An hour’s walk away from Strasbourg’s tourist-filled La Petite France is a long forgotten industrial estate that is slowly becoming a new hub for cultural activity in Strasbourg. Home to the broken shells of old breweries, empty roads and a working dockyard – the area is generally abandoned for much of the week, and for now it’ll stay that way until the project to revitalise it comes to fruition in 2020.
As it stands now, Port du Rhin is basically a collection of old warehouse-like buildings, open spaces and a skyline of broken brick and stone. It’s a short 10 minute walk away from the Jardin des Deux Rives which is home to a footbridge that crosses the Rhine to Kehl in Germany, and a new tram bridge which will link the centre of Strasbourg to the Port du Rhin district. The area around the bridge is a bit of a wasteland leading to industrial estates where you’ll encounter pretty much only slugs and prostitutes if you take a detour from the main roads. To make better use of the port though, the city has began to use the area as an event space, and this, the first Street Bouche festival – brought street food sellers from France, Germany and Switzerland together for two days of food (mainly burgers), drinks (pretty much just beer – it is Strasbourg after all), music (hip-hop) and art…. and it was actually pretty wonderful.
The food highlights go to Turbo Gao from Cologne – who served just two variations of Taiwan’s delicious Gao Bao burger – filled with either slow cooked pork belly or tofu and covered in handfuls of deliciously fresh ingredients – including sesame seeds, cabbage and mango and chilli sauce, and then stuffed into either a white or black steamed Gao Bao bun. The next best was the surf and turf burger from Fish Art, who slathered onions cooked in whisky on top of their juicy beef and prawn surf and turf burger. The Swiss-style strudels from Poushe Strudle were good too (see top).
The space is still in disrepair but this worked to the advantage of the event whose theme was environmental responsibility. The recycled furniture and wood repurposed as beer stands, seats, games and DJ booths worked well with the steely surroundings of old factories and gravel roads. Also, along with the various food and beer sellers, there was some good street art, displayed in such a way to cover the hollow shells of ancient factories, and a pretty much typical green-themed art-installation that utilised the empty buildings to an intriguing but ultimately dull effect. Printers printing thousands of sheets of plain paper gets the point across but one can’t help but feel a little meh, when watching it churn out page after page of paper, knowing there’s bacon on beef to be had just a few minutes away. The sound installation in an adjoining room was slightly more intriguing though but only amounted to some tweaky LFO-based synthesis on repeat with a flashing light. Add this to the crowds pushing themselves through the viewing windows and it’s basically just a peep show for mediocrity.
The Port Du Rhin area remains charming in its own way. Desolate port cranes bespeckled with rust hang over calm waters, while container ships are filled by the modern cranes that have taken their place, all of which sit under the watchful gaze of the dark retro-futuristic buildings of a malt factory just across the water. I’ve said before that the smaller residential and commercial parts of Strasbourg remind me of my home city Sheffield, and the huge brutalist factories only help to cement this feeling further.
We thoroughly enjoyed the first Street Bouche festival and it seems to have been a resounding success but it’ll be interesting to see where it goes in the future, when the Port Du Rhin is complete.
To find out more about the festival check out the official website here.