Monday, October 14, 2013
I am feeling sad for two reasons: (1) I have lost much of the contents of our daily journal page on our blog. I am so, so sad about this and I pray that, with help, I can have those pages retrieved. (2) Secondly, today is our last day in Dresden. I have developed a deep love and respect for this city that has overcome such incredible adversity. Tomorrow we will say good-by to the beautiful Frauenkirche just steps from our apartment. I am grateful for all the good-hearted people involved in her re-construction.
God was good to us on our last full day in Dresden. He gave us beautiful weather and beautiful experiences. On this last full day in endearing Dresden, we chose to visit the Moritzburg Castle, a beautiful Saxon moated castle named after Duke Moritz, who, in 1542, built a hunting lodge near his residence in Dresden. In 1723, Saxony’s Elector Frederick Augustus I, known as Augustus the Strong, converted the building to use as a hunting lodge and as an appropriate and magnificent setting for his glittering parties.
The castle displays one of the most outstanding collections of hunting trophies in Europe. The “Feather Room” won a European Cultural Heritage Award for its unique piece of decorative art: over one million colorful feathers were made into a work of art for the magnificent bedroom of Augustus the Strong. Also on display is the porcelain figurine collection of Augustus the Strong. Very eye-catching are the sumptuously painted gold leather tapestry and ornamented leather wallpapers that represent part of Saxon history.
The Moritzburg Festival of Chamber Music and the Stallions’ Parade, held in the former royal stud farm outside the castle gates, are offered as annual events. Since 1974, the Baroque castle has also been used as the backdrop for the Czech-German fairytale film, Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella. The film has become part of the castle’s history and is viewed in homes each Christmas.
The ride by bus through the neighborhoods was especially beautiful in the autumn splendor. We walked around the “moat,” and Wayne was able to capture some magnificent photos. Upon our return home, we stopped at a cafe adorned with antiques. It was a lovely evening–great food in a spectacular setting with wonderful company. We met a delightful couple from Surprise, Arizona, who shared with us some of their travel economies: renting apartments from vacationapartments.com and leasing Renault vehicles for a month at a time instead of renting a vehicle. It was a pleasant conversation with another retired couple who, like us, was experiencing the delights of travel on a limited budget.
Tomorrow we venture into another path not trodden before by us. KG
Sunday, October 13, 2013
What a glorious Lord’s Day today has been! Begun with worship at the Frauenkirche with music provided by organ, brass, and percussion, it was a thrilling beginning to a fabulous day. Even though the service is in German, we were able to use the moments of spoken word to pray silently in English. I am sure the good Lord can hear prayers in two languages at the same time!
After services, we walked where we have not walked before. We crossed the bridge and walked into the Neumarkt section of Dresden where the tree-lined shopping district is housed on the street level, and apartments are occupied on the upper four levels of the buildings. What a pleasant place for apartment dwellers to live! All their needs for daily living are provided in their neighborhood along with the park-like atmosphere that offers ample seating areas under the trees. We also visited a Lutheran Church in the Neumarkt section where church musicians were practicing.
We enjoyed the rich autumn splendor of the sweater-friendly sunny day, the Baroque buildings, water fountains, statutes, the clippity-clop of the horses on the cobblestone streets bearing passengers in decorated carriages, the pleasant melodies provided by street musicians, the sight of young parents strolling their infants in perambulators, Dads & Moms out bicycling together with their young children, elderly couples sitting close on the park benches. It was a beautiful day, I think, perhaps, the kind of day God intended when He said, “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.” KG
Saturday, October 12, 2013
Today, Wayne and I enjoyed a day like none other we experienced before retirement: we lazily immersed ourselves in the beauty of an autumn day, ambling through a park, enchanted by the allure of nature’s colors, cherishing the moment, unresponsive to the cares or plans of tomorrow. It was a glorious day.
Today we boarded the tram to its last stop at the ferry that would take us to the Pillnitz Castle, a restored Baroque castle just outside of Dresden. Located on the bank of the River Elbe, the castle was the summer residence of many electors and kings of Saxony and was used as the summer residence of the House of Wettin until 1918. It has been harmoniously integrated with the natural setting of the Elbe valley and the surrounding hills and vineyards.
The Pillnitz Castle complex consists of three main buildings: the Riverside Palace (Wasserpalais) on the riverfront; the Upper Palace (Bergpalais) on the hillside, with both Baroque and Chinese elements; and the later Neoclassical New Palace (Neues Palais). Today, the castle houses the Arts and Crafts Museum (Kunstgewerbemuseum) of the Dresden State Art Collections and a Palace Museum (Schlossmuseum) that exhibits furniture, ceramics and other objects from the 13th to the 20th century, including the throne of Augustus II. Some of the exhibition rooms retain the original decoration. The New Palace houses the only neo-classical domed hall in Dresden. The royal kitchen shows “cooking machines” and original copper pots and pans in its reconstructed historical setting. Here, approximately 27 employees prepared meals for the royal family and their entourage. The Catholic chapel in the eastern wing of the New Palace is also part of the Palace Museum. Its multiple frescoes by the court painter, Carl Christian Vogel von Vogelstein, depict scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary.
The buildings enclose a Baroque garden and are surrounded by a large public park. A 1,600 foot chestnut-lined promenade runs parallel to the river bank, flanked by small rectangular hedged plantings that make each section feel like a private room. The park combines the strict forms of the baroque period with those of an English landscape garden. We relished our time in the garden.
By the time we took the ferry across the Elbe and then returned by tram to our neighborhood by the Frauenkirche, it had been almost eight hours since we had eaten breakfast. Rather than taking time to prepare a home-cooked meal in our apartment, eating out at our familiar restaurant below our apartment appealed to us as we reflected with gratitude upon this beautiful day. KG
Friday, October 11, 2013
Today is the birthday of my extravagantly talented youngest sister, Rhoda Thorell. I love her so!
It was a rainy day today in Dresden. Rainy days in Germany during our past month and a half here have not been like rainy days in Tomball. When the rain has fallen in Germany, it has simply dropped from the sky without lightning or thunder or gusts of high wind. It may gently dribble or fall in larger drops from the sky but all without fanfare or pleas to be noticed, seemingly content to unobtrusively fulfill the task for which it was created–water the earth, replenish it, and cause it to thrive and be rejuvenated. Wayne uses an umbrella, and I wear a clear plastic cape with a hood. We are able to continue our walks with little interference from the elements.
That we did today. We walked to the modern, well-ordered tourist information bureau across from the Hilton Hotel inside a fashionable mall. We dawdled there, peering at the fashions on display, admiring the attractive new necklines appearing on the winter line of women’s dresses and ogling at the stunning Meissen porcelain on display. Ever since a young girl, I have always been enamored with beautiful porcelain tableware set on a crisp lacy linen tablecloth with sparkling real silver and crystal goblets. Isn’t it ironic that the only china I have ever used as a married woman, except for the rummage sale mismatched dishes with which we started our marriage, was a set of promotional dishes purchased at a Safeway grocery store with grocery receipts collected from the relatives! Nevertheless, the set has served us well through all these years, and I am thankful.
We then spent a dreamy hour looking at the wooden hand works of Saxon woodcutters. We do admire their workmanship ever so much. Then, on we sauntered to Karstadt, a German department store, where we scrutinized items in the housewares department, including kitchen products, bedding, china, and glassware. We certainly have enjoyed sleeping on German feather beds and consider converting our bedding back home to that style–after we replace our 25-year-old mattress!
Karstadt had a grocery store in the basement where we purchased groceries. It has been easy finding our way back to our comfortable apartment on Munzgasse. We simply look for the soaring steeple of the magnificent Frauenkirche and head in that direction. I love the Frauenkirche for so many reasons. KG
Thursday, October 10, 2013
It was drizzling today outdoors, inter-mixed with light rain. Never mind, we were going to see the Historical Green Vault today! The Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault) in Dresden is a unique historic museum that contains the largest collection of treasures in Europe. Founded by Augustus the Strong in 1723, it features an amazing variety of exhibits from Baroque to Classicism. It is named after the formerly malachite green painted column bases of the initial rooms. The Historic Green Vault (Historisches Grünes Gewölbe) is famous for its splendors of the historic treasure chamber as it existed in 1733. Having read about it in history, we looked forward to our visit.
The history of the Green Vault goes back to the year 1547, when elector Moritz of Saxony initiated the building of an additional west wing to the palace. Throughout the 17th century, these rooms were used by the rulers of Saxony as a private treasure chamber for important documents and jewelry. Between 1723 and 1729, the elector Frederic Augustus I, today known as Augustus the Strong, turned the once private chambers into a public museum. By the end of his almost four-decade-long reign in 1733, Augustus the Strong had made his crown treasures and his inherited riches accessible to the public – an unprecedented innovation in the Baroque period.
These rooms remained unchanged for almost two centuries until World War II, when it became severely damaged in the February 13, 1945, bombing of Dresden. Three of the eight rooms were totally destroyed. At the end of the war in 1945, the treasures were confiscated by the Red Army and transported to the Soviet Union. They were later returned to Dresden. In 2006, the reconstructed Historisches Grünes Gewölbe (Historic Green Vault) was reopened in the magnificent suite of rooms as it had existed in 1733 at the time of the death of Augustus the Strong.
The Green Vault includes the Dresden Green Diamond, the only large naturally green diamond that has ever been found. The 41-carat Dresden Green Diamond is the most valuable diamond in the whole Green Vault. The stone’s unique green color is due to natural exposure to radioactive materials. The large “Royal Household at Delhi on the Occasion of the Birthday of the Grand Mogul Aureng-Zeb” comprises 4,909 diamonds, 164 emeralds, 160 rubies, a sapphire, 16 pearls and two cameos. The elector paid more for this piece than he did for the construction of Moritzburg Castle. There was so much more to see: an abundant display of jewels and the phenomenal craftsmanship exposed in working with ivory, bronze, rock crystal, red glass, mother of pearl, gold, and silver, and even more.
We were able to take our time as we wandered from room to room using audioguides that told the stories of the objects we were viewing and the elaborate rooms in which the objects were so elegantly displayed. As I pondered the pictures of the destruction caused by the air raids upon Dresden during World War II, once again I was overcome with emotion at the evils of war, empathizing with the people’s utter sorrow as they witnessed the devastation wrought upon their city, and then the compounded grief they felt as they were forced to live under the restrictions of communist authority. I also felt enormous admiration for the inner strength and resilience of the people who would not dwell upon the defeats of the past but strove, instead, to pick up the pieces that had fallen and restore honor to their glorious historical past. I am all the more proud to say that I am a German.
It was mid-afternoon when we left the Green Vault and returned to the Munzgasse, the street on which our apartment is located. We chose to eat a light late lunch at the pleasant restaurant below our apartment, the Kutscherschanke, where delicious food is offered at a very reasonable price in a most delightful atmosphere with attentive service. After appreciating some afternoon respite in our apartment, Wayne — bless his heart — walked to the grocery store in the lightly falling rain and bought groceries, and then prepared our evening meal. What a guy! I am blessed.KG
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Oh, dear, Wayne’s toe is black and blue and painful. Nevertheless, he still wanted to keep our scheduled trip to Meissen. He believes in staying focused.
