August 17, 2012

Sliding Doors: One Last Glance Toward Europe

We entered the Tube around 9:00 in the morning, a mass of noisy students and a few adults, taking up a section of platform. We had told the teens: "We'll start you on your journey, but you'll have to find your way back. Pay attention." The anxious ones stayed near us, the eager ones studied the green and red and blue and yellow lines on the wall map. "We'll need the Circle Line," one said, and after nodding, we passed the phrase among us like bread, or sweets, so when the train arrived, and the sliding doors opened, we all walked through them with enough nourishment and energy to know where we were going.




Later, we stepped out of trams into the high Swiss landscape at Pfingstegg Station. After London, most of the kids didn't even look at the trail map. They just started up. One foot in front of the other, one sore-muscled groan after the other, a collection of revelations. We walked under rock ledges and over small streams.  We talked about the pass we had planned on traversing, one covered that morning by snow, that had instead turned into this: an unfamiliar hike. Untested trails. A destination that not even one of us could imagine, full of turns and steep cliffs and thin, open sky.






At the village of Riquewihr, along the French Alsatian Wine Road, my husband and I and our German hosts, left our modern car and walked beside an ancient stone wall. It enclosed the entire town's historic center, and the only way to enter was through tall, arching gates. When we found the closest one, a few steps more brought us into the 13th century, and we walked and we talked without looking at each other, looking instead at the buildings, the timber-frames, the old wells, the tiny shops, the pots of carnations and vines of roses, the narrow alleys and pathways into another time.



In Basel, we were aware of being in the middle of things. In this Swiss city, butted on one side by France and the other by Germany, we heard shades of a dozen different dialects; could pay in francs, euros, or dollars; watched the Rhein and pondered where it came from, so white and icy cold, and where it was destined to flow. We strolled from the old side of the city to the new, my love and I, over a bridge with railings covered in a crocheted casing of colorfully patterned yarn, and we thought about all the fingers who twisted those threads before us.





And in Lahr, in the Kaiserstuhl, in Freiburg, and in Ettenheim, we moved into and out of a hundred different places. The Schwarzwald, Scheffel Gymnasium, das Rathaus, das ReWe, this vineyard, that restaurant, this doner shop, that gelato stand. Carolin's parents' garden. Annette's quick car. The door to Heimfried's and Ingrid's apartment, that solid piece of wood with the black handle that you had to turn and pull toward you to open.


We come in and we go out. We enter and we leave. In the very old parts of the world, we can see the marks of these back and forth footprints in the cobblestone. But more often than not, the only thing that remains from our passages through life--these places we've journeyed through that have changed us--are glimpses, fragmented light and sound and memories, that we hold on to with our heart.

58 comments:

  1. Wonderful impressions from different places, animals, flowers and peoples. Beautiful !

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    1. Glad you liked them, Seraphina. This blog has turned into a repository of memories for me!

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  2. Emily, What a treat to follow you on your trip - your words and photos are a delight.

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    1. It's always fun to share. Thanks for commenting, Barb.

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  3. Thank you. Thank you for these glimpses.

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    1. I'm thinking now about everyone and every situation I have to thank for these glimpses, too. The list is long!

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  4. Lovely photos. My husband and I are headed to Europe in October. Alsace, Germany and Austria this year...can't wait.

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    1. Oh, Karen, enjoy! I knew so little of the Alsace espeically before this trip, and I found it an absolutely magical area. Hope you have a wonderful trip!

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  5. Hi Emily, Thanks for coming to my blog. I hope you return often. I am enjoying yours... We love to travel also---but haven't gotten to Europe yet... Hope we do sometime. I am in AWE of your trip!!!!! WOW!!!!

    We are still celebrating the good ole USA... In Sept. we are going to Yellowstone and the Tetons --with a stop at the Rockies in Colorado... Can't wait!!!!!

    Thanks again.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

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    1. Hi Betsy. Thanks to you for visiting, as well!

