Legends from our own lunchtimes

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Catching up - Thursday 19th October

In an effort to delay the inevitable, we didn’t think about getting underway before ten, then we wandered over to the bakery for morning tea supplies, had a coffee and thought that really it was almost eleven and if we left now we’d probably get to the lifting bridge at Nancy exactly as it was closing for the lunch time peak hour.

Better, we thought to wander over to the bakery for lunch supplies and wait just a little longer.  There is little point in getting all stressed over a six kilometre journey after all.   There seems to be a relationship between the speed with which time moves and deadlines, and in this case those few hours of doing not much seemed like several days, but we did get underway and finally found the last available spot in our least favourite port in all of France.   

Fortunately, it is filled with some of our favourite people, and so it was that after a quick wander uptown to let the place know we’d arrived, we spent a very long and pleasurable evening catching up on the news of the past six months.


Homeward bound - Wednesday 18th October

After more than a month travelling on rivers it came as a bit of a shock to find ourselves back in the much more intimate canal network once again, moored in the middle of a busy little village.   

Back in Champignuelles, we are once again only too aware that in a few days our boat time will be over for another year.  It’s always a strange time, filled with happy anticipation that we’ll soon be on our way south but mixed with the desire to eke out perhaps a few more days afloat while the weather holds.   

There’s a bit of a ritual to the whole process though.  We moor on one of the abandoned pontoons, walk to the hardware store for supplies that we’ll need to complete those little pre-winter jobs, have a cup of tea, and do not much else until it’s almost too late to take a photograph.  Then in last minute panic race out to see what one can make of the dying light.  Mostly we are too late, which explains the great collection of night time reflections in our photo files tagged “Champignuelles”, but tonight we had fourteen minutes to spare before darkness descended.

Bring your own colour - Tuesday 17th October

One can tell by the photo that we had arrived in Pont-a-Mousson before anyone had bothered to take the coloured crayons to the day.  While it may have looked a little on the glum side, the truth is that it was anything but that with a clear sky promising to bring the world to vibrant life as soon as the sun had rubbed the sleep from his eyes and we’d all had our third coffee.  

The glum didn’t actually descend until well after we’d arrived, a few minutes before “it’s coffee time at last”.  There is a bakery here which makes what we are firmly convinced are quiet possibly the best Mille-feuille in the galaxy, and our entire summer we had been steeling ourselves for this very moment.  How hard was it then to find not a one hidden among the delicacies in that same baker’s display case.   

Our enquiry was met with something that no doubt would have sounded like “Sorry luv, the Vanilla Slices are off” had we been in our other home. Which led us to think of how colourless our native language is, thinly concealed beneath a world consumed by bright blue sky, rainbow lorikeets and tropical flowers. There, a “Mille-feuille” is indeed a “Vanilla Slice”, “Flan” becomes “Custard Tart”, “Paris-Brest” a “Cream Puff”.  

We stopped thinking, made our purchase and were back on board with coffee in hand, unpacking the “Religieuse au Cafe” from its gift box, just as the first rays of sunshine began to glitter on the autumn leaves.  Suddenly it seemed that the day had become very colourful indeed.

Crisis narrowly averted. - Monday 16th October

Meanwhile, on the home front, Mr Four who by the miracle of time transportation is about to become Mr Eleven, enquired of his mother while being driven home from school as to whether we would be home in time for his birthday.  On receiving the answer in the negative, Miss Now Seven also in the back seat immediately intervened.

“Don’t worry”, she proclaimed “If they aren’t here they ALWAYS send a parcel in the mail”.   News of this, despite having made sufficient contingency for the event before our departure, sent us into something of a tail spin.   Needless to say, a day spent looking into reflections on our wondrous way up the Mozelle River did nothing to ameliorate what could very well escalate into a serious doubt on grandparent credibility.  We have it seems, set a very high bar for ourselves to jump.

Such is the wonder of the world in which we live, that at day’s end despite being moored at some from a centre of commerce a thing called “the internet” turned out to be very helpful indeed, and had promised delivery of a parcel almost in time for the birthday in question.  We therefore, settled into the evening in a similar state of calm reflection to that which the river had provided during the day.

