Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Place de la République

All during our stay in Metz last year, the Place de la République was a mess, torn up and muddy, with its construction spilling over into the adjacent boulevard and turning the city's largest bus hub into a crazy quilt of displaced bus stops. On our return for Thanksgiving, all the work was finished and the square's holiday activities were in full swing. We arrived on a Sunday, and the square had just been officially reopened on Saturday afternoon.

The most obvious feature was a temporary one: an enormous Ferris wheel that was visible for miles around. And at the base of the Ferris wheel stood seasonal attractions, including a branch of the Metz Christmas fair, which had been sidelined last year, and an ice-skating rink.

The various venues of the Christmas fair--the train station, the Place St. Louis, the Place St. Jacques, the Place de la Republique--have different decorative themes. At la gare, the booths look like railroad cars. At the Place St. Jaques, the booths have fanciful roofs, over which hangs a net of shimmering stars. At the Place de la Rep', the booths represent, I think, chalets.
Throngs of people, mostly young, flocked to the ice-skating rink. Individuals had varying levels of evident skill, and tumbles were common. Everyone, with exception of perhaps a small crying child, seemed to be having fun.
Other than the fountain on the Esplanade, the ice-skating rink represented the area's only water feature, and a frozen one at that. Come summer, the Place de la Rep' should be flowing with water features. There's even a "beach" built on a wooden deck.
The Grande Roue, whose loading structure also reflected the chalet style, towered above the area. This massive machine, on which Susie and I rode, of course, turns out to be from Germany; it was made by the Great Wheel Corporation of Munich.

From the top of the Grande Roue we could see far and wide. We easily spotted Metz's new permanent landmark, the Centre Pompidou-Metz. You can also see the train station's water tower at the left.
Closer to home, we could find the apartment we stayed in while living in Metz during the winter and spring. Our building was the one with the gray roof in the center of the photograph.
After our revolutions on the Grande Roue, we looked back at it and the Place de la République from the Esplanade. Even when the wheel and rink are gone, the Messins will have a great public space to enjoy.

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