      I've been to the Rockies, but never Yellowstone or the Tetons. Isn't it amazing how big the world is? We can travel for thousands of miles, or just a few, or even simply step into our backyard, and new wonders will always unfold to us if we're open to them. I'm sure you'll continue to find that on your upcoming adventures. Cheers!

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  6. What a great tour you've taken us on - full of light and lovely landscapes. Love your last wise paragraph too.

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    1. Thanks, Fi. Hard to believe all of that was already almost two months ago. But yes, that light and those landscapes. I keep them close.

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  7. As I stood just outside a little European travel agency, carefully tasting each glorious photo in the shop's window, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a group of people forming in front of the store.

    One by one by one they came, crowding around the door to the shop, tapping on the glass, and looking impatiently inside.

    And then to my surprise, as one they began to chant...

    We want baby pictures, we want baby picture, we want baby pictures!

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    1. Ha! That sounds like a crowd I don't want to displease. :)

      In truth, I will probably keep this bloggy-space place-focused (although I can't promise I won't mention Little Sprite--his or her nickname!--from time to time).

      However, if you're really interested, and want to know what 10-week prebirth legs look like via ultrasound (SO CUTE), you can check out the pregnancy-related blog that I'll be writing for these next several months. It's definitely more personal writing than I'm used to composing here! It's been fun to switch it up.

      Here's the link! http://baviablog.com/emily/

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  8. Emily:

    This is an excellent photo-journalism piece. I always love your closing remarks the best; you are very professional with your endings.

    I predict you will continue to find success and fulfillment throughout your Writing career.

    Richard

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    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Richard. Truly appreciate it. So glad you found your way to LoCW those months ago.

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  9. Emily,
    Thanks a lot for taking me to such a wonderful journey!! Especially I love the town of Riquewihr. Paradise-like place. All photos are so beautiful.
    keiko

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    1. I'm so glad that people feel like they've been take somewhere. Words and photos are powerful things, aren't they.

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  10. Wonderful trip for Emily -- thank you for sharing. .

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  11. Oops -- I meant a wonderful for the group you led!

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    1. Wonderful for all of us! :) Thanks for commenting, Sallie.

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  12. Of all your entries, Switzerland was the surprise for me, and the single place I'd most like to experience.

    Your title for this entry recalled for me Lawrence Durrell's "Alexandria Quartet", described by one of its characters as "A series of novels with sliding panels, like some medieval palimpsest where different sorts of truth are thrown down one upon the other, the one oblit-erating or perhaps supplementing the other.” That's very much the feel I've had with your entries about the trip, and they've done their job of truth-conveying very well.

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    1. Linda,

      One of the reasons I so value blogging is the opportunity to just put writing out there, as unfinished as it may be, and hear how others react to it. It gives me great insight into what does and doesn't work in particular pieces. This comment of yours is a gem, and if I happen to go back and add to the text of this post, I'll keep your words in mind.

      And yes to Switzerland. My favorite stop, too.

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  13. oh this post makes my wanderlust even worse than it usually is! x

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    1. You would think that I'd have mine under control...at least for a while...but alas! Where to next?!?

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  14. This was fascinating. In Europe we can see ancient human culture. Living history without books or lectures. Imagining what life in the 13th century might have been like is much easier when we can witness structures and roads from that time. In North America European culture starts in the 1600's and for the most part much, much later. But, we can see the history of the natural world; living ecology, old growth forests, and vast expanses of wilderness. This is mostly gone in Europe.

    I really liked this thought inspiring piece Emily.

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    1. Thanks, Bill. One of my favorite anecdotes from the trip was having a student talk about going to a festival when they returned to America that was all about celebrating a town's 150th birthday. One of the German's we were with chuckled; they said that weekend a village near them was celebrating 1500 years! Europe and other ancient parts of the world are so great for giving us that scope of history. But you're absolutely right about the natural world. Many Europeans I talked to mentioned that very fact as being one of the main reasons they visited the US. There's something special about everywhere, huh?

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  15. Beautiful pictures!! I'm moving to London for a semester in January and these pictures got me very excited <3

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    1. Very fun! Soak up every second. Soooooooo many adventures are ahead of you!

