The twinning associations of Grevenbroich and Saint Chamond are organizing a trip to the French twin town from May 26 to 29, 2022. Grevenbroich travel journalists Angela and Georg Berg have already been there and discovered a city in transition.
The Cote d’Azur and Provence are no warmer in winter than Grevenbroich or Cologne. But Angela and Georg Berg’s travels are often aligned with the harvest time of culinary specialties. For example, they set out for the south of France at the end of November 2021. The start of the truffle season and the end of the olive harvest were on the itinerary. The two interrupted their trip to the south for a stopover in Saint Chamond, Grevenbroich’s French twin town. With the help of Sylvia Kuhn-Heusler, the chairwoman of the French department in the Grevenbroich twinning association, Angela Berg had established contact with her counterpart in Saint Chamond. Michel Bezacier is a former German teacher. The guided tour through Saint Chamond became a preview of what could not yet be shown to the friends from Grevenbroich after two years of pandemic. On Ascension Day 2022, the time will come. The twinning associations in Grevenbroich and Saint Chamond are preparing for the visit of the Grevenbroichers.
Rededication and new beginning
“We were shown many examples of repurposing and redevelopment on our tour. Even if it sounds hackneyed, you can talk about a city in transition that is so often cited,” reports Angela Berg. For example, the Eglise Notre Dame, the largest church in the center of Saint Chamond, is to be deconsecrated in the summer of 2022 and henceforth used for cultural purposes. Just a few minutes’ walk from the central Place de la Liberté, the city’s extensive industrial site begins. More than thirty chimneys used to stand here. What remains are three and they now glow colorfully at night. Since 2018, the front halls have been the Hall in One, with stores, offices, a fitness club, a cinema and a brasserie. The area around it, landscaped with green spaces and playgrounds, is called Novacierès, meaning “New Steel Industry.” Michel Bezacier also shows the end of the new old industrial site. From a modern pedestrian bridge with a built-in children’s slide, there is a wonderful view of the Le Pilat mountain range in the Loire department on the edge of the French Massif Central.
The Grevenbroich travel journalists have observed that the reinvention of the twin town has not yet made any progress in the old town. As in Grevenbroich, vacant stores are causing trouble in Saint Chamond. The pandemic has further accelerated the death of stores. Place de Grevenbroich has also seen better times. However, during our visit in November, the Place de Grevenbroich in the middle of France created a comforting awareness of living in a peaceful Europe without borders. Today, in the face of a brutally waged war by Russia in Ukraine, this appreciation takes on even greater significance, says Angela Berg.
A successful change can be seen in the castle district of Saint Chamond. Unlike Grevenbroich, the French twin town no longer has a castle. But there is a castle hill with old buildings and a medieval chapel. Michel Bezacier explains that a good 15 years ago, many of the buildings had fallen into disrepair. Then the city made the houses available to immigrant families for a symbolic amount. The requirement to repair and maintain them was fulfilled. “A successful change,” thinks Angela Berg, “because when you walk across Schlossberg, you walk through lively alleys and quickly strike up a conversation with the residents.”