Friday, May 22, 2009

Fear of Falling

I've always had a fear of heights, but it's never been enough to keep me from a good viewpoint. This morning, those tour members who wanted came along with us to take the funicular up to Monte Igueldo for the best view San Sebastian has to offer. For an even better view than the one from the top of the funicular, you can climb the tower that tops the hill, offering 360 degree views out over the ocean as well as the town. Why, I wondered as I inched my way to the edge of the tower, do I do this to myself? But one look at the ocean, and I remembered.

I had a similar experience climbing the tower in Barcelona's Sagrada Familia temple last week. As Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia offers two elevators that take visitors above for an up close look at the intricate stonework and a bird's eye view Barcelona. While the wait for the lift to the first tower was at least an hour, the line was nonexistent for the other. How could I resist?

It was worth it, no question about that. You could almost reach out and touch the stone doves that appeared about to take flight from a central pinnacle. The worst part, I discovered, was actually the climb back down, as the lift for this particular tower takes guests one way only and you have to make your own way to the ground. A narrow, seemingly unending spiral staircase was clausterphobicly tight, and worst of all there was no central column protecting me from the view below. Like a coil of ribbon, the stairs wound their way down to the main floor, which I greeted with knees shaking.

Over water, however, I feel much more at ease. Never mind that falling one hundred feet to the ocean below would feel like hitting solid concrete, there is something calming about its presence. With today's beautiful weather, everyone in San Sebastian seemed to agree, as people stolled the beach and took off their shoes to dip their feet into the Atlantic. A few brave souls were even swimming, although one little puppy was too frightened of the incoming surf, as gentle as it is along the protected Playa de la Concha, to retrieve his stick. Every time a wave would come lapping onto the shore, he would run back to avoid the rush of water. His owners, not giving up, threw the stick further down the beach and finally, timing his attempt exactly with the waves, the pup dashed out and ran back triumphantly, stick in mouth.

In thinking about it, I realized that I'm perhaps not so different from the puppy when it comes to heights. I may balk and I may take my time, but eventually I'll get to the edge and retrieve my reward.

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