Meissen is an east German town only sixteen miles northwest of Dresden on the Elbe River in Saxony. It is the home of Meissen porcelain, the Albrechtsburg Castle, the Gothic Meissen Cathedral, and the Meissen Frauenkirche. The town has become famous all over the world for its porcelain, which features the mark of the blue crossed swords. Meissen is an elegant town that looks back on more than 1,000 years of history.
The construction of the Meissen Cathedral was begun in 1260 on the same hill as the Albrechtsburg Castle. The cathedral is one of the smallest cathedrals in Europe but is also known as being one of the most pure examples of Gothic architecture. Stained-glass windows showing scenes from the Old and New Testaments create an ethereal backdrop for the delicately carved statues in the choir and the beautiful altar triptych, which is attributed to Lucas Cranach the Elder, a contemporary of Martin Luther. (It’s so amazing feeling a sense of “knowing” Lucas Cranach after having been in Wittenberg, where he lived, and seeing his work in museums and churches throughout Europe.)
Meissen is famous for the manufacture of porcelain, due to the extensive local deposits of china clay (kaolin) and potter’s clay (potter’s earth). Meissen porcelain was the first high quality porcelain to be produced outside of the Orient in 1710, when the Royal Porcelain Factory was first opened in the Albrechtsburg, the former residence of the House of Wettin and the first castle to be used as a royal residence in the German-speaking world. Built between 1472 and 1525, it is a fine example of late Gothic style. It was redecorated in the 19th century with a range of murals depicting Saxon history. Today the castle is a museum. Nearby is the 13th-century Gothic Meissen Cathedral (Meissner Dom). The hill on which the castle and the cathedral are built offers a view over the roofs of the Old Town.
The Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) is situated in the old market-place at the foot of the castle. Its tower holds the world’s first porcelain carillon, manufactured in 1929 for the celebration of the town’s 1,000-years-jubilee. It chimes six times daily. Unfortunately, we were unable to go inside. Nor did we get to go inside the Church of St. Nicholas, which has the largest figures ever made from Meissen porcelain.
Since the early 13th century, Europe’s ruling houses had been importing porcelain at mind-boggling prices from China. Augustus the Strong, Elector Prince of Saxony and King of Poland, was a great admirer and collector of porcelain. In the early 1700s, he commissioned research to be done aimed at cracking the secret of how porcelain was made. The work proved successful. The first white porcelain was produced in Meissen in 1708. In the year 2000, the world’s first organ with a perfectly tuned set of pipes in Meissen Porcelain was produced, and in 2009, the Onion Pattern from Meissen, Germany’s highest-achieving classic porcelain, celebrated its 270th birthday.
After walking up the hill to the castle and the cathedral, we visited the porcelain museum below where we witnessed the artistry and craftsmanship that makes Meissen porcelain unique. There were live demonstrations of plate painting, figure moulding, and the glazing process. Seeing how each individual piece of porcelain is handcrafted and hand-painted caused me to marvel at the exquisite craftsmanship. While the porcelain is extremely expensive, I am in awe of the skill and time-consuming meticulous detail and artistry of the process. I certainly have much more respect for fine porcelain than I did before. On a lighter note, I can’t help but wonder why my one little unpainted, unadorned porcelain dental crown could cost as much as an exquisite, hand-painted, gold trimmed porcelain piece from Meissen!
We left Meissen with one regret: we did not get to experience another specialty for which Meissen is noted, the goldriesling, a grape variety from the Alsace that now only flourishes in the Meissen area. Even though Saxony is Germany’s smallest wine region, it produces some distinctive wines that are highly regarded by connoisseurs. Perhaps we may find this wine in Dresden, our home base for a few more days.
As the sun was setting, we returned to our apartment and relaxed over a home-cooked meal. KG
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
The weather today has been one of the most pleasant we’ve experienced while in Germany–simply beautiful! We loved being outdoors. While on our way to the post office, we stopped for a bratwurst and later some ice cream, sitting outdoors both times, soaking in the warm sunshine, watching the movement of the masses, eaves-dropping on nearby conversations. At the post office, we mailed back our unused Eurail passes with the hope that we will get an adequate refund. We also purchased tickets for a visit on Thursday to the Historic Green Vault. It is so pleasant being able to leisurely visit this city. We took our walk more easily today, because Wayne’s foot is still in pain.
As we pensively gaze upon the photographs of Dresden in the immediate aftermath of the February 13, 1945, bombing of the city, we cannot fathom the depth of grief the people of Dresden must have felt. We are familiar with the grief of the loss of Salem’s beautiful church after the Thanksgiving 1995 fire. Yet, for the people of Dresden, they lost, not only their church, but their historic city, including their homes. Their grief was inexplicable and yet, they chose to rebuild. I can only imagine the wrenching feelings that clutched their spirits when there were those who wanted to raze the site where their church once stood and replace it with a parking garage! I marvel at the resilience of the people who could reach beyond their loss to meticulously clean the rubble, piece by piece, to reconstruct it to reflect its former glory. Dresden is a beautiful city, and I hold such respect for its people. KG
Monday, October 7, 2013
Today was a day to take care of business. Ugh, but ever so necessary. We won’t consider this a favorite day by any stretch of the imagination; nevertheless, we accomplished what needed to be taken care of to complete arrangements for Ken & Paula’s travels with us and for our personal Eurail global needs.
Since Poland is not part of the global Eurail system, we had to purchase separate train tickets to service our needs for travel to and within Poland. We researched the cost of a Eurail Pass for Poland; then, we went to the hauptbahnhof to assess cost for point to point tickets to and within Poland. The cost was comparable; therefore, we purchased tickets for our Poland travels and made reservations where it was either required or advisable.
Next, we studied our remaining train travel needs through November. We examined point to point cost, comparing that to the cost of a Eurail Global Pass. To complicate matters, we had earlier purchased a regional Eurail Pass. Realizing that it would not meet our needs, we decided to return it unused for partial reimbursement. We learned that, if we had purchased it through eurail.com instead of raileurope.com, we could have received 100% reimbursement, less 15€, instead of 85% reimbursement that raileurope offers. That’s disappointing. Having done better research this time, we placed a phone call to raileurope to order the Eurail Global Pass and have it sent to our apartment here in Dresden. We will now take care of Ken and Paula’s Eurail needs online at a cost much less than ours. They will benefit from our lessons learned.
To add to the travail of the day, Wayne may have broken his little toe. This has not been our finest day!
Nevertheless, we have much for which to rejoice. KG
Sunday, October 6, 2013
After an exhilarating and emotional weekend in the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation, Wayne and I returned by train to our home place for two weeks, Dresden, the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany situated in a valley on the River Elbe near the Czech border. Dresden has a long history as the capital and royal residence for the Electors and Kings of Saxony who, for centuries, furnished the city with cultural and artistic splendor. With a pleasant location and a mild climate on the Elbe, as well as Baroque-style architecture and numerous world-renowned museums and art collections, Dresden was called both the “Elbflorenz” (Florence of the Elbe) as well as the Jewel Box.
Allied aerial bombing near the end of World War II, however, destroyed over ninety percent of the city center. Restoration work has helped to reconstruct parts of the historic inner city, including the Katholische Hofkirche, the Semper Oper, the Zwinger Palace, and the Dresdner Frauenkirche. Restoration of the Lutheran Frauenkirche was completed in 2005, a year before Dresden’s 800th anniversary, largely with funds received from Lutherans in America. Since German reunification in 1990, Dresden has regained importance as one of the cultural, educational, political and economic centers of Germany and Europe.
The Elector and ruler of Saxony, Frederick Augustus I, who served during Martin Luther’s lifetime in the 1500s, gathered many of the best musicians, architects, and painters from all over Europe to Dresden. His reign marked the beginning of Dresden’s emergence as a leading European city for technology and art. During the 19th century the city became a major center of economy, including motor car production, food processing, banking and the manufacture of medical equipment. Dresden in the 20th century was a major communications hub and manufacturing center, as well as a leading European center of art, classical music, culture and science until its destruction on February 13, 1945. Each year on February 13, the anniversary of the British and American fire-bombing raid that destroyed most of the city, tens of thousands of demonstrators gather to commemorate the event.
The completion of the reconstructed Dresden Frauenkirche in 2005 marked the first step in rebuilding the Neumarkt area. The incorporation of neighboring rural communities over the past 60 years has made Dresden the fourth largest urban district by area in Germany after Berlin, Hamburg, and Cologne. German cities near to Dresden are Leipzig (62 miles) and Berlin (120 miles). Prague, in the Czech Republic, is about 93 miles to the south, and 120 miles to the east is the Polish city of Breslau/ Wrocław.
Dresden is seeking to regain the kind of cultural importance it held from the 19th century until the 1920s, when it was a center of art, architecture and music. Carl Maria von Weber, Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, and Gottfried Semper had a number of their works performed for the first time in Dresden. Dresden is also home to several important art collections, world-famous musical ensembles, and significant buildings from various architectural periods, many of which were rebuilt after the destruction of the Second World War.
After being completely destroyed during the bombing of Dresden during World War II, the reconstruction of the Semper Opera House was completed exactly 40 years later, on February 13, 1985. The revered opera, ballet and concert house was opened in 1841, destroyed by fire in 1869, bombed in 1945, reopened by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in 1985, and then painstakingly restored after a flood in 2002.
There are several choirs in Dresden, the best-known of which is the Dresdner Kreuzchor (Choir of The Holy Cross), a boys’ choir that was founded in the 13th century. The Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra is the orchestra of the city of Dresden. Art collections consist of twelve museums, of which the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Gallery), which we have already visited, and the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault), which we will visit this week, are the most famous.
The royal buildings are among the most impressive buildings in Dresden. The Dresden Castle was the seat of the royal household from 1485. The wings of the building have been renewed, built upon and restored many times. Due to this integration of styles, the castle is made up of elements of the Renaissance, Baroque and Classicist styles. The Zwinger Palace is across the road from the castle. It was built on the old stronghold of the city and was converted to a center for the royal art collections and a place to hold festivals.
The Hofkirche (Catholic Church) was the church of the royal household. Augustus the Strong, who desired to be King of Poland, converted to Catholicism, since Polish kings had to be Catholic. At that time, Dresden was strictly Protestant. Augustus the Strong ordered the building of the Hofkirche, the Roman Catholic Cathedral, to establish a sign of Roman Catholic religious importance in Dresden. The citizens of Dresden, who were mostly Lutheran Protestants, built the Lutheran Frauenkirche to be larger and more impressive than the Catholic Church. It is said that the Frauenkirche (the Lutheran Church) is the greatest cupola building in Central and Northern Europe.
Built in the 18th century, the Frauenkirche was destroyed in the bombing of Dresden during World War II. The remaining ruins were left as a war memorial, following decisions of local East German leaders. The church was rebuilt only after the reunification of Germany. The reconstruction of its exterior was completed in 2004 and its interior in 2005. The church was reconsecrated on October 30, 2005, with festive services lasting through the Protestant observance of Reformation Day on October 31.
