Guest Column: Tales from adventures around Germany

Published 9:58 pm Friday, August 18, 2017

Creative Connections by Sara Aeikens

Seven time changes across two continents creates a bit of dissonance in my aging body. My husband and I have visited Germany before. This time coming home during the early afternoon seemed somewhat easier than missing most of our sleeping hours on our way over the Atlantic Ocean.

At my age of three-quarters of a century, my biggest concern centered around having a nook available to perch myself on each time the walking tour guide stopped to tell us a pertinent historical fact about a point of interest. Fortunately, I spotted makeshift resting spots, such as the right-height stone wall corners, wooden benches, large granite blocks or even a modern sculpture with a tilted edge to lean against. Sometimes we’d stop near an old city church entryway with dozens of steps leading to a front door that had concrete borders on either side, where we’d sit and look up in awe at the steeples and fascinating structures.

Sara Aeikens

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Gathered together by the local First Lutheran head minister Pastor John and his wife, Joan, our 15 fellow Minnesota travelers met the other two Lutheran groups heralding from Texas en route, so we totaled just over 50 participants. Our large group of mostly retired men and women, included a few relatives and three ministers. We completely filled our 14-meter long bus. We heard it’s the largest tour bus available in Europe.

Because my husband is fluent in German and he communicated well with the local citizens on our adventure, he did the majority of explaining while I enjoyed hearing his more detailed versions and viewpoints of his experiences — especially since we visited some of the places on our honeymoon 50 plus years ago.

The Martin Luther 500th anniversary tour of 10 days in Germany began near the city of Frankfort with the experienced bus tour guide’s excellent English explanations. We viewed the scenic Rhine River on our way to Mainz to see the Gutenberg printing press. The first book ever printed, the Bible in Latin, is said to have been produced on it. For me, the timing of this invention amazingly coincided with Luther’s translation of the Bible into German, the language of his country and people. Thus they could understand his proclamations and interpretations that differed from the ruling Catholic Church. His message was key in the spread of the Protestant movement across Europe.

Another highlight in following Luther’s footsteps took us to eastern Germany and included climbing to the Wartburg Castle mountaintop overlooking the city of Eisenoch, for an extensive tour of the well-preserved medieval fortress. Through the maze of museum artifacts and murals, I became enchanted by the walls and ceiling of the Great Room, full of mosaics covering those spaces with tiny fragments of colored glass to tell the many stories of historical rulers of the Middle Ages.

A mural depicted a princess meeting her prince on his white horse while she reveals under her cloak loaves of bread for poor peasants. The bread transforms into a bouquet of light-colored roses. This scene impressed me through the symbolism that this woman who died fairly young represented the essence of community service during this time period.

The other clear memory I carry from this same castle happened because the Albert Lea minister’s wife nonverbally encouraged me to go back and have a second look at Luther’s writing room. This time I noticed an item I’d missed before. The tiny study held a large and prominent off-white footstool that turned out to be a vertebra, possibly from a whale. For me it symbolized how commonplace things can represent unique ideas that are important in changing lives, even at the spiritual level.

To be continued…

Sara Aeikens is an Albert Lea resident.