Saturday, 21 May 2011


The Erfurt Gang

Today was a very pleasant and relaxed day. We even got to sleep in a little bit, AND despite the students' grieving over the fact that the Mainzerhof Hotel Breakfast Extravaganza was a thing of the past, this hotel - The Radisson BLU - actually upped the ante! We had originally planned to spend the night at a hotel in Eisenach, but they ended up not having enough room for us, so the travel agent switched us to this 4-star hotel free of charge... one reason we keep using our favorite travel agent.
Just a little sample of breakfast

We came to Erfurt to tour the Augustinian Monastery where Luther lived from 1505 to 1511. It is now used as a non-profit ecumenical center, but was, like Luther, Catholic in origin. Erfurt is one of the few cities in Europe during the Reformation where both Catholics and Protestants got along and coexisted peacefully. During his time there, Luther was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Erfurt, which is a little ways away from the monastery, and gave his first mass at the church on May 2, 1507. It was hard to conceive that we were walking on the same ground where Luther began his work that brought about the religion we've always known to exist. The tour was rather humorous as we knew only a little German, while the guide knew even less English. Thankfully, there were two men in our group that knew enough of both languages to get us through with at least some understanding.

WWII memorial in the monastery basement, and the 2008 Nagel Kreuz, or Coventry Cross of Nails

While the monastery is well known primarily because of Luther, the monastery also serves as a memorial to the terrors of World War Two. The library was destroyed by Allied bombing on February 25, 1945, killing 267 people that were using it as a bomb shelter -- leaving only one survivor. This was but one of the 14 times Erfurt was bombed by the allies during World War II, but the February 25 attack was the one that destroyed 74% of the medieval city center and killed 8,800 civilians -- over 20% of the town's population.

Coventry Litany of Reconciliation

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,
Father, forgive.

The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
Father, forgive.

The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Father, forgive.

Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Father, forgive.

Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
Father, forgive.

The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,
Father, forgive.

The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,
Father, forgive.

Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Building connected to the monastery, one of Erfurt's oldest surviving structures

In the afternoon we walked around downtown Erfurt, a very quaint, picture-perfect European town. For dinner, we ate at Christoffel, a medieval-themed restaurant with a rich history. The atmosphere was lots of fun as we feasted on lots of meat and dumplings, clapped along to live music, and rose our mugs to good health many a time just to have an excuse to make a lot of noise. After we were all done eating, our large group split into many small groups, and each went their separate ways. One group coincidentally stumbled upon the before mentioned Cathedral of Erfurt, also known as St. Mary's Cathedral, and got there right in time to attend the Taizé service. (A Taizé service is one in which Catholics and Protestants of all denominations come together and worship through moments of prolonged silence, scripture readings, and song.) While they said the service was unique and awesome in of itself, they were blown away by the church itself. They thought its grandeur and beauty was comparable to even that of the Wartburg Castle, if not even greater. It was so large and massive, yet its gothic architecture gave it a complex simplicity that was literally breath-taking. After a whole day in Erfurt, few of the students are anxious to leave this little city as we head off to Berlin tomorrow.
St. Mary's Cathedral

Eisenach : From Luther to Bach

Eisenach Train Station

Eisenach... but where/which way do we go?

When in doubt, follow the signs

Today was by far the busiest day of the trip thus far. We left the Mainzerhof Hotel (and its amazing breakfast buffet) at 7:00 AM and took a long train ride to Eisenach -- home to one of Luther's childhood homes, the Wartburg castle where Luther lived in hiding for 10 months, and to the museum of Johann Sebastian Bach, the famous Baroque musician and composer. Through the train windows, we got the chance to see rural Germany in all its simplistic beauty. The lush vegetation and open fields were reminiscent of both Vermont and Pennsylvania.

Luther House, Where Young Martin Lived for Several Years as a Pupil

Painting of Young Luther Singing and the Lutherhaus Windows Today
(note the window detail in the upper right of the painting)

Relief of the White Rose Emblem in the Eisenach Lutherhaus

Relief of Luther in the Eisenach Lutherhaus

Once we arrived in Eisenach, we headed to the Luther House where Martin Luther lived from 1498 to 1501. During his time in Eisenach, he took care of children and sang in a choir. It was here that he had to decide whether to become a lawyer like his father hoped for, or a priest/monk. It was his decision to become a monk that led him away from Eisenach to Erfurt, where we will be staying tonight.

After completing our quick tour of the Luther House we grabbed Thuringian Sausages (okay, really: long bratwursts) for lunch at an outside stand.

