Travel Journal – AU in Germany

Sorry it took so long to get this together. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks since getting back, so I was just now able to fully type up and have this ready to post. It’s the unabridged thoughts of a nineteen-year-old American college student.

The picture that accompanies this post is that of the Elbe River, which dominates the countryside where I primarily stayed. In particular, it’s at Dresden, where we spent one night. If you get the chance to visit the Eastern half of Germany, I highly recommend it. While I had several pictures of my own, I chose this one from Google because you can see both the river and some of the prominent buildings.

Without further ado:

 

They all said to keep a travel journal, so here you go. Apologies for artistic license or, I suppose, abbreviation of events.

5/11/17

End of the first week. It’s not too hard so far. Coursework, that is. Luther and the Reformation keeps me busy. The basic facts of Luther’s life I already knew, but I never had the opportunity to really dive into his writings before. It’s a blessing in some ways and frustrating in others (mostly in the fact that Luther isn’t the easiest to read). I’m too systematic a thinker to not admire Luther on many levels. He found basic Biblical principles – like sola fide – and holds to them. If I had the opportunity to do what he did, I hope I would stand up for the Word the way he did.

At the same time, my own beliefs lead me to disagree with him on some points, and the frustration for me is that this class is only five weeks, three credit hours. I want more on Luther. Protestant thinking in general is intriguing, and my own upbringing as a Baptist – leaning Reformed – is only scratching the surface.

Contemporary Germany, on the other hand, is more in-depth when it comes to delving directly into what Germany is like these days. While we are also only scratching the surface, it’s a great thing to have Dr. Paddags teaching it. His Continental ideas seem, at face value, to be a bit whack to an American mind. On the other hand, his experiences as an actual German can’t be underestimated to the worth of the class as a whole.

5/15/17

This first week has been interesting. No idea at all why Residence Life decided it’d be a good idea to make us stay in our own rooms for a week and then move into Jacobs. I suppose it’ll be interesting to work for them next year – this year, I guess, in just three months.

Jacobs has its pros and cons. It’s much closer to most of the academic buildings, but farther from places to eat. The rooms are larger, but I’m pretty sure the furniture is actually older than I am. One wall is just painted-over pressboard (I thought it was plywood at first, but I looked a bit closer). I can’t complain, though. I woke up this morning and heard the birds singing in the tree just outside my window. Checked my watch – 6:23 – and fell asleep again to birdsong. When I actually got up for good I went on a walk and tried to imagine what a quick walk in Germany would be like. Is Wittenberg similar to Ashland? How’s it different? I was thinking these things as I walked around. Then I realized I should probably get back to my room.

5/17/17

It’s now warm, even in the shadows of early morning. Summer’s here. Two more days.

5/19/17

Colder today, but that didn’t stop a cardinal from playing by the flagpole on the quad as I walked past it. I wonder – will Wittenberg look like the pictures? There is always something that doesn’t quite come through in a photograph, something intangible, a sense of scale and of reality. How will it feel to possibly walk in the same place that Luther walked? It seems surreal to even think about.

Tomorrow, we leave for Germany. Tomorrow, I set foot in Europe for the first time, in Germany for the first time, in Wittenberg for the first time.

5/20-21/17

Waiting for the bus. Awoke far too early; it won’t even be here for 15 minutes and I’ve been here that long already. It’s neither cold nor warm and there is a bluish-grey tint to everything on account of the cloud cover. The problem is a result of the fact I had wanted to go to Andrews and eat oatmeal so I’d have a real breakfast this morning. Of course it’s before 8 – so my card was denied. Disappointing. I suppose I’ll eat a granola bar. Should probably read the Bible, too.

In Canada, the Toronto Airport. Bus ride wasn’t anything to really write home about. Neither is Canada; what I’ve seen of it so far has hardly any distinct differences from America; culturally, it’s not more unique than Texas. There are more French speakers; that’s about it. The airport is nice. Security went smoothly – more so than I’m used to in the States. It’s a large airport, even capacious, and architecturally open so that it feels even larger. A sense of modernism pervades it, from the art style to the diverse people within. There’s a huge ad for Jack Daniels just a little ways from the gate we’re flying out on.