If you can’t beat them - Sunday 15th October

Today was to be a perfect replica of the very best bits of yesterday, repeated every hour while daylight persisted.

The morning was curiously quiet given the weather, and we like everyone else it seemed were content to laze in the sun, happily soporific.  The tranquility was not to last of course, as slowly the crowds built.  At first a few runabouts appeared simply drifting aimlessly on the lake, while their passengers did what people do when they discover what hungry and thirsty work drifting aimlessly can be.  Then the picnickers arrived, quietly choosing the best of the sunny spots to sit, as we had been, to read and knit and while away the day in their own thoughts.

Eventually though, those who had perhaps had better things to do with the morning, having lunched with family and friends no doubt, (this is Sunday after all), came out in such numbers that the background sounds were not dissimilar to that of a busy school ground at lunchtime. Once it began the procession was endless and lasted until there was no more light; a non stop stream of humanity on foot, on crutches, with walking frames and prams and bicycles and mobile phones.  Hundreds of people walked by every hour, thousands perhaps, all in happy conversation, stopping only to buy ice creams or to take photos of our washing.


Life in a postcard. - Saturday 14th October

We don’t want to brag, but we made it out of bed before eleven today. Just.  It may have been because our bones were still creaking somewhat after our lengthy walk on rough cobbles yesterday, or it may have been because the morning fog was so dense until then it had blocked not only the light of the new day but any sound from a city attempting to wake to a new weekend as well.

None the less we did manage to catch the last of the fog slowly rising over the hills as the sun came out on what would be, according to the forecast a series of perfect September days, even if they had arrived a month late.  We also, quite astonishingly managed to replenish our supplies before the luncheon crowds descended on the the city centre, this despite being waylaid for a time watching the kids practicing on the canoe slalom course.

By mid afternoon the tranquility that the weather had brought was at odds with the swarm of people who had come out to enjoy it.  We therefore retreated to the comfort of our little home, to marvel at the contrast between the happy sounds made by the thousands of people walking, lying on the grassy foreshore or drifting in small boats and the complete silence of the morning.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Holy Batcave! - Friday 13th October

There are only two, or perhaps three ecclesiastical structures that we have visited in the world which of their own accord invoke in us a sense of awe, communicating in no uncertain terms that they are perhaps a portal to a presence of far greater significance than we.  St Therese’ in Metz is not on one of them.  

No one could describe it as humble unless one’s usual living space is a room eighty metres long and as wide as it is tall. It’s interior is dark, very dark despite the thousand square metres of stained glass cast in concrete tracery that clads its sides.   The exterior is of that pre-war Germanic school of industrial bunker kind, now garnished with vast areas of concrete cancer and a few dirty dribs left of what was no doubt in 1935 a very futuristic light green colour scheme.  It is not without some redemption though: it’s spire is a work of art, seventy metres tall, with the slenderness ratio of a telegraph pole.

In a watching a train wreck happen kind of way it is completely fascinating.  It is historically and architecturally intriguing, truly pioneering with it’s great concrete arches and stained glass inset.  There can be no doubt that it rightly earns its place on the register of a significant buildings, but it is one that asks more questions that it answers.   It was certainly worth the visit, but we found the walk through the botanical gardens en route to be far more uplifting.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Cité Végétale - Thursday 12th October

One of our favourite routes to just one of our favourite bakeries is through what is called the Botanic Gardens Esplanade, a sort of forest come avenue.  When we were here in May we were astonished to see dozens of large holes being dug not quite at random yet not quite in a square grid, and we couldn’t work out what they were for.   It looked as though something was terribly amiss and we hoped that the trees were not in danger.

Five months later we have discovered that it was quite the opposite.  The Gardens and the Esplanade are celebrating their 150th anniversary this year and the local authority in it’s infinite wisdom decided that the city, rather than ponder its previous few thousand years, should consider what might become of it over the next one hundred and fifty.  To that end it created an exhibition of the work of Belgian Architect and dare I say “Futurist”, Luc Schuiten which depicts his vision of what could be for not only this city but half a dozen other major metropolis’ around the world one hundred and fifty years hence.