Thuringian Sausage Man Gets His Largest Order of the Day

Mr. Behnke Apologizes to All You Germans for Putting Ketchup on
What Was Designed to Be a Medium Exclusively for Mustard

Wartburg Castle

After lunch we took a shuttle up to the Wartburg castle. Last year's students hiked up the hill, apparently attempting to do it "the way Luther would have" rather than with technological aids. According to some students, the castle was the most awesome sight they'd ever seen in real life. It really is better in reality than in the following pictures, but still...

Interior Buildings of the Wartburg Castle

This was Luther's hideaway starting in May of 1521 when he was lovingly captured under the order of Frederick the Wise on his way back to Wittenburg from Worms (from whence many assumed he would receive the treatment given to Jan Hus). He went by the name of Knight George while in hiding, and translated the New Testament from Greek to German in less than three weeks, wrote several documents regarding his beliefs and oppositions, and constantly struggled with the Devil. This is where Luther famously threw his inkpot against the wall, the marks of which have long since been vandalized/chipped away by previous Luther(f)ans. Luther left the castle in March of 1522 when he returned to Wittenburg by request of the town council to put an end to the insurrections happening as a result of the Reformation.

Easily the prettiest part of the castle, however, was the Elizabeth Room and the Upper Banquet Hall. We had a great tour guide who kept saying very funny things in a German accented English like, "Over thirty persent of dese stones are origginal" and "I only have vun question: do you like?" and "Are your eyes popping out of zee head?" And in truth, they were.

Constance admires the patterned mosaic of the Elizabeth Room

Detail of the Ceiling in the Elizabeth Room

The highlight of the visit, of course, is to see the room where Luther actually stayed, which you enter on your own (i.e, without a guide), at the end, and through a long and low tunnel (a medieval European was on average 3 inches shorter than today's average European, we're told)

The Long Walk To Luther's Room
(duck your head)

Luther's Room in the Wartburg
(none of the furnishings in the room are original...)

(...except allegedly the whale verterbrae footstool, or does that sound fishy?)

While many students could have stayed on the castle grounds all day, we had to leave in time to see the house of J. S. Bach. Bach, an avid Luther follower himself, was a prime example of how people used to dedicate their work and passions to furthering Christ's Kingdom. It was intriguing to learn how much spiritual inspiration was behind all of his masterpieces.

Genevieve Rocks The Bach House from the Outside

While Channing Rocks in Her Laid Bach Acoustic Chair on the Inside

...while Bach himself just stands there (silently)

After sleeping through most of the Bach museum tour (to be fair, students were very tired from a very long day), students got re-energized on local gelato and took another picture at the Eisenach Luther statue.

Wheaton College Students at the Luther Statue in Erfurt
(again with the ML gang signs...)

Then we continued to Erfurt via train. When we eventually reached the hotel after being misdirected by the hotel concierge in Eisenach, we all dispersed for dinner and finally said goodnight to our long, long day.

Christian and Vievie asleep on the train
(yes, the picture itself is sleeping format-wise;
no, the train is not ascending vertically)

Ladies and Gentleman of the Jury: Exhibits A, B, and C

A. Christ as "the door" inside the classic vesica piscis form at the Wartburg
B. Room service door hanger at the hotel with "Feed My Soul" slogan
C. Bathtub behind the door in the classic vesica piscis form at the Radisson Blu Erfurt


And the bath itself? Well, let's just say, after the day we had... it felt like being born again.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Cell Phone Number for Emergency Contact

This is the "kein schnick-schnack" type of phone, which is to say it is a cell phone that makes calls, receives calls, and does very little else. These are getting harder to find these days.

Meanwhile, here's the number in Germany, in case you need to reach me. When we get to Switzerland, I'll put a different SIM card chip in and it will be an altogether different number.

011 41 170 265 1039

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Here We Stand -- The Diet of Worms

In front of the Martin Luther statue in Worms
(ML gang signs courtesy of Wheaton creativity)

We got another early start today as we headed over to Worms on the train. The Martin Luther memorial and St. Peter's Cathedral were the only two places we visited. Our first stop was at the memorial, where there were statues of Luther and other significant figures of the Reformation.

St Peters Cathedral

Only a short walk away from the memorial stood the majestic St. Peter's Cathedral. Even after having experienced the grandeur of the churches in Mainz and Frankfurt, this cathedral still knocked us off our feet as we stared in awe. This was the parish where Luther was called to recant 41 of his 95 theses in front of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles the Fifth, at the infamous Diet of Worms. While we didn't get to see the exact location of his trial, just seeing the church's wealth and power displayed by its size and interior adornments, the students were able to better conceptualize how radical and revolutionary the Reformation really was.

