A Student Abroad

Living and Traveling Around Europe.

Foggy Autumn Mornings

At least in my mind, Fog has a wonderfully Gothic character about it. It evokes images of Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles and the eerie streets of old Barcelona. It isn’t sinister, simply mysterious… perfect fodder for the writers mind. Growing up in a big city in the desert, the closest we usually came to fog were those old London Gold commercials. So it came as a wonderful surprise  here to discover that if you manage to wake up before the sun, bundle up real tight, and venture out into the darkness… you will be completely enveloped by it.

This particular morning the cold is biting. Even with a sweater and a jacket on it still manages to perpetrate deep down into you. The streets are silent and through the mist the city reveals itself slowly, in pieces. The remains of last nights excesses are still littered here and there; an old pizza box, an abandoned scarf , a two euro bottle of Pinot. You force yourself to take your time, moving slowly up Boulevard de la Victoire towards Pont Royal. The fog is so thick that it’s difficult to even tell where you are heading, street signs and building facades all blending into one.  The light of the street lamps give off a melancholy glow, leading you with unrelenting increments up to the river.  Looking left, you can just see the boats anchored to the quay, rocking gently, empty. Beyond, the lights from the Church of Saint-Paul burn through the haze, illuminating each of its beautiful towers.

Crossing the bridge you enter old town. Here, still in the confusing mist of the pre-dawn it becomes effortlessly easy to imagine you’ve entered a different time. The half- timbered roofs and cobble stone streets guide you through small twisting alleys and secluded city squares. Hopefully, you will allow yourself to get lost, turned around, losing yourself for a few minutes to the city. That is, after all, the whole point, to release yourself from the clamor and the demands of reality. To reach into the magic that can only be found when let go enough to tap into it… here in the last strands of the night, when all interference is gone and the world is asleep.

When you finally find your way to the cathedral, you notice how it could easily be mistaken, in the gloom, for Dracula’s Castle. Rising out of the mist, it stands illuminated against the moon, obligingly completing the Gothic illusion you’ve built over the past hour.  Commandeer a chair from one of the deserted cafe’s and take a seat. Enjoy the moment until the sun emerges, finally, to burn it all away.

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October 17, 2010 Posted by | Strasbourg | , , , | 2 Comments

Oktoberfest

It’s not hard to guess why, of all the experiences I’ve had so far in Europe, the one that has most excited my friends back home was certainly my trip to Munich for Oktoberfest. Even as someone who really isn’t a fan of beer (yes even German beer) I can defiantly understand the draw. Oktoberfest has this almost mystical quality for foreigners that is encouraged by its attitude towards excess (6,940,600 litres of beer consumed) and its proximity (over 4000 miles away from NYC) . It is, in short, the ultimate dream of the beer or festival lover that seems, much like  visiting the Olympics, a nearly impossible destination.

I am very happy to report that nothing you may have heard about the famous beer festival is exaggerated. I arrived by bus with a few of my friends early early last Saturday morning. It is essential to arrive before the sun if you hope to have any chance of getting into one of the giant beer tents. The mass of people is so huge that even at five in the morning there are thousands queuing up (or maybe “moshing” up) in front the Paulaner tent. It took more than three hours and several near tramplings before I finally got in. I had lost my friends in the mob but there was no shortage of drunk Germans to drink and chant with. The atmosphere was unlike anything Ive ever experienced. Take the wildest, most insane party you’ve ever been to and you wont even get a taste of what six thousand drunk Europeans with liter sized beers and giant pretzels are like.

Even outside the Beer Tents Oktoberfest has so much to offer. A likeness to the best state fair you’ve ever attended would be a apt description; hundreds of stands selling Chicken and Bratwurst, the best Custard you’ve ever tasted and dozens of giant rides and games. This healthy mix between debauchery and wholesomeness means you don’t have to be a drinker to enjoy Oktoberfest, or even an adult.

 

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October 7, 2010 Posted by | Germany | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Cathedral

So I realize that it has been quite awhile since my first post and I hope you will forgive my lack of a reliable internet source. However, now that I am well taken care of in that arena I hope to be posting quite regularly.

Yesterday, I was able to tour the Cathedral of our Lady of Strasbourg. Completed in 1439, it was for over 400 years the tallest structure in Europe and considered by many to be one of the finest example of Romanesque architecture.

Despite the fact that I had heard of its insane beauty before i arrived, I was certainly not prepared for just how overwhelming its presence truly is. It towers over you as you turn the corner of Place Gutenberg  and the first thing you notice is unbelievable level of ornate  detail on the outer facade.  The interior is no less stunning….thousands of candles guide your way past displays of 14 century Christian relics and the stain glass windows highlight the beauty the massive chamber.

What truly fascinated me was the astronomical clock. Standing over 18m high and over 300 years old it is a astounding piece of art, capable of telling solar time, equinoxes, the sign of the zodiac and the phases of the planets. At 12:30 figurines of the 12 apostles emerge from the clock and make their journey around the clock face past Christ. An angel, meanwhile turns over an hourglass.

If you come on a weekday you are also allowed to climb all the way to the top of the tower and are treated to breathtaking view of the surrounding city.

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September 24, 2010 Posted by | Strasbourg | , , , | 1 Comment

   

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