Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Touring the Traboules

Visiting the traboules of Lyon is a little like a treasure hunt.  You can start with a map such as this that will show you the basic layout.  But there are something like 400 traboules in Lyon and they are not all on the maps.  Some are easy to find and to access, others not so much.  We confined our search to the old section of Lyon, the area around St. Jean cathedral.

You start with promising looking doors:

I am reminded of the quote from "Young Frankenstein" which involved a similar door:

Dr. Frankenstein:  "What knockers!"
Inga:  "Oh, thank you doctor."

The time to visit is morning.  The understanding between the city and the property owners encourages access, but you will have less luck in the afternoon and almost none in the evening.

Some doors will be wide open, just stroll on it.

A sealed over well in a secret courtyard

In other instances the door will be locked, but there will be a keypad and a button.  Push the button, the door sometimes unlocks for you.  And sometimes not.  In certain cases you can be pretty sure the inhabitants have an "open door policy"

Then there are people who do not want you bothering them.

Sometimes we would simply attach ourselves the tail end of a tour group, some of whose guides had entry codes to otherwise inaccessible traboules.  Once we just smiled and sidled in with the mail man!

The appeal of traboules is a little difficult to explain.  I think a person from a big city might look at them and just see dimly lit passages and hallways, only noting that in a lot of places they have remained undeveloped, with peeling paint and dingy colors.

But this shows a poverty of imagination.  If you can't appreciate the serene calm in the middle of a major city; if you can't enjoy five hundred years of architectural quirks; if you can't imagine the ghosts of Resistance Fighters and petty thieves and of young French lovers on their way to forbidden assignments...

Then you might as well stay home and watch the antics of the Kardashian sisters.

No comments: