In the Shadow of a Castle

“Do not fear death so much, but rather the inadequate life.” 

Bertolt Brecht

Journal entry from 9/26/08:

The stone is cold beneath me and against my back, and I sit mere inches from a 50ft precipice. The trees sway and dance in rhythm with the chilly breeze of the coming night. Marburg lay spread out below me.

It’s Friday evening, the closing of a stress-filled week, and I have finally made it back up to Marburg’s castle. It actually feels as if I’m here for the first time. Last time was too quick. We came; we glanced; and then we hurriedly left, hungrily looking for the next “site to see.”

And so, this morning, I slept in – in an attempt to catch up on some much needed rest – and then decided to make my way into town, alone, to really begin to experience Marburg for myself. I naturally found myself heading straight for the castle.

It’s very strange: though we came to this exact spot last time, I now notice so much that I overlooked earlier.

There were too many people on the front side of the castle, so I made my way around to this back, much quieter, side. I found a perfect place to sit and write atop the castle’s wall, which overlooks a steep cliff down the mountainside. Then, stretched out before me is Marburg – as I have never really seen it before. And as I look down at the towering spires of the Elizabethkirche, I realize something. One would think that while perched on the wall of a solid fortress, glaring down at the city below, you would feel…powerful.

But as I sit here and watch the shadow of the castle behind me inch slowly over the city like a protective shield, I cannot help but to be overcome by how tranquil it is. It is shockingly quiet. The city noise is left far below. Only the distant hum of cars and the rustling of leaves as they give way to the ever-colder wind break the silence.

Perhaps this is why the royalty built the castle here; not to feel domineering, but to escape the hustle; to be able to sit here and think…or perhaps to sit here and not think.

The “one month mark” of my trip is almost here and it has yet to even begin to sink in that I will be here for an entire year. But, past the stress and the worry (and yes, the complaining) I am so very glad that I decided to embark on this adventure. And though I may feel lonely at times, I am also glad that I came alone.

Sure, I have traveled throughout Europe before, always finding myself in somewhat uncertain situations. And I have spent a month living in a village in the middle of the rainforest, with everything that that entails.

But never have I ever been really on my own. On my other trips, I went with groups. Even when I started college, I came with my best friends. So, to be transported here, to this new culture (which may not be as different as Mayan culture, but significantly different none the less) by myself, is certainly the greatest adventure of my life so far.

And already this trip is causing much more self-analysis and self-reflection than I expected. So, not only am I learning about the rich German culture, but I’m hopefully learning more about myself as well.

Well, it seems that Night is only over the next mountain ridge, and it is coming as quickly as the temperature is dropping. So, I suppose that it is time for me to leave the refuge of the castle and head back down to the life of the city below.

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