Monday, November 30, 2015

Weihnacht kommt bald! Christmas is upon us.

Paper stars
We have spent the last two Saturdays in the rain and snow attending Christmas markets. These are open air events held every year in cities large and small across Germany. People wander the stalls full of good will (and sometimes full of what they call Glühwein -- mulled wine made from fruits like blueberries with spices and served hot - we stuck with "Kinderpunsch" which is a hot fruit drink that tastes wonderful). These events are large. The market in Nürnberg is one of the oldest and most famous and the aisles between the stalls were so crowded that you had to walk sideways down some of them to pass through the crush. There was a heavy police presence because of the recent events in Europe, but the crowd was orderly and good-natured, and there were no incidents that we saw of any kind.

Jeff thinks that two Saturdays of freezing while browsing through shiny trinkets is enough, but we will likely visit the Christmas market in Frankfurt and maybe one other that is nearby and supposed to be "medieval." The nice thing about these markets is the religious tone of the celebration. There are performances by choirs and the churches all have activities. Our ward in Nürnberg will have a choir singing next weekend at the market. And it is all set in open spaces surrounded by buildings dating from the 14th and 15th centuries. That's hard to beat.

Koblenz November 21

Very old carved wooden figures in a courtyard

These lighted paper stars are really beautiful

This was an elaborate stand -- unfortunately it is basically an outdoor saloon

The stalls in Koblenz were all unique. They sell everything from gingerbread, to ornaments, to chocolate.

Yes, Janet enjoys all of this.

The rain pushed crowd numbers down. 

You want sausage -- they have them. We liked this unique rotating cooker. We think Michael Galland could build one of these.

Koblenz had this great area for sitting or standing and eating.

St. Nicholaus. He looks a little different than Santa Claus, and there were no long lines of children waiting to visit with him.

Okay, we had to throw this in. Because this is one letter higher in the alphabet, it appears to be a bit cleaner than our TJ Maxx.

Nürnberg November 28

Nürnberg is a picture of resilience. The ancient city was an important imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire and was the seat of German culture at its peak in the 1400s. The old city is completely walled and surrounded by a moat (now dry). Unfortunately, it was also where Hitler first developed a power base. He held enormous rallies there. The Nürnberg laws deprived German Jews of their rights and property. The allies bombed 90% of the old city to rubble. I have some old photos that I captured below that show this darker side of the city's history. But its Christmas market is one of the most famous, and it is enormous. It's hard to adequately describe the scale of it all. The walls of the old city run 4 miles around the medieval city, and there is Christmas market in a substantial portion of that enclosure. Jeff wants to go back in the spring to visit some of the museums, including the Nazi parade grounds and the museum that covers that part of the country's history.

Yes, that is snow. Brrr!
Altdeutscher Christbaumschmuck - Old German Christmas Tree Decorations

All things made of wood. Those streaks are snowflakes falling past the camera lens.

A strange tradition - people made from nuts and dried plums.

Germans love flowers and plants and they are for sale even now.

Intricately carved beeswax candles.

Unusual candles that were really colorful

Elder Jarrard freezing but checking out wooden toys.
This cute little girl was enjoying a chocolate covered banana on a stick.
The river Pegnitz runs through the center of the old city.

Sardines packing the aisles. This looks way less crowded than it actually was. 
Die Frauenkirche - The Gothic Church of Our Lady

She marks the boundaries of the main market

You can't go wrong with a bratwurst that is a foot and a half long

Merry Christmas

We are definitely in the Christmas spirit. The church just introduced a wonderful initiative called "A Savior is Born." With all of the glow and show, we still only have Christmas because of Christ. We are grateful for His gospel and if all the world would come unto Him and live as He taught through word and example, there could truly be peace on earth and good will toward men. Take just a few minutes to watch the videos at the links below. They will help bring the Christmas spirit into your life.

Why we need a Savior.