It’s dry here, too. Both my hands sand face are flaky. Quite glad I picked up that Working Hands. Classic lotion works better to moisturize but this is better for healing. I’m alternating between writing and reading the Luther biography by Bainton, which is interesting both historically and for its straightforward exposition of the man’s ideas. I’m no Lutheran, but there is something to learn from him with regards to faith-based courage. There are no specially favored saints, but there are certainly examples of virtue. He is one.

On the airplane now. In front of me is a small woman fixing her rosary, which got tangled. She is probably 5’2, Hispanic. Looks more nervous than I feel. Actually, I’m not too nervous at all. I guess I got that out of the way earlier. Now I’m doing this and it doesn’t help to be scared of it. First time on my way to Europe. A flight attendant is talking to an older man in rapid-fire German. They seem friendly. She has her fingers laced together, even to scratch the side of her nose, and if it weren’t for her job I’d say she’s flirting. Her hair is blonde, probably dyed, and short; she looks about 40-45. He’s at least 50 and probably older.

About to land in Frankfurt. Got some sleep on the plane. The brandy helped. Taxi Driver, which I watched on the flight, is really a fantastic film. One of the flight attendants has a funny affect: when offering drinks, he says something to the effect of “Wine, please?” as if imploring you to take this wine off his hands.

I’m in Europe. Weird to think about.

Now on a place from Frankfurt to Berlin. The FRA airport is much like CLE. Got a window seat this time. I’ll be taking lots of pictures. There was a nice German guy in the line for the ATM earlier, talking to Cameron mostly, who didn’t get the concept of a gift card.

All of the public bathrooms so far have automatic faucets and manual soap dispensers. This seems odd.

Now on the way to Wittenberg. Many sights: eclectic cottages, a shirtless German man sitting in the sun, the old Avus racetrack stands which are old enough they can’t be legally removed. While there is no smoking inside the airport, it is prolific inside. A morbidly obese woman in a wheelchair smoked outside with two hipsters and a guard, speaking German in the universal “complaining” tone.

5/22/17

Ran into some German missionaries who made small talk like normal pedestrians and then asked if Doug and I had any faith. Their names are Damien and Olaf. The first is from Australia but has lived in Germany most of his life; he has better English and does most of the talking. Olaf is shorter, German, with small glasses and a backpack. I’ll email Damien and let them know if I can meet with them – Only publicly, though. They are certainly zealous, which is admirable. Their zeal highlights the lack of dedication in the modern church compared with the early Christians.

5/23/17

Got to hear a presentation by a very German man who reminded me somewhat of Peter Schramm in some respects. His name was Hans Kasch which, he said, made him in English Johnny Cash. We all had a good laugh out of that one. He had a portly stomach and must have been nearly blind given how much his glasses enlarged his eyes. He was raised in former East Germany, the GDR, and told us a little bit about his childhood as a Christian among Communists. While he faced some hardships (and had spies in his church!) he did not experience nearly the persecution of some, he told us. Fear was the way the Communists kept the Germans in line, fear of this battlestation. But eventually, he said, the people rose up and were done with being oppressed. His presentation on Phillip Melanchthon was informative and entertaining; though I knew most of the direct information previously, he presented it in a way that made it more memorable than otherwise.

5/24/17

Now at three days here, and I have had the veneer of newness shorn off. It does not lose its impressiveness for the history or the architecture, but Germany itself has lost something of the allure and had it replaced with something merely foreign. The place is dusty and the culture is odd. That is not to indicate that I am somehow homesick or tired of this place. I know that I have only a few weeks here and they will go by very quickly.

Some things I had known only in the abstract are very real. The higher incidence of smokers, for example. Sometimes it isn’t possible to walk down a street without getting doused in the stuff. Too often, the realities of another nation with another language are apparent. If only I spoke German, this would feel like any other historically significant small town. As it is, even ordering currywurst from a street vendor feels like a guessing game. Of course there is something to be said for having this experience, but it would be better if I simply knew what people were saying. No, not better – easier.

