Note: this post is based on the text written in the course of my Storytelling thirty-days challenge from August 2013.
I had been in San Francisco for several days, but did not find a definite reason to express why it is special, why I wanted to go there in the first place. The Golden Gate bridge was magical, the street cars were fun, and the historical trolley line F was a very surprising discovery, but was there anything particular about the city itself? Or was it this mystical energy that drew me there, and that could not leave me for many days after I left the city?
I must admit that with many desires to visit some place it is like with San Francisco. They appear in me from a tiny spark: someone lives there, someone’s last name coincides with the name of the place, or a movie takes place in that city… But after the desire has been ignited, it has a life of its own. The initial spark can fade away from the conscious mind, but this feeling of the place being special stays.
Birth of a dream
I have “learned” San Francisco through computer games. Well, I was an ordinary child in a way, who liked to play and who spent a lot of time by the computer. On holidays, it could be A LOT of time. Two games that introduced me to SF were Midtown Madness II and The Driver. They had some parts of the city modeled, some hills and surely the Golden Gate bridge. Though, as far as I remember, both games had just a turnaround on the other side of the bridge (what a suprise it was to discover none in reality! :) ) I wonder how it would feel now to play them, after I saw the city with my own eyes. Would I recognize some places as I see them in the games? How much the game vesion of the city would correspond to my memories?
Anyway, even if I was introduced to the city by those games, they did not cause any desire to actually visit it. I believe it was not until we shopped one day at IKEA (I love IKEA! :) ) with my mom, and I decided to buy a poster showing a cable car on a hill… When we came home and I put the poster on the wall in my room, dad asked me, what it was on the poster. I proudly answered, “It is San Francisco!” I think that was the spark. [Side note: I generally believe in the energetic nature of everything around us, and that such seemingly innocent acts as buying a poster and putting it on the wall may shift the development of the energy. I have a more recent example of this phenomenon, which gave me the idea, but that’s another story] Though… A couple of years prior to that I was asked in an English class, where in the world I would like to go… at that time, I was (and I still am) against the idea of touristic travel and I didn’t know any other kind of travel. I answered that I was content with the place I lived in, and reluctantly said that maybe, just maybe I would like to go to the United States, probably to San Francisco… That could have been another spark.
Anyway, in October 2012 I already had a definite desire to go there, as “visit San Francisco” appeared on the list when I was working through the exercise of writing 101 dreams I wanted to realize throughout my life, and has been on all similar lists ever since. That month I also bought a ticket to the World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon and recognized that San Francisco was not too far from there (very close, comparing to the distance between Bremen and Portland :) ).
I entered San Francisco on an Amtrak bus from Emeryville. The size of the city surprised me. I was expecting to feel something very similar to the city from the games that I had learned years before. But that city was inside the computer screen, and now it was all around, with the heavy traffic of the late afternoon, with its densely placed buildings and crowds of people…
On the evening of that day, I walked up north from the hostel I was staying at to the Fisherman’s Wharf and had the first look to the bridge. To THE bridge, The Golden Gate Bridge :) It was magical. It was in a distance, and covered with fog. A magical view. I returned home by the historical tram line, which was the first mean of transportation I used in SF (except the Amtrak bus).
The most important thing of the second day was going to the bridge :) It was a dream coming true. It was so exciting, so wonderful, so good to near the bridge and then walk across it to the other side. Time was lost, there were just me and the bridge. This day, cable cars and buses were added to the experience of SF public transportation.
The third day was, surprisingly, spent outside the city, devoted to short excursions to Old Palo Alto (walk by the home where Steve Jobs lived :) ), Stanford (explore the campus) and Berkeley (explore the campus and unexpectedly set on a spontaneous hike to the top of the Panorama Hill in search for the promised great view at the Bay). This day added a trolleybus, a CalTrain and a BART to the list of SF rides.
On the fourth day, we went to the Ocean Beach and from it walked back to the city through the Golden Gate Park. The Ocean Beach was beyond my imagination. I wished I could stay there for the whole day, just look to the ocean and listen to the waves. We went to the beach by the line N of the metro, thus symbolically checking off the last item in the list of the land transportation methods in SF :)
The main thing of the fifth and the last day for me was the return to a place I had found on the previous day, to the place where I believe the picture of that IKEA poster (hanging on the wall in my room in the parents’ apartment) was taken. I made an attempt to shot a proof of visiting the place. It appeared to be a busy street with a lot of cars and no safety island in the middle of the road, so it was a bit of a challenge and an extra bit of fun to do it. (You can compare with the original poster image yourself ;) )
Actually, I crossed the city the following night when my friend gave me a lift to the San Francisco International Airport, which could be counted as the morning of the sixth day… It was an uplifting moment to look at the city again, but also in the dark and from a different perspective.
Various photos from the city:
I believe it was actually a very, very short visit. I think I made the most of the available time, but I know that I want to learn it deeper. I would like to experience it on a different level. To live in an apartment and not in a hostel, maybe shop for food and cook and not completely depend on eating out, to spend some time at quieter places where I can just be and not rush somewhere else all the time.
For several days after I flew out of the SFO airport, I had still been in San Francisco when asleep. I felt the energy of the city, I felt love to the city. I was waking up to realize that I was not longer there, and it was… strange. How could I no longer be there? How could I leave this city at all?
I would like to return there some day. I don’t know when, and how, and whether it will be possible to me to experience it on that other level that I desire. But I know that San Francisco gained a very special place in my heart. I miss it now, similar to how I had been missing Hamburg earlier… And actually, I had been delaying my visit to Hamburg for a long time after I returned to Germany. I was somewhat afraid that Hamburg would not longer be my city as it was, because I had fallen in love with another one… Indeed, the feelings were different, but I was anyway very excited to come back to Hamburg, happy to see the Alster and walk around it again.
As always, your turn: if you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? And if you have already visited some place to which you dreamed to go, how was it for you? Share the excitement in the comments below!