What is the city northwest of Montreal
The lively city
Boulevard Saint Laurent, corner of Rue Rachel: a delivery man unloads his car, pedestrians rush past. Red noses peek out from under their fur collar hoods. A cold wind blows down from Mont Royal, the 200 meter high mountain from which the city owes its name. The road salt crunches under your feet, the snow piles knee-high on the curb. A perfectly normal intersection, but not a completely normal street. In 1996, the Canadian government declared Boulevard Saint Laurent, which English-speaking residents call The Main, a National Historic Site.
“This street is a legend. It bisects Montréal and has always been the gateway for generations of immigrants who arrived here without a penny in their pockets. They built their new lives right here and then moved away after they achieved something But it all started here on the Main. "
Joe King stands by the harbor basin and looks at the pieces of ice that drift down the St. Lawrence River. The 86-year-old author protects himself from the bitter cold wind with a fur hat. Snowflakes melt on his green coat. Joe King has written three books on the city's Jewish history. It begins here in the harbor: around 1900 tens of thousands of immigrants got off the boats here; a few French, a few Irish, many Italians, but above all Jewish refugees from Russia, Galicia, Hungary, or Romania.
“They were very poor swallowers, whose belongings probably fit in a flour sack or a paper bag. They were greeted here by their relatives or friends in Yiddish and then invited to stay the night Slept on the ground and the next morning the cousin got them work straight away and the whole family went to work. "
Many of the Eastern European refugees found work in the textile factories along the boulevard. Even today there are some buildings in which the foundation stone for the importance of Montréal as a city of the clothing industry was laid. No shirts are made there today. Multimedia agencies and designers reside in the former factories that have been converted into chic lofts. But to get there, you have to walk a long way up the boulevard. As soon as you have left the historic old town, the charm of Montréal is over for the first time:
Behind the old town, a multi-lane motorway runs under the boulevard. A legacy of urban planning in the 1970s, to which numerous historic buildings have fallen victim. With all the noise, you can hardly imagine that in the 18th century there was still a beaten path that connected the French trading post, founded in 1642, with its hinterland. In 1760 the English conquered France's colony - la Nouvelle-France. In 1792 they expanded the fortified Montréal and defined the path as the border between the eastern and western parts of the growing settlement - and thus also the border between the French and English-speaking populations. French in the east, English in the west. This separation has persisted to this day. In 1905 the former beaten path was declared a boulevard.
Chinatown begins behind the city freeway and extends over two blocks. To the north of this one came to the desolate junction of Saint Laurent and Saint Caterine. A shabby nightclub called Cleopatra is the only thing that is reminiscent of the neighborhood's tumultuous past. In the 1920s and 1930s there were dozens of jazz and night clubs here, mainly due to prohibition in the United States. Since many American artists lost their audience, they moved to more liberal Canada. With the nightlife came the Mafia, says Joe King, and they had excellent relations with the police.
"Back then there were lots of brothels here and the liquor flowed freely. A town clerk, a man named Pacifique Plante, discovered how the police were bribed to keep the brothels and gambling dens. And thank you for his own Report he was unceremoniously fired. "
A long way up the boulevard, Randy Creese is pressing hundreds of potatoes one by one through an ancient chopping machine on the wall. The pieces end up in a waist-high bucket and later as french fries in the customers' stomachs. Randy is one of 40 employees at Schwartz's, a restaurant on the east side of the Main, as there were dozens of them here in the 1920s. In 1928 the Jewish-Romanian immigrant Reuben Schwartz founded the restaurant as Schwartz's Hebrew Delikatessen. Today it belongs to Montréal like Cafe Sacher to Vienna. While Randy pre-fried the potatoes, Frank Silva explains how smoked meat, the house specialty, is made.
"This is our smokehouse. It is still original. We used to heat it with wood. The meat is marinated for ten days, then hangs in here for eight hours. And this is what the finished product looks like. You can already eat the meat but it's pretty dry, so we put it in the steamer to soak it up again. And then it's hand-cut into slices. "
And that's Johnny's job. His real name is Joao Goncalves, the son of Portuguese immigrants and has been with Schwartz's since he was 14. That was 36 years ago. Johnny, dressed in a white apron and white cap, has had a tennis elbow for years because every day he bounces hundreds of pieces of beef brisket back and forth with a large fork and then cuts off thousands of slices of smoked meat.
"Here at the edge the piece is still lean, in the middle is a little fatter and at the end it is really juicy. The fatter the meat, the better it tastes. The doctor recommends lean meat, but if he comes himself, he eats it." only the fat pieces. According to the motto: Do what I say, but woe to you do what I do. "
Schwartz's is a simple restaurant: newspaper clippings hang on the walls, the tables are made of aluminum, and dozens of smoked beef breasts lie in the window. Little has changed since the year it was founded. One or two guests have been coming since 1928, says Johnny. Old people who would have eaten here as small children. Often the rush is so great that the guests stand in line for half an hour in front of the door, even at 15 degrees Celsius, just to eat this smoked meat.