My allergies are bad, and I’m not sure exactly what is triggering it. Of course I left my allergy meds at home. Stupid. Good lesson for the future, though: always take allergy meds with you when you travel. And I knew that, too.

Speaking previously of currywurst, the stuff is fantastic. It’s just bratwurst with curry sauce over top of it, but it’s surprisingly good. The food here is, over all, not bad at all. Nothing too fancy, but nothing that will leave you feeling disappointed in its blandness. As Dr. Paddags said, German food is meat, potatoes, and everything is some variation of that. Even when I got a somewhat more fancy meal at the Kartoffelhaus (Potato House) here in Wittenberg, it was still most fundamentally that same formula – the meat was just salmon instead of beef, pork, or chicken.

When we tried to ride our bikes we got from the Colleg, I discovered that I’d gotten a bad egg. It was generally okay at first, but the handlebar was loose. After a quarter mile or so, when I went to dismount and walk the bike across an intersection, they just twisted and I fell. Even though it was a touch disorienting, mostly because of how surprising it was, it wasn’t a bad fall at all. My left hand (the side I fell on) hurt on the outside edge, but I didn’t lock my arm when I dropped, so nothing major, and my wrist isn’t even too bad.

Being wise with what I consume here is more difficult for several reasons. I am aided in part by the gluten thing, but unfortunately beer is by far one of the less alcoholic easy-to-get drinks. Moderation in all things.

5/25/17

Went this morning to the Lutheran Bible Study led by Bishop Eaton. Interestingly, the German term for a Bible study literally translates to “Bible Work.” My notes for that:

  • References the story of Hagar for the “Du siehst mich” [You see me] theme of the Reformation celebration.
  • Hagar was invisible until this story and it would have probably been terrifying for her.
  • Hannah also had been unable to have a child and like Hagar was an outcast.
  • The Samaritan Woman, Mary Magdalene – throughout the Bible there are women without hope until God intercedes and shows Himself to them.
  • “When we have been seen, we are able to see others, Christ in them.”
  • Hannah’s song is echoed in Mary’s song to Elizabeth when the latter became pregnant with John the Baptist.
  • It wasn’t Mary’s holiness that led to being chosen as mother of God, but her faith. She was not an especially virtuous person; rather, she was a humble witness to the work of God.

5/26/17

Dresden is a beautiful city. I don’t think I can come close to doing it justice. Just go there and you’ll understand. The architecture is fantastic. Our tour guide had a slightly different German accent than most and when I asked Dr. Paddags I discovered that in addition to being more conservative than most, the area around Dresden has a distinctive accent. They’re the South, apparently.

An interesting learning experience: When standing in front of the Frauenkirche, the tour guide was explaining something about the buildings all around – all essentially new, though in an older style – and she broke off, looking suspiciously at something over my right shoulder. I followed the gaze. The object of suspicion was a woman, at least 40, with a hijab and a crutch on one arm. The guide waited until the woman was out of earshot and said “Watch your bags. This was a very safe place, but there have been many gypsies moving in. They will take your money, yes?”

Casual racial stereotypes: Also the South.

I found out later that it’s not always actually the beggars who take your money, but people who – with the beggars’ knowledge or not – will take advantage of the opportunity to see where your money is, then steal it from you then or later.

Valid racial stereotypes: Less the South.

I hung out with Ellyn, Logan, and Katie and went to the Zwinger, to the Old Masters museum. Nothing quite like that. Logan and Ellyn and I all went to a local restaurant for dinner. Nice bratwurst, but the service was mediocre. Everything took forever to come out, and an apple strudel Ellyn ordered literally never came. At least they didn’t charge her for it.

5/27/17

This morning I missed breakfast because I was checking what the weather was in Ashland and forgot to switch my app back to roaming. At least the sun woke me up in time to not be late to meeting in the lobby, so that’s a plus.

Leipzig has a nice train station – “Hauptbahnhof” – and is obsessed over their connection to Bach, even more so than Dresden focused on August the Strong.

