Thursday, April 23, 2009

Before the wheel there were...stairs...and the Devil

Escalier du Diable-The Devil's Staircase
The Devil's Staircase-Going down from centre ville to the train station

Poitiers being both old and hilly, it's interesting how stairs have been used in various forms here for a very long time. In fact, if Poitiers were merely hilly, the staircases might not be quite as numerous. The major staircases are placed where roads are impossible, literally up the sides of cliffs.

cliffside staircase in Poitiers
Besides being interesting elements of pre-automobile urban planning, they are (occasionally) still used today. Allowing pedestrians access to the center of Poitiers who would otherwise have to walk much farther, along slowly climbing, curving streets.

The stairways on either side of the train station, combined with the passerelle allows pedestrians in centre ville and the areas to the west direct access to the train station, bypassing the circuitous route the cars and buses must use.
La Passerelle in Poitiers
La Passerelle, which crosses above the trains in Poitiers

Besides the public staircases that help pedestrians shortcut the winding streets, many houses have extensive private staircases to take advantage of as much real estate as possible. You can put your garage on one level and your house on another:

house with stairs and elevator in Poitiers
The stairs wind to the left, while the more modern elevator (or dumb waiter) goes straight up

Or expand your garden into a multi-level affair:
multi-level garden in Poitiers
Note the white lounge chair near the center of the photo, perfect for a sun-drenched afternoon

It also allows this city to put a park somewhere that would normally be too steep. This park is tucked between two parts of the road that snakes down from centre ville to the train station.

Park along blvd. Verdun

While all these stairs allow a pedestrian to more easily navigate the area, it's not surprising that sometimes you might want to take the long route. These two pictures below comprise one staircase, and a lot of stairs.

Escalier de la Grotte des DruidesEscalier de la Grotte des Druides
Escalier de la Grotte des Druides-Staircase of the Druids Cave

Hmmm, maybe I'll take the bus.


Trevor said...

next post- jefe shows off his technique for riding on stairs?

rebecca said...