"It's salty, tastes fresh, is peppery and, together with the mustard, a great mixture."
You meet a lot of interesting people here, says Frank Silva, who has been with us for 28 years. His father worked here, and so does his son. Today Frank is the manager. When he was still a waiter, he once had Jean Chrétien at the table, the then Prime Minister of Canada.
"After that everyone wanted to know how much tip he gave you? I was pretty embarrassed. I didn't tell anyone that he hadn't given anything. An hour later the phone rings, it's Jean Chrétien's turn and apologizes to me for that his bodyguard forgot the tip. By then he was halfway to Ottawa. He then sent the bodyguard back to Montréal with the tip. "
We leave Schwartz's and change the side of the street. There is a building there whose approximately 100-year-old brick facade has been completely disfigured by several renovations. Loud screams penetrate the street from here three times a week. You have to go up a few steps and then you know why: The ice hockey games of the Montreal Canadiens are broadcast on over 20 screens.
Surprisingly, the bar then fills up with female fans, many of them in red and blue T-shirts with the team's emblem. Some of them cheer on the players enthusiastically when they tear their helmets off their heads on the ice and fight like schoolboys. Some of the women swear loudly and in detail when Montréal concedes a goal and one or the other has no fun at all when it comes to their team, says waitress Veronique.
"There has been a real quarrel between a woman and a man over a hockey game. The woman attacked the man so much that we had to hold her back, the man was completely flabbergasted. I would say the majority of our guests - they are Women. "
Nadine Guillemot often comes to the pub to watch ice hockey. When she talks about her team, she says Les Canadiens, like all French Canadians. In English-speaking Canada, the Montréal Club is called Habs, which goes back to the French word Les Habitants, which was used to describe the first settlers in "New France" in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Habs or Canadiens are to North American ice hockey what Bayern Munich is to German football: the record champions. 24 Stanley Cup titles in 100 years of history, more than any other team in the league.
The good times are long gone, however: For years the Canadiens have been bobbing around in the mediocrity of the league. But when the qualifying games start in April, thousands of cars with pennants will still drive through the streets and the pubs are packed to the brim. This is due to patriotism, explains Nadine Guillemot, to the pride in being from Québec: a nation of its own, as many here think. And then, with a smile, she makes a somewhat simpler guess as to why so many women are enthusiastic fans: Female fans in Québec can be sure of the full attention of men.
"I was in the stadium when I last won the Stanley Cup in 1993. I turned around to look at the crowd: the women were incredibly hysterical, much more than the men. They just tore their shirts off during the game. Not just one: many! "
We walk a few blocks north up the boulevard and come to a snowy plaza. Here is the house of Leonard Cohen, who grew up in this neighborhood and who in his song Susanne refers to various places in Montreal. His house is small and inconspicuous, with two floors and a simple stone facade. Most of the time the singer is in California, but sometimes he comes to his hometown for a while and then shows up in the cafes on the boulevard; just like before, recounts Joe King, when Leonard Cohen made his first attempts at poetry and could often be found in Ben's deli.
"There was a poet's corner there. Leonard was always hanging out in the shop, hoping the poets would call him over. One day someone actually called him over, his Professor Louis Dudick, a good poet himself. He ordered Leonard : Kneel down. Then he rolled up a newspaper, slapped it on his shoulders and said: Get up, poet. And so he was taken into the poet's corner. "
Leonard Cohen is not the only one who made it world fame from here. One of the most famous Canadian writers grew up in the parallel street, the Saint Urbain: Mordechai Richler. His novels have also appeared in German, and his children's books about the adventures of "Jacob Zwei Zwei" have been filmed. The author, who died in 2001, described the streets of his childhood and the world of Jewish immigrants in many of his books, including the novel "Son of a Little Hero" published in 1955:
All day long, St. Lawrence Boulevard, or Main Street, is a frenzy of poor Jews, who gather there to buy groceries, furniture, clothing and meat. Most walls are plastered with fraying election bills, in Yiddish, French and English. The street reeks of garlic and quarrels and bill collectors: orange crates, stuffed full with garbage and decaying fruit, are piled slipshod in most alleys. Swift children gobble pilfered plums; slower cats prowl the fish market.
If you walk along the Boulevard Saint Laurent, you will find colorful information boards on the walls of the buildings between Indian restaurants, Latino supermarkets, French-speaking bookstores and dozens of restaurants. Provided with historical photos, quotes and information, they tell the story of the boulevard. A project by the artist Pierre Allard. He called it Frags on the Main.