Even though as a whole the city was less impressive than Dresden, it was pretty fantastic. Logan, Ellyn, Dr. Aune, his wife, and Dr. Paddags with his daughter all joined me in attending a Motet for the St. Thomas Church boys’ choir. It was incredible.

5/28/17

About to leave for the big worship service. There were about a quarter million projected to attend but I’m doubtful. The actual numbers are more like 150-200k according to a local German. It smells of sunscreen on the stairs.

The roads to the event were mostly hard-packed dirt. It is very sunny. Huge crowd. Sure, it may not be as big as projected, but still – wow. There’s very tight security, with police and military everywhere. Cameron somehow was late again, but he luckily caught up with us. It’s hot, but breezy.

We bought some of the souvenir scarves and I didn’t have anything smaller than a 20, so Natalie got it for me. She said I owe her a shot. Sure, why not.

There’s even one woman in a swimsuit top. Diverse crowd for sure – people clearly from all over, and one speaker is from South Africa. I’m glad his speech was in English or I wouldn’t have caught anything. Speaking on Luther more generally, his speech also touched on the Hagar story and the theme. Some of the songs are also in English, but most of it is obviously in German. All around, a great experience.

Katie, Doug, Logan, and Cameron stayed longer than everyone else. Cameron had sunscreen, but everyone else was the approximate shade of a tomato.

5/29/17

Pretty much just a standard day in Wittenberg. It’s weird to say that, as if being in Wittenberg was somehow just the bare minimum of mind-boggling that my experience can be.

5/30/17

We had a speaker on the 1989 “Peaceful Revolution.” Notes:

  • He was a pastor in Leipzig.
  • To understand the role of the church in the overthrow of the GDR we have to study the way the occupation zones developed.
  • East Germans saw themselves as the underprivileged, who were handed to the USSR as a vassal state. As a result of Communist rule, East Germans had a much lower quality of life than the West Germans.
  • Some churches claimed that resistance was sinful and would not permit their buildings to be used to speak against the state, but still, the atheism of the regime was so against Christianity that some sort of compromise was necessary, especially peaceful resistance.
  • Communists insisted on a youth dedication to the state taking the place of confirmation, which by its nature violated the First Commandment and reduced church attendance; this is why East Germany is still less religious after integration, even though they aren’t separate any more.
  • It was only political posturing that allowed churches to remain somewhat free in the GDR. Russia didn’t want the GDR to look worse than the West to outsiders, so that it would seem like a moderate compromise to allow churches to persist in some relative freedom. However, they planted spies in churches, to make sure no one was really using that freedom in any political sense.
  • Christians tended to only stay in the GDR to maintain their former ministry. “Not for socialism but within it.” The church was the “only free space in society.” No surprise then that they were the source of a good deal of anti-Communist feeling.
  • Compared with other Eastern bloc countries, East Germany had the best basic quality of life, but it was by no means free. They had nothing in the way of human rights for movement, no consistent justice system; therefore, the church sought to help those who the state had mistreated. Seeing the likelihood of catastrophic nuclear war, the Peaceful Revolution began in churches as pro-peace prayer meetings. Even non-Christians attended church as the only way to organize in any real sense.
  • Rather than typical services, the church held peace services, read modern hymns, and read the Beatitudes. Martin Luther King’s philosophy of nonviolence was influential, as the church tried not to provoke the state. Finally, the state tried to put political pressure on Leipzig. But 70,000 peaceful demonstrators came out of their churches at once and, surprised, police were not able to handle them. The chief of police couldn’t get ahold of Berlin, and therefore couldn’t give the order to fire on civilians. They chanted “We are the people, join us, no violence.”

5/31/17

Having now seen three speakers from the GDR, I think it’s almost incredible that the East has come along as far as it has. It seems as if the people of East Germany were on the borderline of being incapable of self-governing, and they wax nostalgic about things being “easier” back then. This is the great allure of socialism. It is secure, it is comfortable, and it feels safe. You don’t have to worry about having a job, because you’re guaranteed – forced – to have one. Sure, you don’t get a car, but at least you have free healthcare. Not that the mediocre jobs they give would let you pay for it yourself.

