How old are these walls?
Nearly seven centuries, before the bombs. Now they measure their age in decades. They are smooth sorbet shades of peach, cream, and coral, innocence and straight lines among the blackened baroque survivors.
We will love the walls for what is inside them: perhaps paintings of pale naked women double our height, fragmented pottery dug up from the dirt, stone statues of men whose names are long forgotten. We expect lofted ceilings and spiral staircases. We anticipate museum guides whose accented English puts our German to shame, and crowds of people who do not move except to further obscure our view. We wonder if this is the museum that will finally allow us to forge connections with the dead and solidify our relationship to a foreign country. We know that it is not.
Our tour guide, a German, is at home inside a bar at noon and swallows bitter liquid from thick, glazed glass as we wait. For a while we count out a record of his absence, reciting numbers to each other in a digitized crescendo: five minutes, fifteen, half an hour, an hour. Eventually we chase pigeons because we suspect they might be the exact same birds we thought we had left behind in Canada. Our toes trip on cobblestones while their heavy bodies stumble into the air and slump back down on the bright reconstructed rooftops.
We come within inches of catching one.
Nadine Clark is a Creative Writing and English Literature major at the University of British Columbia who has been fortunate enough to travel to both Europe and Asia, and equally lucky to have been able to come home to Vancouver, Canada.