Le Diabline of Aix-en-Provence

Our impression of the city could have been more positive if it wasn’t so dull and chilly when we hit the pavement of Cours Mirabeau.

It was Monday and most of the galleries and museums were closed, therefore, not many people were out there. And also, a very turbulent weather system was causing a havoc all over the country and we had been very lucky not to be caught up in it so far.

While we sat in one of the cafes and pondered what to do next, mum complained how chilly she felt and was regretting about leaving her scarf in the car.

Mum, you do this all the time! One moment, she complains how boiling hot it is and next moment she changes her mind and starts piling herself up with layers of clothings.

Anyway, we decided to go back to our car which was parked in the car park at the north end of Rue Mignet so she would stop sniffing.

‘Ok, let’s find another Diabline ride!’

Le Diabline was similar to our favourite in Avignon, La Baladine, and like her counterpart, they circulated in the city centre, serving mainly for older residents who had limited mobility.

Here comes Le Diabline!

You raise your hand and it will stop for you if there is a space available – the car has only four seats. But not to worry because a troop of the cars are on road and you will be able to hop on the one before too long!

We hitched a ride on Circuit Ligne C (green one)…

Paying the fare was a little different from La Baladine. In Avignon, we paid 0.6€ for every ride but to use Le Diabline, we had to buy a card each and to stick the card into a machine – the blue one behind the rear seat. I can’t recall how much the fare was but it was around 1€.

Oh no, the rain starts to come down…

A view of the driver’s seat…

We were supposed to get off at Place Bellgarde but our Diabline pulled up at the beginning of Rue Mignet.

It started to rain harder and we didn’t like the thought of being thrown out from the car at that moment…

Are they terminating here? There was an old French madam with us and we all looked at each other quizzically? ‘En casse?’ I asked. The driver laughed and answered ‘Non, non!’ but whipped out her mobile phone and started to talk to someone.

‘Oh well, we will have to be on this a little longer.’ Eventually, the driver climbed back into a driving seat and started the engine.

These are the tickets we bought on Le Diabline…

While we headed back to Cours Mirabeau on another Le Diabline, we had an amusing encounter with a Corsican man. As we settled into our seat and exchanged bonjour, the man with a deep tan told us that he knew a very famous Japanese man. ‘I know Hirohito!’ Oh god, the Showa Emperor?! I felt rather uneasy because, you know, the history, WWll etc. So I just smiled back to him. He then beamed, ‘We had a great emperor too!’ ‘You mean Napoleon?’ He nodded enthusiastically and grabbed my hand for a firm handshake. Then, he started to rant how the French took over Corsica and he hated the French. And there was another passenger who was the French and she took an offence and started to complain. Oh my, the looks of disdain on their faces! We got off at Cours Mirabeau and the others, the Corsican and the French continued their journey…

At an Italian restaurant on Cours Mirabeau, we had pasta with cream and smoked salmon…

Since the rain has stopped so we can walk around the city centre!

Mum and I decided to explore the city…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Kloster und Schloss Salem

After our last “German” supper at the beer garden, mum and I strolled towards the direction from where the cyclists appeared. ‘What can it be?’ We were very curious.

Before an imposing gatehouse building, we saw a site map of the surrounding area…

The hotel in which we stayed was two white buildings in front of the brown square building “Eingang” – a ticket office & shop.

This is another map on which you can see how vast the monastery once was…

The former monastery guesthouse and the present hotel was to be built on the edge of the monastery boundary near the right bottom corner of the map.

Mum with Unteres Tor…

By the way, “unteres tor” means “lower gate” in German. The gatehouse was very substantial and impressive. Inside of the deep passage had no illumination and the opposite side of the gate with decorative steel gates looked like the end of a tunnel.

As we walked through the gatehouse, we found a plaque on the wall…

The plaque stated “Markgräflich Badische, Court Pharmacy, former monastery pharmacy founded around 1500”. Apparently, a term “Hof-Apotheke” suggests that the pharmacy was not an ordinary kind but a court pharmacy which was for a princely court. I don’t intend to delve into the history of the pharmacy too far, but I imagine the monastery must have had a close tie with the imperial court of Holy Roman Emperor as the portrait of the abbot with a badge of the Imperial Eagle in my previous post.

There was another thing which made the place rather unique. It was a name, “Kloster und Schloss Salem”. A term “Schloss” which means “Palace” in German and it may mislead some people including me as the place was once a residence for aristocrats or royals. Contrary to my expectation, the place was used exclusively as a home for the Cistercian monks until 1803. I have been trying to find out why it was called “schloss” but my effort hasn’t bore fruit so far. If anyone knows the origin of the naming, please enlighten me!

The other side of the gatehouse was a large open turfed ground with crisscrossing footpaths and pavements.

A Baroque-style building and mum…

The building used to be Salem Abbey and now it is owned by the State of Baden-Württemberg. Inside, it houses the administration faculty of Markgräflich Badische, the cultural office of Bodensee district and a museum dedicated to the former monastery.

You may wonder why the abbey, which was established in 1134, is in Baroque style? It was because the original structure from the 12th century was destroyed by a fire in 1697 and the reconstruction was done in the style of Baroque.

An impressive church in Gothic style…

The only structure escaped the fire of 1697.

The sound of pipe organ was heard through the door which stood ajar. It seemed to be the church was holding an evening service. One thing I still remember vividly about that church was the small of the place. As we walked past the opened door, a whiff of musty smell, which was like the one of cellar’s, struck our nose. It smelt very very old, we agreed.

A cross on the wall of the church…

In the middle of the turfed area, there was a bust of a man, bearing an inscription “PRINZ WILHELM von BADEN”…

His family, the house of Baden, gained considerable territory in Southern Germany after the Holy Roman Empire was finally dissolved by Napoleon in 1802. Napoleon decided to reorganise the aftermath of the dissolution by giving away key territories to secure an alliance with the prince-elector of Baden and in which Salem Abbey was included.

The statue of the prince was facing squarely a building called “Marstall”…

“Marstall” means “royal stable” in German. This ornate structure was created in 1734 for the horses and carriages of the abbot and its guests. According to the guide book, the Baroque interior was still almost perfectly preserved and it was decorated with paintings and wood sculptures by Joseph Anton Feuchtmayer. If I had known more about the abbey beforehand, I could have shown all of them to mum. Damn!!

Along the Marstall, there were oblong buildings which appeared to house some studios and shops…

Some of them were clearly commercial premises and the others seemed to be used as a storage.

Beautiful roses were blooming here and there along the building…

The roses were very well kept and the place was spotlessly clean. But where is everybody? We were puzzled as there was not a single soul around us. ‘I guess all went home for the weekend already because it’s Friday?’ We reasoned as we pottered along the path.

Fancy meeting you here, your Majesty!

In one of the window, I spotted a bobblehead doll of Queen Elizabeth! The sight made us smile because it was totally unexpected.

Staying in Salem turned out to be a treat for both of us as the place was not too touristy, therefore, we could experience somewhat more authentic German atmosphere.

Did you know the place was given the biblical name “Salem”, which meant “place of peace”?

We sat on one of the wooden benches near the hotel and mused how the name was fitting to the place like Salem.

We should go back and have some rest, we stood up, patted our backsides and headed to the hotel.

Look mum, their door handle is so pretty!

Were these made by one of the blacksmiths who were displaying wroughtiron works in the windows along the abbey square?

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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