Friday, April 29, 2011

A Tour through Lille (France): A Bike within a Bike

A Tour through Lille (France) and some philosophy

On my recent tour through the beautiful city of Lille (France) (see following pictures) I met this friendly rickshaw driver in front of  his bike.  He offers rides through the city for up to two persons.  the charge is 1 Euro per person and one Euro per kilometer.
A complete tour of the city costs 19 Euros.  He is available Monday through Saturday from 11 to 19 hrs.  Reservations can be made. 
I recommend the website cycloville which shows this type of  bike service throughout France. Here is their photo gallery of rickshaws in Lille: (external link) cycloville photo gallery

Asked if he would take me on a tour with my folding bike on board, he smiled and agreed:  "Why not, a bike within a bike!"

As any folding bike fan, I suppose,  I like the idea of running an urban taxi service based on muscle and man power. This kind of public transport is ecological and my friend in the picture and his company even call it "zen" referring to a buddist school. 

Among other things, this school teaches simplicity and meditation. 

True bikers will get an idea because pedalling with a certain ease of mind is a means of  going your way or pursuing your goal in a radically simple and energy efficient way.  It may take years, though, to achieve the serenity and happiness of a true zen cyclist.  

But before I go on with this line of thought - necessary in this post, as you will see later - let me report something more down to earth and to our biking topic.  The friendly rickshaw man pointed out to me that the speed hub of his machine was a "Rohloff", thus referring to a fine German bicycle maker whose website is a must for any fan: Rohloff . (You may klick the English language version.)

And now to the aery part of our visit which led us to the famous Musee des Beaux Arts.  Presently it hosts a remarkable exhibition
dedicated to the idea of visualizing thinking.  From Europe`s golden period in painting, the 17th century, 50  portraits by famous artists like Ribera, Velazques and Giordano and others are exhibited. They show  the images of philosophers beginning with the great thinkers of ancient Greece.

Heraklit is quoted like this:
Heraklit:  "The invisible harmony is worth more than the harmony that can bee seen."
Just like the modern internet man or woman is approaching the world by zooming in with Google`s "Earth", quite a few old thinkers are represented with a globe at their disposal for studying.  Here is a painting showing the young philosopher Democrit and his easy going way - laughing and keeping an eye on the world in front of him, two fingers pointing while a normal thinker like you and me would only use his forefinger. (Mind the beret - not unlike a cap that is never taken off by some students of our time.)
Johannes Mereelse, Démocrite le philosophe rieur, v. 1630, Nantes, musée des Beaux-Art
Old age and thinking can be seen in the following picture. Look
how the old man is leaning on the world without any need to use it, let alone to zoom in on it, probably because  he knows and has studied so much that he is talking and explaining, handing out his information freely but keeping his head supported by his right hand which may underscore his mature  reflexion.
Hendrick Ter Brugghen, Héraclite, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

And now some images from the bike trip across the city:

A lot of free space allows the cyclist to share his way with the pedestrians; and wherever he stops, there are overwhelming sights of  richly decorated historic buildings. -  By the way, the youth hostel is located close to the Musee des Beaux Arts and to the historic center of Lille.  You either walk a few minutes or go by bike using the bicycle lane marked green on the pavement.

By Metro to Roubaix:  Museum "La Piscine", Ethics in a nutshell
We were impressed by Lille`s metro, which we took from the Gare de Flandres to the suburb of Roubaix (station Grand Place).  There is "La Piscine", a former swimming pool (art deco, between WW I and WW II), now an  important  museum of art and industry.

Near the metro station Grand Place, the city of Roubaix honours the liberal industrialist Eugene Motte with a monument that shows an inscription containing his conservative ethics in a nutshell:
(My translation:  "Fill your life with work, love those cooperating with you in your work, be just and generous, give an example of simplicity in your customs, your relationships and in your daily life.  Copy from your elders, continue in their tradition, honor them.")

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