Strasbourg, the capital of Europe

Strasbourg Siège du Conseil de l'Europe

- Stuttgarter Zeitung, Jg. 1952, No. 52 -

Conseil de I'Europe? asked the border policeman in the train in Kehl with a benevolent smile when I handed him my passport. Conseil de l'Europe? asked the customs officer and refrained from opening my suitcase. The Council of Europe, in whose third session, second section, I was about to take part at the end of November 1951, admittedly only as a spectator and listener, seemed to be well-known by the French security officers. At first this gave one a little warm feeling in the heart: maybe things were going ahead with Europe after all; the idea was evidently not just popular with the youth; it was actually all sorts of things that even nationally state wage earners warmed themselves for it. In the end - so I thought when the D 314 drove over the Rhine - it might be on the cathedral in Strasbourg green and white europe flag flutter when I see it again after so many years now?

The blue-white-red tricolor fluttered on the cathedral. Because just the day before the opening of the Europa Council, the 25. November, Strasbourg happened to have something else to celebrate: the day of liberation and the inauguration of a memorial to their liberator, General Leclercwho had once done the "oath of Kufra", namely that he would not rest until he saw the colors of France on the Strasbourg cathedral. The sentence is in the obelisk on the Broglie Square carved on which the stone general now leans, both hands resting on the wings of victory angels. What a wonder that now the colors on which his heart was hanging really had to be on the top of the cathedral! The Strasbourg apparently do not feel any contradiction to the idea of ​​Europe, so we do not want to say that.

In the shop windows and in many houses of the city, people came across the famous "underpants", like the new one European flag unfortunately not wrongly called: it is a green E on a white backgroundand the visual effect of this, probably by a brave professor of study devised, most unfortunate symbol is now the contrary: a white, usually dirty-white underpants on green lawn. Poor Europe, you should invent a better business card for you!

(Also the old Europe landmark of the Austrian count Coudenhove, the red cross in the golden disk on a blue background, which you meet in between, is a bit boring, I think.)

In the Europa Palace

The Europa Palace, the Maison du Conseil de l'EuropeAs the more modest French name goes, it lies at the northeastern end of the old city, opposite the park of the Orangerie, the former property of Empress Josephine. For buildings of this kind, which had to be placed in the shortest possible time, but should nevertheless be representative (the Federal Palace in Bonn is also one of those), coined the funny expression "palace barracks". Despite their architectural beauty, which cannot be denied in this house, and despite the modern comfort inside, they are suspiciously reminiscent of the tabernacle of the Old Testament or a circus tent that was pitched overnight only to be demolished just as quickly in the course of a night will. When the wind is good, the colorful flags of fifteen European states flutter in front of the entrance, whose members meet here; and the garrison of Strasbourg provides half a dozen military posts in dark blue cloth with white leather clothes, white gauntlets and white gaiters, but without upper and lower rifles (allow the old-fashioned expression) for the higher dignity of this assembly.

The large boardroomThe one who enters after showing his ID card shines in the neon light, and in the red armchairs of the deputies, but also in the somewhat modest seats in the press box hang the headphones and detectors, with the help of which the speeches in French at will or consume in English. The walls are, probably because of the acoustics, covered with leather panels. When I figured out how many hundred cowhides you needed, somebody told me it was imitation leather. Behind the presidential table, the only wall decoration apart from a clock is a relief, with which the visitor can rid himself of time during lengthy parliamentary speeches. Beneath a coral-like branching tree lie two naked female figures. The left, well-dressed, rests on the right leg and the right elbow; she beats her left calf over her right and holds with the left a bunch of ears of corn (or a bunch of flowers? no, they are still ears!) in the air. The right figure, with tangled hair and averted face, holds a torch in his right hand; her mouth is open as if she were screaming, and the posture seems to indicate she is swimming away or flying away. They are allegories for peace and war, as I have been told, and their purpose is obvious, that the European Council, which meets below, will make peace a place of peace and dispose of the war. Will he do that? Alas, one would like to hope so, but it is not easy to surrender to this hope and to hold on to it, if you attend the negotiations for a few days, and even come up with the idea that this European Parliament is just a rump parliament and not only that, but also that it is a pure pseudo parliament: it can not make any decisions that anyone should make, but give only "recommendations." So it's just a dummy, or if that phrase sounds too harsh: a demonstration, a demonstration of (almost I'd say pious) desire.

