The Seine: Historical Miscellany

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The Seine isn’t just a body of water that flows through the capital. Nor is it a bunch of bridges or famous people who have sauntered along its banks, which is what one usually hears when the Seine is mentioned. The Seine is at the center of Parisian life, dear to all Parisian hearts, a vital artery that flows with economic and fun-filled activities. Events like Paris Plages and The Banks of the Seine, as well as a fondness for the bâteaux-mouches, or river boats, show at what point the Seine is far from drying up!

The 1910 Flood

It’s hard to imagine Parisians getting around on small boats or walkways constructed by inhabitants themselves, especially when one considers Paris’s world-famous drainage system. And yet the city was on lockdown during the 1910 flood when the Seine rose to an incredible 8.62 meters, level with the Pont d’Austerlitz. The Zouave statue on the Pont d’Alma, another famous Parisian landmark often used to determine water level, had the Seine up to its shoulders. Today, several old buildings have markings to indicate just how high the water rose.

Going for a Dip in the Seine

Before 1923, when bathing in the Seine was officially prohibited, Parisians swam in the river during heat waves, organized swimming competitions such as The Crossing of Paris, and even dove in naked (women were nonetheless covered up with stretched fabric) when it was fashion to do so during the 17th century. Boats were even installed to take hot baths.

The Dog Washers

Dog washers is one of the jobs that disappeared. Before the existence of dog grooming, dog washers and cutters took man’s best friend to the banks of the Seine to bathe and style the canines. This activity continued during the 19th century and up until the beginning of the 20th century. As is the case for humans, cleaning and/or bathing dogs in the Seine is discouraged. One mustn’t forget that Paris is Europe’s second busiest port!

Paris and the Seine overflow with countless other secrets. The banks of the Seine have been a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991. To discover the Seine and its banks, don’t pass up the chance to take a river boat ride!