6/1/17

We went to the Lutherhaus today. It’s incredible to stand in roughly the same space he did. That said, the museum itself surrounding the original house is less than impressive. Large parts of it are just straight-up concrete modernist nonsense. I suppose that’s a very East German style, though. I also went to the Wittenberg 360 picture set in 1517, which was very interesting if not quite worth the price of admission.

Speaker on Wetlands and Waterways, an ornithologist:

  • Wittenberg and much of Saxony, including both Dresden and Leipzig, are greatly affected by the Elbe River (which Germans say as “the river El-buh”). Wittenberg for its part is totally dominated by it. Local geese are intelligent and avoid possible hunters. Both white-fronted and red-breasted geese are common in the area. While these used to only eat the grass, they now eat corn, both the fruit and the plant itself.
  • The Elbe is the border between the glacier in Europe about 20k years ago and the glacial valley opposite it. Wittenberg is on the other side of the valley. During the early 1900s, the fishing industry on the Elbe flagged, and the GDR effectively poisoned every fish in the Elbe by 1960.

6/2/17

We took a charter bus and got to see the local high school, which was designed by an artist and is totally unique. It’s interesting, that’s for sure, but weird.

Bikes and mopeds are everywhere in Berlin. It’s a big city and feels it. The feeling is international, with diverse shops. There were at least a half dozen Thai massage parlors just on the route we took. The West side is definitely nicer than the East, for obvious reasons.

The German history museum has some very interesting things. The Christ Crucified sculpture from the 17th century was a particularly graphic depiction of His sacrifice.

It’s surreal to stand close enough to almost touch both a hat worn by Napoleon and a German translation of the American Declaration of Independence, actually read by German-Americans in Pennsylvania.

6/3/17

Good to have a day to relax and just explore a bit of Wittenberg. Hung out with Logan a bit; that is we ate lunch and dinner together. Kind of an amusing episode when we were eating at Carpe Diem. There’s a waiter there who’s balding, tannish, with black hair. Not really sure his ethnicity but he might be Italian. Well, as with most of the restaurants here, people come and go as they please, and their floor-to-ceiling windows were open; they were on my left. Suddenly I heard a voice say something in German; it sounded like a name. I turned my head to look and a German man, very stereotypical looking with a polo shirt and jeans, was flipping off that waiter through the open window.

“Danke!” The waiter said. They exchanged a few words as if they were old friends, then the other guy left.

I guess male friendships stay pretty consistent from country to country.

6/4/17

Not feeling great, since I’m almost due for an infusion. My jaw hurts. The worst part of getting closer to time is the anxiety. I don’t know exactly what it is – the pain, possibly – but every little thing is suddenly daunting. I need someone else with me when I’m like this and have to do anything. That sort of emotional crutch, being able to say “Someone is here with me, doing these things, I’m not totally by myself here” is all I need to go from anxious to totally chill.

I went to a service at the Castle Church that was luckily partially in English, and they handed out an English translation of the pastor’s sermon. Taking communion with them was fantastic. Dr. Aune, Ramona (his wife), and Logan all went as well; Dr. Aune was actually the one who told me about it.

It’s early afternoon now and the rain has mostly subsided, but the walk to and from the church was quite damp.

I’ve been having some sharp pangs every now and then. I don’t know if it will be wise to go to Berlin tomorrow by myself. Is that just the anxiety? Who knows? Either way, I’m going to let Ellyn, Kelly, and Cameron, who I was going to join there when they got back from London, know if I can’t make it by tonight. It’s endlessly disappointing to miss out on, but it’ll be okay. It’ll be good to have another day to relax and do my final paper. I don’t know – I guess I’ll see.

6/5/17

Good to have a day to relax. I’m tired, for sure, and even though it sucks to miss out on the Berlin art galleries and such, I made the right decision by staying in Wittenberg.

