(This post was originally published on my personal blog, Of Postcards & Ink, between 2015-2016.)
Soaring cathedral spires, winding cobblestone streets, terracotta rooftops and squares lined by baroque architecture that has seen centuries come and go: Prague certainly does well in justifying her proverbial reputation as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I spent four days in Prague last week and revelled in those mornings of people-watching on the tram and in market squares, those afternoons of exploring and marvelling at hilltop views, and those evenings of late sunsets and quiet reflection.
Having survived the violence and destruction of the last century, Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, the astronomical clock, St Vitus Cathedral, the Jewish Quarter and the Lennon Wall offered incredibly unique opportunities to hear stories about the dukes, duchesses and kings who sought to build a kingdom here that would touch the stars. From live folk music being boisterously played in the main square to the smell of cinnamon wafting through the air from vendors baking and selling trdlenik (pastry dough that’s baked over hot coals and rolled in cinnamon and sugar – so, so good!), it really felt like the rhythm of Bohemian life was weaving itself around every cathedral and corner of this lovely city. Also, as the peak of the European tourist season would have it, I was walking through the old town square one afternoon and did a double take when I saw the familiar face of Ian (a friend from uni who studied Advanced & Professional French with me) out of the corner of my eye! It was actually his last day in Europe and he was preparing to fly back to Sydney later that day in anticipation of the upcoming uni semester, but it was nice to catch up briefly nonetheless.
Lovely Prague, I think I’d like to come back and visit you again someday. Maybe when days aren’t quite so hot and your bridges and streets aren’t choked with quite so many tourists (I wonder whether such a time exists though), we can go for an evening stroll and I can hear more about the times that you’ve seen come and go over your horizon. For all the distractions and hustle and bustle, there is an undeniable grace in the way you carry yourself and it was certainly with a tinge of sadness that I left your cobblestone streets and terracotta rooftops and made my way to Vienna.
If I were to sum up the last two weeks in four words, I’d choose these ones: “God is so kind”. When people have asked me how I’ve been settling in and how I’ve been finding Europe recently, I’ve sometimes found myself lost for words. The last two weeks have brought with them such a whirlwind of soaring highs and miserable lows that I often feel like I can’t adequately articulate what it was like to walk through those mountains and valleys. As I look back though, I’m in awe of how much God has taught me about myself and, most profoundly, Himself. As I’ve already shared with some of you, the first week was an incredibly bumpy ride and one where the joys and pleasures of travelling were battered by more hours of weariness, tears and heartache that you’d care to hear or read about. However, ever since my arrival in Berlin (just over a week ago now), by God’s grace, I’ve grown to experience the peace and comfort that comes from having to preach the gospel to myself every single day, greater emotional stability and the humbling sense of thankfulness to God that comes from totally relying on His hand of protection and sustenance in a way that I’ve never quite done before. “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:5-6).
For those who have asked, yes, I’ve been travelling on my own up until now and will continue to do so until the end of this week (at which point, the lovely Isa (Isabella) will be joining me in Venice!). Please pray for God’s continued protection, guidance and wisdom as I continue navigating and exploring Europe on my own. Please also pray for Isa’s safety and peace of mind as she leaves Sydney this week to join me in Italy and as she too prepares for the upcoming semester of exchange.
Thank God for the opportunity that I had on Sunday to Skype my family during our usual weekly family devotion time. It was such a joy to share in fellowship, prayer and God’s word with them (it felt like I was back right there with them in our living room in Sydney!) and such a humbling and awe-inspiring opportunity to continue witnessing God’s kindness and grace working in the lives of my mum, dad, Calvin and Chloe.
Finally, praise God for His righteousness. As I’ve continued reading the Psalms, listened to sermons and taken part in my family’s weekly devotion, this tenet of His character is one I’ve been reminded of quite frequently this week. In light of His holiness and utter detestation of sin, I’ve been challenged to actively desire, hunger and thirst for righteousness. Too often, I water down the sin that mars my words, thoughts and deeds and rest too complacently in the salvation that I know is mine in Christ, but as Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).