Günter Blobel, a German-born American, saw the original Frauenkirche, the Church of Our Lady, as a boy when his refugee family took shelter in a town just outside of Dresden days before the city was bombed. In 1994, he became the founder and president of the nonprofit “Friends of Dresden, Inc.”, a United States organization dedicated to supporting the reconstruction, restoration and preservation of Dresden’s artistic and architectural legacy. In 1999, Blobel won the Nobel Prize for medicine and donated the entire amount of his award money (nearly US $1 million) to the organization for the restoration of Dresden and to the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche. It was the single largest individual donation to the project. Rebuilding the church cost €180 million. As far as possible, the church – except for its dome – was rebuilt using original material and plans, with the help of modern technology. The heap of rubble was documented and carried off stone by stone. The approximate original position of each stone could be determined from its position in the heap. Every usable piece was measured and catalogued. A computer imaging program that could move the stones three-dimensionally around the screen in various configurations was used to help architects find where the original stones sat and how they fit together. Of the millions of stones used in the rebuilding, more than 8,500 original stones were salvaged from the original church and approximately 3,800 reused in the reconstruction. Two thousand pieces of the original altar were cleaned and incorporated into the new structure. The builders relied on thousands of old photographs, memories of worshippers and church officials. When it came time to duplicate the oak doors of the entrance, the builders had only vague descriptions of the detailed carving. Because people (especially wedding parties) often posed for photos outside the church doors, they issued an appeal for old photographs and the response—which included entire wedding albums—allowed artisans to recreate the original doors. The completed dome and its gilded cross once again grace Dresden’s skyline as in centuries past. The cross that once topped the dome, now twisted and charred, stands to the right of the new altar. The rebuilt church is a monument reminding people of its history and a symbol of hope and reconciliation.
Most of the present cityscape of Dresden was built after 1945, a mix of reconstructed or repaired old buildings and new buildings in the modern and postmodern styles. There is also housing dating from the era of Stalinist architecture. After 1990 and German reunification, new styles emerged. The Augustusbrücke, the oldest bridge in Dresden over the Elbe, is just a few feet from our apartment.
Two famous sculptures in Dresden are Jean-Joseph Vinache’s golden equestrian sculpture of August the Strong called the Goldener Reiter (Golden Cavalier) on the Neustädter Markt square and the memorial of Martin Luther in front of the Frauenkirche.
The bronze statue of Martin Luther survived the bombings and was restored to once again stand in front of the church.
While the Old Town, or Altstadt, has been busy turning the clock back, the Neustadt across the Elbe River has been looking forward. The Äussere Neustadt (Outer New Town) quarter is now filled with new bars and shops catering to a younger generation that does not remember the days under Communism, much less the war.
Upon our return to Dresden, we walked back to our apartment, plopped down our duffel bag, and headed to an Apple Store where we were able to download our numerous photos that had exceeded the storage capacity of my mini-iPad. We then bought some groceries and returned to the evening to our apartment above the busy street that overlooks the Frauenkirche. What an exhilarating weekend this has been! KG
Saturday, October 5, 2013
I am in awe! To be in Wittenberg, Germany, where Martin Luther, Katharina Von Bora, and Philip Melancthon lived and walked is so very inspiring. Wayne and I visited Luther Haus, the converted cloister where Martin Luther lived with his wife and their six children for many years. Various students and visitors lived in the central part of the building. Martin Luther was given the building by one of the aristocrats supporting his movement. It is now a museum. Wayne photographed me there holding the “hand” of Katharina Von Bora, Luther’s wife.
We toured the Castle Church, or All Saints’ Church, commonly referred to as Schlosskirche (“Castle Church”) to distinguish it from the Stadtkirche (“Town Church”) of St. Mary. It was on the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg that Luther posted The Ninety-Five Theses on October 31, 1517, which began the Protestant Reformation. The Castle Church was built between 1490 and 1511 at the order of Frederick III, Elector of Saxony. In 1760, during the Seven Years’ War, the church was destroyed by a fire resulting from bombardment. The blaze left only half of the foundation standing, and none of the wooden doors on which Martin Luther had posted the Theses. The church was soon rebuilt, but many priceless works of art were lost forever.
In 1858, at the order of Frederick William IV of Prussia, commemorative bronze doors were mounted where the original wooden ones had been located. Above the doors is a painting that portrays Luther on the left with a German Bible, and Philipp Melanchthon on the right, with the Augsburg Confession.
The tombs of Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon are located in the Castle Church. On Luther’s tomb, located beneath the pulpit, is inscribed, “Here is buried the body of the Doctor of Sacred Theology, Martin Luther, who died in the year of Christ 1546, on February 18th, in his hometown Eisleben, after having lived for 63 years, 2 months, and 10 days.” Melanchthon preached at Luther’s burial. There are life-sized statues made from alabaster of Frederick III and his brother John, Elector of Saxony. The church also has many paintings done by both Lucas Cranach the Younger and Lucas Cranach the Elder (father and son).
After touring the Castle Church, we visited the Town Church, or St. Mary’s, another beautiful medieval church where Luther preached many sermons. This is a lovely old church (the Stadtkirche), very large, with its double towers reaching high above the town. Martin Luther preached many sermons in this church, and he and Katharina von Bora were married here. Their marriage is re-enacted annually in a popular festival. All of his children were baptized in the church. A large painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder is above the altar showing Luther receiving the cup at the Last Supper.
Lucas Cranach’s home and art studio are in Wittenberg. He documented much of the Reformation with his portraits and woodcuts. Lucas Cranach (the Elder) was not only one of the most accomplished and prolific painters of the 16th century, he was also the mayor of Wittenberg and owned a pharmacist’s shop that is still doing business as a pharmacy (or Apotheke) in Wittenberg. He painted many of the well-known figures of the Reformation, as well as the local princes and princesses, and his paintings, drawings and woodcuts are in museums all over Europe. His house on Collegienstrasse is now a museum and his artist studio behind the house has some interesting exhibits.
Philip Melanchthon’s house is also on Collegienstrasse just down from the Best Western where we stayed.
The town’s official name is Lutherstadt-Wittenberg, and everywhere one goes there are reminders of Martin Luther. The town is very walkable, flat, and has two main pedestrian-only streets that run parallel to each other: Collegienstrasse, which turns into Schlossstrasse, and Mittelstrasse. Beautiful pastel-colored buildings, many from the 16th and 17th centuries, line the streets, and many of the restaurants have tables on the sidewalk.
At 5:00 P.M. we rejoiced to have the opportunity to worship at an English service in the Castle Church. Wittenberg has a ministry to English-speaking guests. This is their website: http://www.WittenbergEnglishMinistry.com. The Germany contact is WEM Office at Wittenberg Information Center, Schlossplatz 2, 06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany.
Both the Castle Church and the Town Church are undergoing major restoration in order to be prepared for the 500th anniversary celebration of the posting of The 95 Theses. Wayne and I would love to bring Christian friends with us to Wittenberg for this occasion.
After church services, Wayne and I enjoyed dinner at a local Brauhaus. Both the ambience and the food were excellent. KG
Friday, October 4, 2013
Wayne & I walked to the hauptbahnhof in the autumn breeze that hinted of the winter that is to come. We delighted in our quiet train ride to Leipzig, viewing the countryside as it rolled by with homes surrounded by vegetable and floral plantings, mansions on hills overlooking vineyards, bicycle paths along the rail line, fields planted with winter growth, farmers plowing their fields, streams that flowed through the landscape, church steeples that towered above all the buildings of the communities through which we trained. We conversed about the art pieces of the Old Masters that impressed us as we had viewed them on Wednesday and reviewed the works we had seen earlier this year at the Prado and Uffizi galleries. It was a restful, most pleasant ride to Leipzig.
Leipzig is a city in the federal state of Saxony, Germany, about 93 miles south of Berlin at the confluence of the White Elster, Pleisse, and Parthe Rivers. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centers of learning and culture in music and publishing. After World War II, Leipzig became a major urban center within the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), but its cultural and economic importance declined, despite East Germany being the richest economy in the Soviet Bloc. Leipzig later played a significant role in prompting the fall of communism in Eastern Europe through events which took place in and around St. Nicholas Church. Since the reunification of Germany, Leipzig has undergone significant change with the restoration of some historical buildings, the demolition of others, and the development of a modern transport infrastructure. Today, Leipzig is an economic center in Germany and has a prominent opera house and one of the most modern zoos in Europe. In 2010, Leipzig was ranked among the top 70 of the world’s most livable cities, 39th globally out of 289 cities for innovation, as well as being included in the top ten cities to visit.
Arriving in the hauptbahnhof in Leipzig, we were amazed! The train station is so large, modern, multi-storied, filled with a multitude of shops and eateries. There was even a hair salon located there. We were able to just step outside and walk into the center of the city. Autumn was being celebrated with an Herbstfest, just as in Dresden. We headed first, however, to St. Nicholas Church (Nikolaikirche), a beautiful Lutheran Church. How blessed we were to participate in the Friday noon devotions. The service bulletin was written in both German and English, which blessed us even more.
Our next visit was to St. Thomas Church (Thomaskirche), a Lutheran Church famous as the place where Johann Sebastian Bach worked as a cantor for almost thirty years and is now buried there. St. Thomas is also home to the renowned boys choir, Thomanerchor. We were so blessed to be surrounded by the rich sounds of the organ during our visits to both churches. The Prayer Cross in St. Thomas Church touched my heart. In the autumn of 1989, on the brink of the Peaceful Revolution, the unrest of the people in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) reached its peak. Hopelessness & existential fears started creeping in. The Prayer Board, installed at St. Thomas on September 4, 1989, reflected many people’s thoughts, fears, wishes, and hopes.
Leaving Leipzig, we hopped on the train to Lutherstadt Wittenberg on the River Elbe where, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses against the selling of indulgences at the door of the All Saints’, the Castle Church, marking the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. What a powerful experience today has been walking in the footsteps of the great Reformation! Part of the Augustinian monastery in which Luther lived, first as a monk and later with his wife and family, is preserved and considered to be the world’s premier museum dedicated to Luther. Various Luther and Melancthon memorial sites were added to the UNESCO world heritage list in 1996.
At the end of World War II, Wittenberg was occupied by Soviet forces and became part of East Germany in 1949. By means of the peaceful revolution in 1989, the communist regime was brought down and the city has been governed democratically since 1990.
