Week 2 in Wittenberg
Trip Start Apr 30, 2007
17Trip End Aug 01, 2007
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Guten tag!! The week of May 7...this is the week we learned about life in Wittenberg in the rain when you have no car. People walk to work, ride their bikes to the store with no complaint or whining. The day we rode our bikes to the grocery store in a rain shower, we knew we had assimilated a bit. Walking the aisles of the store was an experience in itself. Milk is double-pasteurized so it does not have to be refrigerated. Buying milk off the shelf next to the juice bottles was a first for us.
Renate, a long-time employee of the ELCA center where we work, and native Wittenberger, spends time sharing with us about life before the wall and after the wall. The period when the wall came down is referred to as the "Wende", or "the change". The sudden freedom of travel was overwhelming for many. Some went across to the west and did not want to return, fearing that the wall would re-appear. The stories of the peaceful protests leading up to the wall coming down are powerful as well.
Some of the special treats of living in Wittenberg: weekly concerts in the Castle Church; spontaneous concerts on the streets by local musicians; "Music Night" when many of the beer stubes have live music until the wee hours of morning; and people who are 80 years plus who can ride circles around us on their bicycles. One 80 year old friend, Maria, was in church on Saturday evening, and when I asked her if she had ridden her bike, her response was, "Of course!"
Barb attended choir rehearsal this week and managed to sing the notes, but failed to understand many of the directions. The words are, of course, in German. The choirmaster was very understanding and the soprano section was very supportive. We practice in Lutherīs former house. How cool is that!!?? The acoustics in the buildings are amazing and the sound brings chills (actually, the churches do as well as they are very cold places!) No need for A/C here!
Informal ESL (English-as-a-Second Language) classes started this week with Barb as teacher. Conversation was delightful and we all learned together. The new word "spouse" was of great interest to the students as we talked about family. Bob found a stamp club and is very happy about that!
We visited Bad Schmiedelberg this week to see an exhibit tracing the life of St. Elizabeth, who married at 14, died at age 24, and spent most of her life in healing ministry for the poor. Thus, there are many hospitals named for her both here and in the U.S. She lived in the 13th century.
May 13-Sunday. Mother's day in the States. Here it is the Festival of Pentecost. That means it was a day of Confirmation for five young people in the City Church, the Stadt Kirche. There, standing before an altar that was crafted by a friend of Martin Luther, the children took their Confirmation vows. Significant, this event, since here in the former East Germany the former Socialist government tried to supplant the Confirmation event in young people's lives with a similar event symbolizing the taking on of adult responsibilities on behalf of the state. Swimming against the tide of their peers, these young people stood in the Church of Martin Luther and made their confession, in the very church where for the first time Luther swam against the tide of his time and celebrated Holy Communion in German so that the people could understand. Here, for the first time in many centuries, both wine and bread were given to the people. Today's young people stood with Luther, in the very same place, and boldly promised to follow the road less traveled. When the vows were made and the Eucharist celebrated, the congregation sang Vertraut den neuen Wegen (Trust the New Path), a hymn produced right after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was a moving experience.