A Savior is Born

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Visit to Trier 14 November 2015

The Porta Nigra - The Black Gate. Built by the Romans in approximately 200 AD

Looks really cool at night. Manmade structures in the United States 1800 years old? Not so many.
We spent our Saturday preparation day November 14 in Trier, one of the oldest cities in Germany. It was a Roman outpost for a few centuries, and it was briefly the seat of the western half of the empire during the reign of Constantine. It is a World Heritage site with incredible monuments and buildings dating from the Roman era. We joined 4 other couples and had a delightful day. Jeff wandered off and discovered a hidden gem of a church, the entrance for which is tucked between two commercial buildings on the main plaza. Following is a photo collection from our day.

Hauptmarkt (Central Plaza or Main Market)

The central plaza. In a couple of weeks this large open plaza will be crammed with stalls for the Christmas market
Narrow street connecting the central plaza (Hauptmarkt) to the Cathedral

Ornate fountain in the Hauptmarkt

The street leading to the right ahead is lined with high end shops. Still odd to me to see Bulgari in a shop front of a building built in the 15th century.

Sorry for the back end of the truck. They were already beginning to set up for Christmas market.
St. Gangolf's Church

Entrance to the Church just a portal between a leather goods store and a Gyro shop

Church construction begun in 1400s. Colors in the interior are late gothic.

The church was small, and Jeff had it to himself. 

Ceiling decorations were striking. This picture doesn't do the colors justice.
High Cathedral of St. Peter

The Cathedral and the adjacent Church of Our Lady are large - hard to get a picture especially with the Christmas market stalls going up in the plaza in front of it.
The cathedral was built over a Roman palace beginning in 310. The long central nave is lined by the original stone walls built by the Romans. We understand that underneath the cathedral are the remains of the first Christian assembly room north of the Alps (in the 200s). There is a tour of those areas under the Cathedral but unfortunately we didn't get to do that. The Cathedral was part of a much larger complex anciently that included 4 basilicas and other chapels and buildings. One of those basilicas on the south side of the Cathedral was torn down in the 1200s and replaced with the Gothic Church of Our Lady. It is one of the most beautiful we have visited and has amazing acoustics. It also has lovely stained glass windows.

The central nave from the east choir near the chapel of the Robe - more about that below

The central nave from the west choir. Notice the massive pipe organ on the left.
Ornate baptistry - children are baptized in the Catholic faith.
The west choir has a beautiful baroque ceiling

Large crypt in the west choir. Tenors to the left please. The sarcophagus contains the remains of the archbishop of Trier who lived from 1307-1354.

Relief depicting the final judgment of the wicked. Jesus is in the clouds with the angels and the wicked are cowering below. 

Relief showing the Final Judgment of the righteous who look up with longing to the Master. 

Just had to throw this in. This is the epitaph for some nobleman who reclines below the grim reaper. Macabre. 

Jeff said that this is the nursery. It's actually a gated entry to a spiral staircase.
The cathedral claims to hold the undivided robe that Christ wore just before the crucifixion and which was claimed by a Roman soldier. Several other churches claim to have this relic as well. According to legend, Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, discovered the seamless robe in the Holy Land in the year 327 or 328 along with several other relics, including the True Cross. According to different versions of the story, she either bequeathed it or sent it to the city of Trier, where Constantine had lived for some years before becoming emperor. It has been declared by some to be a medieval forgery. It is only displayed periodically -- the last time was in 2012. In 1996, more than a million pilgrims and gawkers came to see it. 

Many churches contain relics of various kinds. Trier claims to have the undivided robe of Christ. 
The Chapel of the Seamless Robe is in the East Choir of the Cathedral
People peering through glass and a gold gate at the enclosure of the robe. 
The cloisters

Romanesque cloisters along the interior courtyard

The courtyard is mostly a cemetery for bishops of Trier

Liebfrauenkirche - The Church of Our Lady

This 13th century Gothic church is beautiful. The original Roman basilica that preceded it was torn down to make room for this church in the 1200s. There are twelve columns with paintings of the 12 apostles. It is circular with four apses and 8 small chapels in between so that the interior design is in the shape of a rose petal. The stained glass is magnificent. And the acoustics are remarkable. They were broadcasting a single clear male voice singing a chant. Jeff sat down and listened for a while in quiet contemplation.