His drawings and the accompanying explanations are sublime, with the esplanades tree canopy in such perfect harmony with the dozens of gigantic renderings on display that one could not imagine them in a stuffy gallery.  Perhaps the most marvellous thing is that here in this ancient city, rather than constantly looking backwards we are being encouraged to grasp a positive vision of what the future could be, almost certainly will not, but thanks to the constant stream of school classes visiting, some seeds may just be being sown.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What’s Japanese for Déjà Vu? - Wednesday 11th October

The Centre Pompidou in Metz can always be relied upon for exhibitions that inform or challenge or something.  The current exhibition to our great surprise and perhaps delight, is called “Japan-ness”, and a visit we thought would be an appropriate finale to our travels this year which of course began in that very country.

The exhibition explores the evolution of post-war Japanese architecture and has an in depth explanation and discussion of the progress and philosophy of same, including many original architectural models, concepts and detail drawings of buildings that we had visited half a year (or was it half a life-time) ago.   It is fair to say that while we both enjoyed the exhibition immensely, one of us appeared to be far less riveted by the minutiae than the other.   

She did take some comfort in the work of Shigeru Ban, who has been mentioned here several times in the past, and is perhaps best known (apart from designing the Centre Pompidou Centre in Metz) for his work exploring cardboard tubes as a means of providing temporary lightweight structures, and had been commissioned to provide furnishings and reception counter for the  exhibition.   


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Heating - Tuesday 10th October

We are staying in Metz for a while, intent on finishing all the little maintenance jobs which one tends to put off until another time.  Since our neighbour at the moment is a heater expert and our little diesel heater is at its best indifferent to our commands, today was the day it was to come out and be “looked at”.   

It has been so unreliable that if it bothers to start at all, it’s with a cloud of toxic smoke that makes Mr Perkins at his work look like a clean air campaigner.  Last week in Sarreguemines it’s cloud blanket was so fierce that a couple of nice policemen were despatched to ensure that we weren’t at the centre of some sort of giant ecological catastrophe.  Thankfully our little electric ceramic heater does a sterling job pouring its five hundred watts of energy into the cabin and keeping things within at tolerable levels so all is not as bad as it seems.   

Today however, in a pre-dismantling exhibition of just how bad it can be, it performed flawlessly for the first time in eight years.  Just pure clean invisible hot exhaust as described in the colour brochure.   Job done.  Boxed ticked.   Day of black sooty hands, grease, cleaning fluid, gasket goo and big mess narrowly avoided.    While the other of us busied herself with her tasks, the one who had finished his list for the day wandered uptown in search of a nice a lemon tart in preparation of taking the rest of the day off.

Sorry! - Monday 9th October
on to Metz

It was a bit hard to imagine that the day would turn out to be anything more than tolerable when we left “early” just after nine, in cold and haze and with the navigation lights burning their way over where the horizon might be. To confirm that feeling, at the first lock we timed our arrival to coincide exactly with an announcement that the appearance of almost two hundred metres and many thousand tonnes of coal carrier was imminent.  We didn’t need to be asked to wait a bit.    Things went quiet well after he’d gone, that is until we announced our presence at the second lock and were happily instructed to “take the small lock please”.

Since our Joyeux is almost four metres wide, and our chart suggested that the small lock was three point four in the same dimension, one would have thought that making a small public fuss with some professional lock keepers in charge of a large commercial lock would have been entirely appropriate.   Having conducted something close to a shouting match with them in their lofty control tower perch, with neither side giving an inch, one of them finally condescended to come down from on high to where we were waiting and patiently explained that the small lock was indeed a few metres wider than we had supposed, and would we terribly mind ever so much just going where they told us to and getting on our way.   One cannot be sure when one grovels in the language of another, when said grovelling is adequate, but at least at the end of it there were smiles on both sides.  Perhaps one would be wise to use one’s spectacles when reading the chart in future.

That seemed to create a turning point in the weather too, and from the top of that lock on with each kilometre beyond our indiscretion, the river and the day itself just became more glorious.

