ONLY IN FRANCE…

Strasbourg

Yes, only there you can get wine tasting course at university and even earn credits for it! Just there lunch lasts for 2 hours and is a sacred matter that cannot be interrupted. Only in France you can see all races living next to each other without any troubles and only there you understand that English is obviously not enough…

“I drink Therefore I am”. – Roger Scruton
[English philosopher]

The hardship of studying. Trying to evaluate wine colour. [OKAY won’t gonna pretend. This was the best UNI class I’ve ever had!!! Basics in oenology and wine tasting. I know you’re jealous. There’s nothing wrong about it. I’d be jealous too. haha]

So even though I am not there anymore, I still have a lot to tell. French culture is somewhat deep indeed and 4 months of my stay didn’t reveal all of it. However, I suppose I had a good glimpse to it. What was once a very mysterious and unknown language, now is my learning goal and what was once a far away land, now is like my second (or third, or forth?) home. Therefore, I will tell you some interesting facts I learned about France and by far… of course, this won’t be all one could know about this diverse country. So yep, let’s start. Come on to Rendez-vous en France – a date in France!

The Language

We all have heard that French are very sensitive about their language and that they’re not very good at learning others too. Well, that is totally right. If you go to France, you should know better how to speak their tongue. But why so? It all comes from rich history. France has long been a European power centre. And the bonds between language and diplomatic power in 17th & 18th century are still clearly remembered. France was one of the first countries in Europe to have centralized government. Thus the language was used in all legal royal documents in a big part of the continent (and even Russia) instead of Latin or any other one. And don’t forget the Poets! Who wrote glorious poems and spread a French word all around. Now the mighty language is being overpowered by English – of which French people aren’t very happy. Revolutionary values – piece democracy and human rights – that is what French keep in their words and it’s loosing its power. That why they struggle. That’s why they resist to change.

La Francophonie

But don’t you dare thinking that French is only spoken in France! Did you know that a huge part of Africa speaks the language? Thus we encounter a therm La Francophonie, which covers all the places in the world which are fluent in French. You wish me to be more precise? Algérie, Bénin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroun, Cap-Vert, République Centrafricaine, Comores, République démocratique du Congo, République du Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Égypte, Gabon, Guinée, Guinée équatoriale, Guinée-Bissau, Madagascar, Mali, Maroc, Maurice, Mauritanie, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tomé-et-Principe, gal (looks almost as Lithuanian flag, doesn’t it?), Seychelles, Tchad, Togo, Tunisie have French as an official language. Tired of reading? Sorry, I have some more. In Americas there’s Canada, Canada-Nouveau-Brunswick, Canada-Québec, Dominique, Haïti, Sainte-Lucie, États-Unis [United States]. Asia therefore has Cambodge, Laos, Liban, Viêt Nam… Well, that’s about it. [[[Opps. Switzerland!!! Don’t forget Switzerland!]]] This list kinda made me believe that French language is still worth learning. Oh yes, it is.

Education

That is a very interesting topic. I am actually very skeptical towards their system. I had some weird experiences and I really believe that French kids are a little spoiled and treated weirdly [from my point of view]… However, it looks like the system is working well as France remains a land of paradox – very old-fashioned and hierarchical, though one of the most innovative countries in the world.

Just so you know, school in France starts at the age of 3. Yep. At that time I was nowhere close to going to school. But don’t worry. It’s just a pre-school yet. After this one you go to a real school, then – to high school. In there you kinda have to choose your further path – science for the brightest and the other one (don’t remember exactly haha) for the simpler kids. After finishing high school it’s time for national exams which open [or close of course] all the doors. If you wish to proceed to the most prestigious goals, you’ll probably go to prep-school that prepares you for the engineering or business schools which are considered to be the highest level education houses in the country. That’s right. It is not a university. Those schools are totally independent and perceived as very prestigious.

Prestige is very important for French. Business or engineering schools’ diplomas are valued more than university’s diploma. One Macedonian guy I met reacted to it: “Wow, you’re at EM Business! You’d easily get an internship in France or Swiss!”… … … “What?”- I said. So I tried. So I got it 😀 haha. I don’t really think I got my internship in Swiss because of the school, but maybe, just maybe it played some role… The role of eliteness. Nice word. So sophisticated.

