Monday, September 21, 2009


[ Saareguemines ]

It is not everyday that you can go and say “Hey, I am goin’ to France today after school.”

Being here in Saarbrücken, however, not only are we just kilometers away from the border, but our public transportation passes can get us there with no strings attached! At the end of the Saarbahn train that goes through the city – and we can jump on whenever we want with our cards – is a small town in Lorraine, France called Saargemünd [ Saareguemines in French]. It is only about 20 minutes away, and I still find it incredible that afterschool I can just cruise on over to France if I really wanted to.

So the other day after class a few of my classmates and I decided to enjoy the afternoon and check out some of the many cafés, patisseries and shops in the small, quaint French town. We hopped off the train, and once through the station, I was introduced to the small town that definitely displayed itself as not being German anymore. With the French signs everywear, iron fences, pillars with bushes and flowers and then narrow streets of shops and cafés in the background, it was very reminiscent of France. Not France, as in the image of Paris, but one of France with little thatched roofed buildings, and cozy nooks with plush flowerbeds.

I was loving it, and it amazed me further that, once we cruised around the streets and even stepped into a few bakeries, the language around me was French – To which anyone would say , well duh Chris, you are in France. But this was just minutes over the border, and to have this distinction was pretty profound to me. My friend Jennifer who speaks French very well mentioned to us that she actually has to repeat herself a few times since she learned Parisian French, and this was a dialect heavily influenced by its Germanic speaking neighbors.

Now, it would be quite impossible to introduce a post about Saarguemines and not address the absolute heaven that it is for carb-lovers. The windows of bakeries, next to cafés followed by a patisserie tempts you from perfectly iced cakes to lumpy, but humbly appetizing escargots – like a cinnamon roll donned by the name due to its mimicking shape of a snail shell. We would walk in and out of the shops, and I think we made the bakery owners all very content with our very enticed ooh’s and ahh’s. With Jennifer adding a little bit of French in, it seemed that we stole the bakers hearts.

In fact, once we finally found one comfy café to lounge in, we began to chat with the store owner, a little French-Turkish woman, behind her shelves of baked goods. We actually learned (through bad German on everyone’s attempts, and a bit of translation from Jen’s French) that she was Muslim and was fasting for Ramadan. I have so much respect for her that she is able to work in a PASTRY SHOP of all places and manage to still work with a huge smile on her face when she must refrain from eating from sunrise to sunset – incredible. Well, we all ordered a few huge croissants, seriously the size of boomerangs, some plain, some filled with great marzipan or dark chocolate, and found a table.

It was later in the day, past the rush time for the café, and I think our little connection with the woman swayed her to find a liking for us Americans, probably foreign guests they don’t usually see in this part of town. She filled our bags with extra pastries, brought out this other chocolate roll to sample, AND proceeded to serve us some tea as well. She was so nice and I definitely would like to go back and visit that same little café again.

[ In the words of Liz: Alles Klar - everything is clear now]

After a bit more walking around town we checked out some more shops. There was a great Italian shop with fresh pastas and meats and so many great ingredients. What I loved about the shops were how small they were, with little isles only big enough for one person stacked to the ceiling with goods. The other aspect of the city that with uniquely French was the tradition of small specialty shops. There was the cheese shop, permeating its smelly wonders to the street, right next door to another bread shop with baskets of baguettes and then finally a butcher with windows of fresh and dried meats.

The butcher was actually pretty funny since he didn’t speak English, but decided to greet us with a Good Morning, when we came in and he knew we were Americans. It was late afternoon, but he definitely got the laughs out of us. After some tart and bread purchases for home, we were all completely satisfied with are little – yet still very close and surprisingly cheap! – adventure to France. I only have a few weeks left in Saarbrücken, and I definitely want to visit at least one more time.


  1. umm...what about the hot chocolate????? Nothing against tea, I love tea, but sheesh, please try the hot chocolate....or you are not your Father's son and I will no longer be able to relate to you ;)

    Maria K.