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Wafting Sound

Our train trip to Nuremberg, Germany, from Strasbourg, France, was smooth as we glided through fields green with winter crops. We found our apartment near the main train station, unpacked quickly, and headed out to eat at a Franconian (a region of Bavaria) restaurant. Melisa had her first sauerbraten and Randy his first pork shank. Potato dumplings were also a first for both. The meal was satisfying all around. The beer is great: German beer is unfiltered, has no chemicals and is not pasteurized.

We headed to the old town where the main Christmas Market, the Chriskindlesmarkt, is located. So did the rest of the world, it seemed, as we were greeted with a crush of crowds! News media was out in full force for this first day of one of–if not the most–popular markets in Europe. Eventually, we decided to go to the organ and choir concert at the amazing St. Lorenz Lutheran Church. Along the way we stopped in to a great little place selling light desserts and drinks. It was warm inside in contrast to the upper 30s outside.

The concert at St. Lorenz was nothing short of spectacular! The huge church was overflowing. People sat on the floor or leaned against the giant pillars that divided the church into three aisles. Thankfully, we found seats in the side aisle but with good sight lines. Unbelievably, a family behind us spoke excellent English and two of the boys had just graduated from the boys’ choir that was singing that night. We received so much wonderful information! The choir consists of 100 boys who go to a special school to allow them to practice, get private voice lessons, travel in concert, and get a regular education, without being in the general population. Talk about first class sound! Heavenly! The church reverberated with the voices wafting through the high ceilings of the church. The Lutheran Church pays for half the costs, and sponsors make up the rest. Since this was an Advent/Christmas Service, the church’s massive organ was also played. We soaked up the sounds and will long remember it. Kathy and I commented that it took us back to our childhood when we had children’s Christmas programs. The Advent/Christmas music we memorized formed some of the content of the service/concert. The boys’ choir sang underneath the Angelic Salutation adornment by Veit Stoss and beside the stone tabernacle by Adam Kraft (over 90 feet tall and carved from one stone). Both are artistic treasures, but not the only ones in this richly adorned church. It was a first class and  spiritually enriching experience. Our Christmas spirit was elevated for all the right reasons. WEG

Thanksgiving in Strasbourg

We walked into the Petite France section of Strasbourg along the river. Half timbered buildings mingled with traditional French and German architecture. Strasbourg is along the German border, and the Alsace region of present day France was part of Germany for long periods of its history. There are still Lutheran/Protestant churches in the city, and one of them, St. Thomas, had a noon day scripture and music devotional. The church was begun in the 700s and is very large. Its pipe organ was built by Silberman, the great pipe organ builder.  Albert Schweitzer played on the instrument. The music was meditative and the pastor had chosen hymns that were definitely Thanksgiving in character. How appropriate for us! We were able to sing along since some sang in French, some in German, and some in English as the words of each language were printed out. It was a good moment in time as we thought of family and friends back home. We were thankful to God for our many blessings.

Our Thanksgiving meal was eaten in a striking restaurant all decked out for Christmas and in a quaint half-timbered building set along the river. Everything was quite French. I believe my Camembert fried in a sesame cream and Randy’s meat dish in a French pastry won the prize for great French cuisine. Not a typical Thanksgiving meal, but it was for us a memorable one. The local beer was also quite good.


It is a grey day with intermittent rain, but the Christmas lights are bright and cheery. In the mid-afternoon Kathy and I returned to the apartment for a short rest while Randy and Melisa went on exploring. They returned to the apartment to fetch us because they had found the largest Christmas market in Strasbourg. It is one we had not visited. Lights and stalls abounded. It seems as if stores compete to see which can have the most festive display. All of this in a beautiful old town on its own right, festooned with Christmas joy. It is an almost surreal experience.

We ended our day with traditional gluhwein (a liquor and hot wine concoction) and a huge white bratwurst. We also called family to say, as I do to you, “Happy and blessed Thanksgiving.” WEG

A Day Off

Randy & Melisa in Colmar, France

Randy and Melisa had a wonderful day in Colmar and Riquewihr, France. Both are medieval villages in the Vosges Mountain area of eastern France not far from Strasbourg. They are in a wine growing region known for their white wines, especially Riesling and Pinot Noir.  A part of the Alsace province, they are quaint and filled with half-timbered houses and buildings.

Colmar is filled with canals and hosts a popular Christmas Market (actually the word Christmas Market usually means several different markets in various parts of the city). You are transported back in time in Colmar. Randy and Melisa hit every market during their stay. They went on to Riquewihr for the mid-afternoon and were quite impressed with its beauty and massive city gates. A smaller village, Riquewihr sits on the wine road of France, built on the side of a mountain. Randy and Melisa were blessed to find a cab driver who took very good care of them, driving them to take pictures of the area and coming back later to pick them up and bring them to the train station in Colmar.

