Sometimes I pick a travel destination based on pictures alone. Traveling from Caen to Prague was a bit of a haul, so after a little help from google images, I decided on Strasbourg, France as my next stop. Situated near the border of Germany, the city center, Grande Île island was designated a UNESCO heritage site in 1988. A blend of new and old, just like many of the cities I had planned on visiting. After a short layover in Paris, which included a 45 minute walk between train stations, I had arrived in Strasbourg with a bit of a jump.
Nighttime had descended on the city, and I began to meander around the streets. I would within minutes come across a site that immediately took my breath away, the Cathédrale Norte Dame de Strasbourg. It stood towering among its adjacent buildings. Completed in 1438, it marked the tallest building in the world for more than two hundred years. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Adding to the ambiance, was a young man playing his cello at the base of the building. A very intoxicating moment for a sensory guy like myself. After spending some time in a trance, I headed off to a local pub.
Prior to leaving the US, I had planned on learning some basic phrases to get me by. Well I didn’t, and I wholeheartedly regretted it. I had been told multiple times, that many of the younger Europeans knew English well, but were reluctant to speak it. I get it, I’m in your country, I’m now the visitor. The locals inside the Les Berthom Strasbourg pub, spoke a mix of French/German. It was hard enough understanding one language, now combine the two. I managed to order a few beers and actually have a short conversation with the man next to me, who thought I had vampire teeth tattooed on my hand. Any free flowing conversation would have to wait. On my way back to the hotel, I got hungry and passed a pizza shop. I wanted two slices, but walked away with two whole pizzas. Lesson learned!
The next day I would connect with a local girl, who coincidently was from Bratislava, Slovakia, a destination I’d later be visiting. She showed me around much of the city, but due to a prior engagement, we parted ways around late afternoon. Once again I was left to fend for myself. I headed back over to the Notre Dame Cathédrale, where I would climb 332 steps to the top of the church. At this point the snow had begun falling, so the scene was set for a magical landscape setting.
After the steep descent, I made my way into the church. It was there I would sit for 45 minutes, eyes closed, as my thoughts collected. They ranged everywhere from where I was currently at in my life, to my previous relationships, my beard, and everything else in between. Nothing was off limits. There was something special about this place, a chill filled the air. I returned to my hotel, asked the front desk clerk for a pair of scissors, and subsequently cut off half of my beard. I guess you could say, it was a continuation of my cleansing.
My acquaintance from earlier in the day, had recommended a French restaurant to dine at for the evening. There I enjoyed a few glasses of vin rouge and a local cuisine, cheese Flambé. As I looked around the restaurant I saw people happily chatting amongst themselves. I noticed the couple next to me gently caressing hands, as they ate over a fire lit dinner. My emotions already being tugged at, the extra stimulation caused even more grief. I felt a longing! A desire for a deep, honest, communicative connection. I don’t mind eating alone, sometimes I prefer it. I don’t mind flying solo %90 of the time, but there was a sense of genuine happiness and ache all wrapped up into a tightly wound ball.
The snow continued to fall, the streets were quiet, and I had most of La Petite-France quarter to myself. I ran into a homeless man on this bridge, who tried his very best to communicate with me in English. Depending on my mood, I’m usually a very giving person, which will later be seen, but at this very moment I told the young man “I’m sorry, I don’t have anything.” Looking back, I wish I had taken him inside for a beer, or purchased him something hot to drink. As I stood looking out at this view, I was once again able to enter a very calm, meditative state. I thought to myself, there’s no place on earth I’d rather be than here.
I woke up early for yet another morning departure. The train station was about a 20 minute walk from my hotel. I munched on what was left of the second pizza for breakfast and headed out. I left feeling, OK!
you see lovers holding hands
on cobbled stone streets
you see kisses being shared
on bridges over water
you see the gentle caressing of hands
over a fire lit dinner in a French restaurant
it makes you smile
it makes your heart flutter
it makes your heart ache
it makes your heart long
keep excavating from deep within
soon, it’ll be yours
Nächster Halt, München …