Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Alstadt, a recurring theme in Europe

Alstadt. I heard this name for the time in Zurich during the spring of last year. My friend insisted I visit the Alstadt. I initially thought this to be the name of a street. Then I came to know this was the name given to a section of the city. I ventured into that section of the city and found out this part featured old buildings, narrow alleyways, churches and cobbled streets. In fact, this is where all the heroes and heroines in the Indian mainstream movies would shake a leg with all the white faces in the background staring at them with emotions ranging from happiness to astonishment to contempt.

A few months later in last September, I was again in Dusseldorf when my friend suggested Alstadt was a must-see. I was disoriented initially doubting if I was teleported to Zurich suddenly by mysterious forces. When the dust of disorientation settled down, I was appalled by the lack of imagination from Dusseldorf authorities to create a unique name for a section of their city. Why do they want to copy the Swiss? Since it was a must-see, I went there. But it was deja vu for me. The old buildings. The narrow alleyways. The cobbled streets. This is where I decided to find out more about the name.

Alstadt is a German name. It means old town. Now it was more clearer. Switzerland also speaks German like Germany although the purists might say it is a variation of German. For our discussion, we can safely say both these countries speak German. So, it is natural for them to call their old town as Alstadt. Last week, I visited a few cities in Switzerland and Austria. Guess what I found in one of the little cities in Switzerland named Chur. You guessed it right! Another Alstadt. Although the name might not sound unique, believe me the city nestled in the valley of a mountain filled with green trees and a stream along the periphery of the  city is a sight to be seen.

In Europe, most of the places offer the concept of Alstadt, in different names mostly. It is a nice place to hang out away from the machinations of a big city. It is also an epitome of what we all love about Europe. The quirky part of these old towns is if you have seen one you have pretty much seen most of it. Actually, this is the ideal place to sit in a cafe terrace to stare at nothing or for taking a quiet stroll through the streets interrupted by other tourists walking in the opposite direction and also overtaking you. Probably, that is what relaxing or unwinding is all about.

For me, travel is never complete without comparing it my homeland. Don't we have our version of Alstadt in India? In fact, every city offers one although we do not share the European or Western sensibility for preserving these old parts of the city. While Europeans try to preserve their architecture and serenity for posterity, we do not even care. Even if we do care, I don't think we will succeed because these old parts of the cities are still buzzing with business activities. If you don't believe me, check out the old sections of Bangalore or Pune. Talking about old sections, isn't Chandni Chowk in Delhi also an Alstadt?

Tags: Travel,Alstadt,Europe


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8 comments:

  1. Informative ! A small suggestion, few photos would have made it better.:-) TFS

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    1. Thank you for the suggestion. I normally post pictures along while traveling. This time, it was a personal trip and all the pictures taken were of a personal nature. Next time, I will definitely keep this in mind.

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  2. Nice post..... I agree that few photos will be very nice....

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  3. Ahmedabad and Rajkot also have these old parts of town! Interesting read! Learnt a new term today!

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  4. And believe it or not, Mumbai also has pockets that could pass off as the Indian version of Alstadt :-) But the city area of Pune is quite something with its wadas and peths.

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    Replies
    1. It is very hard to imagine Mumbai having "Alstadt"s. With an everchanging metropolis like Mumbai, is it possible to preserve "Alstadt"s? Pune is a different case.

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