Where the streets are mostly deserted. - Sunday 8th October

On a normal business day Thionville has a network of streets and shopping malls which seem way out of proportion to what one perceives to be the size of the town. The number of vacant tenancies on the outer edges of the business district would tend to bear out that perception somewhat, but perversely perhaps, this being Sunday, and all shops closed and shuttered the vacancy rate was not quite as obvious.

It’s the sort of place that one would like to like, but it’s also the sort of place where one wonders if the Christmas lights are up early, or whether they’ve been left there all year.  One would suspect the latter, as there are lots of them and they are quite complicated arrangements, different in every street.  Perhaps not.  The Christmas markets in Thionville are barely six weeks away and given the number of lights erected, it will probably take that long to fill all the bulbs with electricity.

We can only imagine how spectacular they’d look at night, with a covering of frost, but by the time that happens the only ice we’ll be seeing will be in the bottom of a tall glass.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Where the people as well as the streets are lined with gold. - Saturday 7th October

Schwebsinge is just a thirty minute bus ride from Luxembourg City, with one change at a place named in Luxembourgish and therefore unpronounceable to lesser humans.   When we boarded the bus therefore we asked the driver, a dark-skinned bearded young man of the type that always gets the extra security check at the airport, if he could just stop there for us, and he very kindly agreed so to do.

The change of bus went (with his help) very smoothly indeed, and we were treated to a delightful tour of Luxembourg (the country) as it took us through vineyards and over mountains.  After twenty minutes of this we were back in the suburbs and the bus was hailed at a stop by someone who looked exactly like our previous driver.   The bus in front of us actually had the same number as the bus we had left twenty minutes ago.   We had barely time to begin to ponder this coincidence when the person boarded our bus, caught our eye(s) and waved my wallet above his head.   

Unaware at that point that the wallet was even lost, let alone found, the fact that someone had driven his bus deliberately to intersect with the one that he knew we had taken was incomprehensible.   While of course we stammered our thanks, we were actually too shocked to adequately reward his supreme effort and honesty.   Even later in the day, we were still at a complete loss to understand how wallet and self became separated, let alone reunited.   Lunch and a tour of some of the twenty odd kilometres of Cassements or underground cave system that rendered the city impregnable throughout history did nothing to diminish our gratitude.  


Cruisin’ - Friday 6th October

Yes it was so cold that pretty much every garment she owned was on, and yes, probably if you are going to wear fifteen or sixteen layers of clothing it’s a better look if they aren’t all the same size, but when one is cruising idly through some of the finest parts of Moselle’s wine region, and the hills are just beginning to show little dabs of gold here and there, if one can stay warmish, one really doesn’t care that much.

We had a lot of kilometres to cover today, thirty-seven to be precise, the most in a single day this year by far, but the scenery left us in no hurry to get to where ever it was we were going, and  even the time we spent going up the hill in the giant locks was just an opportunity to see the view from a different perspective.   

Had we seen just a little more of the sun we may have been in danger of scenery overload, but that was not to be.  We did however take just enough time from our busy cruising schedule to replenish our fuel tanks at Luxembourg’s tax free prices.   "Buy a hundred litres, get sixty for free."  It almost makes one wish one had a bigger less fuel efficient engine. Almost.  Yes it’s true, Mr Perkins bless him, has sipped just one hundred and sixty litres this year, less actually if you take into account the fuel turned to smoke by Webasto his recalcitrant love-child come diesel heater .   

Roamin’ - Thursday 5th October

In Trier, one never suffers from the impression that one is the first to set foot in the place.  It’s been here for a seriously long time, and while one wet and chilly ride on the little tourist train is not enough to make one an expert, it does leave a lot to codjutate on over goulash and sauerkraut and dumplings in a very warm cafe.

For instance there’s the fact that it’s a city pretty much since before “BC” was adopted as a measure of centuries.  It was indeed the capital of the western Roman empire and still has many buildings still standing from those early centuries, the dominant “Porte Nigre” or “Black Gate” being among them although it wasn’t even given it’s name until sometime in the middle ages when pollution began to take its toll. It was saved from demolition in those years apparently as it was the refuge and eventual tomb of a hermit-monk who later became St Simeon.  Then there's the protestant cathedral which was once Emperor Constantine's throne room.   Amid all this first few century cogitation the city also turns out to be the birthplace of Karl Marx.