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  16. Once again, poetry in words and images. Thank you for taking us along on this memorable trip.

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    1. And thanks, as always, for reading along. :)

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  17. Reminds me of my honeymoon :) So beautiful!!!

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    1. Then it must have been a lovely time indeed!

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  18. Cool picture at the end with the yellow umbrellas and then all the rooftops stretching out behind. The framing of the picture made them look like little umbrella tops, too, covering the city.

    Also, congratulations on the upcoming little one! I bet that was some happy summer news. :)

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    1. Thank you, SPT! Yes, happy news. Still figuring our heads around the whole thing, but in a smiling way.

      Also, I love the way you talked about that photo. I hadn't thought of the rooftops being umbrellas. You've enhanced my own photo for me!

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  19. Thank you for this amazing photo essay.
    Gateways and doors are lovely.
    I love photographs of windows too.
    Always travel changes me in some way.
    Sherry, who dances with butterflies

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    1. Yes, Sherry, that is the very nature of travel, I think, and one of the reasons so many people are drawn to it. Sitting still has its merits, but eventually the body--and mind--wants to move. The world is big!

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  20. such a good ending to what sounds like an amazing trip. i visited london with my parents when i was young and reading your post reminds of that. and that hiking trail looks gorgeous.

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    1. Hi Kelton. It really was a great trip. One I'll obviously remember for the rest of my life. We were only in London for five days, and I REALLY want to get into the English countryside, so I guess that means I'll have to go back! And yes, "gorgeous" about sums up that trail.

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  21. Lovely photos. <3 This entry just solidified my desire to travel Europe. Hopefully for a honey moon!

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    1. That would be a great reason to go! Every avenue as a bit of romance in it. :)

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  22. This is lovely Emily, like your idea of linking together the different doors of different nations, crossing thresholds and borders, seizing the energy of a land, a geography, of a people, in time and space. Just lovely.

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    1. Thank you, Lasuza. The idea of doors didn't come to me until the last paragraph. Isn't it nice when that happens while writing: you find your mind--and the stuff you're really writing about--has been two steps ahead of you all along.

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    2. Dear Emily, Yes, I do a lot of my writing like that, brilliant when the words surprise you. All best to you.

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  23. Outstanding quest there. What occurred after? Thanks!
    Feel free to visit my weblog : don't read this blog

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    1. What occurred after? A prenatal appointment, lots of baby-announcements, familyfamilyfamily, and a long nap! :)

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  24. Wow...you have created a wonderful life for yourself!!! You definately doing it the right way when you are young and before life gets too serious☺
    Laurie @ Pride in Photos

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    1. Thanks, Laurie. It's been an almost perfect summer. At the same time, there is so much to look forward to!

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  25. you have a beautiful way with words. a trip through europe would be a dream. i was born and lived in europe until i was seventeen. i don't get to go back very often, which i should probably change since i love it there. these photos make me very nostalgic, in a very good way.

    leyla.

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    1. I'm a fan of nostalgia, so I glad this post brought you some of that. And yes! Go back! Visit. Explore those areas that were important to you and others that will become so. Glad you found your way here!

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  26. Beautiful pictures! I've always wanted to go to Basel!

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    1. You should go! Very interesting city. Expensive, but full of beautiful art and bridges and that fabulously-colored water. We had dinner at a little river-side outdoor cafe full of Swiss people...so full we had to share a table with a couple about our age. Turned out to be a great thing! They told us all about their city and what made it fascinating, even for a pair of lifers. :) Love those experiences.

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  27. Stunning photos. I wouldn't make much progress- way too many stops for photos!

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  28. Gorgeous scenes all round, both city and rural are wonderful.

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  29. We'll need the Circle Line," one said, and after nodding, we passed the phrase among us like bread, or sweets, French doors Melbourne

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  30. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an very long
    comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn't appear.
    Grrrr... well I'm not writing all that over again. Anyhow, just wanted to say
    fantastic blog!

    Stop by my page; coffee grind

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