Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Germany Trip : Days 1 and 2

Hello Friends! Shelby here again to talk about our trip to Germany! We traveled there as a group with the Scan Baltic program director, Mark and his wife Sonja in order to study Martin Luther. It was a part of our religion credit for the program.

As I wrote this I realized that I had a lot to say about our short visit to Germany, so I am breaking up my posts into two parts to keep you from getting overwhelmed. You’re welcome!

Day 1: Travel to Berlin, then Wittenberg

We were traveling most of the day, but since Mark and Sonja rented vans to transport us all we got to see the scenery along the way and ride on the Audobon! Woo-hoo, 90 MPH! We arrived in Wittenberg in the evening and got to have dinner at the Wittenberg Potato House. The menu had about 70 different dishes to choose from, all with some form of potato goodness in it! It was a very filling meal and we all headed back to the hotel full and satisfied. We slept really well that night as well, since the beds were very comfy.

Day 2: Wittenberg

This day was jam-packed with Luther sites. Here is what I can remember:

Luther House and Museum

The home of Martin Luther is now a museum in his honor. It was a very nice home, with a lovely courtyard, and we were fortunate to have our own tour guide for the day, Katya, who did a wonderful job explaining all of the sites to us. She is a professional tour guide, and sometimes she does a “Gossip Tour” in which she plays Katherina Von Bora, Luther’s wife. We saw her on a few of the postcards! At the Luther Museum, they chronicled the time line of events with paintings, writings, and historical artifacts. In the museum there were not only parts of Luther’s home, but also parts of the university in which he taught. Before it became his home, it was a monastery and school. The tour of the museum ended with a few of Luther’s rooms that are still intact with original pieces. That was very interesting. Once we finished the tour, we were also able to go outside and see where excavators had found Luther’s privy! Don’t worry, you won’t see photos of that here! (Although they are on my facebook!)

City Church

This was the church where Luther did most of his preaching while teaching and studying in Wittenberg. It was a beautiful old church right in the center of the old city, and Katya told us about the many features that were Luther related, and some that had changed since Luther’s time. On one side of the church, there were “Jewish Pigs”, a sculpture carved into the church where Jews are suckling a pig and eating its feces. This was meant to be a highly disrespectful insult to the Jews of Wittenberg, but was very common in Luther’s time. These kinds of sculptures exist on many German churches, but this particular one is very famous. On the ground below this sculpture was a modern memorial made for the Jewish people to honor their years of suffering. On our last night in Germany, we went to listen to Bach’s St. John’s Passion, put on by the local Wittenberg choir and guest soloists, and that was also a very cool experience.

Castle Church

This is the church where Luther is supposed to have posted his 95 Theses. However, according to Katya, no one can really be sure whether they were posted here, posted elsewhere, or even posted at all. However, the church goes by that story and even had the theses sculpted into “the door.” This church is also where Luther is buried, along with his colleague Melanchton, and his protector Prince Frederick the Wise. This church was actually a part of Prince Frederick’s castle, and was often used to promote the Catholic Church in the days before Luther. You could certainly tell that it was a church for the upper crust of society, as there was much more ornamentation, color, and majesty in the décor. It was very beautiful.

Home of Lucas Cranach and Print Shop

Lucas Cranach was a name that I had only heard briefly mentioned in our Luther book, but it turns out that his work was pivotal to the reform. He and his son, Lucas Cranach the younger were both painters and artists of Wittenberg, and good friends and allies of Luther. Lucas Cranach Sr. was the “court painter” for Frederick the Wise, and he lived very well because of it. He used his power and influence to create art for the reform, which included art about Christianity, and portraits of reformers. His portraits of Luther are the most widely known likenesses we have of the reformer. His art also filled the altar area of the City Church. At his refurbished home in Wittenberg, they now have some monuments, a museum, and a print shop. Luther’s work was much propelled through the use of the printing press, and Cranach also used woodcuts to mass produce his images. Therefore it seemed only fitting that we should visit the print shop. Running the print shop was a crazy German man that showed us a thing or two about the printing process and let us make prints of our own. It was very interesting.

Old Town - Wittenberg

According to Mark and Sonja, this town was not always so quaint and lovely. Right after the Berlin Wall came down Wittenberg was considered to be “the armpit of East Germany.” But you would not know that to look at it now. Our hotel was situated in the old city (back in Luther’s day it was a small walled town with the monastery on one end and the Prince’s Castle on the other) and it was beautiful! The old city was mostly filled with restaurants, ice cream cafes, and shops. In our free time we enjoyed strolling down the streets, window shopping, and sampling tasty German treats. I was introduced to a “super döner,”which is basically a pita with shaved rotisserie lamb, veggies, and sauce. It was huge, cheap, and a huge mess but extremely tasty! If you ever visit Germany, you had better try one of these. All in all, Wittenberg was a lovely place to spend a few days and the Luther history was very fascinating.

Well folks, that sums up our first few days in Germany. Pictures will soon follow :)

Stay tuned for more fun as soon as we find time to chronicle it!

Ha det bra,

Shelby (and Kjerstin)

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