October 24, 2011

Student Blog by Margaret Shoemaker: "Reformation Tour"

 When we got back  to Regensburg from our trip into France and Spain  everyone had stories to tell about their separate travels. We’ve become a close group, so we were all excited to be back together and  it was nice to be stationary for awhile.  As glad as I was glad to be at our  home sweet hostel, it was short lived.  We got back on the 2nd, but by the 8th we were on the road again for our Reformation tour!
The week we were actually in Regensburg was dedicated to Reformation lectures. We can justify taking a week off to travel because we do all the reading (or most of it) for the class while we are on our break so we are prepared for class when we get back.  Dr. Smith from Colorado Christian University was our teacher for the past two weeks. During our week in Regensburg, his four hour lectures were full of information but were still engaging. The best kind of lecture, I think.  On Sunday though, we stopped sitting in lecture and started on out week long trip to see what we’d been studying.
The Reformation tour was designed around the key cities involved with Reformation events. Because we are in Germany that basically meant that each city we went to had a very large statue of Martin Luther. We started by going to Dresden, the ‘Florence of Germany’.  The main European protestant church is in Dresden and that night they were having a concert. The best musicians around were playing together, so a bunch of us got tickets and went.  It was definitely a trip highlight.  The rest of the time we were there we got to see Dresden. Because it was thoroughly bombed during World War II most of the city has been rebuilt.  They stayed true to the original designs and even used some of the same building materials. The result is a very old looking, but basically new city.   

Originally Dresden was a major trade center for North Central Europe because of its location on the Elb.  Augustus the Strong  built the Zwinger, an impressive treasury that he managed to fill and where we spent the larger part of a day. It is now a museum that houses lots of famous art, including some Botticelli, Van Dyke, Rafael,  and Cranach.  It is also the home of a large collection of Mysseen porcelain,  brought together by Augustus the 3rd  because of it’s incredible value. It’s also basically fireproof because of the incredible temperatures  it is exposed to in the creation process which means it survived the bombings and subsequent fire of WWII pretty well so there is still plenty to see.
After we finished our time in Dresden we caravanned up to Berlin.  We blew through Check Point Charlie and then visited the German History Museum.
Outside the Museum we went to the Capitol building, and we could see Chancellor Merkel’s office across the way. Her office is called the washing machine for it’s not so awesome architecture. Apparently, it was a big deal that a German architect designed the building but nobody was impressed with the final product. It is kind of funky looking.   We went to see where the wall was and  the Berlin gate with its four horses that are supposed to represent peace. Then we were basically out of time so we had to go back to the vans so we could get to Wittenberg in time for dinner.

Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

Capitol Building in Berlin

 Checkpoint Charlie is down this road

                In Wittenberg our first stop was, of course, The Door. The really important one that in 1517 was the bulletin board for the “Disputation of the Sale of Indulgences”  that is generally recognized as the official start to the Reformation. The doors are of course attached to a church so we went it there next.
                Though the church was Catholic when Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door it, has very obviously been influenced by the Reformation. Luther’s statue is on one side of the church, and his partner Phillip Melanchthon is on the other side. Luther was even buried in the church.  The doors are no longer the original doors, which isn’t all that surprising since it’s been a few years. They’ve been replaced by bronze doors that weigh a ton, literally. They’re about 22,000 lbs. We also saw the Luderhaus, where the Luthers, Martin, Katherine and their kids lived. Before the Luther’s lived there it was an Augustian monastery so it was quite large which none of us were really expecting.  We also saw the church where Luther preached at and one of his daughter’s is buried.

The Doors

Wittenberg and coach (yellow jacket) leading the way

                Erfurt was next, it is home to Mary’s Cathedral where Luther was ordained, and the Monastery where he lived as a monk. Directly opposite the cathedral there was a carnival, though we were banned from attending.  Coach was very clear that our available twenty minutes were to be spent inside the cathedral not across from it. Apparently, carnival rides are not educational enough to be a part of an academic tour. :)  Maybe if they had Luther painted on them? We’ll have to work on that.

