14 July 2018

And unquiet flows the Seine...

The Seine is a major river in France - it runs a significant course splicing up the city of Paris into two nearly equal halves - the Right bank (North) and the Left bank (South). It is an important geographical landmark in Paris and wherever one may be in Paris, one cannot be too far from the Seine. It harbours two small islands, those are the site of the original inhabitation of Paris - almost two millenia back. Today, the islands are major tourist attractions. The iconic Notre Dame Cathedral and the Conciergerie being situated on one of them. The Seine is navigable by a variety of vessels. And a lot of them carry tourists on a scenic relaxing cruise of about a couple of hours. There are bridges of various shapes and architecture every few hundred metres. They have high arches to let the vessels ply underneath.
The river has been an integral spectator to the momentous events of French history. On occasions, it has flooded the city bringing devastation, the most severe of which in the early twentieth century is celebrated, in a typical french way, at the Conciergerie by a unique dynamic art work!
I stood on one of several such bridges near the Musee dOrsay - Passerelle Léopold Sédar Senghor. It is a pedestrian bridge and has an eclectic atmosphere to it. Couples put locks on the railings and throw the keys down to the Seine, signifying their everlasting bond. Interestingly, all the lock sellers are Indians! Vendors are selling their multifarious wares. Tourists are snapping panoramic images of the magnificent skyline of Paris.
I stood right in the middle of the bridge facing downstream. Iconic architecture on both the banks lay before me. The Louvre on the far left- the palace which Louis XIV quit for the magnificent Versailles palace - and is today the largest Museum in the world. The Orsay on the right - now named after one of the most loved post war french presidents - Francois Mitterand. Several buildings of medieval architecture. It seemed the entire french history is laid out before me. I realise this city has seen horrendpus pillage and plunder over the last two and a half centuries - multiple revolutions, Napoleonic wars, the devastating defeat at the hands of Prussians in 1870, the destruction during World War I and the occupation by Germans during World War II. A short way behind me lies the remains of the greatest of the french emperors, Napoleon. And yet, this stupendous scenery survives. The power to reinvigorate and reinvent is so typical of the french.
The Seine flows below me, beneath the dangling locks of nameless lovers, tranquilly as it has done for the millenia!

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