Postcards From Europe

The Hague (Den Haag), The Netherlands

The Hague
(Photo:Tevin Mwendwa Gitonga)

The city is fascinating. It holds hidden extremes, not unlike you. The town is modern, towering, and shimmers hues of white and blue. The streets at its fringes are ancient, rustic and radiate warm hues of red and brown. The town is bustling by day and by night falls silent. The streets in contrast are restful by day, and take charge by night, glowing with light and movement.

Most impressive of all is the calm the city holds in the face of its burden. Scattered within the city are the world’s halls of justice. The weight of the world presses down even through the ceiling in the court rooms of the Peace Palace, and the International Criminal Court. Yet the Hague holds up their foundations squarely on its shoulders.

The home International Criminal Court resembles its functioning. It is stately, clean, precise and transparent. The Peace Palace is not to be outdone. Its impressive staircase and mighty halls were built to entertain the rulers of nations and empires. Grand ceilings and sweeping archways hold murals of enlightenment that give praise to Truth and Justice.

Your absence is only made greater, as I realize my meagre significance at feet of these great courts.

Yours always,

Cologne (Köln), Germany

Cologne

(Photo:Tevin Mwendwa Gitonga)

The cold is relentless, and the gusting wind pays no mind to my shivering. The sun has retired behind the clouds, its light muffled into a dull grey. The city is less than perfect. It lacks the expected pristine and spotless streets.  Graffiti clings to city walls, and posters flutter under every bridge. Yet its imperfections keep the city grounded to reality. All else is nearly faultless. The order, precision, and clockwork movements of every piece and person in the city are a marvel.

The people are welcoming. Their faces steeled against the grey weather, but warm to the weary traveller.

The University of Cologne effortlessly blends into the city, deceptively so. I’ve learnt that the remarkably modern campus has been a student sanctuary for seven centuries. My presence is but a fraction of spot in its enduring existence.

As I leave the safety of the sanctuary, I long only for the warmth of your presence.

Yours always,

Strasbourg, France

strausborg

(Photo:Rexie Ndoria Kamau)

Strasbourg is, in every way, the definition of France. At every turn, my eyes met with culture, romance and beauty. But I found something else too. I found faith, not lost, but tucked away on the edge of France and at the heart of Europe.

A masterful presence fills the massive Strasbourg Cathédrale Notre Dame, from the solid concrete floor, to the lofty ceilings that stretch their topmost to the heavens. The opulent altar is not a lone slab of stone, but a marble table. Before it, a bronze congregation of saints gather to celebrate under a slender, towering, golden Cross.

The organist begins without warning, striking the silence with ominous chords that raise every hair. His music speaks in tongues, clear and audible, yet utterly incomprehensible.
As I kneel, I feel at peace. My longing ceases as I realize the gift of the omniscient presence. Through it, I am connected to all, and to you.

Yours always,

 

Zürich, Switzerland

 zurich

(Photo:Tevin Mwendwa Gitonga)

Zurich is beautiful; the contemplative kind of beauty that reminds me of you. I am at the shores, looking across the sea. The hazy Swiss Alps lie in the background, persistently standing over the waters. The air is cool, and the sun is warm. I doze as the crashing waves gently lull me to sleep.

The spring warmth lightly rouses the city. Streets and homes are quiet, their tenants bustling at the elongated parks, stretched along the sea. Their wealth too persistently looms over the city.

Yachts litter the sea, and ships continuously cruise along the horizon. Every vehicle is clean, powerful, slender, and roars commandingly. I am only a peasant passing through noblemen’s quarters. Sadly, my dull change cannot afford to satisfy my urge for something cool, and sweet.

I press on, wishing you were here.

Yours always,

By Alexander Otuka
Strathmore Law School