Wayne and I walked through the city, basking in the evening pleasures of families and friends together on the streets of the city, enjoying companionship, music, and food. We looked forward with eager hearts to a full day in Wittenberg tomorrow that will include English worship services in the Castle Church. KG
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Wayne let me sleep late this morning. We then reviewed our upcoming travel plans and assessed our anticipated needs. We enjoyed an appetizing meal in the beautiful German setting of the restaurant outside the door of our apartment. Then we took the tram (2€ each) to the hauptbahnhof to arrange for our trip tomorrow to Leipzig and Wittenberg as well to meet with the travel agent about the second EURAIL pass that we had purchased. It was our desire to have it tweaked to meet our future travel needs. The agent was unable to help us; therefore, I wrote to RailEurope from whom we had purchased our passes and requested their assistance. We await receipt of their response. We enjoyed our easy walk back to the apartment, stopping along the way at the Herbstfest to share some German fried potatoes. We enjoyed a quiet evening in the apartment as we prepared for our weekend trip to Leipzig and Wittenberg.KG
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Today, we excitedly explored the area around our wonderfully located apartment — the River Elbe just outside our apartment door, the Frauenkirche, only steps from our back entrance, and the Zwinger Palace complex, a comfortable walk from our lodging. We spent several hours viewing the art work of the Old Masters. We also came upon a street festival, the Herbsfest, and enjoyed some of the good foods. We bought breads at a local bakery to bring back to our apartment. In the evening we enjoyed a three hour organ concert performed by the lead organists from the Frauenkirche, Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the Catholic Church in each of these churches. Amazingly, the churches were filled with guests who had paid an entrance fee to experience the beauty of the music. Following the concert, we sipped a beer at our favorite restaurant just outside our apartment. I stayed up until 2:30 A.M. to post our blog as I struggled with a pitifully slow Internet, but the task was successfully completed. KG
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
After a typical German breakfast that included whole grains, yogurt, and richly baked whole grain breads and elderberry jam, we took a cab to Wagner’s opera house, which was closed. However, the spectacular surrounding grounds included a moving tribute to significant former Bayreuth Festival performers who were forcibly removed from service by the Nazis in war-ravaged Europe due to their Jewish affiliation. The tragedies of the Nazi era in Germany are inescapable.
We walked back to the hotel, retrieved our luggage, and returned to the train station where we began a 3 1/2 hour train ride to Dresden beside flowing streams, rich farmland, and forests in their autumn glory.
We arrived in Dresden and took a taxi to our apartment lodging beside the Frauenkirke, the Lutheran Church of Dresden. Entering the apartment complex from the smelly alley, I couldn’t help anxiously wondering what kind of place I had reserved for us for the next two weeks. How surprised and pleased we were, then, with our comfortable two-room apartment equipped with a kitchenette, bedroom with storage space, bathroom with a washing machine, and Internet that actually worked! Orchestra music playing Handel’s Water Music, Sheep May Safely Graze, and the Hallelujah Chorus wafted up to our upstairs apartment from street musicians. Our apartment is located on the Munzgasse, one of the oldest lanes in Dresden with a history dating back to the city’s founding in 1206. The Augustus Bridge over the Elbe River is just outside our apartment. Dropping our luggage, we quickly walked to the impressive Frauenkirke, reconstructed after its destruction in World War II with donations from American citizens. The church was filled with visitors. We learned about the daily devotions at noon and 6:00 P.M. and the Sunday worship schedule. We felt blessed to learn that there will be a Bach concert tomorrow evening. Without hesitating, we purchased tickets. We walked the streets of the Alstadt and along the Elbe River, mesmerized and emotional to be here in Dresden. KG
Monday, September 30, 2013
We were able to train with Allen and Rhonda until we parted in Nuremberg, where Wayne & I left them to catch our connecting train to Bayreuth. It was delightful for us to procure lodging only a block from the train station at Hotel Goldener Hirsch. Our check-in was ever so pleasant in a German establishment with rich dark wood and thick ornately-patterned carpet. There was no lift; however, the tall gentleman who brought us to our upstairs room carried my luggage up the carpeted stairway.
The autumn day was sunny and filled with fresh air. Bayreuth was so quiet in comparison to busy Munich. We delighted in walking in the pedestrian Altstadt, visiting the churches and opera house, and sitting in the plaza enjoying a refreshment at an outdoor bistro. What a lovely day it was! In the evening, we ate at a nearby restaurant adorned with antiques in the style of my dear sister-in-law, June Werner. The Franconian food was delicious. KG
Sunday, September 29, 2013
We were privileged to experience Sunday Mass at the Ettal Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in the village of Ettal close to Oberammergau and Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria, Germany. The church is built in the rococo style of architecture and decoration that is distinguished by its elegant refinement in using different materials for elaborate ornamentation. The acoustics in the church were exceptional in amplifying the beauty of organ and voice.
Following a stop in Garmische-Partinkichen, we rode a gondola to the top of the Zugspitze — the highest point in Germany at 9,717 feet above sea level, where we were able to be immersed in a 360° panorama that offered a view of 400 peaks in four different countries. Prominent, whenever the clouds dispersed, were the Alpspitze and Zugspitze Mountains and the Waxenstein Peaks. The Zugspitze, which was first climbed in 1820, marks the border between Germany and Austria. We took advantage of the opportunity to walk on both the Bavarian and Tirolian terraces connecting the borders of Germany and Austria. While the Germans glory in the Zugspitze, their nation’s highest point, Austria has many higher mountains. We trekked to the “Hochzeitskapelle” — wedding chapel — which was consecrated in 1981 by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who became Pope Benedict XVI. We photographed the golden cross that a priest and his friends planted in 1851 on top of the Zugspitze. After lunching at a restaurant in “the highest beer garden in Germany,” we rode a cogwheel train through the mountains and countryside to Garmische-Partinkircken at the bottom.
Upon arrival by bus to Munich, we ate dinner with Allen & Rhonda on our last night together in Germany.
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Today we left on an 8:15 A.M. Viator tour of the Linderhof and Neuschwanstein castles of King Ludwig II. King Ludwig II of Bavaria was born in August 1845 in Schloss Nymphenburg, served as King of Bavaria from 1864–1886, and died mysteriously on
June 13,1886, in Lake Starnberg. Known as a shy dreamer, his palaces are records in stone of the ideal fantasy world which the king built as a refuge from reality. His grandfather and godfather, Ludwig I of Bavaria, had Louis XVI of France from the House of Bourbon as his own godfather. This relationship with the House of Bourbon had an important influence on the way Ludwig II saw himself throughout his life. Ludwig was strictly brought up with an emphasis on duty. His lifetime vivid imagination, his tendency to isolate himself, and his pronounced sense of sovereignty were evident even as a child.
In 1864, at the age of eighteen, Ludwig II came to the throne without adequate knowledge of life or politics. Two years later, the expanding state of Prussia conquered Austria and Bavaria in the German War. From then on, Bavaria’s foreign policy was dictated by Prussia. In reality, Ludwig II was a constitutional monarch, a head of state with rights and duties, but very little freedom of action. For this reason, he built a fantasy world around him in which – far removed from reality – he could feel he was a real king. From 1875 on, he lived at night and slept during the day.
Neuschwanstein, or the ” New Castle,” was based on Christian kingship in the Middle Ages. Ludwig II was fascinated by the music dramas and writings of Richard Wagner and dreamed of bringing him to Munich for an opera festival. Much of Neuschwanstein is dedicated to Wagner. The Linderhof Castle, though smaller, is especially beautiful, and its grounds are spectacular. The building was designed in the style of the second rococo period. The palace of the French Sun-King Louis XIV, who was idolized by Ludwig, was its inspiration. The symbol of the sun that can be found everywhere in the decoration of the rooms represents the French notion of absolutism that, for Ludwig, was the perfect incorporation of his ideal of a God-given monarchy with total royal power.
From 1885 on, foreign banks threatened to seize the property of Ludwig II. The king’s refusal to react rationally led the government to declare him insane and depose him in 1886. The next day he died in mysterious circumstances in Lake Starnberg, together with the psychiatrist who had certified him as insane. Seven weeks after the death of King Ludwig II in 1886, Neuschwanstein was opened to the public. The shy king had built the castle in order to withdraw from public life – now vast numbers of people came to view his private refuge. Today, Neuschwanstein, “the castle of the fairy-tale king,” is one of the most popular of all the palaces and castles in Europe. KG
Friday, September 27, 2013
What a day this has been: Dachau Concentration Camp from early morning until 3:00 P.M., then Munich by Night, which included a bus tour of the city, dinner at the Hofbrau Haus, a visit to the fashionable night club at the upscale Hotel Bayerischer Hof, and a final stop at the top of the Olympia Tower, with all this lasting until midnight! It has been a day filled with dramatic highs and lows.
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, life in Munich became very difficult, as the Allied blockade of Germany led to food and fuel shortages. During French air raids in 1916, three bombs fell on Munich. After World War I, the city was at the center of much political unrest. When Communists took power, Lenin, who had lived in Munich some years before, sent a congratulatory telegram; however, the Soviet Republic was put down in May 1919 by the Freikorps. After the republican government was restored, Munich became a hotbed of extremist politics, which allowed Adolf Hitler and the National Socialism to rise to prominence.
In 1923, Hitler and his supporters, who were then concentrated in Munich, staged the Beer Hall Putsch, an attempt to overthrow the Weimar Republic and seize power. The revolt failed, resulting in Hitler’s arrest and the temporary crippling of the Nazi Party, which was virtually unknown outside Munich.
The city once again became a Nazi stronghold when the National Socialists took power in Germany in 1933. The National Socialist Workers Party created the first concentration camp at Dachau, ten miles northwest of the city. Because of its importance to the rise of National Socialism, Munich was referred to as the Hauptstadt der Bewegung (“Capital of the Movement”). The NSDAP headquarters was in Munich and many Führerbauten (“Führer-buildings”) were built around the Königsplatz, some of which have survived to this day. Munich was heavily damaged by allied bombing during World War II; the city was hit by 71 air raids over a period of six years. After the U.S. occupation in 1945, Munich was completely rebuilt following a meticulous plan which preserved its pre-war street grid.
Dachau concentration camp was the first of the Nazi concentration camps opened in Germany as the first concentration camp for political prisoners to be used to restore calm to Germany. Opened in 1933 by Heinrich Himmler, its purpose was enlarged to include forced labor, and eventually, the imprisonment of Jews, ordinary German and Austrian criminals, and eventually foreign nationals from countries which Germany occupied or invaded. It was finally liberated in 1945. Prisoners lived in constant fear of brutal treatment and terror detention including standing cells, floggings, the so-called tree or pole hanging, and standing at attention for extremely long periods. There were 32,000 documented deaths at the camp, and thousands that are undocumented.
The gate through which the prisoners entered contains the slogan, Arbeit macht frei, or ‘Work will make you free.’ This reflected Nazi propaganda which trivialized concentration camps as labor and re-education camps, when, in fact, forced labor was used as a method of torture. Dachau was also used as a training center for SS guards and was a model for other concentration camps. As of 1938, new arrivals to Dachau were to hand over their clothing and possessions. They were stripped naked of all clothing. Everything had to be handed over: money, rings, watches. In the early years of imprisonment, Jews were offered permission to emigrate overseas if they “voluntarily” gave their property to enhance Hitler’s public treasury. Prisoners were divided into categories: Political prisoners who had been arrested by the Gestapo wore a red badge, “professional” criminals sent by the Criminal Courts wore a green badge, Cri-Po prisoners arrested by the criminal police wore a brown badge, “work-shy and asocial” people sent by the welfare authorities or the Gestapo wore a black badge, Jehovah’s Witnesses arrested by the Gestapo wore a violet badge, homosexuals sent by the criminal courts wore a pink badge, emigrants arrested by the Gestapo wore a blue badge, “race polluters” arrested by the criminal court or Gestapo wore badges with a black outline, second-termers arrested by the Gestapo wore a bar matching the color of their badge, “idiots” wore a white armband with the label Blöd (idiot), and Jews, whose incarceration in the Dachau concentration camp dramatically increased after Kristallnacht, wore a yellow badge, combined with another color.
