would be dead and preserved if I lived in a museum eh. 😀 The Louvre can tire you, there is so much to see and absorb but this museum in Strasbourg is compact and just right.
Then I discovered Gustave Doré. This here is one of his most famous paintings-Le Christ quittant le prétoire.
There is a reason why I love museums. Because I learn new things all the time. How does Doré’s work affect my life? I now I have a reference for the ‘comics and cartoons’ I see AND work I look at in creative moments.
Next time I am in Strasbourg I will visit this museum again.
I must have told this story so many times, once more does not matter.
When I went to Europe in 2009, I mixed my Schengen visa dates (I had an Indian passport) so I had to cancel the Strasbourg leg. I don’t know why I chose to go to Strasbourg that time. It just seemed like an attractive city that no one I knew had travelled to or had even heard about. Which is strange because the European Parliament, the International Institute of Human Rights, Arté and the University Of Strasbourg are some of the institutions in this city. I was gutted I could not visit but let it go. I had been to Europe, my very own OE, and we all make planning mistakes. (Ha, wait till I write again about how I missed my flight back to NZ from Berlin because I forgot the date :-))
There I was, in Strasbourg. Through the last week of May and the first week of June 2014.
We drove from Surbourg into Strasbourg. We were flat and cat sitting.
We stayed for three days then moved to another part of town, again, flat sitting. This time for S’s cousin and her partner.
Moving gear at night, searching for a place to park, I almost did not notice the three young sex workers at the entrance of the building. Very young and one very pregnant, all of African origin. Before that, as we stopped at a set of lights, there stood a beautiful, slender woman. Only in her shirt it seemed. I looked closer. Was this a new French fashion? No she wore nude stockings under her shirt, appearing nonchalant on the street. Seeking business. My middle class bleeding heart cannot fathom what compels a woman to be in this industry. A very difficult life with no light, no love, and … I can imagine as I wish but it is not so simple is it?
The third time we moved to flat sit was to Gershteim, a village an hour by bus from Strasbourg. I thought the flat was ultra modern, S just laughed. She did not think so. And although the view was not great it was peaceful and quiet, not far from Strasbourg, with a good bus connection. Gershteim was lovely.
So although I was a tourist I got to see Strasbourg from the inside which I would have never managed if I’d visited in 2009. I loved wandering the streets, I cycled, very afraid to crash into a person or car, I almost walked into a tram forgetting that in Europe they drive on the other side of the road, I really liked Strasbourg. I could live there. I see myself working with the Institute Of Human Rights with relation to refugee health/medicine, and telling stories for Arté.
Amazing things that happen when you travel. A golden sunset over the French countryside turns it into a dreamlike landscape. The green of the trees and the grass reflecting multiple hues of this universe. Seems unreal.
Two days ago, back in Strasbourg, I had to pass some time as I waited for my ride back to Gerstheim. I had noticed an art house theatre near Homme De Fer, the big tram station, whenever I was in that part of Strasbourg and since that day too I was browsing through the shops around I thought it might be a good idea to watch a movie. I inquired at the box office, are you showing any movies with English subtitles. Non, she said, but we have a movie in L’Anglais. (Or so I deduced from her French.) Well then, may I have a ticket please.
I had no idea what the title meant. It was time to be surprised. And that I was. I spent one of the most magical one hour and fifty minutes watching a classic in one of the most beautiful art house cinemas I have ever seen.
Cinema L’Odyssée was built in 1914. It is owned by the city of Strasbourg who outsources the operations to private enterprise. It must have been grand in the old days and still has that air about it. Red velvet seats, carvings on the wall, an old projector, old film posters hung nonchalantly, and art house films. A real hang out place for snooty French cinema geeks discussing auteur cinema. There is an underground library dedicated to cinema and you can buy film posters. To me this was paradise, one version of it anyway.
And then the film I watched, that I came upon by chance. Who knew. Grand Prix Special du Jury and FIPRESCI Award at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival. Johnny Got His Gun is a brilliant watch. Donald Sutherland plays Jesus Christ and is so cool 🙂
But another amazing experience awaited me. Reiterating the vast and myriad connections of humanity and culture.
As I entered the gates to the grounds of the Strasbourg mosque (see my photos here), two men and a young woman stepped out. My friend asked in French if we could go in and they welcomed us. Somehow the conversation continued in English, they asked me where I am from. I always say New Zealand but this time, I think it was their brown skin that made me do it, I said I am originally from India. One man started talking to me in Hindi. Namaste, kaise ho? The other said, ah Shammi Kapoor. I said, yeah. He died last year. The man replied that he was visiting London that time when he came to know. Then he broke into a song. Dil deke dekho, dil deke dekho, dil deke dekho ji…yu to humne lakh haseen dekhe hai, (I joined in here) tumsa nahi dekha, ho tumsa nahi dekha. We all laughed, hi-fived and went our way. Strange how human beings connect. Not strange that commercial Hindi cinema, before it was exoticised by the Western world and became Bollywood, had a massive audience from North Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia, even old Soviet Russia. This man was from Morocco. The young girl with them was amazed at the conversation. My young friend Laura, a local and Alsace, was amused. Just before that I had been telling her that she should persuade her teachers at Strasbourg University where she is doing film studies, to include Indian cinema in the course. 🙂