Most surprisingly perhaps is the Cathedral is said to be the trustee of the original “seamless robe of Christ”, which was donated by Helena the mother of Constantine the Great in 329.  At least three or four other versions of the same garment have bobbed up in other places apparently, which quite possibly gives rise to some suspicion that one or even more of them may not be the real thing.  This one was coated in rubber apparently in the eighteenth century, to prevent further decay.   Sadly it is not on display, quite possibly to remove the potential for its theft for use as a raincoat on the walk from the station to the boat in a freezing gale.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Around the bend. - Wednesday 4th October

No matter how much we like it where we are at any given time, there’s eventually a little buzzer that goes off in our heads that prompts us to exploure around the next bend in the river.  Thankfully on these not so warm autumn mornings there’s no buzzer that tells us to get out of bed, so it was a rather civilised “just before lunch time” that we found ourselves promising Saarburg we’d be back, and drifting off once more to see where the current would take us.

Actually things weren’t quite that random.  We’d planned all this.  We knew that just around the bend there was a lock, and after the lock there was the Moselle River, and we’d stop not far from the junction at the little yacht club in Konz which is a short commute by train to Trier. In fact things were so well planned and went so smoothly in accordance with those plans that we were quite possibly at risk of contracting a headache or something worse!  

Thankfully it was nothing that a medium-sized walk in the blustery cool of the afternoon couldn’t fix.  This was followed by a bit of a snooze of course after which we woke with absolutely no idea what we would be doing tomorrow, and all was well with the world once more.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Being Tourists in a Tourist Town. - Tuesday 3rd October

It’s Germany’s national day today, and a public holiday and what will be our last day in Saarland this time round.  It’s amazing to look back on the last week (has it only been that long?) and realise that we have been in something of a tourist heaven, lurching from one attraction to another, from tourist town to tourist town for just seventy kilometres along a very windy river, through some of the most beautiful natural environments one can imagine, albeit in weather that perhaps wasn’t always conducive to showing it at its best.

Astonishingly, barely half a century ago the region was impoverished comprised of only exhausted coal resources and a dying steel industry.  In the wash-up after the last World War, it’s value was such that France apparently moved to have Saarland declared a country rather than bear responsibility for it, but the people promptly took action to become part of Germany.   There is a legend that in the latter part of the last century German Chancellor Kohl (in jest) even threatened French President Mitterrand with returning it to France , such was the perceived lack of value of its place in the world.   Just look at it now!  It’s all grown up and is truly something of a gem in the country’s tourist crown.

We’ve been here in Saarburg before too and visited the little museum and ridden the chairlift over the vineyards and climbed the castle turret and visited the bell factory and had lunch in a cafe by the mill race, and now we’ve done it again.  With just a little luck if we have the opportunity we might just come back again and do it all again some time in the future.  Perhaps we’ll stay just one more day!

Not Even Sunny in Patches. - Monday 2nd October

Like yesterday, the piece of river we traversed is simply one of the most beautiful places one could imagine floating through.  Unlike yesterday, there weren’t even any sunny patches during the day let alone any dry.  The day was by far the darkest that we have ever travelled in, at least by boat so instead of gasping at the majesty of the cliffs that slide down into the water, we spent a fair bit of time just trying not to run into them.  At least we could be seen with our navigation lights shining bright.

More than seven years ago, we rebuilt them, checked all connections and fittings, then unplugged them from their mast and stowed them in a box in the bilge where they have remained comfortable ever since.  When it became apparent that things were not going to improve during the course of the day, that sunrise may not actually even take place, we reasoned that perhaps if we had navigation lights, our chances of being obliterated by the hundred and fifty metre long behemoths with which we share this waterway may be somewhat diminished.

Sadly, after seven years in storage they showed some reluctance to illuminate, and doggedly refused to do so even in the face of some very nasty words being muttered at them.  Anyone who has ever sat hunched outside for an hour or two in chilly mizzle with tools and a multimeter, trying to work out why lights don’t work, will confirm what joy it brings when finally they do.   Permanently repaired; using the old “ jam the bare wires into the socket with matchsticks and tape them up” trick!   

