I deny nothing.
In college, my husband and I each spent a semester abroad in Austria. It was an incredible experience, and we both were able to travel around Europe quite a bit during that time. Living in Germany now, we both still gravitate to Austria. My friend J even calls us "Austriaphiles."
I deny nothing.
This last weekend we hopped on a train to Innsbruck. The trains in Europe are a great way to get around. They're usually cheaper than flying, kids under 14 are free, and no one has to drive. Plus you end up meeting fun people and get to enjoy the views.
If you ever make your way to Innsbruck, I would highly recommend taking the cable railway up Nordkette. It is a little pricey, but worth every cent. (If you purchase an Innsbruck card it covers a trip up as well as getting you into a few other places-like the Alpenzoo.) The railway brings you up several stations until you're looking down on the city and there are still mountains at your back.
If in doubt, you should just go. Austria is phenomenal. :)
To begin this tale, my husband had no desire to go. None. He even told me about two months previously that it wasn't likely to happen before retirement. So I merely made him promise to take me someday, and sent a little prayer whirling to heaven. Ha. Apparently that prayer worked. He came home the following week after a business trip and told me he'd take me. That man loves me.
To give you a framework, Israel was a different world entirely. The streets bustled with Jews, Muslims, Christians, tourists... and the distinct garb that came with each. Signs in Hebrew and Arabic surrounded me. Soldiers meandered the streets casually, toting rifles and smoking cigarettes. Masses of young Jewish teens on Birthright swarmed about the cheap eatery stands by day, and filled the clubbing streets by night. And unless it was soy, it was unlikely I could get cheese on any burger I purchased.
I laughed as I stood waterside, deciding now why Jesus spent so much time there: It was gorgeous.
Here, He preached, performed miracles, called a handful of His disciples, and walked upon the water. The scenery punched me with every turn and I kept lingering upon one major thought:
This was where Jesus walked.
Nazareth is about 60 miles north of Jerusalem. The site of the Annunciation (when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would have Jesus) is a little cave surrounded by a large church. I battled with my screaming 3 year old much during this jaunt, but was nonetheless jolted by the beautiful and magnificent reality that this place, this humble little stony room, was where the divine became human. Here, with Mary's permission, God took on flesh.
I could write for pages, but I think I will stop there. My prayers have been enriched from getting to walk the roads, breathe the dusty air, and see with my own eyes the very places where Christ lived. I can now picture the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended, recall the twisting olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane where He sweated blood. I have seen the Temple. I have stood in the place where the Last Supper took place, walked about the Mount of the Beatitudes. Before coming, I did not carry doubts of Christ's existence, but the whole experience was like a new, fresh breath, awakening me into a keener awareness of His reality. He did walk, He did preach, He did heal, He did love.
And that in itself is worthy of a lifetime of contemplation.