We have returned to our small peninsula after being in Europe for just over two weeks. Oh, Europe.
Flowers. They are everywhere. In shop windows and apartment windows, on every table in every café, in planters on every street.
There are flower stands in every market, and in the Netherlands, especially, there are tulips. Glorious fields of tulips.
It’s hard not to love a culture that loves flowers.
The age of things. The streets are old, and the doors are old, and the buildings are old.
Old in this case does not mean dingy or dilapidated; somehow these Europeans make even more classy those structures that have stood already for hundreds of years.
The hotels where we slept and the cafes where we ate and the cathedrals and the castles all told silent stories of the multitudes of people that have breathed within their walls. I walked the same city fortress and climbed the city tower where people who lived in 1386 also walked and climbed.
We ate in a café where people have chatted and eaten since 1572.
In Cologne, we saw a gorgeous mosaic floor that had been installed by the Romans. (Probably 1st century)
In the face of history like that, what is there left to be except humble?
Small Spaces. We Americans love our large spaces. Europeans seem to be content without large homes and large yards and the amassing of material possessions that must inevitably fill up our large houses and large yards. Even among the wealthy, living quarters were small- a flat of 900 square feet was normal. Yards were uncommon.
And the ramifications of that? More leisure time. Instead of spending time to maintain large homes and yards, they meet friends in cafes, they gather in parks or along river banks. And they linger for hours. The pace of life seems less hurried.
Water. Their public drinking fountains are better than our public drinking fountains.
The cathedrals. So impressive. I think the next post might be devoted to them.
The kindness of strangers. As much as we loved the river cruise, we also loved the days where we were away from the organized tour and able to explore on our own. The flip side meant we were left to make our own mistakes- like the time we got on the wrong train, or the afternoon when we ended up somewhere different than we intended.
“Come with us,” a couple said, when we asked for a little help. “You will love our little town, and if you walk with us, just this way, we will show you the best cafe… ”
Travel is always about learning, about growing, about seeing things from new perspectives. The contrasts between the places we know and the new ones we experience are intriguing, and for someone like me who has wanderlust, beguiling.
There is more pondering for me to do as I continue to reflect on our time away. But I’ll finish for now with just a few of my favorite pictures from a place that felt wonderful, that felt good.