The Dachau Concentration camp was heavily defended and secured to ensure that no prisoners escaped. The whole camp was surrounded by electrically charged barbed wire and a wall. On the west side of the wire was a deep canal filled with water, which was connected with the river Amper.
Almost every community in Germany had members taken away to concentration camps. Newspapers continually reported “the removal of the enemies of the Reich to concentration camps.” As early as 1935, a jingle went around: “Dear God, make me dumb, that I may not to Dachau come” (“Lieber Gott, mach mich dumm, damit ich nicht nach Dachau kumm”).
In an effort to counter the strength and influence of spiritual resistance, Nazi security services monitored clergy very closely. Priests were frequently denounced, arrested and sent to concentration camps, often simply on the basis of being “suspected of activities hostile to the State” or that there was reason to “suppose that his dealings might harm society.” At the end of 1944, the overcrowding of camps began to take its toll on the prisoners. The hygienic conditions and the supplies of food rations became disastrous. In November, a typhus fever epidemic broke out that took thousands of lives.
After liberation, prisoners weakened beyond recovery by the starvation conditions continued to die. In the postwar years, the camp continued in use. From 1945 through 1948, the camp was used by the Allies as a prison for SS officers awaiting trial. After 1948, when hundreds of thousands of ethnic Germans were expelled from eastern Europe, it held Germans from Czechoslovakia until they could be resettled. It also served as a military base for the United States, which maintained forces in the country. It was closed in 1960. At the insistence of survivors, various memorials have been constructed and installed here. Visiting the memorial is a very emotional experience.
We rested in our hotel room before embarking on the “Munich by Night” Viator Tour. We had pre-booked this tour, because we could not get advanced reserved seating in an Oktoberfest tent nor at the Hofbrauhaus. Thinking we would not be able to be seated at the Oktoberfest tents and wanting to be sure that Rhonda and Allen would get to experience Oktoberfest, we scheduled a night at the Hofbrauhaus through viator.com. Through visits with German locals, however, upon arrival in Germany, we learned how to claim a seat at a tent. Nevertheless, having reserved “Munich by Night,” we kept our reservation. The Hofbrauhaus was a fun experience, but we decided this particular tour need not be repeated on another visit to Munich. It was quite late before we returned to our hotel room, and an early Saturday morning awaited us.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Today, after breakfast, we headed to the Marienplatz so Rhonda and Allen could experience the world-famous Munich Glockenspiel. The Marienplatz in Munich has been the main square of the city and the heart of Munich since it began in 1158. It is dominated by the gothic New Town Hall, or Rathaus, which houses the Glockenspiel. In the middle of the square is the Marienpillar, adorned by the gold-plated statue of Mary, which has been at the center of the square since 1638. Also at Marienplatz is the St. Peter’s Church, which has been on the same spot since 1050, 108 years before Munich was founded.
The Munich Glockenspiel is reportedly the best-known work of artistic engineering of its kind in the world. It performs in the tower of the Rathaus at Marienplatz at 11 A.M., noon and, except in the winter, also at 5 P.M. With 43 bells, Munich’s Glockenspiel is the largest in Germany and the 4th largest in Europe. The first part of the carillon represents the wedding festival of Wilhelm V, founder of the Hofbräu brewery, and his wife, Renata von Lothringen, which took place on the Marienplatz in 1568. During the Glockenspiel, 18 figures dance around Wilhelm and his bride, including two jousting knights, one from Bavaria who is victorious against against the Austrian. The lower half of the Glockenspiel represents the famous Cooper’s Dance. The performance ends when the rooster crows three times.
Munich is the capital and largest city of the German state of Bavaria. The local rivers are the Isar and the Würm. The higher elevation of Munich and the proximity of the Alps play a significant role on the climate, causing the city to have more rain and snow than many other parts of Germany. Munich is the third largest city in Germany, behind Berlin and Hamburg. The city’s motto is “München mag dich” (Munich loves you). Before 2006, it was “Weltstadt mit Herz” (Cosmopolitan city with a heart). Its native name, München, is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning “by the monks’ place”. The city’s name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city, which is why a monk is depicted on the city’s coat of arms as well as the colors of black and gold, which are the colors of the Holy Roman Empire.
Most Munich residents enjoy a high quality of life. In 2011, Mercer HR Consulting ranked the city fourth among the top ten cities with the highest quality of life worldwide. The same company also ranks Munich as the world’s 39th most expensive city to live in and the most expensive major city in Germany. Munich enjoys a thriving economy, driven by the information technology, biotechnology, and publishing sectors. Environmental pollution is low. The crime rate is low compared to other large German cities. The city has strong Turkish and Balkan communities. 49.3% of Munich’s residents are not affiliated with any religious group, and this ratio represents the fastest growing segment of the population. As in the rest of Germany, the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches have experienced a continuous, slow decline in their memberships. There are also a significant number of Muslims living in Munich.
The city is an inspiring mix of historic buildings and impressive architecture, since Munich reconstructed the ruins of their historic buildings but also created new landmarks of architecture. A survey, conducted by the Society’s Center for Sustainable Destinations for the National Geographic Traveler, chose over 100 historic places around the world and ranked Munich as the 30th best destination. Historic churches include: The Peterskirche, Heiliggeistkirche (The Church of the Holy Spirit),The Frauenkirche, and Michaelskirche, which is the largest Renaissance church north of the Alps, and Theatinerkirche.
Munich is a green city with numerous parks. The Englischer Garten, close to the city center, covers an area of 1.4 square miles, which is larger than Central Park in New York.
After we experienced the Glockenspiel and explored the Marienplatz, we took the train to the Oktoberfest. We located seats in the Braurosl Tent and spent an active, fun afternoon participating in the gaiety of the festival goers. We then returned to the Marienplatz where we ate our evening meal at the Augustiner Restaurant.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Today we left Regensburg and boarded a fully-packed, standing room only regional train to Munich. Passengers were dressed in dirndls and lederhosen, ready to party at the Oktoberfest in Munich, some already beginning the party on the almost two-hour train ride.
Upon our arrival in Munich, huge crowds reveling in hilarity swarmed the train station. Lederhosen and dirndls dressed the masses. It was a party atmosphere. After dropping off our luggage at the Marriott Residence Inn, we headed to the Oktoberfest to see if we might find available seats in a tent. The day was sunny and beautiful as we arrived at the fairgrounds. How fortunate we were to be able to comfortably locate ourselves in the Fischer tent in mid-afternoon before the 5:00 P.M. crowd arrived to claim the seats they had reserved in advance! There was such happiness as people gathered together, singing and swaying with the music, enjoying the food, beer, and company in the party atmosphere. We took the train back to our lodging and ate a light evening meal in a pub in the train station.
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
OANS ZWOA DREI! G’SUFFA!
A toast, a toast
To cheer and good times
A toast, a toast
To cheer and good times.
ONE TWO THREE! DRINK UP!
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Today we enjoyed a day trip by train to Passau, a town in Lower Bavaria, Germany, known as the “City of Three Rivers,” because the Danube is joined there by the Inn from the south and the Ilz from the north. Our primary objective was to visit the St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a masterpiece of Italian Baroque dedicated to Saint Stephen. The cathedral is the seat of the Catholic Bishop of Passau and the main church of his diocese. Since 730, there have been many churches built on the site of the current cathedral. The current church was built from 1668 to 1693 after a fire in 1662 destroyed the previous church. With 17,774 pipes and 233 registers, the organ at St. Stephen’s was long held to be the largest church pipe organ in the world and is today second in size only to the organ at First Congregational Church, Los Angeles, which was expanded in 1994. Portions of the organ have their own mechanical-action or electric-action consoles, for a total of six consoles. Organ concerts are held daily between May and September. The cathedral has eight large bells.
Passau features an “Old City” (Die Altstadt) that is notable for its gothic and baroque architecture. The town is dominated by the Veste Oberhaus and the former fortress of the Bishop on the mountain crest between the Danube and the Ilz rivers. The University of Passau, founded in the late 1970s, is renowned in Germany for its institutes of Economics, Law, Theology, Computer Sciences and Cultural Studies. It has about 10,000 students. Many river cruises down the Danube start at Passau, and there is a cycling path all the way down to Vienna.
In 739, an English monk called Boniface founded the diocese of Passau. This was the largest diocese of the Holy Roman Empire for many years. In the Treaty of Passau (1552), Archduke Ferdinand I, representing Emperor Charles V, secured the agreement of the Protestant princes to submit the religious question to a diet. This led to the Peace of Augsburg in 1555.
During the Renaissance and early modern period, Passau manufactured swords and bladed weapons. Passau smiths stamped their blades with the Passau wolf, usually a simplified rendering of the wolf on the city’s coat-of-arms. In 1662, a devastating fire consumed most of the city. Passau was subsequently rebuilt in the Baroque style.
During World War II, the town housed three sub-camps of the infamous Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp: Passau I (Oberilzmühle), Passau II (Waldwerke Passau-Ilzstadt) and Passau III (Jandelsbrunn). On May 3, 1945, Passau surrendered. It became the site of a post World War II American sector displaced persons camp. Today, there are some sights pertaining to World War II in the city of Passau. In June 2013, the Old Town suffered from severe flooding.
It was a beautiful day visiting churches, walking along the three rivers at their point of juncture, and eating a delicious German meal. KG
Monday, September 23, 2013
Today we left Nuremberg and took the 12:30 P.M. ICE train directly to Regensburg, arriving at 1:25 P.M. Since our hotel was 3.3 kilometers from the hauptbahnhof, we took a cab to the Best Western at a cost of ten euros for the four of us. After checking in to the hotel, we walked to the bus stop and paid twelve euros to take the bus to Dachauplatz at the entrance to the Altstadt, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Hm-m, what is the better deal? We decided to return to the hotel in the evening by taxi (at a cost of eight euros).
Regensburg, which means “fortress by the river Regen,” is a beautiful city in Bavaria, Germany, located at the confluence of the Danube and Regen Rivers in the Bavarian Forest. The large medieval center of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Around A.D. 90, the Romans built a fort in Regensburg that is today the core of Regensburg’s Altstadt (“Old City”). It is believed that even in late Roman times the city was the seat of a bishop. Regensburg remained an important city during the reign of Charlemagne.
Between 1135 and 1146, the Stone Bridge across the Danube in Regensburg opened major international trade routes between northern Europe and Venice, and thus began Regensburg’s golden age as a residence of wealthy trading families. The stone bridge is a highlight of medieval bridge building. Regensburg became the cultural center of southern Germany and was celebrated for its gold work and fabrics.
During World War II, Regensburg had an aircraft factory and an oil refinery. Though these targets were bombed, Regensburg itself suffered little damage from the Allied strategic bombing campaign, and the nearly intact medieval city center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city’s most important cultural loss was that of the Romanesque church of Obermünster, which was never rebuilt.
