Is Alsace another france?
My first encounter with the French police took place in Alsace. Leaving Colmar, I mistakenly took the left lane at the traffic lights, although I needed to go to the right. The green light came on, and, without thinking twice, I pressed the gas and safely drove in the right direction. Fifteen minutes later, a gendarme approached me at a gas station and demanded documents.
Having already forgotten about the violation, I did not immediately understand why the law enforcement officer indignantly began to explain to me that “to the right is to the right, and to the left is to the left.” When he learned that he was a Russian journalist who was going to Strasbourg for the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the gendarme seemed to have softened.
– Do you know how much is the penalty for this violation? he asked sternly. – Eighty euros!
I made a respectful mine and muttered:
– We are cheaper.
The simple remark made an effect: the gendarme laughed and gave me the documents. At parting, he said the key phrase:
– Remember: here you are not Paris. Here is Alsace. – I later recalled this phrase more than once and was convinced of its fairness.
Immediately beyond the Vosges, the landscape subtly changes. Thick coniferous forests appear, slightly resembling Russian ones, the air becomes colder and stronger. At the sight of houses, the walls of which are streaked with intricate ornamentation of brown half-timbered beams, you immediately understand – next to Germany. Yes, and in the townships through which we passed, there are German names: Rikevier, Turkheim, Niedermorschwir. The Alsatians even seem to have a different anthropological type: the figures are more stocky, the features are rougher, the mores are more rigid. As a result, Alsace, a long time apple of discord between France and Germany, became a successful fusion of German character and French refinement. They even speak a special Alsatian dialect of French, although in practice French and German are equal in bilingual Alsace.
The emblem of the region is a stork immortalized by the local draftsman Annecy – Jean-Jacques Waltz (1873–1951). Numerous postcards and posters depicting this bird are sold here at every step. It is believed that in the house, on the roof of which it springs huge nests – up to two meters in diameter – in the spring, nests, prosperity comes. In the 60s in Alsace, the real panic caused a decrease in the stork population. And today they are still loved, despite the threat of “bird flu.”
It is noteworthy that in many countries it is precisely the disputed, threatened to tear away the territory that became the cradle of the national spirit. Something like this happened with Alsace, where, by the way, the national anthem of France – “Marseillaise” was created. His words were composed in 1792 by the captain of the engineering troops Claude Joseph Rouget de Lille. Then it was called the “Battle Song of the Army of the Rhine” and was intended to raise the morale of the French revolutionaries in the fight against the royalists. Later it became so popular among the volunteer units of Marseille that it was renamed Marseillaise. For many years, there has been controversy between supporters and opponents of the Marseillaise. The first recently managed to achieve compulsory study of it in school in order to “preserve the authority of republican symbols.” Opponents, on the other hand, blame the revolutionary song for “bloodthirstiness,” referring to the verse “let the unclean blood irrigate our fields.”
During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871, the famous suicide attack of the cuirassiers occurred in Alsace, embodying the romantic spirit of France. Trying to prevent the complete rout of their troops at the height of Alsashausen, Marshal MacMahon, turning to General Bonneman, shouted: “General, go to the right flank with your division! Forward!” – “Marshal, but this is certain death!” – “Yes, but this will save the remnants of our army. Hug me and forgive!” The general put his horse into a gallop, a division called the Hope of the Empire, followed him, and the powder smoke consumed them. On the hill near the town of Morsbronn today stands a sandstone pyramid surrounded by four iron balls. This is a monument to the “Hope of the Empire” division. The names of cuirassiers are inscribed on two sides of the monument, and on the third – the inscription: “To the soldiers of Gaul who died here on August 6, 1870, the gratitude of the grieving motherland”.
Similarly, throughout its history, France and Germany, the capital of Alsace, Strasbourg, has been torn apart. As far back as 842, the sons of Charlemagne – Charles the Pleshivy and Louis the Germans brought here the famous oath, which became the first monument of French and German literature at the same time. Centuries passed, and after the Second World War, the idea prevailed that historical reconciliation between France and Germany should take place in this particular city on the Rhine. The argument was the very ancient name of Strareburgum – the city of roads, the European crossroads.