I visited a lot of cathedrals in Europe, to the point where they started to blend together towards the end. Gothic arches, marble floors, stained glass, history and awe, yeah, yeah, I miss home.
But for some reason, the one I always remember the most is the first one I saw. Actually, scratch that "for some reason;" this isn't that mysterious; it makes sense. Sometimes coming first does matter. Coming first has greater sticking ability in my slippery mind. Sorry, Notre Dame. I remember the Dom a million times better than you.
And the stairs!
The Dom resides in Koln (Cologne) Germany, a town so close to the place we lived across the border in the Netherlands that it seemed like the first logical trip to take after we settled into the continent: easy, quick trip, but we could still say we knocked another country off our list! And what a perfect choice from the start: the train station couldn't be beat, and I love a good train station.
And then dominating the skyline, one of the first things you see: the Dom. It wasn't just the first cathedral I saw; it was one of the first things in general I saw in Europe, and no wonder it sticks in the memory. It took my breath away. So looming, so intricate, so dark. There were too many details, too many towers to even comprehend. While other cathedrals I'd meet later on seemed almost shiny in their clean bright stone, the Dom was sort of dirty in the best of ways: I remember the outside appearing like a kaleidoscope of varying shades of soot. This only seems right with these structures: they should look old. They should look intimidating. The religion they often housed was.
I can't remember the details of the interior. What I remember is that Sam, Kerri, and I climbed to the top of one of the towers you could walk up, and it was over 600 steps. Or something. At least. Or was it 800? It was a lot. I am clearly feeling resistant to Googling any factual information so I can present my shoddy memory instead. It was the beginning of a series of walking-up-towers-with-lots-of-stairs, but none felt as epic or as much of a real accomplishment as the Dom. The stairs, as with most stairs in towers, were of the spiral variety, the kind that give me vertigo almost immediately, causing me to grip the handrails until my knuckles are white out of a dizzy anxious fear. The spiral would pass windows, as in the top picture here, proving that the cafe tables on the street were indeed getting tinier and tinier. The room at the top was full of graffiti. I love graffiti. We paused before the descent, where the vertigo really kicks in, making landing back on solid ground feel like the real accomplishment. Anytime I get amped for a big staircase even now, a small part of my brain cheers for the memory of the Dom.
There were other things that made Koln memorable: I remember walking over a bridge--also a favorite pastime of mine--and there was a chocolate factory involved. And beer. Basically not much more is required for bliss. So many street vendors selling cologne in tiny glass bottles of turquoise and gold; Sam talking with German boys by the river; and of course, our trip to the zoo. But the Dom is the crown jewel. The Dom is what I want to see again.
I should note that as this is my first entry about Europe--and there will probably be many this month, and I'm already over feeling pretentious about it, so deal--I busted out my journal and my scrapbooks from the trip before opening up this blog post, all ready to cringe but secretly love the over-sentimental words I wrote about the Dom and the city of Koln. Turns out my first entry in my journal isn't until we had already returned from the city. I wrote sitting the next day in a chair outside our bedroom and talked about a mosquito flying around my head and how I didn't get a good night's sleep because we ate too much pizza upon our return.
So. Yeah. That also sounds like me.
I also talked about how Sam, Kerri, and I sat down and planned out the rest of the trips we wanted to take; our goal was to visit 10 countries, which, as I wrote, "made my head hurt." We did. Including the Netherlands, in fact, all in all I visited 11.
Boom. Almost 10 years later, just really beginning to count my blessings.
[And yes, I will make up for the days I missed this week while I was horribly sick, somehow.]