The Dom (Cathedral) is an example of pure German Gothic. It was founded in 1275 and completed in 1634, with the exception of the towers, which were finished in 1869. St Peter’s Cathedral is indisputably the city’s spiritual center. The city adopted the Protestant Reformation in 1542, and its Town Council remained entirely Lutheran. A minority of the population remained Roman Catholic. The Protestant-Lutheran church is the oldest reformation church in Regensburg. It is not merely the original church of the Protestant congregation, but is also regarded as the starting-point for the spreading of the Protestant faith from the north into the countries of south-eastern Europe and the Balkans.
The official choir for the liturgical music at St. Peter’s Cathedral is the famous Regensburger Domspatzen. Regensburg‘s cathedral choir, whose members are called the “Domspatzen” (Cathedral Sparrows), has been in existence for more than a thousand years. In 975 A.D., St. Wolfgang, the Bishop of Regensburg, founded a special cathedral school at which particular emphasis was placed on musical training: the pupils had the task to sing at the services in St. Peter’s Cathedral.
In the mid-nineteenth century Cathedral Choirmaster Joseph Schrems laid the foundation for its present-day fame. While giving more and more concerts in the whole world, too, the “Domspatzen” became increasingly famous.
The Popes Pius XII, Paul VI and John Paul II all praised the outstanding quality of the church music in Regensburg. This was the legacy inherited by Pope Benedict XVI’s brother Georg Ratzinger, who was the Cathedral Choirmaster for 30 years. Under his direction, the Regensburg Cathedral Boys’ Choir celebrated the 1,000th anniversary of its foundation in 1976. The choir‘s repertoire comprises the whole range of European music, including Gregorian chant and vocal music of the great composers of the 16th century, the Baroque, the Classical and Romantic epochs, and extending to folk songs and music of the 20th century.
At 4 P.M. we ate at Haus Heuport, firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.heuport.de, across from St. Peter’s Cathedral. We enjoyed the mustard, Handlmaier Bayerischer Susser Hausmachersene, with our sausage and sauerkraut. The goulash, seasoned with a lot of paprika, was quite good.
We strolled some more, took a cab from the Altstadt, and returned to our lodging. KG
Sunday, September 22, 2013
On this beautiful sunny autumn day, we left Nuremberg on the 10:36 A.M. train to Ansbach, arriving at 11:06 A.M. We transferred to the 11:10 A.M. train to Steinach, arriving there at 11:31 A.M., and then transferred to the 11:35 A.M. train to Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, arriving in Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber at 11:49 A.M.
Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber is a town in the Franconia region of Bavaria, Germany, known for its well-preserved medieval old town. The name “Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber” means, in German, “Red fortress above the Tauber,” named as such because the town is located on a plateau overlooking the Tauber River.
Rothenburg held a special significance for the Nazi Party as they considered Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber to be the epitome of a German home town, representing all that was quintessentially German. Throughout the 1930s, the Nazi organization, KDF (Kraft durch Freude), or in English, “Strength through Joy,” organized regular day trips to Rothenburg from all across the Reich, because Rothenburg was applauded as “the most German of German towns.” Rothenburg’s citizenry were sympathetic to National Socialism because of the perceived economic benefits to them. As a result, in October 1938, Rothenburg expelled its Jewish citizens, much to the approval of Nazis and their supporters across Germany.
In March 1945 during World War II, German soldiers were stationed in Rothenburg to defend it. On March 31, bombs were dropped over Rothenburg by 16 planes, killing 37 people and destroying 306 houses, six public buildings, nine watchtowers, and over 2,000 feet of the wall. The U.S Assistant Secretary of War knew about the historic importance and beauty of Rothenburg, so he forbade the U.S. Army General from using artillery in taking Rothenburg. The local German military commander ignored the order of Adolf Hitler for all towns to fight to the end and, instead, gave up the town, thereby saving it from total destruction by artillery. American troops of the 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division occupied the town on April 17, 1945, and in November 1948 the U.S. Assistant Secretary of War was named Honorable Protectorate of Rothenburg. After the war, the residents of Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber quickly repaired the bombing damage with donations received from all over the world. The rebuilt walls feature commemorative bricks with donor names.
We lunched at the Reichs-Kuchenmeister, or Master Chefs of the Empire, Hotel Restaurant. The Master Chefs of the Empire were in charge of enforcing the law in the free imperial town of Rothenburg. Their status was so esteemed that they were answerable only to the emperor himself. The hotel restaurant is one of the oldest patrician houses, built in the 12th century.
We visited St. Jakobs Lutheran Church. The High Altar, erected in 1466, also called the Twelve Apostles Altar, is considered to be one of the finest altars in Germany. The Altar of the Holy Blood was commissioned in 1499, before the Reformation came to this community, to provide the setting for the Reliquary of the Holy Blood. The Reformation came to this community in 1544 and the church became Lutheran; nevertheless, the congregation retained what is purported to be a vial containing a drop of Jesus’s blood.
Shopping in the beautiful city was delightful with so many antique shops, small stores that sold handmade products, and Christmas stores that featured wooden products handmade with incredible skill and detail. While sitting for a spell in the warmth of the afternoon sun, we had a delightful conversation with a couple from Fort Wayne, Indiana.
We walked on the medieval wall carefully climbing up the worn stairway, observing the names of donors who had provided for the rebuilding of the wall after the war, and admiring the beauty of the area seen from our vantage point.
We returned to Nuremberg in the evening, retracing our train route, and concluding our evening at an Italian pizzeria near our hotel. KG
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Nuremberg is often considered to have been the ‘unofficial capital’ of the Holy Roman Empire in its early years. The increasing importance of the city attracted increased trade and commerce. Nuremberg soon became, with Augsburg, one of the two great trade centers on the route from Italy to Northern Europe.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, the cultural flowering of Nuremberg made it the center of the German Renaissance. In 1525, Nuremberg accepted the Protestant Reformation, and in 1532, the religious Peace of Nuremberg was signed, granting important concessions to the Lutherans.
It was a joy and delight to spend time at the AltstadtFest, mingling with other visitors and “locals” and enjoying the delicious foods available. One food we want to introduce to our repertoire back home in Rosehill is serving a baked potato covered with a cucumber cream dressing. Due to the crowd of visitors, we were unable to get seated together. Therefore, Rhonda and Allen visited with a couple from the Netherlands, and Wayne and I shared conversation with a couple from Nuremberg. It was a delightful experience for all of us. KG
Friday, September 20, 2013
This morning we left our lodging at the Best Western in Bamberg and walked with our luggage to the train station (hauptbahnhof) to begin our journey to Nuremberg. After checking in to our rooms at our Best Western lodging in Nuremberg, we quickly became familiar with the tram system and underground subway in order to make our way to the Documentation Center Museum of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds. We spent an emotional several hours quietly immersing ourselves in the story of Nuremberg’s mournful past. It impressed us that the unpleasant, even gruesome, details of the rise of the Nazi Party and the devastation that resulted from their actions were not sanitized or minimized in their rendition of German history. The scenes from the past and the stories that were told affected each of us deeply.
We then visited the Old Town (Altstadt) where the annual AlstadtFest, which attracts about a million visitors every year to Nuremberg, was being celebrated. Known for its Nürnberger Bratwurst, which is shorter and thinner than other bratwurst sausages, we dined on these as well as sauerkraut and potato salad, and another local specialty, Nürnberger Lebkuchen, a gingerbread cookie. KG
Thursday, September 19, 2013
We began this day in beautiful Bamberg, Germany, with a delicious buffet breakfast at the Best Western. We easily strolled across ancient bridges, past an outdoor Farmer’s Market featuring fruits, vegetables, flowers, breads, and pastries in order to reach the Domplatz on the Regnitz River. The Bamberg cathedral square is surrounded by the cathedral, the Old Court, and the New Residence (Neue Residenz). The Old Court was the seat of the first Bamberg bishop in 1007. The Old Court, located opposite the New Residence, still contains fragments of masonry from the great hall and chapel of the 11th-century episcopal palace.
Bamberg’s princely and ecclesiastical roots are evidenced in the New Residence (Neue Residenz) of the Bamberg Prince-Bishops built from 1697 to 1703 under Prince-Bishop Lothar Franz Von Schonborn. The prince-bishops were not only heads of the church but also the secular rulers of the region.
The dominant structure around the Domplatz is the soaring Dom. We were present for the noonday meditation. Much of Franconia is Protestant. We also visited Bamberg’s main Protestant church, the church of St. Stephan and St. George.
Allen found a most unique crystal beer stein this afternoon while shopping. We enjoyed an afternoon Flammkuchen (Alsatian pizza) at Ambräusianum, a brewpub in Bamberg, and then experienced smoked beer in the evening at Spezial Rauchbier, established in 1536.
September 18, 2013
On this very, very rainy day in Germany, we left the Heidelberg Marriott early in the morning to board a 7:46 A.M. train to Frankfurt where we transferred to a train arriving in Wurzburg at 10:02 A.M. for the purpose of taking the 11 A.M. English tour of the Würzburg Residenz. The architects of the Residenz drew their inspiration from the Western architecture of its day, French château architecture, Viennese baroque and the religious and secular architecture of northern Italy. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, the greatest fresco painter of the 18th century, left his imprint upon the Residenz. The suite of rooms – Vestibule, Staircase, White Hall and Imperial Hall – are noteworthy in the history of palace architecture. These rooms were decorated and furnished by artists and craftsmen in a joint creative undertaking which also produced “Würzburg rococo.”
The Würzburg Residenz gained international standing through the widespread connections of the owners who were the Counts of Schönborn. Almost all the ecclesiastical princes from this dynasty had a passion for building.The Schönborn family concentrated their patronage, passion, knowledge, and creative ideas upon the Würzburg Residenz. The former residence of the Würzburg prince-bishops is one of the most important baroque palaces in Europe and is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Originally designed for Prince-Bishop Johann Philipp Franz von Schönborn, it took sixty years to complete; the shell of the palace was built from 1720 to 1744 and the interior finished in 1780. There is a total of over 40 palace rooms to visit with a rich array of furniture, tapestries, paintings, and other 18th century treasures. The Court Chapel is one of the finest examples of religious art in Würzburg.
After visiting the Residenz, we walked through the rain to reach the hauptbahnhof. There, we ate a stand-up sandwich lunch from one of the appealing kiosks before boarding a regional train to Bamberg, Germany.
Upon arrival in Bamberg, we walked in the rain to our lodging at the Best Western, just 600 meters from the train station. We chose to stay in beautiful Bamberg, a city in Bavaria, Germany, located in Upper Franconia on the river Regnitz close to its confluence with the river Main, because its historic city center is a UNESCO world heritage site. After a brief rest in our rooms, we took a cab in the rain to the cathedral, where we were told, delicious Franconian and Bavarian restaurants were located. We ate a Franconian meal at Kachelofen Bamberg Sandkerwa, a Frankisches Gasthaus. The food was tasty, the waitstaff were dressed in traditional German clothing, the decor was completely Old World German-themed, the close-knit ambience was delightful. Since the rain had stopped, we chose to walk to our lodging through the quiet streets along the rushing waters of the Regnitz and Main Rivers, and past the inviting shops and notable architecture. It was a lovely walk. KG
Monday & Tuesday, September 16 & 17, 2013
On Monday, we trained from beautiful Bacharach to Mainz, transferred to a train to Darmstadt, and then transferred to a train to Heidelberg. The European train system is an efficient transportation operation that is very comfortable to us. Travelers who choose this mode of transportation will want to pack lightly, because each person must tote his own luggage and transport it quickly when boarding and exiting a train.
