It is May 2nd, 2020 and I would like to hear personally how people living right at the border are dealing with the situation every day. Furthermore it’s our wedding day today. To celebrate this day, we usually like to go to France (50 kilometer) anyway and enjoy a delicious menu – just like „God in France“.
Everybody knowing me understands that I don’t give up quickly. Why not going there this time too in order to enjoy at least the regional flair and show some solidarity with the Alsace, which is badly Corona-affected in the south near Mulhouse. In France, the time limit of just one hour per day still applies for walks and errands within a radius of only one kilometer around home; otherwise there is a fine of at least EURO 135.-
Spontaneously we decide for THE German-French “double-village” at all: Scheibenhard/t (!), which has only 820 inhabitants. In concrete terms this means: one village – two nationalities, only separated by a small river called „Lauter“. (D. Trump would probably put it this way: just a bit of desinfaction fluid into the water, all cattle/ inhabitants back and forth – finished, end of crisis.) There has been no border anymore since 1993 and the inhabitants define themselves as an unshakable community. What is going on, you may read on a regulary basis in the common local-magazine. However, you should not think that only “hillbillies” are living in the small village, namely a judge at the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe and an olympic highjumper. http://www.scheibenhardt.de/index.php/scheiweda-blaettel
When we arrive we can already see the red – white barrier with a no-entry sign from the distance. Flutter strips and plastic chains right and left to it close the gaps. However, a police control – like in Lauterbourg, three kilometers away – is not present. When we get closer we notice three people behind the border barrier on the French side of the bridge. One of them is Francis Joerger, the mayor of the French village part. He gives an interview with a somehow resigned attitude but is willing to be photographed. When I start with some photos for the blog – of course from the German side – we have a short conversation.
His anger upon the ugly thing in the middle of the village is obvious and he regrets not having thrown it into the water together with the citizens during the night. Even if the corona pandemie will be over, he sees no reason for a (joyful) party. The frustration is deep and it rather seems to be a multiple depression. Somehow symptomatic, because the flower-boxes located on the bridge railings, which are otherwise decorated with plants, are empty and the atmosphere appears sad despite the sunshine.
Furthermore he states: After all, the younger people could experience what boundaries mean and what life was like before “Schengen”. Yesterday (1st of May celebration) a small protest was organized in cooperation with the “Pamina” https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurodistrikt_PAMINA, but…. he shrugs his shoulders and turns away. Also the 25th anniversary of the Franco-German Bridge Festival (that coincides with the end of his governorship) is already cancelled and the mood in general is miserable.
Suddenly we notice an older cyclist coming from France, just slipping through the flutter tape and then – taking it for granted – continues on the German side. For a moment we look a bit puzzled, but we had almost expected something like that. A certain way of resistance is typical for this region due to political history and it is rather frightening, how quickly you get used to this “strange normality”. After a few minutes some more cyclists follow. Bravo, the Franco-German friendship and impartiality still exists! Nevertheless it should be noted that two younger German cyclists (obediently) turned around by noticing the lock sign.
In the meantime, a family from the French village part has joined us. We talk in three languages because the mother is German (works daily on the German side, but is currently on maternity leave), the daughter French and the father originally Portuguese.
Talking to each other you quickly realize that although it is the same virus, the protection and compensation measures etc. are persued/treated differently. What remains is a lot of common head-shaking, because many of our political actors may try hard, but ultimately only few rules make sense. After all, this family at least knows anyone who is /was affected by the virus. Allegedly, a friend of them who works on the German side in Baden-Württemberg, would have been infected there. Well, …
We are all human beings and we like to use this moment to toast onto our 34th wedding anniversary with some champaign we brought along with us. Everyone on the other side of the barrier is impressed that we came here to toast, to exchange ideas and wish us all the best.
It turns out that the multilingual journalist present lives in Paris, but is actually a Spaniard and works for the newspaper “El Pais“. Together with his friendly Bruno Arbesu photographer, he travels along the French border in order to trace the problems of people along the barriers and to hear and write about their “Corona stories”. When we say „goodbye“, he quickly notes our names in his small booklet and spontaneously hands over his business card. Once again we smile into the camera. His report will appear next Sunday. In any case, it was a memorable encounter.
When I research his name “Marc Bassets” in the internet, I am surprised to read that our pleasant conversation partner is an internationally renowned journalist who has already reported from the “hotspots” of the world and interviewed many celebrities including the French President E. Macron. Among other things he was chief correspondent in Brussels, New York and Washington. Apart from that, he coveres many genres and is also a book author (“Otoño Americano”).
When we said goodbye, we promised to exchange our respective written articles and, eventully link them. What an honour …. … sometimes even Corona has something good!
ALL IN ALL: LIGHT AND SHADOW.
P.S. 1 It might be that the “corona pandemic” gnaws at the Franco-German friendship, but it will certainly not succumb it – as we have experienced during this hour in Scheibenhard/t. Cheer up, Monsieur Le Maire!
P.S. 2 THOUGH. When driving to the border we also hoped to be able to once again buy an original French baguette in “Deutsch-Scheibenhardt”. Well, we were surprised to find the French bakery “La Minzbrueck” on the German side closed. Upon inquiry we were told that the baker Jean-Luc M. is French and sells French goods (prepared with French basic products). . No matter what our (local) government expects from such a strange arrangement (?), I persoanally call it questionable inconsistent and an individual exclusion !!! This bakery is known since years and is located only 100 meters away from the border respectively from the “dangerous nation-separating creek Lauter” which is four meters wide max and half a meter deep – but obviously a dangerous water.
But I’m no longer surprised of anything.