Monday, February 15, 2016

Seligenstadt and the week ending Feb 13

Hand painted goose eggshell from Seligenstadt Ostereier Markt
We had a full week in the office this week. As we continue to work issues, things are in better order all the time. We are learning so that we have less rework, and that has made life in the office a lot more pleasant. And we have been able to tackle some improvements and corrections.

Saturday the 6th we received a letter telling us that we could pick up our "Aufenthaltstitel" at the local "B├╝rgeramt" in Dornbusch. Our apartment is in a quarter called Eckenheim. Dornbusch is a neighboring section that is about a 15-20 minute walk away. The "Aufenthaltstitel" is called a visa by some missionaries, but it is more accurately a residence permit. It is a card we carry that says that we have the legal right to live in Germany until November 25, 2017. Our mission ends in August that year, so we are now legal for the length of our mission. And with this permit we could apply for a German driver's license. You can drive on a U. S. license for 6 months from the date of your arrival. Our 6 months will be up March 25, so we were becoming a little anxious to get the process underway.

We left the office Wednesday with all of the paperwork we thought we would need, but when we got to the office for automobiles and licenses, the lady at the desk asked for a "Sehtest" -- a vision exam. So, Thursday afternoon we went to a local optician. Birgitte passed Jeff, but Janet failed without her glasses which she didn't have with her.

Friday morning we made another run at the vision test, this time with Janet's glasses in hand. She passed with flying colors. The optician really wanted to sell Jeff some new glasses and contacts. She kept telling him that his vision will only get worse and that he can forestall that with the wonderful German glasses and contacts they have available. We noticed that all of their material was labeled Bausch and Lomb, but we suppose that if you buy it here it is naturally better.

We drove back to the B├╝rgeramt Rund um Autos and got our numbered slip for the wait (short). This time the clerk didn't ask for the "Sehtest," so we decided not to offer the results unless asked for them. They asked in the back, so the first clerk did us a favor and spared us the wait. The office was extremely efficient. This isn't like the DMV in the U.S. The people know what they are doing and do it quickly. After we provided the necessary documents and all was in order, the clerk handed us a plastic card and instructed us to go pay at the "Automat" in the front of the building. You walk to the front, put the card in the machine, and it shows you what you owe. Then you feed in the appropriate amount of cash (€ 35 or about $40 currently - each), and you get a receipt that you take back to the clerk. We should get a letter in the mail in about 4 weeks telling us to come pick up our German driver's license. That part isn't very efficient. Why they can't just mail the license to you we don't know.

We were asked by the zone leaders to present a 'Thema' during their zone training. What a treat for us to be with and observe these young missionaries in the Frankfurt Zone. Because of the driver's license run, we were a little late to the meeting, but we loved hearing them teach each other in both English and German. Our presentation was about how they could serve the members better. Janet suggested that we ask Brad for his input, and he responded with a great letter containing his top 10 ideas, and we read it verbatim during our presentation. Thanks, Brad.

Saturday is our preparation day, so we shop for groceries, do laundry, and try to get in something fun. This week we visited Seligenstadt. It is a very old city on the Main River about 40 minutes from our apartment. The center of the city is all narrow cobblestone streets and alleyways lined with 15th and 16th century fachwerk houses. The church dates from the 800's. There is a former Benedictine monastery that has become a museum. This past weekend, the monastery hosted the first Easter Egg Market of the season. This European Easter Egg market is a showcase for a peculiar form of folk art and there were 50 or so artisans from various places around Germany and from other countries. Jeff had seen enough eggs after about 15 minutes, but he gamely carried on. Janet looked at every single egg (hundreds, at least). Most were real egg shells, but some were made of stone, wood, ceramics, or other materials. Many were really beautiful. The one pictured at the top was one of Janet's prizes. Happy Valentines Day!
Saturdays are market days in Germany. People just love to shop for fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese and bread outdoors.

Loved this old sign -- Riesen means Giants in German

Every German village has a Rathaus or town hall. This one is 500 years old and still functioning.

A damp day near the city center

The Three Crowns hotel has been here since 1720

Crowds headed to the market for potatoes at 11am

These 500 year old homes are in great condition

Evidently the exposed timber construction is durable

The bells chime 12 o'clock and the Easter Egg Market opens. You have to pay €3 each for entry so that you can then buy things. Jeff has never thought highly of paying admission to an event that is essentially an opportunity for shopping.

