Outside the bakery in Sélestat, a pleasant small town of cobbles, gables and two fine medieval churches in Alsace, eastern France, is a sign saying bread has been baked on this site since 1866 – except from 1942 to 1945, when it was “closed by the Germans”, reports The Guardian.
Barely 20 miles away, over the river in Emmendingen, a pleasant small town of cobbles, gables and a ruined 11th-century castle in western Germany, a sign at what remains of a medieval gate regrets that it was “destroyed by the French in 1689”.
Nowadays the towns and villages either side of the Rhine, a historic battleground between Europe’s two major powers, display more similarities than differences. After seven decades of peace and determined Franco-German friendship, the border checkpoints between them have long gone.
One side, though, feels a lot less happy than the other. As findings from a global survey of opinions conducted by the YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project reveals, compared with Germans, the French are far more pessimistic about their future and far more likely to say things will get worse for the country.
They are also significantly more critical than Germans of government and public services, and distrustful of the EU and globalisation.
At the market in Sélestat, there was a ready response. “We’re a nation of moaners,” said Jean-Philippe Cézard, 53, who lost his job as an IT specialist four years ago and now runs a cheese stall. “We want, as the saying goes, the butter, the money from the butter and a kiss from the dairymaid – and when we don’t get all three, we moan.”