Our stay in Heidelberg, which lies on the River Neckar in the steep Rhine Rift Valley bordered by the Königsstuhl, the Gaisberg, and the Heiligenberg mountains, has been beautiful. A former residence of the Electorate of the Palatinate, Heidelberg is the location of Heidelberg University, Heidelberg Schloss (Castle), and the baroque style Old Town. The Old Town, or Altstadt, is dominated by the ruins of Heidelberg Castle.
The old stone bridge was erected from 1786–1788. The Church of the Holy Spirit (Heiliggeistkirche), a late Gothic Lutheran Church, looms above the marketplace of the Old Town. The Karls‘ Gate (Karlstor) is a triumphal arch in honor of the Prince Elector Karl Theodor. The beautiful house Zum Ritter Sankt Georg (Knight St. George) stands across from the Church of the Holy Spirit and was named after the sculpture at the top.
We were ever so privileged to be able to take the Heidelberger Bergbahn funicular railway from Kornmakt to the castle, walk the impressive grounds of the castle where we viewed the world’s largest wooden wine cask, and then happen upon a Lutheran noonday service at the Heileggeist Church. Our stay in Heidelberg was delightful. KG
Sunday, September 15, 2013
On this Lord’s Day, we left our distinctly German lodging in a fourth-generation restaurant/hotel to take the KD Rhine Cruise from Koblenz to Bacharach. It was a smooth, picturesque ride on the Rhine just gazing upon the multitude of verdant hillside scenes along the way, the castles that sat elevated upon the hills, the impressive churches that stood out among the beautiful homes, adorned with floral bouquets.
We arrived in Bacharach, where we had made lodging reservations far in advance. How amazed we were upon disembarking! The entire town is storybook beautiful. Bacharach is a town in the Mainz-Bingen district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Bacharach was first mentioned in the early 11th century when it was founded by the Celts. Bacharach was the most important transfer point for the wine trade. The timber trade also brought Bacharach importance.
Today Bacharach thrives on tourism, and wine from Bacharach is still enjoying international popularity. An old German drinking song goes like this:
At Bacharach on the Rhine,
At Wurzburg on the Stein,
At Klingenberg on the Main,
There, it is said,
You will find the best of wine.
Our lodging at the Altkonischer Hof was in a half-timbered building in the lively village. In the same family for over a century, it was once owned by the archbishop of Cologne (Köln); hence, the name and Cologne’s coat of arms on the stained-glass door.
We enjoyed our visit to the Church of St. Peter, a Lutheran church located next to our lodging in the center of town. The building of it began in the 1100s. The ruins of the Chapel of Werner is the symbol of Bacharach. We carefully trudged up the 100 steps that led to the chapel, which took 140 years to build because everything was donated by pilgrims.
We enjoyed a typical German meal while sitting outdoors. The beer of the region was Warsteiner, and the wine was Riesling.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Today we left beautiful Cologne and trained to the 2,000 year old town of Koblenz, Germany, said by many to be “Germany’s most beautiful corner“ located at the convergence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers and surrounded by four low mountain ranges. Koblenz is laced with cultural monuments, historic buildings, cozy lanes, narrow alleyways, and river promenades. If our forebears had lived here, would they ever have wanted to leave?!
Koblenz received its name from the Romans who named it the “castle at the confluence of the rivers.” During Koblenz’s history over the centuries, it was captured by the Franks, chosen as a place of residence by German prince electors, conquered by the French, and fortified by the Prussians. Fortess walls and towers, castles and palaces, monuments and parks provide an indication of the town’s eventful past. Koblenz was conquered by foreign armies and has received princes, kings, emperors and presidents within its walls.
While strolling through the town’s historic Altstadt, or Old Town, center with its narrow lanes and romantic squares, we walked into a city festival with merchandise to purchase, including many handmade products, food, beer, wine, and gelato. Koblenz, located in the wine country with grape vineyards growing on tiered hills that slope down to the Moselle and Rhine Rivers, has “Weinstube,” or wine taverns, that offer Riesling. Walking a little further beside beautifully restored historic house fronts, we came upon “Florinsmarkt” (St Florin’s Market) with its medieval Lutheran church, St. Florin’s Church.
We walked along the Moselle River to the Deutsches Eck, or “German Corner,” which is the name of the headland in Koblenz where the Moselle joins the Rhine. In 1897, nine years after the death of the German Emperor William I, the former emperor was honored with a giant equestrian statue bearing an inscription quoting a German poem: “Nimmer wird das Reich zerstöret, wenn ihr einig seid und treu” (Never will the Empire be destroyed, so long as you are united and loyal). Another inscription could be found at the statue dedicating it to “Wilhelm der Große” (William the Great). After the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic in 1949, the country was divided into a capitalist west and a communist east. In order to express the deep wish for a united Germany, President Theodor Heuss turned the German Corner into a monument to German unity.
Walking along the Rhine River to our bus stop, we came upon another city festival with booths that showcased products available for the home. The craftsmanship of those who blow glass, forge metal, whittle wood were all on display.
We returned to our quaint lodging at the Hotel-Restaurant Weinhaus Grebel on Planstrasse in Koblenz-Guls. Here we mingled with the locals, laughing, eating, and conversing for over three hours. We felt a part of this hospitable community as we walked up three flights of stairs to our “second floor” rooms to retire for the night. KG
Friday, September 13, 2013
We had a fantastic day using tickets that cost less than €10 each! What a deal; what a day! With those wonderful tickets, we trained from Cologne to Aachen where we rode a bus to and from the cathedral square, trained from Aachen to Dusseldorf, where we used the subway system in Dusseldorf, then trained back to Cologne from Dusseldorf. What a rich experience with so little money!
In Aachen, we had the thrilling privilege of visiting the Aachen Cathedral, a Roman Catholic Church often referred to as the “Imperial Cathedral.” Construction of this exquisitely beautiful chapel, with its octagonal basilica and cupola, began in 790–800 A.D. under the Emperor Charlemagne. It was originally inspired by the churches of the eastern part of the Holy Roman Empire with its columns of Greek and Italian marble, its bronze doors, and mosaic dome. Its architecture, with classical, Byzantine, and Germanic-Franconian elements is significant. It was the first vaulted structure to be constructed north of the Alps. For 600 years, from 936 to 1531, Aachen Cathedral was the coronation church for thirty German kings.
Charlemagne, also known as Charles the Great or Charles I, was from 800 A.D. the first emperor in western Europe since the collapse of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier. His major accomplishment was presiding over the expansion of his empire into Italy and Spain and ultimately uniting most of Western Europe, a fete that had not been accomplished since the times of the Roman Empire.
The construction of the chapel of Emperor Charlemagne at Aachen symbolized the unification of the West and its spiritual and political revival under Charlemagne. In 814, Charlemagne was buried in the chapel, and throughout the Middle Ages until 1531 the Germanic emperors continued to be crowned there. Aachen developed into a spiritual and cultural center. Charlemagne was canonized two hundred years later, which resulted in a flow of pilgrims wishing to see Charlemagne’s tomb and the relics he had gathered during his life. The Cathedral Treasury in Aachen is regarded as one of the most important ecclesiastical treasuries in northern Europe.
Outside the cathedral, a weekend festival was just beginning. Multi-generational families gathered in the cathedral’s plaza to celebrate together.
We returned to the hauptbahnhof by bus in order to train to Düsseldorf, the capital city of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and center of the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region with 1.5 million people. We took the subway from the train station to the Altstadt (literally, “old town”), one of the 49 boroughs of Düsseldorf, Germany. The Düsseldorfer Altstadt is known as “the longest bar in the world,” because the small Old Town has more than 300 bars. The special beer for which Düsseldorf is known is the Alt bier (“old beer”), a dark beer brewed from an old traditional recipe, which is only brewed in a few places in the world. From Altstadt, we could see Dusseldorf’s largest church, St. Lambertus Basilica on Stiftsplatz, which was built in 1206 and is famous for its twisted spire.
Having tried Dusseldorf’s alt bier, and compared it to Cologne’s Kolsch, we trained back to Cologne for the night, thankful for the blessings God had poured out on us. Tomorrow we leave this beautiful place and head to Koblenz. KG
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Today, with Rhonda and Allen, we visited two museums: the Romisch-Germanisches Museum and Das Schokoladen Museum. The Romisch-Germanisches Museum displays artifacts from the first centuries of Cologne’s 2,000 year history, including a mosaic floor from a Roman villa and the world’s largest collection of Roman glass. Walking along the Rhine River promenade, we crossed over one of Cologne’s oldest bridges and arrived on the peninsula that houses the Chocolate Museum. We lunched on the Rhine and enjoyed the evening hospitality of the Executive Lounge at the Marriott. It was a delightful day.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
There is hardly an American over the age of twelve who could begin this day without remembering the terrorist attack on the United States twelve years ago. The date of 9/11 evokes somber thoughts within every patriotic American.
On this day, we left our friends in Telgte and trained on to Cologne where we met Rhonda and Allen Krahn who had arrived the day before from Tomball/Rosehill, Texas, to begin with us their very first holiday abroad. After delivering our luggage to the Cologne Marriott on Johannisstrasse, we enjoyed a salad buffet lunch together sampling the various cold salads that replicated the German foods we prepared in our own homes using recipes passed down to us from our German forebears: pickled red beets, creamed cucumbers, saurkraut salad, shredded carrots, and other German specialties that are favorites of ours.
With hunger satisfied, we walked over to the impressive Cologne Cathedral, which is immediately visible from the hauptbahnhof, or train station. We ooh-ed and ah-ed at the handiwork accomplished so many centuries ago by people who had devoted their lives to proclaim the majesty of God using the skills and intellect with which God had gifted them. The Cologne Cathedral achieved notoriety many centuries ago by acquiring what is purported to be the remains of the three Wise Men who brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the infant Christ Child.
Because Rhonda has served faithfully for several decades on Salem’s Altar Guild, it was important to us to show her the Cathedral Treasury. Though thieves had in more recent years caused some loss and destruction to contents of the treasury, much remained of value and beauty. Still used today on special festivals, the treasured items are well preserved in a climate-controlled environment.
Several hours passed quickly during our visit to the cathedral. We walked to the nearby Colner Hofbrau Fruh where we dined on traditional German fare accompanied by Kolsch beer, which is a light beer brewed only in Cologne. It was a pleasant conclusion to the beginning of a first ever German holiday for Rhonda and Allen.
