“Traveling- it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller” – Ibn battuta
Before I finish writing a draft of one of my term papers, I want to stop and take a moment to write that “Yes! I am still alive and I am having an incredible time! I am taking all that there is in and am experiencing a myriad of emotions and an overwhelming sense of gratitude along the way”. My schedule at university is quite work intensive but it has not forgotten to provide moments for exploration. Last week with Freie Universitat Berlin I went to Paris and Strasbourg. I honestly went not knowing what I would think of either city in France. I was blown away by both. The whimsical and romantic beauty of both cities struck me, filling me with wonder and delight. Mother Nature must have known that I was missing the warmth of sunshine as the weather all but one day was superb!
While in Strasbourg we went to the Verdun, where the battle of Verdun took place. We were able to tour an old war fort, walk through a communication trench, and take a tour through a citadel from that time. We were also able to look out onto woods that people are forbidden to walk in as there are shells that have not been detonated still lying around. The battle came at the price of six villages that were to be forever destroyed and one million lives lost. The landscape that rolled out before us is artificial. To describe it best would be to say imagine the surface of the moon: bumpy, now imagine that the surface of the moon was the result of violent battles. That is what is left in Verdun. It was an eerie sight to observe.
We also had one free day in Strasbourg where we toured the quaint city, looked into tempting shop windows displaying fine cheeses, wines and chocolates at no small cost. In Strasbourg there is a cathedral, like a mini Notre Dame that we climbed up. From the top one could see as far as the alps, the nature/city contrast was gorgeous. After that we were onto Paris…
The trains are incredibly fast and before we knew it, we found ourselves in Paris. In Paris we had a lot of free time so that we could make sure that we were able to do what our hearts desired while in the “city of love”. With university we went to the Louvre. I honestly feel as though I under appreciated the Louvre. Sorry, but it is the truth. It is so huge that I found myself overwhelmed. My favorite section of the museum though was the Islamic Art section where there are door panes displayed that have been designed so that people from within can look out and observe the world without ever being able to seen by those outside… seems as though this interest in observing others has been around for hundreds of years. I did see the Mona Lisa and man is she small!!! I could not relate to the hype that others felt when they saw it, but maybe someday I will. I found the large crowd around the Mona Lisa quite amusing as the painting itself is so small and the crowd, so big!
Also with university we went on a boat tour through Paris. When my mom was in college she lived in France. During the boat tour, all I could think of was her. I imaged my mom walking on the road next to the river. I pictured her smiling and waving to me from the riverside. It reminded me how much I miss her, but also how connected I felt to her in France knowing that she lived here and that I was experiencing things that she had. After the boat tour I had my first savory after running up the stairs to the Eiffel Store. I was like a little kid in a candy store aka VERY EXCITED to see the Eiffel Tower! Especially at night, when it is lit up it just seems as though anything is possible and the sky is the limit! Such an incredible structure. We also went to Versailles with university. The castle itself was so extravagant that I felt speechless and overwhelmed with emotion! Then there was the gardens which revealed themselves to me as I left the castle. They were magnificent. One could easily have spent all day getting lost in them, wandering through the mazes that opened up before you and without a care in the world.
The emotion that overcame me when I was there was gratitude. I clearly have far less means that those who lived in the castle. I would never want such great wealth though. But I am so wealthy! I am rich in love, life, adventure, travel, experience, memories, friendship … the list goes on! I was standing in a castle in Paris, France. I am currently living in Berlin, Germany. I vacationed in Denmark! How am I not to be overcome with emotion!? My life is so amazing that sometimes I have to pinch myself just to make sure that it is real.
OK back to Paris… I also went to the Notre Dame to hear Gregorian chants during the All Saint’s Day mass, to a cemetery, to the Latin and Jewish quarters, to the Arc de Triumph, to the sacre cœur, and to the Moulin Rouge. It was a whirlwind of a week and I would not have had it any other way.
All week, all month, this entire semester so far… I have felt surrounded by love and gratitude. If it were not for the loving support of those who believe in me and have faith in my crazy dreams then I would not be here right now posting from Berlin. From the bottom of my heart thank you!