The Little Red Umbrella Goes To Strasbourg by Milan Schramek

They say people have been living in the area around Strasbourg for 600,000 years. But the, um, "modern" city wasn't founded until the Romans did it all the hell the way back in the year 13 BC. People have been living there ever since. The entire freaking centre of the city has been designated as a World Heritage Site — and with good reason.

Strasbourg has seen fires and plagues and one time, in 1518, a few hundred people who couldn't stop dancing for weeks on end until a bunch of them died. The city was also, back in the day,  a horrifying hotbed of Antisemitism. In the 1300s, hundreds of Jewish citizens were burned alive. The rest were kicked out. In wasn't until the late-1700s that Jews were allowed to stay in the city after ten o'clock at night. They'd blow a horn every night as a warning to get the fuck out.

Strasbourg was its own free republic back in their Jew-burning days, but for most of the last few hundred years, they've been kicked back and forth in wars between Germany and France. It's where the Marseillaises was written and where Napoleon tried to launch his bid to re-claim the French throne. But it's also home to German-built libraries and museums and archives and was abandoned to Hitler's army during the Second World War. (The Jewish population was, of course, murdered or kicked out yet again. The old synagogue was burnt to the ground.)

Today, Strasbourg is in south-eastern France, in Alsace, right near the border with Germany. And unlike so much of its history, the city is now something of a symbol for peace and co-operation: it's the Seat of the European Parliament. Twelve times a year, representatives from all over the continent show up for a few days to argue and negotiate and vote on stuff — and to do it all without blowing anything up or killing anyone or burning anyone alive.

Strasbourg is also, without question, just plain stupidly beautiful:

Milan Schramek is the creator of the Toronto Streetcar Sessions and an assistant engineer at Lacquer Channel Mastering.

Text by Adam Bunch


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