Legends from our own lunchtimes

Monday, April 18, 2011

Of Lakes and Fromage Blanc

A thousand years or so ago, some enterprising monks spent a very long time in what I can only imagine were not very nice conditions, digging a lake near the impossible to pronounce Gondrexange. It was a mere 660 hectares in area and was to serve as a fish farm.

As we walked around the stone paved edges of the lake last evening it was difficult to comprehend the effort that had gone into the venture nor how may pairs of feet had trod the very same path over so many centuries.

Today we found ourselves, baguette in hand, wandering the streets of the even more unpronounceable Xouxange. As we walked past the tiny building that served as the Town Hall, we stopped to read the notices.

They confirmed our suspicions, having not had an update in more than two years, and as we were pondering at how difficult it might be for a mayor in a place such as this to transition to retirement, the window above us opened.

A grey haired gentleman of almost our own age, enquired as to our origins, and motioned us to the front door. Despite it being well past lunchtime, he had forsaken his Mayorly duties to usher us into his chambers, for what could only be described as a personal audience.

He unlocked a glass fronted book case, and began to show us journals, each a record of the town's administrative decisions dating from the 1800's. The name of the town originated around AD 1600 when some marauding Swedes took it upon themselves to render it devoid of population. He failed to explain just how it magically repopulated, but he did show the ever more incredulous we, book after book of records meticulously preserved through alternating German and French occupations over the centuries. It seems that change was so inevitable that the records were kept in duplicate languages "just in case".

This evening our heads are full of ancient records, of improbable encounters, of Swedes and monks and invasion and language and dislocation, and our stomachs are full of Tarte au fromage blanc.

It's great to be back in Alsace.

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