Certainly: a pretty dummy, a demonstration that initially does not remain completely without impression. It is really a kind of European assembly that is in front of you, because the 120 Members are not separated according to their countries like the delegates of the UN, but colorful in the alphabetical order of their names, Belgians, Dutch, French, Germans, Italians, Englishmen, Scandinavians, Greeks, Turks (they also belong to Europe, you find); so sits z. B. the charming Scotch Lady Tweedsmuir between a Greek and a Turk, the Icelandic girl Miss Thorsteinsdottir between two Frenchmen, the German Social Democrat Mommer between an Italian and a Frenchman, and so on. It's a European one and it's a fine gathering, you can tell that from the topographical plan of the conference room; It is teeming with past and present ministers, presidents and party leaders, names you know from the camp: Crosbie, Daladier, Delbos, Foster, Koenig, Layton, McLean, Maxwell Fyfe, Mollet, Norton, Reynaud, Spaak, Teitgen , Tsaldaris; Carlo Schmid, Luise Schroeder, Rechenberg, Pünder, Ollenhauer, Gerstenmaier, Brentano. If all these men had the passionate will to "integrate" Europe, and if they were to unanimously express it, even in this truncated and sham parliament, it would not be like storming Europe, sweeping away all national misgivings and fears! But unfortunately God is in this "Assemble consultative" quite similar to any other state parliament; The speeches are, with a few exceptions, built according to the scheme "yes - but", so that, for the sake of pratice, there is no "yes - so"; and here, too, one encounters the parliamentary malady that can be observed in all such assemblies: when some minor man has spoken to the floor and has not yet spoken ten sentences, some of his colleagues start to get up and run away. Can you really take offense at the man on the street, when he sees himself disappointed in this "junk-shop" and expects nothing from her?


Strasbourg, la capitale de I'Europe - Strasbourg, the capital of Europe, can be read here and there on posters and brochures in the Alsatian capital today. It is, we say politely: propagandistic exaggeration that nobody takes seriously, any more than the succinct inscription on a monument to a gentleman Wurtz at the Eglise St. Pierre le Jeune: La chimie est une science francaise. I want to correct myself: the two claims are not equivalent. Although Strasbourg is not the capital of Europe that does not yet exist, it is unlikely that it will ever become, if Europe were to become a reality; but at least Strasbourg can say that if not the European capital, it would be a European city - if only because of its landmark, from which it would still be possible in a thousand years to realize what Europe really was, even if otherwise nothing left of Europe. I mean the minster.

I am not an art historian and therefore can not describe what oddities this one of many old churches in Europe has. Probably no one can say what the special charm of this structure is. Perhaps someone would like to read what the young Goethe, who was an abomination as a son of his time Gothic, until he had seen the Strasbourg cathedral, once wrote about it (Of German architecture, 1772). All I can say is that it caught me as a young man and now overwhelmed me again as an old boy when I stood before him. I want to call his impression almost scary. It is like something grown, living; I have not felt that in any of the other Gothic cathedrals I have seen. Next to him, they are all, Notre Dame, Reims, Chartres, Amiens, Freiburg, Cologne, mere architecture. But this is a mountain, a mountain, a piece of creation, a miracle. "Une des sept merveilles du monde", one reads at Haus Kammerzell at his feet, and that is really no exaggeration. What a pitiful concoction are our present-day "representative" buildings, even though it has been built a little longer than the Europa Palace, next to this house, which took two and a half centuries to unfinished! Could you imagine that it had a second tower? That it would be "uncovered", as a banishish sex did with so many other Gothic domes?

In the transept of the Minster, at the famous angel pillar"At a time when this was apparently still permissible, immortalized all sorts of foreign visitors, digging their worthy names into the stone, no doubt sometimes in hours of work. B. Mr. Samuel Beyer, Leipzig 1664. A barbaric mischief. But I confess that I was a little lighthearted enough to stoop, just as a lover does not bargain digging his initials into the bark of a forest tree under which he kissed his maiden.

A wine bar

Not far from the Strasbourg Cathedral, in the Rue des Orfèvres, the Goldschmiedegasse, lies the Wynstub to the Holy Sepulcher. This is what it says on their shield today; The translation is very small: Débit de vins St. Sépulcre. If you want to know what kind of people live in Strasbourg, if you want to get to know the atmosphere of the city, so to speak (and note, has the organ for it!), I advise you to visit this little pub in an old house and in an old alley. Not for example the Gerwerstub, Haus Kammerzell or La bonne Auberge (“The newest and best grillroom in Town”), restaurants that certainly have their advantages: waiters in tailcoats or in almost Alsatian costume, a long menu full of delicious dishes, a proud one Wine list with all the big brands from this side and the other side of the Rhine. Not even the Hühnerloch, which has female waitresses and is presented in a popular style, but where too many dignitaries frequent and which could just as easily be in Stuttgart, Freiburg, Mannheim or Frankfurt. The “Heilig Grab” has only one, low and angular guest room, which is almost overcrowded with forty guests, so it is mostly overcrowded from evening to midnight. I was sitting at a corner table on which was a rather dirty tablecloth, which, strangely enough, did not make me uncomfortable. This table had my sympathy from the start, because it was not round, square or rectangular, but had the shape of an irregular rectangle: one narrow side was about thirty centimeters longer than the one opposite, because the corner in which it stood was was not right angled, but obtuse angled. There is no wine list in the Holy Sepulcher; the types of wine that are served and that the landlord or his wife bring to the table are written with soap on the mirror. There are five or six Alsatian country wines, new and old, the most expensive, but still cheap, is a Gewürztraminer, the most popular a "pince-nez"; the word means that two types of grape are blended here. (If they are particularly good varieties, they say Edelzwicker.) If you don't want to drink “empty”, you can order a tartar bread, a red sausage with vinegar, oil and onions, and at certain times also an onion cake, which is a little different there than ours, which is why it bears the worthy French name Tarte d'oignons. I enjoyed everything, tried the wines, felt very good and had a good chat with the neighbors at the table. The drink is ordered quarter-liter and served in a pretty little carafe, along with a ground eighth or deci glass without a base. I liked these glasses so much that I asked the little shop on Marche Neuf to tell me where they could be bought and took a dozen of them as souvenirs.

