While many are looking for January to end, I have seen the days on our wall calendar move at a very high pace, too fast probably even. In April it will be a year we have relocated in Zug from Dubai, and as I was walking by the Baarerstrasse on my way to pick up my son at the KiTa, one thing came to my mind:
Do I actually know the city by now? I have been going on and off streets, interested in turning left or right to discover new places, with a special crush for the Altstadt. I have connected spaces, identified shortcuts and remembered some bus and train lines. I have said hello to the birds on the lake and bought milk at the farm. And because Zug is not the most exciting place, I have made a mindmap of places and landmarks to best decide on what to do on my own or with a threenager on my lap. I pretty much know my way around, and if not Google Maps is there to give a hand.
But I don't know any street names, except the few I am seeing every single day. Do you?
I remember, as a student, I knew the map by heart, and even though I am a little rusty I can still visualize a street or a district in my hometown, Paris. You would meet your friends in the bar in the corner of Street X and Street Y, or you would find the best shopping deal on Street Z. Market squares had names, parks too.
Now I feel like we meet "in this café next to where the gym is" (nope, can't afford going to bars anymore in Switzerland), or we go to "the park with the big red slide" (i.e. the one on the lake, whose slide has been closed for weeks after a tree fell down on it - and yet I still don't know this park's name).
I don't question my mental abilities and do not blame technology either. I think we lost the skills in Dubai where streets have no names, or at least didn't really have any until the past few years. We worked with landmarks instead, necessary survival option should you decide to take a local cab.
Streets are part of a city's local identity, its history. They can drive political sensitivities (a current discussion in France deals with gender equality, the ratio of men vs. women whose names have been given to streets). From what I have seen, here they are tightened to geography and locations (Baarerstrasse, the road to Baar, Bahnhofstrasse, the train station street, Postplatz, the Post Office square etc...).
Am I missing out anything important then, in terms of immersion and belonging, when I don't know them?