Sunny in Patches. - Sunday 1st October

After almost silently exiting Mertzig in the very late morning, but none the less at at a time which must have seemed indecently early to those around us still to  discover the depth of their hangovers, we set off in search of those sunny patches that the forecast so optimistically promised.

We were actually moored in Mettlach before we even found so much as a patch in which there was no rain let alone sunshine, but thankfully it was sufficiently large that we were able to wander around for the entire afternoon at the pleasure of Messieurs Villeroy and Boch.   They established their homes and fine porcelain factories here two and a half centuries ago and while the factories still exist it was the museum which traces the company’s history combined with their “outlet” stores which kept us entertained for a good part of the afternoon.

We appear to be on something of a Museum fest at the moment, and the superb combination of story and exhibition here did nothing to blunt our enthusiasm, neither did the quality of the  apple cake in the cafeteria.

Escape from Saarlouis. - Saturday 30th September

We scurried out of Saarlouis to avoid the mess that would surely accompany the downtown festivities, only to arrive in Mertzig just a few minutes before an armada of small ships arrived.  This turned out to comprise the entire fleet of Dillingen-Saar Boat Club. It having been inspired to come down river in the rain to Merzig for the weekend for …. Oktoberfest!  

They were a happy bunch as boat-folk have a tendency to be, and they quietly went about their preparations for the weekend ahead, buffing leather pants, borrowing our ironing board for those last minute touch-ups.  Clearly not every national costume had been bought new for the occasion.  We were transfixed as neighbours shared their struggles to fit busty bits into places they may well have once gone a long, long time ago. Not all of said bits actually fitted in the designated spaces any more, some needing considerably more uplift than the outfit seemed designed to provide, but eventually after a team of prodders and pokers and puller-uppers had done its bit, all were deemed ready enough to glide off into the near freezing mist dressed barely adequately for a tropical afternoon.  One can only imagine how less well fitting they may have appeared after returning from a night of rollicking good fun.

On the subject of rollicking, we watched with morbid fascination the juxtaposition of beer hall and carnival rides.  Surely the matching of litre steins of beer and orbiting machines is not a natural one.   At what point does a quick spin on the Vomitron become an option after leaving a beer tent?  At least it's easy to explain the bits of carrot on the roof of the marquee.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Close Encounters. - Friday 29 th September

As the river twisted and turned its way towards Saarlouis, we couldn’t work out what the odd structure on the mountain of overburden actually was.  It seemed to change shape as we went along, and when we finally took up our mooring place it took its triangular form, standing like a beacon in the distance.  We could not be sure but we had the feeling we were being drawn to it.  We had to find out what it was.

A bus trip, two kilometre walk and a two hundred metre climb later we were there.  The kid in the Tourist Office had told us it was a monument to the coal mining industry.  The architect said it "traces a multitude of mountain motifs as a symbol of change in an abstract form language," and is intended to form a gateway into the future in the eyes of the beholder. The formal language of purist steel grid construction is intended to express the indivisibility of the country's origin and future in the country, and to show the classical connection of coal, steel and energy in Saarland.

In reality, its form changes from symbolic crossed picks, to gateway, to single pick, to the triangle expressed above.   It was funded in part by families of the former miners who donated a thousand Euros per stair, and it has a lot of stairs.  It was certainly worth the effort to see it up close and personal, particularly as we knew we had to go back through town where another bowl of spaghetti ice cream awaited.

Tasty - Thursday 28th September

We guessed something was up when we discovered the town square was almost entirely covered with a giant white marquee, within which hundreds of tables were neatly set with white table cloths.  Those parts of the square which weren’t covered by tent were in the process of being transformed into a fairground, with all sorts of rides and food stalls being quietly assembled.

Oktoberfest was coming to Saarlouis on Saturday, and with Tuesday next a public holiday, the town gave every indication that things may not quieten down for some time to come.  We thought about where we might be on the weekend and on balance, having no mates in town, not being fond of beer, and with one’s best lederhosen at the cleaners, thought perhaps we might give it a swerve this time.