St. Mary's Cathedral

Farther away from the distraction of the tilt-whirl was the monastery  where Luther lived as an Augustinian monk. This is where Luther began to form his ideas that so shaped the Reformation, especially sola fidei, salvation through faith alone.  During his time in the monastery Luther was consumed with trying to do enough and be pure enough to satisfy God. The Catholic church at that time held that no one can be sure of their salvation, and everyone will spend a time in purgatory to be cleansed of their various transgressions, at least the ones not bad enough to merit eternal punishment.  Because this is a pretty terrifying possibility, the church had a number of means for making your stay quicker and easier. Despite the clear dedication of his life to keeping up the standard the church set him, he followed the church’s plan with the best of them, Luther could find no peace. He looked for a merciful God, and his search set him on the path to reform. There are actually five solas; sola gratia (grace alone), sola fidei (faith alone), sola scriptura (The Bible alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), and soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone). They were the basis for Luther’s thought.
inside the monastery. The windows were made before America was discovered. 

Erfurt was also the location of a very good Konditorei (a bakery that specializes in cake-making) that we sampled more than once during the day we were there.  My favorite was the blueberry chocolate cake. Yum! We also sampled multiple bratwurst stands since Thüringen, the German state Erfurt is in, reportedly has the best Bratwursts rivaled only by Bavaria. As a group it is our mission to see whose is really better.
Bach’s house and Wartburg castle took us to Eisenach next. The musically inclined in our group were super stoked to walk around the house were Bach lived. We got to hear several selection of his music, tour the house, and see a demonstration of many of the instruments Bach would have played on. There was also an exhibit of instruments from Bach’s time that we don’t see any more. My favorite was a violin-trumpet.  A mouth piece at the top of the violin allowed the musician to simultaneously play the violin and the trumpet an X-ray revealed to be inside the body of the violin. I can only imagine what that would have sounded like.


map of the world from Bach's library. 

Wartburg castle is where Luther was in hiding for sometime while he avoided the people who would have preferred the dead version of himself. While he was there in disguise as knight George, he translated the New Testament. He did it in 10 weeks and the translation was so good it standardized the German language. It was also a big deal because he did it off of the Greek New Testament pieced together by Erasmus instead of the Latin Vulgate that older translations had used. It became by far the best translation of the German Bible. In 10 weeks. Wow.  The Old Testament took him a bit longer and he did that with seven others. He continued to revise his translation until his death.
A copy of the Luther Bible from the Berlin muesum

Wartburg Castle

We stopped in Worms and saw where the Diet of Worms happened and Luther was excommunicated.  Though the building where it happened is still there it is greatly reduced in size. The specific room is no longer standing, but there is a plaque outside that marks what is  possibly the exact spot.
We also stopped in Mainz which is important because it is the location of the invention of the printing press. Gutenburg lived here and now there is a museum dedicated to the history of printing. The printing press was obviously hugely important to the Reformation.  Inside the museum I was super excited to see an anatomy book from 1491. Basically I took two things away from seeing it: 1.  medicine has come a long way and 2. no one should ever have gone to a doctor in 1491. They would just kill you more quickly and make the process more painful. 
Even better, much better actually, was going into the book vault and seeing two copies of the Gutenberg Bible. It was the first major book ever printed with a movable type press. Work is thought to have started on the press around 1450 and the copies were available around 1454-5.  Only 21 copes of the original 150 have survived and we got to see two of them! 
Our last stop was Heidelberg, where we saw the castle and had some of the best hot chocolate ever.  The castle had an apothecary museum which further served to solidify my opinion that no one should ever have gone to a medieval doctor. After we wandered around the castle a bit we headed down into Heidelberg where we found the hot chocolate place. We could choose from 75 different chunks of chocolate, once we’d made our selection they gave us a cup of hot milk into which we dumped the chocolate and stirred. The result was delicious.
Heidelberg Castle

views from the top of the castle

Best Hot Chocolate ever

                Heidelberg was also the last stop on our tour. From there we separated to go on our next free week. Chelsea, Jeanette, and I are headed first to Sweden and then Norway.  It’s going to be a great time!

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