A real Strasbourg from the eyes of a local - a Tibetan boutique owner
Perhaps you have already tasted the cuisines and wines from the region of Alsace introduced by “Le French May” in Hong Kong last year. Aside from its Christmas market, how well do you Strasbourg, the key city of this province? We are going to present to you a different Strasbourg, the ninth city in France, through the eyes of several Strasbourgeois, and this is going to stand out from normal travel guides which are readily available online.
When being asked to describe Strasbourg in just one French word, Eric Galo’pas, the owner of a Tibetan culture boutique, replied without a second of thought that it is “dynamique” (dynamic). “First of all the geographical position of Strasbourg is very advantageous, locating at the border of Germany and Switzerland, and that’s why it becomes the central city of Europe naturally which attracts people from different countries and diversify the population here. Compared to citizens in other French cities, I have a feeling that Strasbourgeois are more open-minded to accept incomers from all kind of backgrounds,” he explained.
In such an open city like Strasbourg, isn’t it mysterious that the ancient architectures, the wooden fairy houses of which are always printed in the tourist guides, constructed more than five decades ago are extremely well preserved? Eric replied in a serious manner, “French people see it a shame if we don’t actively protect the history.” Regarding the fall in number of colonial buildings in Hong Kong, Eric also has his views, “As a matter of fact, many beautiful heritage buildings here in Strasbourg were constructed during the time of the German occupation, in a Germanic style and hence they could be easily interpreted as the relics of the occupier. Nevertheless, these historical houses are not considered as eyesores but important treasures passing on to generations, enabling the future generations to imagine the traditional ways of living.” Among all the monuments in Strasbourg, which one is Eric’s favrouite? “The Musée Alsacian, without a doubt”, he said. (This museum is the writer’s top pick too!)
The Musée Alsacian is an ancient building situated in the city centre of Strasbourg, housing hundreds of articles collected from different old or demolished houses, and reveals the living style in Alsace during the 18th and 19th centuries. Remarkably, the Alsacien design style is completely distinct from the traditional French glamorousness, making its use of warm and soft colour tones extensively to bring out the feelings of home comfort. All in all it is definitely worth a visit.
Going back to the story of Eric, what made this culture fanatic open a boutique promoting Tibetan culture? “Visiting Tibet has been the dream of many French people.” Surprisingly in many eyes of the French it is a great honor to travel to this place, and Eric has started his business from selling Tibetan accessories in the street to owning his boutique, “When we think about Tibet, a peaceful and exotic scene will certainly come into our mind. On the other hand, even though a lot of French people are having a materialistically abundant life in an affluent society, many of us are not satisfied spiritually and we complain all the time. Tibetans, in contrast, always look contented and calm. Their unpolluted land is a valuable gem too.”
Strasbourg has been fought over by Germany and France during several wars, with it being occupied by Germany twice in recent history (after the Franco-Prussian War and during the second world war). Although Eric didn’t have any first-hand experience with the wars, he had been told some horrifying stories from an old lady who was a customer coming from Paris, “she said to me that when she was a little girl, she was informed the death of her mother during the war in Strasbourg. In the hope of searching for her mother’s remains, she ran to every single hospital and cemetery here but without success. One day she was given the information that there was a butchery in town storing a lot of unidentified corpses and they would be burnt if still remained unclaimed, and luckily she discovered her mother there at the end.” Nowadays Strasbourg has already developed into a charming city loved by many tourists, and we can hardly see anything related to the wars.