Kathy and I took the day off. Kathy had suffered a fall in the Basel, Switzerland, train station two days ago. The station was in remodeling and we were routed outside in the dark to get to our platform. The incline toward the station in the dark rolling her luggage caused her to fall hard—breaking her glasses (thankfully, she brought an extra pair). She now sports a black and blue face. I had become exhausted after all our travels with no real break or sleep time. We decided we needed a break day and so we rested and slept the day away. It was a wise decision. WEG

The Part Cannot Define the Whole

Mighty cathedral bells, angelic choirs, Christmas lights of every description, Christmas Markets down every lane, street performers and happy people are descriptors of the Strasbourg Marche de Noel. We were immediately cast into the Christmas spirit. One picture cannot capture the whole experience. So very exciting.

The Strasbourg, France, Cathedral has a wondrous facade, the red stones taken from the local mountains. Once inside viewing the tapestry-laden aisles we heard a melodious choir singing. The sounds echoed through the chambers. We were inspired! The large and hand carved and painted astronomical clock in one of the side chapels chimed out the hour as carved figures moved in whimsical fashion.

Outside, streets in every direction were lighted in Christmas display. Large Christmas scenes adorned stores and shops. The river was decorated in lights and wreaths. Our apartment street has large crystal chandeliers encased in mesh boxes that light up beautifully at night. A humongous Christmas tree is the center of attention in a city square. The Christmas Markets (they spill down streets and lanes) are filled with small shops with a coordinated decoration plan—lights, wreaths, music. Really, it is experiential overload, but not in a negative way. The spirit is uplifted.

Randy and Melisa and we are sharing a spacious and wonderful apartment that has views of the cathedral spire and sits on the edge of the largest Christmas Market. We simply step outside into another world, a Christmas world. It is more than cool! This has been an aspiration for a long time (European Christmas Markets and Concerts). We purchased Alsatian Christmas cookies (some made with almond flour) and a local Riesling wine and enjoyed them in our apartment  God has blessed us with the ability to experience this joy. WEG

Why did we choose Strasbourg, France, to visit at Christmas, we’ve been asked. The first traditional Christmas Market in Strasbourg, the Christkindelsmarik, the oldest in France, was held in 1570 when Alsace switched to Protestantism, giving the label, “Capital of Christmas,” to Strasbourg, a UNESCO world heritage site. KG

Tight Security

We have never stayed in a hostel, until now. (Oops—Kathy said we did once in an earlier time in life.) Our Jordan Tour left from a hostel and ended there. We were supposed to arrive after midnight, and we had to leave for our flight to  Basel, Switzerland, early the next morning, so we decided, “Let’s stay there and not worry about a cab to a hotel at that time of night.”

So what was it like? Actually, a very pleasant experience. It was simple and we did have our own room with a restroom. No common facilities. The place had a great vibe, lots of millennial back packers having fun. The bar was abuzz and food was available. The lobby had a large print mural which stated: “Abraham was the Original Backpacker.” The dining area had a mural which said, “Abraham Always Shared his Food.” I wonder if Abraham made his guests wash their dishes? The Abraham Hostel did! Hot water was on a timer; no long showers here. The staff was most helpful and kind. At breakfast we found two couples who had been to Jordan with us. We had a great time together before Kathy and I needed to leave for the airport.

New friends with whom we shared the Petra journey

We were proud of ourselves. We took the tram in front of the hostel to the train and the train to the shuttle. All along the way there were helpful and kind people. All in all an hour’s journey. Then the security started. We went through four security checks. “Why were you in Jordan? Who do you know in Jordan? Why are you flying to Basel?” Thankfully, we made it through security rather quickly. We were told it could take three hours, but it was less than an hour.

Before we leave Israel for Europe, I want say that the country is impressive. To think that it was built from scratch from the 1950’s onward—infrastructure, cities, farms, industry, nationhood! It is beautiful and welcoming. It is peaceful—our fears are highly exaggerated by the media!!!!! I am impressed with the tenacity of the people who overcame negative odds to build such a society.

We arrived in Basel and made our way to the central train station for our short ride to Strasbourg, France. We are meeting up with our friends, Randy and Melisa. They arrived in Paris yesterday and traveled to Metz, France,I to visit the Christmas Market and see the cathedral. We look forward to our adventure for Christmas Markets and Concerts in France, Germany and the Czech Republic. WEG