A little entertainment. This lady was upset that "rude Americans" kept taking her picture (we were discreet, so it wasn't us, but if you wear that hat, you are asking to be photographed, aren't you?

The hallways of the former monastery were packed

St. Benedict, we presume

Greeter at the museum entrance

Janet's favorite acquisition

A goose egg with clay attached
Most of the museum exhibits were tucked away, but check out this pewter set.
 Next door to the former monastery is a church that was founded around 800. The Roman Catholic church is dedicated to Marcellinus and Petrus, two Christian martyrs during the last round of persecutions in Rome in 304 AD. The building of the church supposedly brought their bones to Seligenstadt in 828 and they reside in a gold and silver shrine under the main altar. The monastery adjacent to the church was secularized in 1803, but the church continued as the parish church for Seligenstadt Catholics.

The church towers visible between narrow gap in houses
Lot's of buildings built of red sandstone. Not sure how they survive the ages in this damp climate.
Church is lined with statues of martyrs. This is the apostle Peter holding the keys. Others of the original apostles were depicted holding the instruments of their martyrdom - a saw, a sword, a club, etc.

This was a great little picturesque village. The people were friendly and welcoming. We ran into some church members who are in Wiesbaden with the military, a young family with 3 or 4 children. We talked to a Texan and some other folks from the U. S. These markets seem to draw Americans and other visitors.

We had lunch at a great Italian restaurant in a building dating back to 1744. The company was great.
Janet's meal - three kinds of pasta

Jeff's tortellino

Pewter symbols for the WC so you don't get confused

Now if you are a kid, these might not be that straightforward
A traditional mailbox

A mailbox with a little pizzazz

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Couple of Remarkable Experiences

Cover from new Church self-reliance program
The church has begun introducing a program to help people become self-reliant. This is being introduced world-wide. We have welfare services missionaries here in Frankfurt who are support this program in Europe. We were listening to a presentation on this program at church last Sunday, and at one point, there was a short video from President Uchtdorf of the 1st Presidency. As we listened to President Uchtdorf, Elder Kirk received a remarkable spiritual witness that this the the vehicle to prepare all latter day saints to become a Zion people -- one heart, one mind, and no poor among them. The Lord says in Doctrine and Covenants 104:15-16

15 And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.

16 But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.

We came away inspired. There is so much poverty in the world, including among the members of the church. This material teaches men how to fish and then encourages all members to help one another achieve self-reliance. The materials and information are available online at Self Reliance Services.

The second thing that happened is that Elder Kirk and Elder Newman were called to administer to a young man from Ukraine who now lives in Norway but is here with his mother seeking treatment for a genetic disorder that has completely destroyed his bone marrow. He receives a blood transfusion weekly to stay alive, but the repeated transfusions have resulted in a dangerous accumulation of iron that is wreaking havoc with his internal organs. They came here seeking a bone marrow transplant because there was no good genetic match available in Norway. He has been awaiting a transplant for 3 1/2 years. They pray and have faith, and he wanted a blessing. She is a convert and he was born in the church and baptized at age 10. He is now 18, and they feel it is a blessing that he has lived this long, especially since his marrow quit producing red cells.

As we administered to him, we promised him through the power of the priesthood that he has a mission and purpose in life and that he would live to complete that mission as he exercises faith and trust in God. There was a sweet spirit present for all of us.

We are so blessed to be here and have this opportunity to serve and love people.

Aachen Cathedral - 30 Jan 2016

Interior of the Aachen Imperial Cathedral ceiling
We spent this Saturday in Aachen with 4 other senior couples. The Hemingways are military relations missionaries and were in Aachen to complete missionary apartment inspections Friday and spent the night so that they could join us. We all met at the Lindt Chocolate Factory outlet store (more about that in a bit). Aachen is an ancient city on the western border of Germany. In fact, there is a park about 20 minutes from the city center where you can stand on a spot where Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany meet. Elder Newman was severely disappointed that we didn't make it there for a photo. Perhaps we can do that in better weather on another trip.

