– The Crocodile
9th January 2019, by Matthias
Hello once more, dear reader! It’s a real pleasure to find you here again. Especially since this is a follow-up to our review of the signs in Strasbourg (Uncommon signs – The Iron Man). This time, we will look at a highly exotic model…
Sobek, a true divinity living at the time of the Egyptians
The crocodile remains respected and feared among reptilians.
We might as well say few of us would dare follow such a creature,
And this crocodile, even less people would be willing to try to capture!
“But you know well,” could say a historian
“that nothing scares an Alsatian,”
“not even such a saurian!”
“By the way, it’s not really one”, might add the veterinarian
But for the rime, it had to be one
Then, where does that thingy come from?
What is its story? Here we come…
We have to go back to the Napoleonic wars at the end of the 18th century and to an infamous campaign among those in which our hero from Strasbourg distinguished himself: Jean-Baptiste Kléber. Far from his native Alsace, in Egypt, he was to do battle. The Cairo capital is the last place our general is to contemplate in his lifetime. That does not mean his tomb shall be a pyramid though. In fact, it is truly beneath his memorial statue in Strasbourg’s main square. The latter now bears his name.
During perilous journeys, the general gets assistance from an aide-the-camp, bravest of the braves: the captain Ackermann. The captain longs for the Vosges mountain range and the activities he used to have there, particularly hunting. He then asks the locals about what is hunted in these parts. The next thing we know, here he is, guns blazing, attacking the Nile god. After a fight without mercy with the owner here, Ackermann overcomes the 3-meters-long monster. Proud of his catch, he displays it for the whole camp to see, then decides to have it stuffed so as to preserve it.
… to Strasbourg!
When he is able to go back to the Alsatian capital, our brave fellow cannot bring himself to leave his capture behind. So he decides that his loot will make the trip to Strasbourg as well. Relieved of war efforts, the avid hunter seizes the opportunity to buy an old barn located in the Goatskin street (rue de l’Outre). He restores that barn and opens there a small café, in which he makes sure to show his trophy. The hanging animal attracts the masses, curious to take a closer look at that exotic creature. This becomes the main reason to come to this establishment and the place naturally ends up taking its name. We are on the eve of the 19th century and so is born “The Crocodile”.
As far as promotion is concerned, the idea is undoubtedly brilliant. Ackermann is an early Steve Jobs and the recipe is a success. So much so that today still, two centuries later, at the same address you can find a restaurant, again and again called “The Crocodile“. The success of yesteryear has lasted to this day, the place being crowned with a star from the Michelin guide. This led to the visit of such prestigious guests as Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy during the NATO summit that took place in Strasbourg, in April 2009.
There we go, I hope once again that I was successful in tempting you to join our free walking tours in Strasbourg, during which we will tell you such stories. And if you wonder where the rue de l’Outre is, you just need to go say “Hello” to the statue of our dear general Kléber, then turn around on yourself and go straight ahead into the narrow street facing you. Indeed, you will have at first to pay a tribute to the dead general before you get to find the former headquarters of his aide-de-camp. Today the chef there is Franck Pelux, the finalist in Top Chef 2017 (a French TV show). You will find below some links to his creations.
There is also another link to freshen up the image of the crocodile, the real one that is! His name is Gustave, as one of our fellow guides. But do not worry, our Gus belongs not so much to a river as to the dessert part of the menu, for he is such a sweety pie! At last, a slight touch of humour with a contemporary Ackermann, even though that episode does not take place in Cairo (Nest of Spies) but in Rio. And the link is well made at last between the hunt and the gastronomy.