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Travelogue H6

March 8, 2016

As it happened, the landscape artist charged with “Englishing” the Rothschilds’ park had also overseen the layout of the nearby Palmengarten, where I next turned my steps. My journey through the grounds ended rather more shortly than I had foreseen as, at that hour, the gates were neither open nor was entry to the garden free. So, for the second time in a year though on different continents, a botanical garden turned me away, or, more accurately, I turned myself away over the question of money. Yet I felt compelled, just as I had some months before in Montréal, to circle the grounds in the vague hope of finding an unattended service entrance which a negligent groundskeeper had left open.

Fortune favored me little more than it had in Montréal, for only an unattended cashdesk presented itself as a possible way in. If the spinning metal gate barred the way, the builders had quite widely spaced the wooden bars of the fence hemming in the cashdesk, and, thin as I was, I might easily have slipped between them. Still, something repulsed me at the thought of entering through such a gap. Thoughts of how to explain to the guardians my presence before opening also gave me pause. Malcontent, I shuffled on until I reached a garden stretching the length of an alley of trees and settled on a bench to one side.

I thought to make the most of my break by reading from the presentation which I had prepared for the conference the day after next in Mainz. So, I set a timer for twenty-five minutes and muttered to the birds a text on public reason and political discourse. At times, it proved necessary, for fear of appearing mad, to pause time as a uniformed cook or waiter passed beneath the eaves, bound for the Palmengarten’s café restaurant at alley’s end. Only after several such interruptions did I reach the closing line, at which point I let the French syllables drop from my mouth entirely.

From the Palmengarten, my aphelion, my orbit again bent inward, and I drew nearer the city center. On my path stood the Liebfrauenkirche. I ducked through the entrance portal into a courtyard between the nave and what I then took to be an outbuilding. In said courtyard a sign enjoined the visitor to remain silent while on holy grounds. Though the court was otherwise open to the sky, save for a few trees, the side adjoining the nave bore an arcade of sorts, beneath which an altar and a statue of the virgin implored believers to donate and find succor. I approached the altar, out of keeping with both my habits and beliefs, which perhaps come to the same to some extent as it is unclear just how much distance one could reasonably introduce between the two.

Before it, I let the cold euro coin fall from my fingers into the collection slot and took a small altar candle in exchange. Only once before had I made an offering, and it gave me occasion to reflect on how the myriad objects once worthy of sacrifice had passed into an abstract unit of measurement, such as the coin, which one might exchange universally for services on high. Such a reduction had taken place through the calculated clinking of adding machines and the speculation, perhaps the speculative digestion, of faceless men, or faceless to me at least. All sacrificial things had thus melded into one alone and in the contours of which sight inevitably lost its way. Therein, outlines overlay one another, much as in an exposure left open too long and before which the photographer would have successively placed and replaced all that might be considered of worth to the gods.

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