Games, Trains and Automobiles

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Mooring at the Pro’Bateaux Workshop we are exposed to all kinds of noises: trains going past and overhead, the tractor pulling the Swiss boat out off the water once again (another hole has appeared like in swiss cheese) etc. So I didn’t immediately react when I heard someone calling out. Luckily I did pop my head out of the hatch! The voice came from the Beau Jolie with Rob, Sue and Rebecca passing.

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We caught up with the cheerful New Zealanders at the city marina and they invited us to a BBQ and drinks on board.  This time we kept Austin away from the white carpet and the red wine. 

We agreed to meet next evening in a bar in town to watch the Quarter Final between France and Germany. The bar was fully booked out, but Rob had thankfully organised a table for us.

To make things fair - I didn’t want four France supporters giving me a hard time - we each drew a team out of a camouflaged wine glass. The result: Rob, Sue and Austin had to support Germany, Rebecca and I - France. Two bottles of alsatian wine helped us cheering the respective teams. Rebecca, I and the other tables clapped loudly with every French goal attempt while Austin, Sue and Rob, a little less convincing, cheered on the German team. We received very confused glances from the neighbouring tables as they tried to figure out whom we were going for.

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At halftime we were ready for some sustenance: the bar served very yummy tart flambé, an alsatian speciality - think of a crispy, very thin pizza with onion, bacon and cream covering. On Rebecca’s suggestion we also tried the escargot version, equally delicious. The dark bits on the right are the snails.

The bar emptied within minutes after the 1:0 defeat of France.

As you can imagine I got over my disappointment for having drawn the loosing team pretty quickly!

In the morning Austin and I had cycled to the famous Schlumpf Brothers Car Collection Museum.

Through smart investing Fritz and Hans Schlumpf had built up a huge Textile Empire in Mulhouse which was also called “ the Manchester” of the Alsace. Being fascinated with cars they bought and restored hundreds of top models, especially Bugatti. They even seconded some of their textile workers to help with restoration of these cars. 

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Then, in the early 1970’s, a general slump hit the textile industry. Like many others, their factories eventually closed and the brothers declared bankruptcy.

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Years later, when they were about to open their grand car collection to the public and the union found out about their riches, they staged a big protest against the brothers with many of the local community joining them. The opening couldn’t take place and the collection was forcibly sold to the government.

It took many years and a court decision to recognise the brothers for their enormous enthusiasm and hard work in collecting what was now seen as a national treasure and great tourist attraction.

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Being in awe of all the Bugattis, Rolls's and Mercedes we saw, we didn’t expect to be enthralled by the two-for-one deal to the National Train Museum. 

How wrong we were! The best train museum ever! 

Cleverly lit, puffing and rattling steam trains with restored interiors were interspersed with films of events in European history , e.g. George VI. and Queen Elizabeth’s arrival by train in Paris. 

Dummies dressed in era costume came alive in animated recorded conversations.

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Signs and audio guides explained the development and diversity of use of many different carriages and locomotives up to the models used by SNCF (national french rail society) today. We learned that already in 1955 an electric SNCF train achieved the record speed of 331km/h and in 2008 one of the modern trains was recorded to do 574.8km/h on a particular straight stretch. A far cry from the original Stephenson’s steam engine.

We are thinking of taking a slow train to Basel, Switzerland, tomorrow. No need for speed! Basel is only 30 minutes by regional train from here!

© Austin Robinson 2019