Guest Column: Martin Luther 500th anniversary trip and more

Published 12:13 am Saturday, August 26, 2017

Creative Connections by Sara Aeikens

Editor’s note: This is a continuation of a column printed Aug. 19.

We saw many museums and churches, both Protestant and Catholic, both from the outside and the inside. Our weaving through numerous rooms and pausing only to absorb the most interesting items, created a desire in me to read more than the three books from our local library I had pursued and perused before our trip. I found the history of Luther and his wife the ex-nun Katrina the most compelling.

Sara Aeikens

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I made more connections at the Augustinian Monastery where Luther became a monk and appreciated seeing St. Mary’s Cathedral, where he was ordained, and St. George’s Cathedral, where he preached. We also saw his birthplace house, where he was baptized and the place of his life-journey’s end, where he died. Our Wittenberg visit,where Luther served as a professor of philosophy and theology at the university, highlighted the spot on the Castle Church door, where he nailed his 95 Theses, sparking the Reformation movement.

The bus trip to Berlin updated us on relevant World War II history and the split between East and West Germany and East and West Berlin. My husband remarked how much the current visual picture has changed the eastern part since he’d last been there in the late 1970’s, including continuous building projects, an increase in businesses and a new U.S. Embassy. We’d been to East Berlin together then and gone through Checkpoint Charlie. What I recall most was in a large restaurant there, several youth at our very long table asked us if we had any Levi jeans we wanted to give or sell them.

On this trip, the absolute highlight occurred in West Berlin. Through e-mail we connected with a friend of over 40 years from Hamberg in northern Germany. He and his wife took a train to meet us and their two sons in Berlin at his very modern condo, unbelievably only about a mile from our West Berlin hotel. This he undertook, even with a serious health issue, so he is now on our daily prayer list.

Looking up at the Glockenspiel Tower in the main square and watching the various figurines dance in a circle under the clock stands out foremost from our two-day Munich visit in Bavaria of southern Germany. They appear much larger than the ones we’ve visited at the New Ulm German festivals in Minnesota. For the afternoon of our last day we chose to visit the nearby concentration camp of Dachau, which gave us a significant amount to ponder about how we treat other human beings.

The next morning we flew from Munich to Amsterdam. While waiting in the airport, I heard several of our group discuss their destination to Albert Lea, with an English-speaking man from Denmark who, by coincidence, was also traveling to Albert Lea for a week’s stay to work on updating wind turbines in northern Iowa. As I passed the windmill man in the aisle seat in the middle of the plane on my way to seat number 37 with Leo, I paused to invite him to visit me at my job at the local Pizza Ranch, and I would give him a free balloon.

To my surprise, Jan from Denmark showed up the next day and bought a buffet dinner. I gave him a balloon and directions to get to our home. He followed me in his rental car as we went by our Freeborn County Fairgrounds, pausing at the posted signs that say “No Windmills.” At our home, the three of us enjoyed learning about each other’s country and discussing global issues.

Since returning home, we’ve had the opportunity to share our journey with enthusiastic friends who stopped by our home in Albert Lea to hear our tales. When we staffed an Audubon booth at the recent county fair, a number of people inquired about the Germany trip and some even asked about the trip as we sat next to them at a funeral luncheon later.

Our trip to celebrate Martin Luther’s 500th anniversary informed us many times over with some of what we knew before, and we savored a few added benefits we had no idea with which we’d be gifted. Pastor John, in a letter of thanks told us,  “We all have precious shared memories of our time and experiences together.” Amen!

Sara Aeikens is an Albert Lea resident.