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We like to think of Peterman’s Eye as an old fashioned interactive community newspaper (if there is such a thing) focused on travel and curiosities. Talk with us about today’s post. Tell us about the places you’ve been. Or take a trip using J. Peterman’s exclusive travel services (coming soon). Read more...

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“Have you seen the night watchman of Turckheim?” my host asks.
When I respond that I have not, he jumps up from the table and beckons me to follow.

He drives furiously along the vineyard road in order to reach Turckheim’s town hall at the appointed hour. We arrive as the church bell tolls ten.

A crowd of 100 people has gathered to see a man wearing a black cape and a tricorn hat step out of a half-timbered house. He holds a lantern in one hand and a brass bell in the other. This man comes from a long line of watchmen who have been tucking in this village at night since 1611. I’m told that he is the last veilleur de nuit in France.

For the next 45 minutes, we follow him along the cobble-stoned street circling the fortified perimeter of this 1000-year-old Alsatian town. He stops at every intersection to chant his doleful curfew, first in Alsatian before repeating it in French:

Ecoutez ce que je veux vous dire
Listen to what I want to tell you
La cloche vienne de sonner dix heures
The clock has just struck ten
Prennez soin de latre et de la chandelle
Take care of the hearth and the candle
Que Dieu et la Vierge nous protègent
That God and the Virgin protect us
Me voici de garde que Dieu nous donne à tous une bonne nuit
Here I stand guard that God may give us all a good night.

I fail to see a single light go out. Clearly, he lacks the authority of his forbears.
Still, it’s a tradition well worth keeping, so I add my own small prayer that it continues unabated.

What traditional custom has captured your imagination?

J. Peterman


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3 Members’ Opinions
March 09, 2009 2:03 PM
Stage_2 10photoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoHr-1Hr-10Hr-5 JALOPKIN said...

Always been an ardent Fan of the Tradition of meeting a Girl's mother, before seriously entertaining the thought of marriage to her .......

But of course, it helps if a fellow is paying attention ... sometimes we don't ... When the Girl I was smitten with walked into my Kitchen with a bag of Groceries, and right on top was a box of, Hamburger Helper Helper, I should have known I was in trouble, and made a rapid exit Stage Left .......  But, being smitten(and for all the best reasons) one does not always pay attention to even the most obvious signs of brewing disaster ... That is perhaps the main reason why the Species has survived, and spawned an entire subculture of Divorce Lawyers .......

March 09, 2009 10:38 PM
790 10photoviews10videoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoFirst-videoHr-1Hr-5 MissIve said...

Omigosh. I love this story. I too hope they never quit. Maybe I would sleep more if I hired myself a tricorn-hat-wearing night watchman.

March 10, 2009 12:40 AM
First-com luludemajorque said...

Vive the last veilleur de nuit in France!!... this story gives me hope that we will hold on to traditions and will make an effort to preserve them. I remember house calls gracioulsy or dutifully made by the Dr..... in Spain, Switzerland and the States... milk delivery...

One tradition, and sound, that is very dear to me is that of the 'knife sharpener'... In Mallorca, part of our summer tradition meant spending sunkissed lazy days and balmy nights in Alcudia between our 'Pink house' en el bosque (the woods) and the beach. One of my most fond memories is the sound of the 'Knife Sharpener' as he made his rounds in the early afternoons soliciting business on his bulky bicycle, just before 'siesta time.'. The sound is reminiscent of an anguished and melancholic violinist practicing on his instrument to generate attention...

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