Check it: I finished the first of three detailed travelogues of our trip to Europe! You can read all about Prague (and Brno and Vienna once I get them written + published) on my new Travel page HERE. There’s also a permalink in my homepage menu so you can check back for updates. Yay! It’s only taken me two months! I’m totally on top of things! (False. Please let me have this anyway.)
During our (too short) week in Prague, Brno, and Vienna, we hit up a lot of churches. Gothic cathedrals covered in lacy stonework and gargoyles. Simple synagogues built to honor the dead. Frescoed ceilings representing God’s goodness and man’s folly. Buildings so old it’s a wonder they’re still standing.
A LOT OF CHURCHES.
I planned it that way. Impressively vaulted ceilings, endless religious iconography, the myriad colors + details of stained glass windows…it all gets me every time. Even when one cathedral starts to look exactly like the previous dozen, I can’t help the feelings of awe and reverence that overwhelm me once I step through the doors.
The churches and cathedrals we visited did so much more for me than satisfy my hunger for great art + architecture, though.
I spend so much of my day looking down…at my children, at their messes, at my phone or a book or a snack. My posture is terrible. My back aches almost constantly.
And then I found myself exiting a subway stop at the foot of St. Stephan’s Cathedral. Glancing up the hill to St. Peter & Paul to be sure we were headed the right direction. Searching for a particularly cheeky gargoyle David had found on Atlas Obscura. Craning my neck to take in every single detail on every painted pillar.
Even after carrying my heavy backpack farther than I would’ve preferred, my back felt better than it had in ages. My posture improved. I wasn’t so bent over, constantly watching my shoes, and I began to notice things.
The intensely blue sky over Stephansplatz. How the afternoon light flooded through St. James church. Intricate etchings on the exterior of unnamed buildings. Castles spotted from a distance on train rides. Ancient doorways leading who knows where. So many red tiled roofs I could never count them all.
I would’ve been drinking in as much as I could have anyway. Austria and the Czech Republic were both unbelievably beautiful. But somehow being forced to look up + out all the dang time helped me recognize how closed off + small my gaze had become.
Walking cobbled streets, my mind played a Regina Spektor song over + over:
In a room I’ve built myself
Four straight walls
And day after day, I wake up feeling
Day after day, I wake up feeling, feeling
Suspended and open
That’s how I felt after seven days of churches + cathedrals: suspended and open. Head thrown back, heart wide open, ready to embrace whatever was next.
It was wonderful.
As we waited for our train to take us to the Vienna airport, another old favorite song by Jump, Little Children ran through my head:
In the cathedrals of New York and Rome
There is a feeling that you should just go home
And spend a lifetime finding out just where that is.
While I’m not sure how, I’m sure I can create that feeling here. At home. Even though here is not saturated with ancient European churches and cathedrals. It’s no good for me to hunch over and turn inward again.
I need to look out, and look up. Stretch myself to see more. Welcome more. Remain suspended + open.
Images: St. Vitus, Prague || St. George, St. Vitus, & Pinkas Synagogue, Prague || Spanish Synagogue, Prague || St. Vitus, Prague || St. Stephans, Vienna || Karlskirche (exterior + interior), Vienna || St. James, Brno || St. Peter, Vienna || St. Peter & Paul, Prague
See details and more photos of our trip to Prague HERE.