On Cities

With the advent of warm weather I have found myself missing Regensburg. Not surprising, of course: the sunny seasons there signalled non-stop Danube swimming, riverside picnics, plenty of gelato (only one country separated us from Italy, of course!) and sitting in the shadow of the medieval skyline late into the night laughing with friends.
It’s not a tear-your-hair-out, throw-yourself-onto-the-ground, life-crisis kind of missing – simply a gentle tug on the heartstrings when the sunlight dances in patterns across the floor, when my hands cup a melting ice-cream or walking through meadows towards the river. I wonder if others miss cities this way.
I have realised I love cities like friends or family. I live in a city (or perhaps just visit) and fall head-over-heels in love, the most whirlwind of romances – I define myself by my surroundings. Last year did I think of myself as an English girl living in Germany? No. I thought of myself, with a fierce loyalty, as a Regensburg citizen with as much love for the Danube and Walhalla as any born and bred native themselves. 
London is my sister, my partner-in-crime. Our secret hobby is people-watching on the tube. She knows my secrets and I know a few of hers. We know together that Green Park is the best place to meet a friend in summer, that the National Gallery is best visited on a weekday, that one needs to push and shove just a little to get anywhere downtown. She’s old and beautiful, if a little rough around the edges, and she knows how to make me swoon (note: St. Paul’s at sunset.) I love her. Inevitably, though, we sometimes need a break from each other – we grew up side by side after all.
In this space, Bristol slipped in. We were fast friends. My heart leapt at the delicious old houses, the dreamy cherry blossom tree outside the French department, the acres and acres of green. Bristol is my grown-up best friend, and she’s not easy to stereotype. She’s lively, sometimes, but equally quiet. Walking along deserted Redland streets, trees bowing to make tunnels above one’s head, you’d not be mistaken wondering if anyone lived here at all. We kindled our friendship over hot mugs of tea in dimly lit cafes, overlooking the Suspension Bridge, walking through streets of grand sandstone houses covered in crawling ivy and wisteria. On rainy days (of which there are many) I curl up under blankets and appreciate our friendship. Bristol is the friend who’ll sit with you quietly in the daytime and take you out for a spontaneous adventure in the evening. I love her for her beauty and her solitary side, her surprises, and her hills which yield the most unexpectedly breathtaking views. 
And then.
The city to end all cities. 
My true love. Regensburg which defies description. Her colour palette of Danube blue, medieval orange, grey cobblestones, green-leafed trees bending to kiss the water. The white-washed house I lived in, sitting on the spine of Europe’s greatest river. The colourful parade of 18th century houses adorning Stadtamhof’s main street. Regensburg is my soulmate. We have so much fun together. We swim in rivers, dance down ancient streets, cycle alongside streams, and sit outside at Biergärten as the sun goes down. Regensburg has the best sunsets. There’s a reason the Bavarian sky is world-renowned. I miss her every day. She taught me the essence of fun and adventure, and she was always waiting in her glorious splendour when I deserted for a few days. Regensburg lifted me up on the darkest days and made me cry with beauty blanketed in snow. She, like any good friend, will always be there for me.
I miss these places all the time. I know I will yearn for Bristol’s green magnificence when the time comes for me to go. And I wonder, with excitement, what beautiful friendships await me in the future. I’ve always wanted to be friends with Munich but our trysts, as yet, have been of the fleeting kind. I have something of a crush on old-school Los Angeles. I’ve never been to Paris but I think we’d get on well.
How exciting! All of these friendships waiting to happen! I can’t wait.
Photo: London, 2009 (taken by my sister.)