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Zander Willoughby

A Walk Through Strasbourg

by Zander Willoughby | Jan 16, 2017

I walk down the five flights of stairs from my host parents’ apartment to the street, bundling up for Strasbourg’s new-found snowfall. Even though my street is in the heart of the Strasbourg centre ville, it’s calm and full of families going for a walk. As I pass through Place Broglie, home to the Marché de Noël up until a few weeks ago, I can see the Opéra national du Rhin (6€ for students!) in front of me and the top of the Cathedral peeking over the tops of the buildings to my right.

A Walk Through Strasbourg

Through Place Broglie, I pass over one of the many bridges over the canal which encircles centre ville to Place de la République. The bridge I take on my way is terribly stereotypically French. It reminds me of the Pont des Arts in Paris (The one the used to have all the locks on it) only much smaller and many fewer locks. Anyways, at Place de  la République I pass between the Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire, the university library where I wish I studied more (lack of time rather than lack of will), and the Théâtre National de Strasbourg (also 6€ for students!!). Scattered throughout Place de la République are numerous little snowpeople (poorly made ones in my opinion, but I understand that it doesn’t often snow this much in Strasbourg, so I can’t blame the little Strasbourgeois for not growing up in Michigan). This week, one can’t make it across town without dodging (or joining) at least three snowball fights. It’s really amazing to me how cheery everyone is collectively because of the snow. It’s a welcomed change from Indiana’s winter mentality of going inside and waiting for spring (Sorry, Indiana…).

Anyways, a few minutes later, I pass over the river Aar to where it meets the l’Ill to
pass in front of the Eglise Saint-Paul de Strasbourg, opened in 1897 by the 2nd German reich and based off of l’Eglise Sainte-Elisabeth de Marbourg (another wonderful Manchester study abroad location, hint hint) and, I believe, the second largest church in Strasbourg to the Cathedral. Some nights when I walk past, I can hear one of the many amazing local choirs singing inside.

A Walk Through Strasbourg

Passing the neo-gothic protestant reformed church, I come to the American Consulate General which also serves as the U.S. Permanent Observer to the Council of Europe (to which I have not yet been invited to… Will report). Crossing ANOTHER river, I pass the Russian Consulate/Permanent Observer to the Council of Europe which, in my opinion, is much a much more beautiful building than ours.

A Walk Through Strasbourg

The next 10 minutes are my favourite, but also the hardest to explain. This area of town contains the most embassies, consulates, permanent representatives to the Council of Europe, and the homes of those who work in them. This area is both tranquil and lively. Being an international relations and diplomacy nerd, it always feel amazing to walk through here, seeing all the cultural buildings, passing the homes of those working as part of the great European integration experiment, maybe those working for Human Rights in Europe (Council of Europe, not the EU) at the European Court of Human Rights, etc. This day, given Strasbourg’s new rare blanket of snow, the streets are full of children and families having snowball fights, more poorly made snowpeople, and, my favourite, kids skiing on the sidewalks!

Cutting through the Parc de l’Orangerie started in either 1801 or 1735, depending on who you ask, I can see the swans swimming in the pond that takes up most of the park. Sans ice and snow, the pond would usually be full of row boats and ducks. The Parc de l’Orangerie is a great place to go for a walk, read a book, or have a picnic. It’s usually full of joggers, pets, picnickers, kids running around, couples walking in the park, families at the zoo (that’s right, our park has a zoo), and more! Given that it’s winter, today it’s just me, the swans, and the odd person walking alone.

A Walk Through Strasbourg

Past my ‘longcut,’ I walk past the construction site of the soon-to-be Orthodox church on the western bank of the Rhine. Through the quiet neighbourhood which, really seems to be just as quiet as my street in the middle of centre ville, nonetheless, I really enjoy the calmness of Strasbourg on the weekends. I soon arrive at the home of one of the families to whom I teach English. During my time in Strasbourg, not only have I had the wonderful opportunity to take such beautiful walks through town to get everywhere, but also to meet some amazing people, especially my ‘English students!’ Being an American abroad, I’m fully aware that anything I say and/or do will often be taken to represent all Americans. Teaching English is one way that I can do my, albeit small, part in representing the U.S. as a form of cultural exchange. It also helps buy sweaters and tarte flambée.

Zander E. Willoughby ’18 is a Political Science & French major & Peace Studies minor, and a former Multicultural Affairs Programmer, Student Senate Vice-President, Model U.N. Secretary-General and more. He is currently studying in Strasbourg, France at the Institut d'Études Politiques at Université de Strasbourg. His future plans include working in International Relations or International Law, hopefully within the U.N. system.

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