But we didn’t waste the opportunity to have a spaghetti ice cream and a coffee while we made our plans.


Having a Blast. - Wednesday 27th September

It’s not as if we hadn’t been told by more than one person.  Even the coloured brochure says it’s “one of the most exciting places in the world to visit”.   Völklingen-Heutte is an abandoned ironworks with rusty blast furnaces.  Seriously?

There’s no escaping it, as we explored the complex for hours clambering along its seven kilometres of catwalk and gangplank we concluded that the brochures were quite possibly an understatement. World Heritage Listing should have been a clue, and if the structures and museum wasn’t enough, the priceless exhibition of Inca Gold scattered through the darkened turbine hall would have surely been sufficient, but there was more.  Hundreds of the world’s best street artists had been selected to exhibit in the UrbanArt Biennale , displayed in bunkering areas of the vast ruin.

It was all so impressive that we could have returned the next but for the time it would take to sort yet another thousand photographs of rusty pipes.   On reflection, this may very well have been our third “best day at work ever” this year!


Not Shopping. - Tuesday 26th September

Downtown Saarbrücken is something of a monument to post-war reconstruction.  It’s not that unfriendly or unpleasant, but it does go on, and on.  It’s actually got quite a nice feel to the proportion of buildings and streets, and if one was interested in shopping it probably holds the world record for most shoe shops per square kilometre, and perhaps the most department stores as well.  

We would be interested in shopping we thought.  Although we quickly became quite disinterested and wandered off in search of even more interesting things, and a bakery, and a slice of pizza.  We walked the historic trails, visited the museum to try to get a feel for the very chequered history of the area, and had a really nice time all round.  Although we really thought we might stay longer (perhaps to shop), after spending last week in an urban environment we by this evening both developed decidedly itchy feet.  

Falling like butterflies - Monday 25th September

A few kilometres downstream, and a few locks as well, we found our place in the heart of Saarbrücken, just a few hundred metres from the centre of the oldest bit of town, and the only bit as it happens that doesn’t look as though it was built in the latter part of last century.  “Doesn’t look” is used advisedly, as much of what is left of the old town, and there’s not a lot of that, was rebuilt having been ravaged fairly comprehensively by bombs in the second world war.   

Some stuff was saved, the massive retaining walls surrounding the castle for instance, but even that having stood against all mankind could throw at them for an entire millennium were moved back seventeen metres in the eighties to make way for the freeway.  That freeway was all that stood between us and perfect tranquility  with it’s steady thrum of traffic and the occasional siren bursting through. Surprisingly road noise is not too bothersome in situations like this as it does tend to disappear in the evenings when it really counts. 

Meanwhile on our side of the river, Autumn suddenly arrived and did its best to cloak us in a mass of golden leaves.  “Look they are like butterfies”, one of us remarked as the gold rained down.   Perhaps she was right.  Perhaps though, in the absence of any breeze they were falling rather than flying, looking just a little as though they had been overcome by exhaust fumes.

Back to the Grind. - Sunday 24th September

At the risk of overdosing on organ-love, we walked the town twice or was it five times, perhaps it was ten.  How ever many it was, by mid afternoon our joints were starting to feel that they’d been doing a bit of overtime on cobbled streets, but we had also become quite well acquainted at least by sight with all of the participants in the organ fest. Now each time we moved to a new spot there was no need for introduction, usually a direct offer to play a request, or to introduce us to someone or to show us some hitherto uninspected aspect of the bowels of a machine would ensue.

The evening concert was a fitting finale to the weekend, though it was not without its own embarrassments. Arriving as we did just before it began, we were a little shocked to discover that entry to the theatre was from the front, quite close to the stage.  This left no chance of anonymous arrival and as we stood like bunnies in the headlights scanning for a nice pair of seats towards the back of the room, some of our new best friends stood and waved for us to sit down the front with the cool kids.   Such was our welcome that it must have been touch and go for the Mayor to avoid the tempation of mentioning us in his speech.

Sadly even the best of weekends eventually must end, and this one did too, with hugs and kisses and promises to stay in touch all round at the end of the it will be long time before it’s forgotten.
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