Friday, June 5, 2020

Paris – empty, beautiful, spooky

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SIt was so easy for the elders to bypass the Arc de Triomphe. The twelve star roads that meet there are as free as the large roundabout. No car that cuts the way from the left or right. It runs smoothly. Without street noise and in bright light, the arch monument comes into its own. The monument to the republic designed by Napoléon Bonaparte is supposed to have a completely different appearance this September: the artist Christo is allowed to wrap the triumphal arch for two weeks. But that was decided before the coronavirus crisis. Who knows today what will be possible in Paris in September?

The French capital was swept as empty this Wednesday afternoon as it was only on a very early summer morning. Blue sky, clear air, but hardly a human soul looks as far as you can see. At the foot of the triumphal arch, a woman and three men in uniform are chatting. Otherwise the representatives of the “Committee of the Flame” are waiting every evening 100 meters away on the Champs-Elysées on the corner of Rue de Tilsitt for the start of their approach to the Arc de Triomphe, where they will hold a ceremony to commemorate those who died in the war and thus to the nation hold.

“It has been happening every single day since 1923 – just as naturally today,” emphasizes one of the men. Only there is no school class or other group of younger generations on this day – the curfew does not allow this. The virus also upsets France’s almost 100-year-old memory tradition. There is a yawning emptiness on the Champs-Elysées, which many French people like to call the most beautiful avenue in the world. Not even the shop windows are decorated in the sales stamps of the luxury brands.

The deserted Champs-Elysées


Only in Rue de la Boétie, which branches off to the side, is a supermarket open, because food must remain available. A pharmacy across the street is still receiving customers. There is no trace of tourists; only a Japanese couple is walking the street with walking sticks. The plateau of the Trocadero with its monumental view of the Eiffel Tower is dead. A lonely couple sneaks along with their dog and is immediately checked by the police.

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