(This is another flashback post, I wrote this in Germany but am posting it from my sister's apartment in Rome.)
My second to last weekend in Sancerre I took the hour bus ride to Bourges, a bigger city to the west. There was a music festival going on, so the bus was full of French youths and it made me feel both old and also grateful for not being that age anymore. On the way there, not too far out of Sancerre, the bus was humming along, stopped at one of the stops, picked up some people, and continued. But then! A little further down the road, the bus stopped again, did an awkward three point turn in the middle of this narrow country road, went back to the last bus stop, and did another awkward three point turn, and parked itself there, much to the confusion of all the passengers. The bus driver then got up, faced the rest of the bus, and, without saying a word, slowly took off his jacket without taking his eyes off of the perplexed passengers. For one horrifying moment, I feared that some sort of drawn-out striptease was about to unfold, and wondered if this was included with the cost of the ticket (2 euros only, a real steal.) Thankfully, my fears were not realized, and it turns out that the bus was running ahead of schedule, which is why he’d turned the bus around to wait, though I am still uncertain as to why he chose to remove his jacket in such a peculiar and alarming manner.
One of the main attractions of Bourges, other than its medieval old city center, is the absolutely massive gothic cathedral right in the center of town. It’s really stunning—like a somewhat littler Notre Dame, with flying buttresses up the wazoo. It was finished in 1230.
Inside, it’s just as you’d expect—breathtaking and awesome, in the most literal sense of that word.
As a Jew, I’ve always been a bit conflicted about cathedrals,—it's just that I absolutely love them. I could spend hours in them. I love the hushed voices and whispers that seem to come from everywhere, bouncing off the smooth stone walls and soaring upwards. I love the light streaming through the stained glass, and the sea of lit candles, flickering. I like the darkness and the cool, still air. Walking through these places feels like floating.
I think a lot about what it must have been like for people back in the 1300s to visit such a place—just imagine, you live in a squat mud and stone hut in the middle of a field, and your life is indubitably defined by existential hardship, and then you come into town and find this masterpiece of architecture and construction—God’s house indeed.
Like any cathedral worth its salt, it has a mega organ in the back. The organ seems like such an improbable invention to me—why all the effort? There are instruments that sound way better at a fraction of the size—I’m just thinking about it economically here. But I guess there is the indisputable wow-factor.
Apparently there is an impressive crypt below the cathedral, but it was unclear if there were tours running. I’ll catch it next time, because now I know that when I am a ghost, I most certainly will be spending some time haunting the Bourges cathedral. (For those of you that have been asking, I am pretty sure that ghosts get to choose where they haunt.)