I wondered why the wine tasted so good in the Holy Sepulcher or in the Lion vert - a similar pub in the Petite rue de l'Eglise, even smaller, with tables made of cherry wood - and why you could drink so much of it without to wake up the next day with a headache. (Although, as the innkeepers told me, it should be sugared.) Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that they still serve wine from the barrel there, as it was with us thirty or forty years ago. It is probably not "cared for" with potassium persulphite and other chemicals as much as in more advanced areas and has not had to put up with castration through the EK filter. The Alsatians are apparently about a generation back in terms of “culture” and that gives them certain charms that younger people in this country don't know and older people have to do without for better or for worse. I even count the “Defense de cracher” in the Strasbourg tram cars as part of this amiable backwardness. We no longer need such a request because we are hygienically “simply much further”. But hygiene has its two sides too, and the word sterile has a damn double meaning. Which of course I don't mean to say that you should spit on the floor in the train.

Foie gras and Choucroute garnie

The word Strasburg triggers, probably not only with me, first of all the association "Münster". In others, I know, the first thought compound is: Goose liver pate. The goose liver seems indeed to play a big role in this city and is a worthwhile export product. In the window displays of the shopkeepers, the delicatessen and meat shops, it is the most prominent item in terrines and tins; as a truffled pate she parades on all menus. Anyone who comes to Strasbourg must eat goose liver, otherwise he has not been there.

Well, my taste is not goose liver. I prefer a piece of beef rather than that sweet greasy stuff that people think is a delicacy. Incidentally, many who delight in it may lose their appetite if he knows that it is really a sick liver that he is incorporating in there, and that the road to her leads to an evil animal cruelty.

I was looking forward to another specifically Alsatian dish in Strasbourg: a choucroute garnie. It was a disappointment, despite the best garnish with meat, sausages and liver dumplings. The basis of this meal is and remains the sauerkraut, and the Alsatians do not cook it much better than our Swabian cooks, namely too fat and too long. (At least they save the flour.) I've tried it in half a dozen inns, simple and fine ones, but nowhere tasted right. The glass of wine or champagne that you pour into it does not save the case. (Apparently, apart from the people of the Palatinate, sauerkraut can only be made right by Bavarians, whose cuisine is usually not said to be very good; I got the best long years ago in the Hofbräuhaus in Munich.)

French or German?

The argument about whether the Alsatians are actually French or German strikes me as a bit ridiculous. They are French Germans or German French. Their language, Alsatian Dütsch, is an Alemannic dialect; Incidentally, not so interspersed with French chunks as it is often portrayed in jokes and anecdotes. In “Heilig Grab” and “Lion vert” I hardly heard a French sentence in hours. It often happened to me at the beginning that I spoke to someone in French on the street or in the tram and got an answer in German. Only the bookstores seem obliged to save a French face. I didn't even get a German travel guide, although I visited four or five shops. But there is German reading in the kiosks on the street. And in the “Dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace” that you buy there, only the head of the newspaper is French, the rest of the content is almost entirely German. The sheet is said to have a circulation of 150, of which 000 are in German, and the French edition of 120 is likely to have many unpaid copies. But the Alsatians, that is certain, are not German Irredenta despite their language. Since 000 Germany has repeatedly treated them so stupidly and so badly that they will hardly be homesick for him. Strangely enough, I met no hatred and in any case never felt it.

A small shopkeeper, with whom I bought some travel provisions on the day of my departure, and with whom I got into conversation, told me that he had been in a concentration camp in Germany. But he had not become a German enemy. He made it clear that, despite his personal experience, he did not consider brutality and recklessness to be national characteristics of the Germans. And at the time he had betrayed to the Germans an Alsatian.

Over and over there are people, said my brave Epicier (who refused to take an overprice, even though he had had to break a big bottle of squeeze because of my small travel vial), and why Europe could not live together under the same roof? When the European Council came to Strasbourg, they greeted him enthusiastically and hoped that things would change. In the meantime, unfortunately, one had to put his hopes back.

"Too much selfishness, too little idealism" - this is how this last Strasbourg citizen, with whom I spoke at the time, gave his verdict on the European Council. Should he be right?

Stuttgarter Zeitung, 1952, 52

For the history of the European flag, see also here: