Saturday, July 23, 2016

Close to Home - Bad Homburg, 18 June 2016

Enormous cedar of Lebanon planted by an English princess
June 18 was a chilly, damp day, and we decided to stay close to home. Bad Homburg is just north of Frankfurt and is a 20 minute ride by car. There is a castle, of course, and a few interesting churches. We met the Mumms who live nearby in Friedrichsdorf where the temple is located. The Jarrards and the Snapps joined us as well. The town was very quiet in the morning.

Count Friedrich Joseph Ludwig Carl August was an interesting character. He was a Hessian military hero. His principality was just 85 square miles. Despite his mother's strenuous objections, he married Elizabeth, the third daughter of George III of England. We didn't get along with George III, as you recall.

When he married Elizabeth (for her sizeable dowry) she was 48 years old. On the occasion of their marriage in 1818, she brought 16 cedars of Lebanon in pots to Bad Homburg. They were a gift from her brother, the Duke of Cambridge. She planted 12 in an English garden that was built for her, but they froze in the winter of 1829. The other 4 were planted in areas where they survived. There are two in the lawn of the palace in Bad Homburg that have become enormous. The trunk of the largest (in the picture above) is 21 feet in diameter. It is spectacular. Imagine these massive trees being harvested in Lebanon for Solomon's temple. Of course, given how wet it is in Germany, they undoubtedly grow much faster than in the comparatively arid slopes of Lebanon.

There is a tower called Der Weisse Turm in the palace courtyard that is a keep that dates back to the 14th century. Three of the group (Jeff, Elder Newman, and Elder Snapp) rented a key and climbed the tower. That's 174 steps.

The rest of the palace is much newer. The only portion open for a tour are the apartments of Elizabeth to which she moved after the death of Count Friedrich in 1829. She was much admired by the people as she had a kind heart and sought to alleviate the poor. She was also an artist, and some of her work was on display.

Weisser Turm
Palace from the garden entrance

The large cedar of Lebanon

Wing of the palace dating to the 1700s

The count was a cavalry officer
Friedrich II was a generous soul. He sheltered French Protestants (Huguenots) when millions of them were driven out of France in the late 1600s. They founded the town of Friedrichsdorf and named it in his honor. He supposedly said, "I would rather sell my silverware than deny these poor people asylum." The current Bürgermeister (mayor) of Friedrichsdorf called on that history to persuade his fellow citizens to welcome refugees to their community. We were housing some of the refugees in temple housing that is currently not in use while the temple is being renovated.

The castle court overlooks formal gardens that are very large

Felt overshoes for touring Elizabeth's apartments

Black lacquer furniture

We liked the blue walls in this room

Elizabeth was short and need the stool to climb into this bed
The views from the White Tower were really nice. It was a bit hazy and overcast, but the sights from the top were still impressive.

Looking south toward Frankfurt

Protestant (foreground) and Catholic churches just outside the castle wall

Toward Friedrichsdorf

Some of the formal gardens below the castle

Frankfurt skyline visible even on a hazy day

Janet is sitting just under the awning down there
The churches just outside the castle wall were really beautiful, especially the large Protestant church with the 4 towers. It was built at the turn of the 20th century. Other than LDS temples, where do people build these sacred spaces today?

Protestant Church of the Redeemer
Part of our group
Beautiful stone work and doors

Janet wants a door like this at home

Close up of the iron work on the doors

We love stained glass. This window is huge.

All of the ceiling was covered in mosaic tile

The apse behind the main altar

Many of the medieval churches are dark and the artwork depicts a dead Christ. The Christ here looks distinctly Eastern (Orthodox) but He lives and looks powerful. 

Colors are brilliant

A lighted piece in the baptistry

Detail of some of the mosaic work on the arches 
Less than a block away is the older Catholic church of St. Marien.

Another set of beautiful doors. Great depiction of Moses encountering Jehovah and the burning bush in the relief above the doors. 
We wandered into the old city and found a place to eat. Instead of a good German meal, we ended up in a vegetarian restaurant run. Our waitress was a sweet girl from South Africa. Jeff talked to her and gave her a pass along card. The vegan quiche was tasty but starchy. The soy cheese was - well, let's say we won't run back for more.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Comes to Frankfurt 9 July 2016

Clay Christiansen
The Tabernacle Choir toured Europe and one stop was Frankfurt. They performed a single concert with the Orchestra on Temple Square in the Jahrhunderthalle (Century Hall) on the far west side of Frankfurt. The morning of the concert, we road the subway down to the Messe (the large exhibition and convention center) to meet our sweet friend Debby Manning Jensen. She sings in the choir. We have known her since she was a teenager. Jeff was her early morning seminary teacher many years ago. She has become a wonderful teacher, mother, and performer. It was so kind of her to spend the morning with the two of us. We took her by the mission office so that Jeff could look for something the tech elders needed. Deby was coming down with something and asked for a priesthood blessing. It was a tender moment.

She had purchased something at a shop near the Römerhof in heart of the old city that she decided to take back so that they could ship it for her -- lots easier and safer for the item than stuffing it in a suitcase and you don't have to pay the 19% Mehrwertsteuer or VAT tax. We showed her the spot in the Römerhof where students belonging to the National Socialist movement burned the books of authors, scientists and philosophers while Adolph Hitler watched from the balcony of the famous old city hall. We have seen it several times now, and it still makes us feel sober and sad. There is no monument. That would celebrate the event. Instead there is a simple bronze medallion embedded in the pavement. It contains a quote from Heinrich Heine, a famous German romantic poet that reads as follows: Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings. He wrote that in 1812 or so. It was sadly prophetic.

We also took Debby to the big open air market in the central shopping district near what is called Konstablerwache. Germans love these markets and throng them to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, meat and cheese. The selection is much better than in grocery stores, and we like them, too. And there are always vendors selling grilled brats, crepes, waffles, and assorted other goodies. We had a brat and a waffle, and then it was time to get Debby back to the hotel.
What a sweetheart
Elder and Sister Newman and the two of us drove to the Jahrhunderthalle that evening. The concert was sold out. We sat in the 4th row which was great for the sound, but because we were on the floor, the stage was above us. Mack Wilburg was just above us. Conducting an orchestra and choir like this is a workout.

A very nice woman from Montabaur sat next to us. She and a friend had driven 100 kilometers to attend the concert. Her son is an organist and recently visited Salt Lake City where he had the opportunity to play the Tabernacle organ. It was the thrill of his life. We enjoyed visiting with her.

The concert was on Saturday. Ward and Crystal Molen arrived in the late afternoon. We have an "extra" apartment that we use for visitors and for new senior couples as they arrive. Ward and Crystal moved in there and took care of their laundry while we went to the concert. Sunday morning we fed them breakfast and took them for a walk in the cemetery. It was a very nice morning, and we enjoyed the walk.

They went to church with us and then right after church we drove with them to Offenbach, about 20 minutes away. About 30 members of the choir volunteered to put on a fireside for the members. President Ciesla, the Frankfurt Stake President, welcomed everyone and suggested that the chapel is one of a couple in Germany that has air conditioning, and he thought that perhaps some had come for that. He has a gentle manner and a sense of humor.

The choir was accompanied by Clay Christiansen on the organ, someone else on piano. The choir sang a few hymns and Brother Christiansen played a piece on the organ. It was all very nice, but the organ piece was amazing. It was just the little church organ in Offenbach, but Brother Christiansen made it sound like something entirely more grand. Jeff asked President Ciesla afterward if a new organ had been installed. All agreed that the sound apparently has more to do with the touch of the master's hand than with the instrument.
Ward and Crystal Molen - known them for longer than Jeff has known Janet

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Steinau an der Strasse, June 25, 2016

Queen Janet reigns in Jeff's heart
And any queen would feel great in a pair of neon yellow sneakers sitting on a golden throne. We spent this particular Saturday in Steinau an der Strasse. It is a small town about 45 miles east of Frankfurt. The name includes "an der Strasse," meaning on the road, because it was a stop on the main road from Frankfurt to Leipzig anciently. It was also the home of the Grimm family. The castle that remains is home to a museum dedicated to the remarkable family and their contributions to German language and culture. There had been a heavy rain, and the tiny Kinzig river was a muddy rush, but the old town has a good bit of remaining wall and the castle.

The town is also home to some interesting people. We met a nice young woman who teaches theater, mainly to children. She was our tour guide at the castle and was a delightful person. Jeff chatted with her about her life and interests and discovered that she has been involved with the refugee community - there is a camp in her home town. Jeff discussed the church's efforts with the refugees and gave her a pass-along card.

We met an old man who runs a tiny junk store. Sister Newman found a piece of pottery she liked, but the store was an odd sort of garage of cast off items. The man assured Jeff that what was in the store was only 10% of what he had accumulated over the years. As Jeff talked more with him, he broke out some documents, including a reply to a letter he had written to the current Pope and certificates for degrees he received from some online sort of "university" that operates in the Pacific Northwest. He was really proud of an obviously worthless degree, but his English was good and he was animated. His speech was laced with profanity, but his biggest lament is that no one in Germany believes in God any more. That's not true, of course, but faith has faded in a country that produced Martin Luther and was the seat of the Holy Roman Empire. When the man started a rant, it seemed like a good time to leave the store to other visitors.

We met a man who was fascinated with our name tags. He was also excited that we are in Germany trying to help people come to Christ and find peace in Him. Elder Mumm gave him a pass along card and invited him to learn more.

Germany is wealthy and its citizens are like many in the United States. They are seeking gods of gold and putting their faith in what men can do and create with their own hands without acknowledging or even thinking about the creator of those hands. But there are lots of good people who care about their neighbors and seek to do good. In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, God commanded, "And from this place ye shall go forth . . .; and inasmuch as ye shall find them that will receive you ye shall build up my church in every region." (Doctrine and Covenants 42:8) So, we search for those who will heed the Master's voice -- those that will receive us. We keep looking. Those who hear the voice of the Good Shepherd come to Him.

The castle is in wonderful condition

Flood stage on the Kinzig

No tubing allowed

The metal basket was part of a jail - must have been an early form of water-boarding
The town is quaint and is a nice quiet place to stroll. Just like in many German towns, by 2pm on Saturday afternoon, virtually every shop in town was closed. Here are some shots of the town's architecture.

425 year old Gasthaus where we ate lunch

Colorful paintings attached to the building exterior illustrate Grimm Brothers fairy tales

Town square

Jeff is never in a picture

Everyone was gearing up for a Eurocup soccer game, so the streets were deserted

Fountain in the town square. Fairy tale characters showed up periodically leading tour groups. Germans seem to love tour guides in costume. 

Interesting carved granite adornment for a post at the entrance to the main square

17th century buildings at the castle that are now apartments.

Walkway connecting buildings at the castle -- inside the dry moat

Jeff and a white-haired German lady admiring a fach-werk or half-timbered house. Gee, their hair is almost the same color.
Love the entrance to the museum inside the castle

Beautiful illustration from an old edition of Snow White

Elder Mumm thought he found his daughter. Love these people.
We literally passed behind a curtain through a hidden door with our tour guide into a stone staircase that took us up to another floor where there was an exhibition of art figures based on Grimm Brother tales. They were all created by the same artist. Some of the tales were uncommon and we had never heard of them. Others were familiar. Of course, the Grimm tales were dark and often brutal. Disney cleaned those up so that they aren't so terrifying for children. The art pieces were amazing and that was worth the trip in an of itself.

They are basically life-sized figures reminiscent of marionette puppets

Didn't know this story

The Wolf and the 7 Little Kids

Some of the figures are a little creepy

Check out the eyes

Hansel and Gretel

My Grandma, what big teeth you have

The witch from Hansel and Gretel looks menacing

The Frog Prince

Snow White and the 7 Dwarves

The Fisherman and His Wife

Bremen Town Musician Rooster

Bremen Town Musician Cat

Bremen Town Musician Dog

Bremen Town Musician Donkey
We paid a visit to the castle kitchen and a dining hall. And at the last we climbed the tall tower for a view from the top.

The hall is used for wedding parties now

Jeff talking about refugees with our guide

Portraits exaggerated how fat people were -- only wealthy people ate well in those days so a round middle signified wealth and power. Notice that his head is smaller in proportion. Looking in the mirror, we look really wealthy.

Part of the village from the castle tower

The main church and more of the village

An actual parking lot is rare in Germany

Interior courtyard of the castle. Look close to see those who waited below rather than climb the stairs.

A beautiful valley

Imagine living in this picturesque place