It was a beautiful Sunday. The sun warmed my back and melted the delicious stracciatella ice cream in my hand. I stood in front of St. Peter’s Cathedral to show the partly more than 1,000-year-old majestic church to my visitor from Estonia. “Can you imagine what life was like in Bremen 1,000 years ago?” I asked him. Neither of us could.
“But can you imagine how the people of Bremen felt when their sanctuary was burning? This one place that gave them peace, a moment of quiet or simply of refuge from their hectic and arduous lives?” Even today, the colossal stone structure, whereby stones otherwise stand for coldness and hardness, gives its visitors a warm feeling of being welcome.
So, there we were, full of awe, the memory of ice cream still on our tongues, staring until our necks ached at the vaults of the three transepts. We leafed through the guestbook that revealed how many different people such a place unites: from a football fan to a mum with children or a travelling sales rep – all of them felt that a stop here in this historic place did their modern lives some good. “Ding-dong!” we heard the sublime and dignified sound from the bell tower. We have to go up there!
We commenced our 80-meter climb on a narrow, worn-out staircase. When we noticed the first McDonald’s and Starbuck’s paper cups we realized we were not adequately equipped: we had not even brought along a muesli bar! It probably would have been wiser to supply ourselves with some snacks – after all, our predecessors had needed them to climb the steps. But enough sarcasm: Why all this garbage? We were glad to be able to take a breather in a room halfway up. But it looked as if someone had camped there – or celebrated a party. An empty prosecco bottle in one corner, empty soda cans in the other. I cannot recall finding rubbish when I visited Sagrada Família in Barcelona and it certainly has ten times as many visitors as St. Peter’s Cathedral.
Sadly, but even at the very top, looking across Bremen, there lay conspicuous apple cores, biros, presumably used by someone to scratch Jana or Pasha on the wall, drink boxes and empty chocolate bar wrappers. Really, dear tourists, visitors and people of Bremen! If you want to leave something behind in the cathedral, then please donate for the preservation of the church, or use your excess energy to write kind words in the guestbook instead of marking the walls, corners and niches with your remnants. For you, it may be that the cathedral steeple is just some tall building, but for others, it is a place to clear their heads and to be happy for having visited Bremen. Please, just a little more respect!