The narrow village paths lined with colourful restaurants and intricate bouquets adorning the decaying medieval walls, straddled the main stream meandering through the centre of this picturesque town nestled at the footsteps of the Alps. The surrounding landscape, comprising a ring of forested mountains and complemented by a crystal clear lake embraced this medieval paradise. Centuries old towns with cobblestone streets, ramparts, archaic castles and cathedrals from the medieval and renaissance periods unique to European were truly fascinating to behold. Exotic buildings and streets with colourful facades, magnificent cathedrals and richly decorated buildings connected by secret passageways plunges one literally into the tales and story books of ones childhood. Flamboyant characters such as Molière and D’Artagnan suddenly come to life. France manifests architectural sophistication and elegance, a rich diverse and vibrant culture and is blessed with geographical beauty renown throughout the world.
Walking along the narrow cobblestone street I paused before an old wooden brown door decorated with cast iron adornments. Unperturbed, I pushed the door, which groaned heavily and proceeded up the dimly lit passageway. The sound of people walking in the street dwindled as I wound my way up a narrow ancient corridor, until arriving at an archaic stairwell. I looked up in wonder at the winding staircase; the yellow glow along the walls was penetrated by the gentle blue of the sky breaking through in the distant heights. The walls had faded, and the multitude of cracks permeated their surface forming a historical tapestry. Every line seemed to manifest a mysterious tale centuries old, dating from the renaissance period. The simplistic beauty of this stairwell kept me transfixed for a long time, yearning for an era so distant yet kept alive within the depths of my imagination.
Walking along the narrow cobblestone street I paused before an old wooden brown door decorated with cast iron adornments. “I wonder what lay beyond?”. I had heard tales of merchants long ago who used hidden passages to transport their expensive silken wares through the heart of the city. Unperturbed and filled with the excitement of the unknown I pushed the door which groaned heavily and proceeded up the dimly lit passageway. The sound of people walking in the street dwindled as I wound my way up a narrow ancient corridor; the walls on either side had faded, cracks had wound a tapestry on either side. Light began to suffuse the corridor which opened up into a picturesque courtyard. The combination of rich colours, green plants crawling along walls, beautiful archaic facades and doors plunged one back into an era long ago. Turning around in wonder I suddenly paused. A magnificent red tower, elegantly framed with arched windows and a spiral stone staircase rose up into the sky. The passage of time had merely added to its beauty.
The trek down the mountain was daunting as the last rays of light heralding sunset burst through the mass of clouds as if attempting to dearly cling onto the last remnants of the day. Thick mysterious clouds of mist were everywhere to behold, surrounding me, their beautiful white hue mingled with a cold sensation, clung to the core of my being. My muscles were aching; I had reached the point of exhaustion and now the realm of unmerciful night and menacing of sub-zero temperatures instilled within me an urgency. My body had reached physical exhaustion; with the passing of time my mind, steadily assuring and motivating ones will to continue beyond the realm of reality urged me forwards. The instinctive urge to survive, instilled within ones heart compelled me forwards down the mountainside. I glanced over towards the horizon where the glory of the sun was fading behind the mass of mountains in the far distance; its beautiful evening light created a natural symphony. Silhouettes of trees lining the mountainside intermingled with the soft fading light and slow, drifting enchanting wisps of clouds. Such raw beauty was truly beautiful to behold; I stopped and stood for long moments staring into the horizon, reflecting on the wisdom and spiritual profundity of Dostoevsky’s words “Beauty will save the World”
The mist was everywhere to behold, surrounding me, a sea of white cloud, mystical and ethereal yet at once calming, pervading my every sense. The mountain trek was long and arduous, the cold air clung desperately onto my clothes, forming minuscule icicles. My muscles ached as I climbed up the steep incline; step by step urging myself to continue beyond my physical capacity past the point of exhaustion, when one’s muscles are about to surrender. Ultimately, one searches deep within ones heart for inspiration. The mind takes over, steadily assuring and motivating ones will to continue beyond the realm of reality and push beyond the boundaries of what the body is willing to do. Hunched forward, burning with fatigue, urging myself forward, barely able to distinguish silhouettes of trees lining the mountainside through drifting clouds, my mind’s strength had reached its limit. Sensing that I was nearing the mountain summit, I envisaged a moment of rare beauty, one that I would cherish for all time. Delving deep within myself, that place where silent prayer kindles the embers of courage whose flames give birth to faith and hope, the place where dwells the indomitable human spirit, my strength renewed, I continued on my journey.
The veil of darkness that clung on desperately prior to sunrise was broken by the soft moonlight that managed to filter through the treetops illuminating the earth beneath my feet as I slowly made my way up towards the mountain summit, weaving my way between an almost invisible mosaic of rocks, stones, tree roots and bushes. The cold winter wind was surprisingly gentle that night, and as I gazed up towards Heaven itself, bright stars and a full moon cast their beautiful glow. I momentarily paused to appreciate their beautiful radiance. They seemed as precious jewels strewn across the galaxy; a divine tapestry of celestial beauty. With difficulty I withdrew my gaze and resumed my trek up the steep incline with renewed vigour, anticipating the splendour of sunrise. As I neared a cluster of huge boulders I climbed the imposing rock edifice steadily; suddenly I reached the mountain summit. Standing in reverent awe, I looked out eastwards towards the horizon, stretching out my hands in praise. My heart stirred, full of joy; a silent prayer resonated deep within my soul, rejoicing at the beauty of God’s creation, as the first rays of sunrise cast forth their divine beauty across the face of the Earth.
Walking along the cliff edge that comprised the western aspect of this rugged windswept cape, I gazed out across the ocean towards two lone islets. The waves seemed to relentlessly pound against their shores and curtains of sea water were swept up and caught in a tumultuous dance by the turbulent winds. I gazed out across the beautiful peninsula, comprising a mosaic of coastal bush, grass, rocks and dominated by a simple sandstone lighthouse. After long moments looking out towards the ocean I continued along the wooden bridge that wound its way along the cliff edge steadily descending, while bracing against gale force winds. I laughed with joy as I reminisced about my wonderful experience in the Shetland Islands. Eventually negotiating a sharp corner I suddenly stopped. I stood in awe, transfixed at the huge and vast cavern before me, bathed in the golden splendour of sunrise that opened up into the ocean. Violent winds sent mists of sea-spray like curtains of rainfall. The sight was truly magnificent to behold.