Apr 24

IF IT’S THERE, WE CLIMB IT

by in Europe, Global Students

It’s just what we do.  If it’s there, we climb it.  Bell towers, church domes, watch towers, even the leaning tower of Pisa.  Somehow, the promise of a steep staircase, endless stairs, and a pay-off view of some magical sort seems to call to us.  Elevator?  Nah.  Don’t bother.  We need to work for the view.

And so with this adventure, we’ve climbed.  In the lovely port city of Cadiz, Spain, our climbing obsession took us on a mission to find the church’s bell tower.  We’d already seen the cathedral – the plaster falling from the ceiling, the ornate carvings, the catacombs that were reminiscent of a “Night at the Museum” type of locked-in-overnight experience.  It was the bell tower we had to find.  When our broken Spanish and hand signals with the docent sent us right instead of left, however, we turned up empty handed.

Not to be outdone, we headed for the city’s watchtower instead.  Paranoid of attack, ancient Cadiz residents built a watch tower on every house, shop, church and bakery in town.  As the favored port of Conquistadors and pirates, seems everyone had a vested interest in knowing who might be heading across the pond.  But this watch tower was special – the tallest in town and equipped with a new-fangled contraption that reflected the city’s sprawling view onto a 360 degree viewing stand – and we had to climb it.

Wandering through the winding streets, up and down alleys, around churches, shops and homes, we kept coming up empty handed.  The map might insist it’s right here, but our navigational skills didn’t seem up to the task.  We’d almost given up – something we don’t do easily when there are steps to climb – when we literally rounded a corner and ran headlong into an old, crusty Spaniard, rushed to be somewhere before siesta.

“Deutsch?” he says hurriedly.  Confused and surprised, I shake my head.  “Francais?”

Slow on the uptake, I finally realize he was trying to find a common language.  “English!”  I announced, sounding a bit too eager, I sheepishly realized, as it leapt from my mouth.

“Ah.  I speak that one too,” he replied.  “Now where are you going?  What are you trying to find?”   To our surprise, it seemed that whatever had been the rush before turning this corner, our new friend now had a new mission – to escort us through his home turf. “Easy!”  he announced, when I explained our intent.  “Dis way!”

Transformed, the alleys and cobblestone streets opened up to us, no longer a mass jumble of confusion.  Under his tutelage, we meandered, his voice-over narrating the history and culture, interspersed with a few local anecdotes and personal greetings along the way.  Delivering us to the bell tower, he disappeared as quickly as he’d rounded that corner a few blocks earlier, resuming his rush to get somewhere before siesta.

And us?  We climbed.  It’s what we do.

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