6/6/17

We took a bus to Weimar this morning. It was annoying to have to move our stuff out of the Old Latin school [Alte Latein Schule] where we were staying and into the Colleg. I woke up early and just slept extra on the bus. There are a lot of things in English, and it’s overall a great city. We ate lunch at a restaurant where there was a waitress actually from Alabama. She had a standard American accent until the eight of us started asking her about where she was from. Then, as with most Southerners, she got quite a bit of a Southern accent. It was very interesting to hear about Germany from an American who lives here.

Then we went to Buchenwald. It was surreal. I hadn’t known what to expect, so it was intense and a bit nerve-wracking. In a historical site, I always try to imagine myself as the people who once walked where I do. It was hard enough imagining myself as a victim in Buchenwald, let alone as an SS officer and guard there. When they were in charge of killing eight thousand Soviet soldiers, they put together an elaborate ruse to make the Soviets think they were all getting a doctor’s check-up. Some SS guard, probably not much older than I am if at all, would have sat in a small cramped room and waited until the Soviets walked over to a ruler on the wall, ostensibly to be measured, and then he would have to shoot them in the head through a crack in the wall. Just thinking about that whole scenario made me feel sick. I couldn’t put myself in the place of a prisoner who worked in the crematorium. It just… I couldn’t.

We took a bus to Erfurt, to the Radisson Hotel, and hung out around the town. Erfurt is a pretty nice place. I can’t decide if I like it or Weimar better yet. Our dinner was pretty nice, but the star of that show was the Riesling I ordered. Probably the best wine I’ve ever had.

6/7/17

Good night last night. Slept well. The shower here is weird and finicky. They had a traditional German breakfast, which was nice, but I miss American breakfasts. Not too many good gluten-free options here other than hard-boiled eggs, sausage, and deli meats.

Erfurt Cathedral is gorgeous, as are all of the many churches in the city. A Christian in Erfurt isn’t hurting for options. I think there are more churches here per square mile than anywhere I’ve seen except for one spot in Murfreesboro.

The styles all differ marginally, but they have many similarities. Our guide likes the Preacher’s Church best, and I tend to agree. It’s beautiful, but not excessive like the Cathedral. We got caught in the rain on the way back from our first visit to the Cathedral, but luckily we were fine coming back from the tour. I ate three bratwursts today – one on the way to the Cathedral, which was the best one; one after the tour, which was only 1,50 and you got what you paid for; and one for dinner, which was pretty nice and paired well with their Riesling, though the restaurant Riesling was mediocre by itself.

We got ice cream on the bridge, which was fantastic. The guy there apparently wins awards; I can see why.

After dinner and everything, I wound up hanging out with Cameron and walking around Erfurt a bit. It’s a beautiful city by day, but it gets even better by night.

 

6/8/17

Went to the Bach Haus in Eisenach first today. Bach really was a musical genius. I picked up a little bust of him, only 6 cm, because 1) I thought it looked awesome and 2) I want more busts of famous people.

After the Bach Haus we went to Wartburg Castle, which is magnificent. I don’t know why, but no pictures were allowed inside the castle. I saw some people taking them anyway. It was beautiful. By no means was it as surreal as many of the other experiences I’ve had here in Germany, but it was fantastic. Small, easily defensible from the ground, and it has a great view. I’d love to have a castle much like it, though with a decidedly different interior. Because it was renovated several times by 1800 alone, its interior design is all over the place and poorly laid-out for living. It probably would be easier to defend, however.

I slept most of the way back to Wittenberg, but one of the girls talks loudly and woke me up. Ach. Oh well. Good to be back here.

 

6/9/17

Reflective notes on how this trip has affected me personally:

It would be deceptive to say I don’t identify, at least broadly speaking, with Luther. To some degree I view myself as a middle ground of his combativeness and cutting ideological writings and Melanchthon’s personality in most other matters. When first reading Luther’s “On the Jews and their Lies” the question pressed on my mind: is it inevitable for someone with such a combative mind to fail so blatantly or not? If it is, then I will somehow; if not, then I have a chance. For myself and, apparently, Luther, the default position on those who reject your ideas is to reject them. However, I was lucky that my mother caught this early and reprimanded me with Scripture that I referenced in my workbook for Luther’s “On the Jews and their Lies.” The Germans are constantly reminded of Luther’s mistake. This, I was reminded, is what happens when knowledge and ideology becomes more important than Christian love.

