On the way back from our walk up to the Schlossberg Tower, we decide to stop at the Freiburg Cathedral since it is still early afternoon. Having circled Freiburg Cathedral for two days, it’s time to go inside.
When we approach the entry, a sign over the door announces something about the pope. Underneath, two tour groups gather, preparing to enter the cathedral as well. As we pass around them, there is a sudden swirl of bodies–we have inadvertently split the herd and apparently caused a panic. We step out of the way as quickly as possible and they regroup and settle back down. Pat suggests we could just follow along with one of the tours, but it’s in German and we learned from our last trip to Germany that Pat is not a good translator when it comes to tours–his vocabulary is limited to daily conversation and there are too many words he doesn’t know in tours.
We step through the doors unguided and are instantly thrust from bright sunlight into what seems like darkness. After a few moments, our eyes adjust to the dim light streaming through enormous stained glass windows. My mouth drops open as I gawk at the soaring ceiling so far above our heads that it nearly disappears in the faint light. Looking back down, the pews continue for what seems like a mile through the full length of the sanctuary. I imagine a wedding here and wonder if every resident of this town would be enough to fill the pews. There is something about the size of this space that creates a sense of distance and isolation. In spite of its glorious architecture, its spectacular windows, and its frightening art full of what I assume are supposed to be inspirational pictures of Christian conquests, I have to wonder if anyone actually feels closer to god in a place like this. I think of the generations of men and women who must have spent most of their lives working on this church–it was under construction for over 3 centuries. I wonder how many of them suffered as a result of this monolithic project and how much blood was shed. I find myself awed and horrified simultaneously–perhaps that is the intent.
We wander around the main sanctuary to a series of chambers around the perimeter. They each display relics from the church ranging from elaborate sculptures to simple kneelers before alters. Each is locked in its own prison cell, protected from the masses. Similarly, the pulpit is roped off–an area where only the members of the clergy are welcome. Pat comments that they keep people at arms length from god. I find myself wondering why people would come here to worship at all, but apparently they do. A grandmother sits in front of three statues of saints whispering intently in German to her young grandson and gesturing periodically at the statues. I imagine her telling him the tales of these saints and wonder what he is thinking.
We wander back out to the daylight and return to the hotel to get ready for dinner. Once again, we find ourselves wandering aimlessly by lighted shop windows and busy restaurants looking for tonight’s destination. Still tired from travel, the cold I’m fighting and all the walking, I am less tolerant of having no plan today–the fact that we had little for lunch and my stomach is growling doesn’t help me be patient, either. Finally, we decide to give-up on finding somewhere new and return to the restaurant we had lunch at our first day.
Today, we eat inside. There are loud Americans in this restaurant, too. But they are two couples and the women keep shushing their husbands even though one of the women is the loudest of them all. Pat strikes up a conversation in German with the waitress and learns that she is Croatian, but her mother has lived in Florida for over 30 years. She tells Pat that the pope is coming to Freiburg on the 24th and that they have to close all the plaza restaurants for the day and remove all the umbrellas–apparently umbrellas are a threat to the pope’s security. She compares traveling to the US to visit her mother during the cold war years to the pope’s visit–she laughs about all the security required just for the pope to go by and wave. It does seem a shame that so much security is required even for a man that is supposed to represent peace (isn’t he?). Pat and I are relieved the pope didn’t come while we were there–we imagine the plaza jammed with people and all the hotels full and smile at our fortune.
After dinner, still hungry, we indulge in dessert. By “we,” I mean that I order dessert and Pat agrees to eat a couple of bites. I order the house speciality, which is described as vanilla ice cream mixed with egg whites and Kirsch and served in a soufflé cup. It doesn’t taste as rich as I expected and the Kirsch is just a subtle flavor. Yet, by the time I finish it (minus Pat’s two bites), I feel like I’ve had a shot of schnapps. I wonder how much Kirsch is in that tiny cup?
We walk back to the hotel, me giggling a bit more than usual, but walking no more awkwardly than is normal for me. I am almost ready for bed when Pat asks if I want to go out and check out the night life. I’m sure the look I gave him said it all–the thought of going to bed is the only thing on my mind tonight. I think about going out for just a moment and suddenly feel very old. Tonight, we will stay in.