"The buildings here in Montréal have been neglected for years, some of them have collapsed, nobody was interested. With our Frags project we wanted to get people to look after the buildings again. Since we had found a lot of old photos during our research, we thought: The best way to give people the history of this neighborhood back is to bring them straight to the street. "
One of Pierre Alard's panels tells the story of the Portuguese immigrants who settled here along the boulevard.
The heart of the Portuguese quarter is between the Duluth and Fairmount streets. Here, where almost only Yiddish was spoken between the world wars, the smell of sizzling chickens from Portuguese pubs can be heard from almost every corner. Old men are standing in front of the door - often even at minus 20 degrees - and smoking. The Santa Cruz community center is on Rue Rachel, the Lisboa travel agency and the editorial staff of the weekly "Voz de Portugal" are around the corner. Most of the Portuguese came in the mid-1950s, the majority of them from the Azores - like the Sa family, who run a supermarket on Rue de Villeneuve.
"Jerseys of the Portuguese national team are hanging on the walls. Baby rompers with the FC Porto logo can be bought here and of course there are Azorean specialties. A presenter of Portuguese television is yelling on the television above the meat counter, Mario Susa is standing underneath cutting meat for his customer Maria Oliveira rightly. "
The 65-year-old comes here often. Today she buys the ingredients for Polvo Guisado - squid stew for her parents. Even after 60 years in Canada, her parents, she says, still prefer to eat what you eat in the Azores. The family left Faial Island after the volcanic eruption of 1957, as did many others.
"In the 1950s Canada needed farmers. So a lot of Portuguese farmers came here but only stayed in the country for a year or two because the winter is so severe here in Canada and life was tough. So they moved on to Montréal - and here they are still. "
Temperatures of up to 40 degrees below zero, five months of ice and snow: Maria Oliveira remembers her first Canadian winters well.
"My goodness, that was terrible. In the 50s and 60s it snowed a lot more than it is today, those were walls of snow and ice back then. The cars drove through the city with snow chains. Today the streets are free, the temperatures." have changed and Canada, I think, has almost gotten really warm. "
In the Rue Saint Urbain - a street parallel to the Boulevard Saint Laurent - opposite the Santa Cruz Church stands a massive brick building from the early 20th century: formerly a synagogue, for more than 30 years the seat of the Portuguese Association of Canada. The Azorean wind orchestra meets here on Sunday mornings. 40 musicians play along, the youngest is eight years old. Gilberto Pavâo founded the orchestra before 1978 and has directed it since then.
"We see our task in serving the Portuguese community. We perform at religious celebrations and at festivals in the country. We have played twice in Sâo Miguel in the Azores and we have been to the United States countless times. There are exceptions a few other orchestras, but we all do it the traditional Portuguese way. "
Irwin Shlafman fishes with a sieve in the honey water. In front of him three dozen bagels are dancing in a wood-burning saucepan. We left the band and walked up the boulevard a few blocks to rue Fairmount. Here, next to Mordechai Richler's former regular restaurant Willinsky - which still looks like it did 50 years ago - is the Fairmount Bagel Bakery, which Irwin Shlafman is running in the third generation. Two of his employees drag a heap of dough the size of a pregnant sow through the shop, heave it on a table, and then stamp the air out with their elbows. One of the two cuts off slices as wide as the palm of your hand, rolls the pieces of dough into circles and then throws them into the boiling honey water. They stay there for five minutes, explains Irwin Shlafman.
"After the bath they come here on the table, are sprinkled with sesame seeds or poppy seeds and then we put them on a long wooden board. We put it in the oven, right next to the fire. When the surface of the bagels is dry, they are turned and stay on the oven tray for another 16 minutes. Then they are ready and come out again. "
Packed in bags, they go over the counter. 12,000 hand-rolled bagels are made here every day according to a recipe that has not changed in 100 years. Irwin Schlafmann's grandfather brought it with him at the beginning of the 20th century after he fled pogroms from Russia to Montréal. While Irwin forms one dough ring after the other at breathtaking speed without looking, he tells the story of the bagel.
"As far as we know, the first bagel was made in Poland around 1600. It was a present from a baker to King Stanislaus.Back then, the bagel was made of three braids and was shaped like a crampon. The subsequent baker made a circle out of it as a symbol of life. I think about 100 years later the ring was only made from one piece and that's how the bagel as we know it today came about. "
Our walk continues through Little Italy, past the Jean Talon vegetable market and ends where it began: by the water. The Boulevard Saint Laurent joins the banks of the Rivière des Prairies eleven kilometers northwest of the historic city center. A lively, sometimes ugly, but always fascinating vein of the city of Montréal; immortalized by numerous writers, poets, filmmakers and musicians.
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