Other than the chocolate and cookie shopping, we really only saw the cathedral. That was okay. It is magnificent. Charles the Great or Charlemagne (742/748-814 AD) fancied himself the successor to the Roman emperors. He forged together a substantial sphere of influence and rule that is known to history as the Holy Roman Empire. In 768 he was crowned king of Franconia and Emperor of Rome in 800. He instituted reforms that helped stabilize and modernize the fading Roman Empire. Charles the Great built the octagonal cathedral in the 8th century. We didn't get a good picture of the exterior, but the octagonal "chapel" was completed around 800 AD. A large Gothic choir hall was added in 1414 that is now called Aachen's house of glass or something like that. It is beautiful inside, but suffered some bomb damage during World War II. A copper roof was added to the original Octagon Chapel in 1644. Smaller chapels were added at various times, and a tall tower was built in 1884.

We joined an English speaking tour. Our guide was a university student and had lots of information and was more than willing to answer questions. The major benefit of the tour was access to areas otherwise closed to visitors.
Model in the visitor's center

From left to right, tower, octagon, choir
It rained all day and was cold
Bronze entry doors more than 1200 years old

Close up of lion head door handle. Lion (representing the emperor or Christ as you please with a bone in its mouth -- supposed to belong to Satan
Octagon Chapel floor from balcony

Image of Mary and Christ child - 14th century and decorated with gifts, crowns and nearly 40 garments
The main altar has a gold altar piece from about 1020 AD that depicts the passion of Christ (immediate foreground)
Madonna suspended above the choir floor (1524)
13th century paintings on the wall of the choir are faded. They cannot be restored because this is a UNESCO world heritage site and rules forbid altering whatever remains - preservation but not restoration

Other bits of painting from the 1400s
Chandelier in the Octagon from about 1165 meant to symbolize the New Jerusalem
The golden ambo called the Pulpit of Emperor Henry II (before 1014)
Interior of the choir doesn't do the stained glass justice
Ceiling of the octagon depicts Christ coming again in glory- notice the red robe (Rev. 19:13)
Shrine of Mary
A few words about the Shrine shown above. It contains 4 relics that are supposed to be the "diaper" of the baby Jesus, the loin cloth Jesus wore when He washed the feet of His disciples, the dress of Mary, and the decapitation cloth of John the Baptist. The Shrine is an important work of goldsmith art from about 1200. Sister Kirk asked the tour guide if she had seen the relics. They are on display every 7 years, and in 2014 during the last pilgrimage year, 400,000 visitors passed by them. Janet asked the guide what she thought -- did she think the relics are authentic. The guide's first comment was "they stink." Then she said they are absolutely not authentic and have been dated to the 13th century. Well, many people nevertheless think they are significant.
Shrine of Charles the Great contains human bones believed to be Charlemagne's. He is bigger sitting than Pope Leo II and the Bishop or Rheims who are standing. Christ is above the emperor with His hand extended in blessing. The shrine was a political statement -- the secular rulers are bigger than the church.
The main level is fascinating and beautiful, but the gallery on the level above the Octagon was really interesting. The mosaics are beautiful, and it is the location of Charlemagne's throne. It is built of unadorned marble slabs held together with bronze clamps. The slabs were take from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. It was originally built for the King of Heaven who will one day come down in glory. It is placed below where Christ is depicted descending on the ceiling of the dome. It is up 6 marble steps meant to be like Solomon's throne. From 936 to 1531, all legitimate kings and queens sat on this throne for their coronation. Jeff is overly fascinated by all of this history, but Janet just loves to see the artwork and architecture.
The throne with original Carolingian flooring surrounding it

Scratching on one side mark a game board for a game popular among Roman soldiers

Pillars create a space where visitors crawled under the throne to show their subservience to the king and to Christ
Mosaic work in the gallery

Mosaic in the gallery vault above the throne

Ceiling in a small chapel near the throne
The throne is very plain in comparison to the rest of the cathedral
We mentioned a visit to the Leibniz cookie factory outlet and the Lindt Chocolate Factory outlet store. They are across the street from each other. Hard to believe, but we came away with about $70 worth of cookies and chocolate. Most will be given away, but we will certainly eat some, too.
A busy place on a Saturday
We all got to pose with the golden Lindt horse

Elder and Sister Hemingway

Elder and Sister Stevens

Elder and Sister Jarrard
Aachen streets have lots of fountains
Printen is a type of Lebkuchen (similar to gingerbread)

Store windows were decorated for Fasnacht (Carneval)

This stuff is delicious. We may be sending some home for Christmas this year.
By Sven Teschke - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 de,