Lunch at the Weinstube

 Across the street from the Church of Our Lady was this quaint little restaurant. It was good to get out of the cold damp day into a warm room with friends and good food.

Weinstube Kesselstatt
Elder and Sister Stevens with Janet. They are doing records preservation in Wiesbaden.

Janet and Sister Stevens. We didn't drink any of that wine in the background.

What a wonderful group of people. We had a great lunch and played a fun game together. 
Next Stop -- The Roman Imperial Baths

Walls made of brick and stone more than 1500 years ago

An artist's rendering of what the baths were supposed to look like. They were never completed as baths as designed.

It was a raw day. 

Best part were the underground installations for heating and piping water to the baths.

Entering the catacombs

The installation underground was extensive and is still undergoing excavation

A large granite column near what would have been the "frigidarium" or cool baths

Look at the thickness of this archway. No wonder things lasted so long.

The brick and stone work is magnificent. Much of it was plastered and painted originally, but most of that exterior is gone.

From an observation tower at the site. It is quite large.

Large walls under restoration

To the Roman Amphitheater

We walked about 10 minutes to the Roman Amphitheater. It was built for shows including gladiators. None were there on the day we visited. However, after we paid the 5 Euros for admission and walked into the center of the amphitheater, our good friend Elder Jarrard broke into a very loud rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. It echoed in the arena, and made everyone laugh. We love Elder Jarrard. He always makes everyone laugh.

One thing that was never an issue in Europe when Jeff was on his mission - graffiti. It is everywhere. But at least it's creative and colorful graffiti. 

Model depicting the amphitheater that could seat 18,000 spectators on stone benches.
Chiseled from solid stone. Entry to a cell for actors or gladiators

Site of Elder Jarrard's performance

The stone for the benches was mostly removed in the middle ages and harvested for building material elsewhere

These were paving stones into which deep grooves were cut by wagon and chariot wheels

Constantine Basilica - Emporer Constantine's Throne Room

The Basilica of Constantine of Aula Palatina is awe inspiring. It is a Roman palace basilica that was built by the emperor Constantine (AD 306–337).

Today it is used as the Church of the Redeemer and owned by a congregation within the Evangelical Church (the Evangelical Church in Germany is one of two state-supported churches). The basilica contains the largest surviving hall from antiquity and is ranked a World Heritage Site. It is 220 feet long, 85 feet wide, and an awe inspiring 108 feet high.

The Aula Palatina was built around AD 310 as a part of the palace complex and was equipped with a floor and wall heating system. I kept thinking about people coming from warm, sunny Rome to gray, damp, cold Germany. I would go for heated walls and floors, too.

During the Middle Ages, it was used as the residence for the bishop of Trier. In the 17th century, the archbishop Lothar von Metternich constructed his palace just next to the Aula Palatina. Later in the 19th century, Frederick William IV of Prussia ordered the building to be restored to its original Roman state. In 1856, the Aula Palatina became a Protestant church. In 1944, the building burned due to an air raid of the allied forces during World War II. When it was repaired after the war, the historical inner decorations from the 19th century were not reconstructed, so that the brick walls are visible from the inside as well.

Exterior walls
The size is amazing

Imagine this pipe organ in the enormous space

After the bomb damage and fire in 1944, some heroic statues of Christ and some of his apostles were damaged beyond repair. But they rescued the heads.

There was more to see and do in Trier, but we had to call it a day.

The long history of this country and these places is remarkable. Wrenching change seems ahead for Europe with the flood of refugees migrating from Africa and the Middle East. This seat of western civilization is trying to come to grips with the changing demographics. We're posting this a week after the fact, and we were at a devotional this evening with a man who was sent by the Church emergency response organization to assess conditions with refugees across Europe and how we can help. The church is already providing supplies for things like personal hygiene kits that the refugees and church members work together to assemble for distribution to those in need. The church doesn't regard religion or politics. We just seek to care for the poor and needy as best we can. We hope for improvement, but there are now 60 million people worldwide who have been displaced from their homes. It's heartbreaking. The Master said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto these, ye have done it unto me."