Our final full day in Telgte began with the formal celebration at the City Hall on the 775th celebration of the Maria-Geburtsmarkt Festival of the partnership between Telgte and the cities of Tomball, Texas; Polanica, Poland; and Stupino, Russia, with whom Telgte, Germany, is in a Sister City relationship. Words of celebration in all four languages acknowledged the unique relationship that is shared through this mutual affiliation. Gifts from Tomball were given to the city of Telgte, including a key to the city of Tomball presented in a special wooden box made by students at a Texas facility that provides employment to developmentally disabled individuals. Other gifts were also proffered from Polanica and Stupino, the cities of Poland and Russia with whom Telgte shares a Sister City relationship.
Following the official reception and the entry signing into the Golden Book of the City of Telgte, a symbolic act to document the partnership, we toured the extensive Maria-Geburtsmarkt Festival and enjoyed a sampling of foods indigenous to Germany which have been a part of our heritage in America passed down through the generations of our families who migrated from Germany to America over a century ago.
A farewell evening reception for all the guests from Tomball, Polanica, and Stupino, along with the Telgte residents who comprise the Sister City team, was held at the Telgter Hof. We celebrated the joy experienced in the days we shared together during this festival week, and we acknowledged with gratifying enthusiasm the new friendships that were forged in our meaningful time together. KG
Monday, September 9, 2013
Our Telgte hosts have been amazingly kind, solicitous, generous, and giving beyond description. We have been privileged for yet another day to be the grateful recipients of their kindness. Today, Holger, Cornelia (Connie), Matthias, and Johannes hosted us on a delightful visit to Cologne and Dusseldorf. We lingered in the cathedral in Cologne which is, of course, spectacular. We lunched in the shadow of the cathedral, walked on the remnants of an ancient Roman road, and sipped Kolsch beer that is produced in Cologne. Flatbread pizza and German cakes were enjoyed from a boat on the Rhine River while visiting in Dusseldorf. The delightful drive provided the opportunity for meaningful conversation and the deepening of friendship and appreciation for one another. We returned to Telgte to participate in the last evening of the Maria-Geburtsmarkt Festival that concluded with a remarkable fireworks display.KG
Another God-blessed day in Telgte, Germany! Our gracious and generous German hosts have provided for us a most honoring experience. The day began at the Evangelische Petruskirche in Telgte in a service that honored the four languages represented in the Sister City relationship: German, Polish, Russian, and English. It was a thrill beyond comparison being present as Wayne proclaimed the Word of God from John 15 to all those assembled in worship. The choir and instrumental music was stirring. To hear people speaking together the words of the Apostles’ Creed and praying aloud the Lord’s Prayer simultaneously in four different languages was both inspiring and gratifying. How significant it was to be a part of this unique assemblage peacefully united, lifting our voices together in praise and worship of God Who loves us all!
The congregation prepared a meal of hot soup which was most welcome on a chilly, rainy day. The large group then separated into a variety of different tours. Wayne and I, along with Carolyn, Kathy L., and Diane, accompanied by our German hosts, Hogler & his wife, and Nick and his mom, hopped into two rented Mercedes vans and took off for an afternoon ride in the lush green countryside. We visited a Bavarian village where we were treated to spatzle, saurkraut, rye bread, and Bavarian sausage. Continuing the drive through the forest of tall trees, we came to the World Heritage site community of Tecklenburg, a quaint storybook German community with beautiful red-tiled rooftops and homes with beautiful tiered gardens with colorful cascading flowers and fruit trees bearing apples and plums. While here, we joined the large crowd of people who were enjoying an afternoon sweet cake and coffee. How delightful! Continuing through the lush green farm fields, we arrived at the country dining room where a tempting array of German delicacies had been prepared for our enjoyment. A hearty, happy evening followed with singing and dancing in the various native tongues of each country. How wonderful a day it has been!
Saturday, September 7, 2013
The dear people of Telgte have been more than kind, generous, and solicitous. It has been an exceptionally wonderful experience here. Today, several of us were taken to Munster to visit this beautiful city near Telgte. What an exceptional personal tour of the city!
We returned in time for the opening of the annual fair…large and expansive beyond anything we have had in Tomball.
In the evening, we were taken to dinner at the country club where we ate and drank and mingled with the people from Telgte and the visitors from Poland, Russia, and Tomball.
Friday, September 6, 2013
What a wonderful day today has been dwelling among the people of Telgte, Germany, along with the Tomball folks who arrived for the Sister City celebration during Telgte’s Maria-Geburtsmarkt celebration! As the day began for us, Wayne and I left our room in The Pensioner located above a dress shop and stepped out onto the cobblestone street. Just several feet from our lodging was a small coffee shop with outdoor seating where Wayne and I sat watching the quiet bustle of the community. From our vantage point, we were able to meet and greet the Tomball travelers as they entered the village from their travels across the ocean to Telgte. Meandering through the village, we enjoyed the atmosphere, floral beauty, green foliage, and the many folks enjoying an afternoon beverage or ice cream at an outdoor venue. The evening celebration at the Telgter Hof was delightful with people from Telgte’s Sister City Team and their delegations from Tomball, Poland, and Russia. Our dear “Mr. Tomball,” Bruce Hillegeist, was there. Formal introductions took place, and an attractive, bountiful spread of food was offered. It was pleasant engaging in conversation with people from each of the countries and establishing a connection with them. Following the event, Wayne & I walked on the cobblestone streets with Carolyn Elsey & Kathy Lieder to an ice cream shop and experienced “spaghetti ice cream,” made by squeezing hardened ice cream through a potato ricer, slathering berry sauce on top, and sprinkling it with slivered almonds. We concluded our evening by gathering in our room where Internet was able to be accessed. It was a blessed day. Tomorrow, we look forward to a visit to Munster and the opening of Telgte’s 775th festival celebration.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
We arose early this morning–a little after 4 AM–in order to arrive early at the Barcelona airport for an early morning flight on Vueling Airlines to Dusseldorf. We followed the rules of Vueling with luggage weight and size, checked in online to receive our printed boarding passes, and breezed through check-in and security. It was a pleasant flight. Upon arrival in Dusseldorf, we went below ground to locate the S-11 that would take us to Munster. After making an unnecessary train trip to the central train station in Dusseldorf to catch the train to Munster, we learned that we could have simply stayed at the airport and boarded the train to Munster at the airport. None the less, we arrived safely in Munster where we were graciously greeted by Hans Gerling with the Telgte Sister City Team and brought by him to Telgte.
We are staying at The Pensioner, located above a women’s clothing store that is owned by the dear woman in whose little room we are staying. Wayne and I were so tired upon our arrival that a nap was in order. Upon arising, we took a walk in this beautiful idyllic German community. We saw George and Kathy Shackelford from Tomball who had also arrived in Telgte today. We enjoyed eating dinner together with them in an outdoor beer garden. It was a lovely time.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Our primary objective today was to visit the Sagrada Familia. We used the local underground transportation to arrive at our destination. While standing in line waiting to purchase our tickets, we learned that we could have ordered them online and, thus, avoided the wait! Ah, but the Sagrada Família was worth the wait. The building of this basilica began in in 1882. In 1883, Gaudi took over the project, transforming it with his architectural and engineering style that combined Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. At the time of his death at age 73 in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete. Sagrada Família’s construction progressed slowly; nevertheless, an anticipated completion date of 2026 exists in celebration of the centennial of Gaudí’s death. Describing Sagrada Família, art critic Rainer Zerbst said, “It is probably impossible to find a church building anything like it in the entire history of art.” Paul Goldberger called it “the most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages.”
After strolling through the market yesterday, Wayne felt a desire to eat a late lunch sitting at the bar in the open air market with shoppers and spectators mingling nearby. We took the underground transportation system to return to La Rambla and the market. Nearby, in the Gothic district of the city, was the Cathedral of Barcelona, which we visited. This church is one of the most important examples of Catalan Gothic architecture. Work on the church began in 1298. Throughout history, this cathedral has been the seat of all the bishops who have ever overseen the diocese of Barcelona. We returned to our lodging at the AC Som for the night.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
We awoke in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain. Located on the Mediterranean coast, Barcelona is the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean Sea. How thankful we were upon arising to learn that our luggage had been delivered to the hotel! What a blessing! We slept late and then took off to the metro station where we took the metro to Catalunya. We ate at an outdoor cafe and then began our walk down the La Rambla to the Columbus Monument in the port. We walked through the Gothic Quarter, which is the center of the old city of Barcelona and the home of the cathedral. Many of the buildings there date from medieval times. We visited the Santa Maria del Mar, the most beautiful Gothic church in Barcelona, and listened to the organ music. After grabbing a spinach empanada and some figs at the local market, we sipped a sangria and took the metro back to our hotel. We yearned for a restful night.
Monday, September 2, 2013
Today’s travel travails rate a 1 1/2 on a scale of 1 – 10! We flew out of Houston to Frankfurt on a United flight that was packed full, with not an unfilled seat. Add to that the tight, crowded, cramped conditions of United’s coach compartment, the seating situation was most uncomfortable. To complicate the seating arrangement, two little children, sharing the seat directly behind my middle seat, had a restless nine hours on the flight, screaming and kicking my seat while Dad, with ears covered with headphones while watching a movie, was oblivious to the disturbance of his children. Upon arrival in Frankfurt, we learned that our connecting flight to Barcelona was delayed because of mechanical issues. Another plane was called to the rescue. Wayne and I were both assigned to middle seats far apart from each other. Upon arrival in Barcelona, we learned that our checked luggage, which had been checked at the gate, had not arrived. Opting to take the bus for four euros as opposed to a taxi for 30 euros, we made our way to our reserved hotel late. Wayne was so tired, he went to bed immediately after showering. I was hungry, so I left Wayne and walked across the street to a little restaurant where I ate a salad, returned, bathed, and sunk into the bed beside my sleeping husband.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
On Sunday, September 1, 2013, we left Tomball to embark upon the last travel experience of this amazing first year of our encore life. Wayne & I are ever so grateful to be able to travel extensively without exaggerated cost. While we have been away from home for most of 2013, we placed AT&T U-Verse on vacation mode as well as our heating and air conditioning. We stopped services, such as garbage pick-up and newspaper delivery, to minimize household expense. On this last leg of our 2013 encore journey, we are happy to restore all household services and provide our home as a safe haven for Brett & Lauren Bortnem and their precious Mila while their home is being built.
To minimize travel expense, we use American Express points for airline travel and, occasionally, for lodging. We have found that apartment dwelling for extended stays is both reasonably priced and quite comfortable with the provision of a full kitchen and a washing machine. For shorter stays, we reserve lodging, when available, using Marriott points. Best Western is another facility with which we are establishing loyalty & receiving perks as a result. Best Western in Europe, we have found, is quite accommodating. When a Marriott or Best Western facility is not available, we select lodging through booking.com. Because of our loyalty to booking.com, we now get a 10% discount off the already low-cost lodgings. Whenever we can, we buy food at a market. When we eat out, we select a quality, but less costly, site. We ride the train as second class passengers, (except when we are with friends who might prefer first class!) Within cities, we walk or use local transportation in preference to taxi service. For us, the pursuit of comfortable, but economical, travel is a happy adventure. Add to that, Wayne’s vast knowledge and research into the cultural, historical, educational, and romantic travel sites, our travel experiences continue to be astonishingly fulfilling and life-enriching. KG