Saturday, December 17, 2011

European rivers

Over the Neckar
I saw all three of the expected European rivers, the Thames twice from the air as we flew into London, first from Canada and two weeks later from Munich, after dark.

Over the Seine
The Seine was its usual self, cold, grey and atmospheric. Our hotel overlooked it by the Pont de Neuilly; we sailed up and down the river on a Batobus for an hour while on December 3rd by the Quais, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. I remembered Baudelaire's poem Receuillement which imagines the dying sun going to sleep under an arch of one the bridges, ("Le soleil moribond s'endormir sous une arche...") like a homeless vagabond perhaps. I learned the poem by heart in 1970 and haven't forgotten a word of it as my husband will confirm, since I recited it to him on the Batobus.

The Seufzerallee by the Neckar
On the banks of the Neckar, in Tübingen, I walked past the place where another poet once lived, Friedrich Hölderlin, and I saw the "Avenue of Sighs"—Seufzerallee—on the river island where students at Tübingen traditionally bemoan the fact that they haven't studied hard enough for their exams.

I even saw the Rhine as we crossed it at Strasbourg on the train journey from Paris to Stuttgart, where the river marks the border between France and Germany. Rhine-Donau cruise ships were docked there in readiness for next year's season.

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