Anyways. What’s also interesting is that dropout rate from uni’s and those super elite school is huge. Approximately only 40 out of 500 student make it to the masters. That’s what I meant. French pupils do not seem very determined to finish what they’ve started.

Middle class

Liberté, égalité, fraternité – that is a well-known French national motto, which literally means liberty, equality and fraternity [or brotherhood]. France is well-known for being a middle class country. This means that the biggest part of the population are average class – not extremely rich, but nowhere close to being poor. Everyone in the country has a right to get good education, always have enough food and a comfortable place to live in. It is also sometimes said, that the country has the best health care system in the world, but I guess that could be arguable.

French are also well know for being arrogant. Well, no shit. Just think about what they have! High quality of life, art, fashion, food, history… I believe I’ve mentioned that all earlier. This is the nation, which really has everything they need and would want to have. They’re ARROGANT because they have best of everything. Almost I guess. They are also very sophisticated. “French are like spoilt children – they’re never happy” – I’ve heard my Irish teacher say. They believe, that if you agree to something or you’re very content with smth – you stop learning and stop the argument. Critical approach is crucial for evolution. That makes sense. Doesn’t it?

Imagine a 9 – year old french kid tasting a dish. He wouldn’t simply tell his mom that it’s good. He’d rather keep it in his mouth, roll his eyes and say something…”I think you need a little more herbs or vinegar…”.  Yep. SOPHISTICATION it is.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

[oooh. art @ the nicest Parc de l’Orangerie]

THE WINE. Pdm Tsss…

Finally. I believe, I didn’t write enough on it. That was probably one of my greatest possessions while I was in France. Crystal clear, dull, cloudy, intense, yellow-green, gold, purple, ruby-red. Fruity, floral, oaky, spicy, nutty… Of course, that is wine I am talking about. The aromas of this mighty drink could even get as crazy as licorice, dirt, meat, wet rock, decomposing log, pencil shavings or even wet dog. But that’s theory. What was my practice?

Well, Strasbourg is a city situated in Alsace region, very well-known globally for its crazy good white wines. RieslingGewürztraminer, Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc. Don’t forget Crémant d’AlsaceWhich is actually the same as Champagne just made in another region. And, sorry to say, much better for my taste. And also much cheaper! Wish for some new experience? Try ice rose one. With some ice cubes in it. Mhmm. Extremely refreshing and light. Perfect for upcoming summer evenings!

While having nice fruity desserts, you should definitely try late harvest Gewürztraminer… And God knows. If it’s also oaked, you will be doomed forever. To be a never expiring Gewürz fan. More spicy and less sugary ones would pair perfectly with Asian and even Mexican foods.

Some recommendation for dark chocolate? Try Pinot Noir. It’s the only red wine produced in Alsace, believed to be the best from Burgundy. However, Alsatian Pinot Noir could go pretty well with 99% of cocoa.

Dry Riesling from the region is the most easy to pair white wine of all I guess. If someone invites you over dinner, you almost never gonna miss out if you decide to bring a bottle of the fine Alsatian Riesling (which is by the rule – always dry). Just make sure, that you won’t be eating heavy red meat steaks!

What else? If you ever see a label Hospices de Strasbourg – don’t hesitate. Buy that bottle as the wine will definitely be good and evaluated by professionals during blind wine tastings. The institution of HOSPICES is also very peculiar – it is actually a hospital as you might guess from the name. Well, a hospital, faculty of medicine and a winery. Nice mix, isn’t it?

So actually, I could talk about wine for several more hours at least. I really liked this particular experience THAT MUCH. And no matter what other weird things I experienced in France, I will always be grateful for the good ones I got.

And man, I got a lot. Especially some those about the wine and dark chocolate.

Vineyards in Marlenheim. It only sounds German. Actually it is pure French. Well, at least the last several decades. [If I didn’t speak about it, it’s still important to mention that Strasbourg and the whole Alsace region used to be German before. Then French, then German again.. And French once more for several times. That is why it is so mixed and offer both: Française and Deutsch experiences]

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