Clock tower in Worms
(Numbers above, Astrological signs below)

We then headed back through Worms and stopped at a Turkish restaurant in town. The paintings on the inside walls were nothing like we'd seen in the traditional restaurants we'd eaten in previously; they beautifully portrayed what most imagine the romanticized version of the Middle East to look like. It was interesting to see first-hand the rise of Turkish influence on Germany as more and more Turks are immigrating to the country. After finishing our cross-cultural meals, we headed back to Mainz on the train and enjoyed our last night by the peaceful Rhine River.

Walkway along the Rhine in Mainz

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Frankfurt Communication Museum

Frankfurt, Germany

The group rose early today so we could catch a regional train to Frankfurt (after indulging at breakfast of course). One of the students had a first-hand experiential learning experience as to the impact of the clock this morning. Not knowing what time it was and not wanting to be late, she showered and washed her clothes, ready to go for the day, only to be told by her roommate that it was only 4:30 AM! Lesson #1 on the effects of media/lack thereof learned.

Waiting for the train (70's-style images courtesy of Jono Seneff's iPhone app)

At the Frankfurt Communication Museum

The Frankfurt Communication Museum is one of about 12 museums along the river, and easily among the best of the lot. They do an excellent job of portraying communication history before and after the electronic age, the moment at which the speed of communication was severed from the speed (and constraint) of transportation. Architecturally laid out in a circular pattern, you can take in as much as you want, and the museum is equally compelling for kindergartners and grad students alike. There is always one or two rotating/traveling exhibitions on the top floor, and this year it was on communication theorist Claude Shannon as well as an exhibit entitled "Dialogue in Stillness" about being deaf. The museum also has the original Marconi wireless cables sent between the Titanic, the Carpathia, and the California on the night of the tragic sinking of the Titanic.

All we like sheeple... (the black sheep was around the corner)

One of the original key boards

And then for lunch, we had some original, strange, and delicious German food at
Zum Gemalten Haus at the Schweizer Platz stop, not far from the museums.
Zum Gemalten Haus, offering Green Sauce,
Cow Tongue, and Hand Cheese with Music!
MMM Good

Before leaving Frankfurt, several students toured Saint Bartholomew's Cathedral, a massive Gothic cathedral constructed from the middle of the 14th Century to the middle of the 15th Century. The building was first destroyed in 1867 by a fire, rebuilt, and then, like so many other structures in Germany, destroyed in World War Two by allied bombing -- and then rebuilt once again. Starting in 1356, it was the place where the Holy Roman Emperors were crowned and later served as a symbol for the national unity of Germany. Today, it is more of a tourist destination than anything else. After leaving the cathedral, we headed back to Mainz, where we stayed for the rest of the evening.

St. Bartholomew's Cathedral

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

First Day in Mainz

Demonstration printing press at the Gutenberg Museum

While hot showers and cozy beds all had us in good spirits, the Mainzerhof Hotel's continental breakfast was phenomenal. The buffet was stacked with fruits, vegetables, yogurt, salmon, cheeses, croissants, muesli, and many other delicacies. The best part according to many students, however, was the bowl of Nutella packets, a personal favorite of theirs.
Pleased and plumped, we explored the churches in Mainz, a city recovering from its 80% destruction by allied bombing in World War Two. Our first stop was at the Evangelische Christuskirche, or the Evangelistic Church of Mainz. (In Germany, Evangelistic is synonymous with Protestant.) Built in 1903 then reconstructed in 1954, it is an impressive sight from the outside but sparse on the inside, a visual reminder of the 'sola scriptura' for spiritual influence as opposed to symbols, icons, statues and adornments of the Catholic Churches.
Evangelistic Church of Mainz
We then walked to downtown Mainz where we saw the remains of the church Gutenberg attended, St. Christoph's Church, which was built in the 9th Century. The last, as well as the most aesthetically impressive, church we visited was the Mainzerdom. Inside a small chapel off the side of the sanctuary hangs one of the oldest crucifixes in Germany. The Dom's presence dominates the downtown skyline, where a wonderful fresh air market provided us with meat, cheese, honey, pickles, and fresh bread for our evening picnic. It was striking to see the juxtaposition between old and modern Europe, with new BMWs and Mercedes sharing the streets with such old structures.
The Mainzer Dom
We spent the afternoon going through the Gutenberg Museum (see separate post) and then eating a traditional German picnic on the bank of the Rhine River.

View over the Rhine during our picnic