Tuesday, July 30, 2013
My Advice for Today: Whenever you have the opportunity to start out the day with a visit to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, do it. We began this morning with a visit to the great cathedral in Speyer, Germany. Founded in 1030, the official name in English is the Imperial Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption and St. Stephen. Besides being one of the oldest and largest cathedrals in Europe, it’s history reads like a Ken Follett novel. I had bicycled over to the cathedral late yesterday when I got the picture of Pat and Ed with the organ above the west nave. When Margaret and I went back this morning, the organist was playing and the sound was celestial. Anyone who is depressed and is considering checking out because of what careless people and time are doing to beautiful things should take a visit to Speyer Cathedral. It is surviving beautifully after a thousand years of constant use. This is the place to go to celebrate resilience and determination.
In the middle of the day we went on up the river to Worms for a visit to another great Romanesque jewel, the Cathedral of St. Peter (consecrated in 1110) , and to a beautiful little synagogue and a Jewish cemetery before going still farther up the river yet to Mainz where we compared what we had seen already in the day to yet another 1000-year-old cathedral. It is also mostly Romanesque. You can hear good stories about heroism of a few good people who managed to protect the synagogue and the cemetery in Worms from complete destruction during the Nazi period. The best efforts of a few good people couldn’t hold back the tide of terror Hitler inflicted on the country.
After going to church three times, the highlight of the day for me was a visit to the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz where I wallowed for awhile in the history of the printed word. It doesn’t get much better than that for an old teacher.
This old sycamore tree in Mainz is also a survivor.
Monday, July 29, 2013
I like bridges... and windows... and fences... and doors... and borders...
It’s all in the way you look at it. Some people see a bridge and resent the implication that folks on the other side can cross over too easily and enjoy comforts and privileges which they have not earned. Yesterday I crossed a bridge that took me from France to Germany. In spite of a long history of conflict between the two nations, the bridge has become a metaphor for the relationship between the two countries and the relationship each of those countries is establishing with twenty-six other nations in Europe. Bridges and borders are celebrated as connections, not as barriers and separation between nations. A major purpose of the European Union is said to find ways to overcome a long history of bloodshed that has washed over the region for centuries. Twenty-eight nations are learning to look for the common good of all their citizens. It’s slogging hard work, but the majority of Europeans believe in the effort. They don’t want to go back to the old ways.
I like rivers that have grown out of small mountain streams,
rivers that carry boats that can be reached by buses that cross bridges,
buses that deliver people like me into friendly territory to experience the world...
all of it.
...a world that has trains in it,
trains and buses and boats that make the world work.
...work that generates, of course, a lot of trash and junk that must be recycled.
...and then I go
to a casino in Baden-Baden where a man not long ago lost a million dollars
in one day of gambling...
...and I am amazed and thrilled that I belong to a race of creatures who will eventually make all of it work
for the common good.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Strasbourg, France, and the Black Forest in Germany... all in a day... a storm high up in the mountains of the Black Forest... a drive in a cloud after lightening, thunder and rain in the land of the Grimm Brothers... The Parliament of the European Union... So I settled for portraits of people I saw today.
Saturday, July 27, 2013
Where you are is where you are...
Getting anywhere, you must start from there
Breisach, Germany; Colmar,Barr, and Riquewihr, France today.
Where I live on the western edge of North America, rivers flow from north to south or from east to west. Sailing north downstream seems strange. Today’s adventures included breakfast in Breisach before crossing the border into France and exploring the town of Colmar. Colmar was the birthplace of Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, the French artist/architect who designed and supervised the building of The Statue of Liberty, France’s gift to the United to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the republic. We went to agricultural town of Riquewihr for lunch before going on to Barr for wine tasting in the Alsace region.
Along the way today I couldn’t resist pointing my camera lens at a baby stork in Colmar that seemed to be waiting at the door of an insurance office for it to open. Later in Riquewihr we had to be careful in a parking lot not to run over another more grown-up stork that sauntered slowly out of the way. I found a particularly interesting sculpture by Jean Dubuffet in a roomful of religious artifacts in a convent. I also couldn’t pass up a particularly nice old sycamore tree with the best bark I’ve seen in a long time... and it was before the wine tasting, not after. You’ll see what I mean.