What can small cities do to keep up with the multi-facet attractions that metropolis offer to tourists? “Walk in Cézanne footsteps” is the answer that Aixois, the inhabitants of Aix-en-Provence in south France have found. I realized, it’s quite a genius idea though overblown by the Aixois as every second hotel, restaurant, cinema, design studio, furniture shop or you name it, has incorporated Cézanne as name. Appears like everyone rushed to grab this piece of heritage to portray the proud identity of a Aixois. Like Cézanne itself summed up his love for Provence “When you’re born there, it’s hopeless, nothing else is good enough”. But that not quite new. It has occurred to me several times walking through various cities to notice a Hemingway signs hanging on top of trashy Casinos or 80’s style discos. The only words rushing out of the mouth in disbelieve were :”Poor Hemingway”
Btw, who was Cézanne? “The father of us all” said both Picasso and Matisse. In his painting the Carrières de Bibémus took Cubism its first step. As post-impressionist painter is seen to have formed a bridge between late 19-th century Impressionism and the early 20 century Cubism.
So I took the walking tour at the tourist office and started to walk through the city as Cézanne experienced it. I followed the “C” marks on the ground, which initiate with the Statue of Cézanne. It’s quite demanding to go through all 32 steps or highlights in painter’s life in such a short time. The list got long, from the art school, family home, faculty of law, father’s bank, the hat shop, his studio, the church, the last atelier and cemetery. So I decided to pick a couple of them. Walking at the charming Cours Mirabeau avenue, it’s impossible not to enjoy a coffee at the “Café des Deux Garçons” where Cézanne often gathered with his friends. It feels like a trip back a century ago at Cézanne’s last apartment/atelier which now serves as museum. A minimalistic room filled with his objects, furnitures, cloths and painting, untouched from the day of his death in 1906. Surrounded by the wonderful nature and landscape, it was easy to imagine the source of delight in artist’s paintings. To summarize my thoughts after my visit in Aix-en-Provence, making artists the centerpiece is the right model especially in small cities. I would love one day to walk in “Onufri” footsteps in Berat, or in craftsman’s footsteps like Murtezan Makriu who spends his life shaping the stones of Gjirokastra. I’m sure that in many cities in Albania we find a large list of contributors, whose work played a significant role in shaping our cultural identity. May be it’s about time to wipe up the dust and revitalize our cultural heritage. Let’s walk on “…” Steps.