As I walk the streets of Paris searching for the perfect shot, my eyes wonder to those that share the streets with me. Our paths cross, our gazes meet, our lives touch for a brief second and then they are gone forever. My mind wonders to those that walked these streets before me. Yesterday, a year ago, fifty, five hundred years ago. Every single one of them a fleeting presence, here for a while and then gone. Very few of them leaving a permanent mark, but every single one of them adding a small stone to what makes Paris Paris today.
I stop for a shot and my mind briefly returns to the present.
These buildings are anonymous. Transient, here today, gone without a trace in a hundred years. Still, they look good now and gain my attention for a few minutes.
The first town here was founded around 250 BC by a Celtic tribe of fishermen called the Parisii. At that time the town was called Lucotocia or Leucotecia. The Parisii built a fort, probably on the Ile de la cite’ and collected tolls from everyone who was sailing the river. This made the town prosperous. Nevertheless, this prosperity didn’t save the town, nothing of which remains today.
Later, at around 53BC the Romans led by Julius Ceasar arrived. After a few years of fighting, Lucotocia along with the rest of Gaul was conquered and the by then destroyed town was rebuilt from scratch by the Romans, this time with the name Lutetia.
Conquered and rebuilt the town lived on. People were born, lived and died, Christianity was established, cathedrals were built and dominated the city for hundreds of years, before dissapearing without a trace other than stories in peoples’ heads.
The Eiffel tower dominates the city centre today.
Erected as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair to celebrate the 100 years of the French revolution, it was at first seen as a temporary structure. Now, 125 years later, it is the modern monument, which characterizes the city in our era.
Seeing it flicker through the windows of a passing bus, I can’t help but wonder how long it will last before it too becomes a mirage living only in deep memory.
As I walk along the Seine, my mind wonders even further, to those that settled this place much much earlier than the Parisii. All of 10000 years ago according to the prehistoric settlements excavated near rue Henri-Farman. Did they ever imagine that this marsh would eventually become one of the great cities of the world? Maybe even they weren’t the first to settle this land. Did they feel the crushing weight of history like we do? What did they see and what did they think as they walked along the same riverbank that I walk now?
It is now truly midnight in Paris and it is time to go back to my hotel room. Maybe I have time for a ride on the carousel before I leave. Or just for a photograph.
As transient the nature of a digital photo is, I can’t help but wonder: will the carousel outlive my photo or the opposite?
© 2014 Epameinondas Stamos