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Strasbourg Attic | Fort Schoenenbourg | Struthof
Europe 2023 Travelogue 4
A key part of travel is seeing how other cultures conduct their lives and steaming internally that they don’t do it properly. You know, the way you would at home.
For example, I think we all understand that the front seat of modern airbag-equipped cars is not safe for babies in baby seats. A simple sign with a ring around the baby and a bar across should suffice to remind most folks.
I don’t think we need, just as an example, a horrifying cartoon of a baby being launched headlong. And yet…
I love that the last panel is like, “And you can read more about this story if you want.” No thanks, Pointy Man’s Left Hand Who Wears His Cufflinks Facing Himself.
A Few Touristy Moments
I read up on places to park in Strasbourg and, because I read the reviews of the lots too, I was ready for the parking “helper” scammer guys. They weren’t too aggressive and my French held up just enough to say I didn’t need help.
Reunited with WGW and WGSD, whom I’d dropped off nearer where we were staying, we sat down at a sidewalk cafe and immediately attracted a bracelet scammer.
If you’re not familiar, the bracelet scam is when someone appearing to sell bracelets gives you a “gift,” and then starts working you with a sob story — or worse such as following you or yelling or both — to try to get you to give them money. The idea is hopefully you’ll be a little more vulnerable since they gave you something first.
This one is totally on me. I should have said, “Absolutely not,” when he tried to hand the first bracelet to WGSD. When he handed another one to WGW, “for the wife,” I said, “We are married, it’s true.”
At this point the scammer and I both realized things. I realized I screwed up by allowing the first “gift,” not to mention the second, and the guy realized that, despite looking like Middle Aged American Doofus Model #001 out of the Easy American Marks catalogue, I understand and can say some things in French. Neither of us were thrilled with these revelations. Both our afternoons just got more complicated.
Then the restaurant manager appeared and shooed the bracelet guy away. We kept the plastic bracelets but I forbade anyone to wear them fearing that guy or an accomplice would see us later, recognize the bracelets, and resume the assault. At that point my French would surely be discovered to be pretty patchy after all.
Let my error be a cautionary tale. Never take, or allow anyone to take, a “free” bracelet.
Tales from the Attic
We stayed in a super quirky attic apartment in Strasbourg which I bet is extremely cozy and warm in the winter thanks to being exposed to so much sun. Mid June is another story.
As you can see from the pitch of the roof angles, there’s not a lot of space for a man of height to prance about. I’m only 6’1” or about 186cm, but I spent a lot of time touching the ceiling with my face and, if I went to the other side of the room, the base of my spine.
I have stayed in places that had low ceilings before, such as a boat with low beams where I constantly whacked my head. But those low beams were spread around the place. This roof was just always low everywhere.
The effect was not so much me whacking my head but being constantly smudged along the ceiling like someone using a giant human crayon to draw a very thick line.
Here I am in position to use the toilet.
But again, travel is joyful discomfort. And we had bigger fish to fry. We picked Strasbourg as a hub city to visit some great places. Those places did not disappoint.
This underground defensive position is part of the famous Maginot Line. It is a fascinating and well-preserved piece of history and I can’t recommend it enough. It is staffed by volunteers and its web site does not do it justice. Trust me, it’s a great stop.
It’s about 25 meters underground and the ambient temperature is a chilly 13C/55F or so year round. If you don’t bring a coat they’ll loan you a blanket. Here you can see WGW and WGSD all wrapped up and ready to go back in time.
You might be looking at this photo and thinking, “Well, that looks like history all right, but what do I do if there’s a fire?” Good question.
First thing? Yell, “Fire!” There’s some other stuff you need to do too but don’t skip step one.
Everything in the fort is interesting to look at. Probably my favorite photo I took was this one of the machine shop with a honking great lathe on the left. Judging by the can of WD40 on the pillar drill I suspect this machine shop still sees use in maintaining the fort.
None of us took any photos this day.
It is different to go to a Nazi concentration camp in person. You can understand a bit of the history and be able to recite some of the numbers, but it’s still unbelievable to visit an actual place where these atrocities were carried out.
In addition to Jews, homosexuals, and anyone else the Nazis didn’t like, Struthof held, worked to death, or executed a lot of resistance fighters and political prisoners.
It was not what you’d call a fun day. In fact, it was grim. I have now stood at the open door of a gas chamber where people were killed en masse. It’s unbelievable that that’s a possible thing, but I also see how necessary it is. If we don’t see the actual places we could forget.
If you asked me, I’d say sure, I’m against the people who want to bring fascism back and commit these atrocities all over again. Easy to say that. What I don’t know is whether I’d have the courage of the real people who resisted, stood in that same doorway, but did not walk back out.
Thanks for reading. Hope you’re well.