The above might be the most enduring lesson from this trip for me, though it is not the only one. Seeing the historical significance of even the smaller cities here has been mind-boggling. Sitting by the eponymous ford in Erfurt with Cameron Taylor and recognizing the historical significance of what is, in American terms, a tiny ford, was an astounding experience. This is a world created by the bravery – some might say brashness – of one man, supported by countless others. Europe truly is the Old World. Solely on the drive from Erfurt to Eisenach, we passed a half-dozen buildings that would qualify as castles in America. None of them are considered particularly fascinating here. And since Luther’s actions took place in the midst of a half-dozen smaller attempts at reforming both the church specifically and society in general, this countryside was shaped by Luther and people like him. The language the people speak is almost identical to how Luther spoke.

After a little while here it can seem overwhelming. It certainly was to me. Toward the end of the first week, I experienced some travel fatigue. Between allergies and accidentally eating some gluten, Germany seemed like a vaguely unfriendly country. It certainly isn’t. Remembering that I was here to study is what helped to pull me through the most. I said to myself that I am here to learn. Looking at the German society as it stands today as the byproduct of the writings of Luther was the best thing I could have done. Luther’s impact on the modern world cannot be easily measured. In fact, the simple claim that every Christian could interpret the Bible for himself was the most formative act for the modern world. Without that, none of the modern conception of freedom of conscience would likely exist in its current form.

This incredible reminder of the power of words, of conviction, and of true faith will likely follow and shape me for the rest of my life. I have long seen myself as “becoming.” The choices I make in this stage of life do not only affect short-term goals or even long-term career options. Instead, I see my experiences as a series of events which can form and build character.

This trip will certainly accomplish that goal.

Also 6/9/17

Last few days! Today is the first day of the Luther Wedding Celebration. It feels mostly like a Renaissance festival back home, but much more authentic in the Wittenberg city center. There are awesome costumes/swords/etc. There’s also the typical array of vendors with varying levels of relevance to Luther’s Wedding. One guy sells, exclusively, small glass angel figures. Another sells varying kinds of German liquor. I was briefly tempted to see what he had then I saw his price tags. Wow. So far there have almost always been bands, usually with unusual instruments, playing in the central courtyard.

6/10/17

Lazy day. It was Cameron’s birthday yesterday. The Wedding Parade was pretty cool, and a lot longer than I would have expected. Had dinner with several of the others at the Brau Haus. We went to get gelato and then shopped, and I was finally able to find Madeline a necklace I think she’ll like. Gotta get to sleep now since we’re leaving tomorrow. Going to be bittersweet but I’ll be glad to be home.

6/11/17

We took a bus to Berlin and I slept most of the drive. Our flight from Berlin to Frankfurt was fine but I accidentally left my belt with security. Dangit. Didn’t notice till I was already here in Frankfurt. I’m writing this standing in line. Now on the flight from FRA-YYZ Toronto.

I sat next to two Chaldean Christians and we had some good conversation about current issue in the Middle East. It was a mother/daughter pair who had gone to Sweden for a cousins’ wedding. The mother of the pair spoke less English and is actually originally from Iraq, but the daughter (about my age; about to go to med school) was born in Canada. She speaks four languages: English, French, Arabic, and Chaldean. Chaldean, I learned, is one of the closer languages to Aramaic, which Christ actually spoke.

I meant to read on the flight but I never got around to it. I also didn’t sleep. The bus ride was long on the way back, but at least I slept there. Cameron had helped me pay for something when I had left some of my euros behind, earlier in the week, and I forgot to pay him back. Oh well, I’ll see him next semester anyway.

Now back in Ohio. It’s odd to be back and not hear German everywhere.

 

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