From Prague to Berlin via Hamburg is where we traveled this week. We started out our week at the Prague Unitarian Sunday service. While we could not understand their words, we thoroughly enjoyed familiar music from a visiting choir and the melodies of hymns – like Find a Stillness.
We also recognized names attributed to quotes in the Order of Service by, for example, Bertram Russell. Many of the hymns in their songbook were translated from English by the current minister, Rev. Petr, as well as by Norbert Capek – famed historic Czech Unitarian leader. We met two women who also were visiting from a US UU congregation, from Pennsylvania in fact. Loren and I stayed afterwards for a slideshow presentation on “Transylvanska,” sharing about a trip that some members of this congregation took to Transylvania in September. I reminisced along with them by looking at my own similar photos of Transylvania on my cell phone.
That afternoon we went to see the movie, Anthropoid, suggested to us by our European UU friends, at a theater that showed it in English with Czech subtitles. While it was a difficult show to watch, it was well worth it for the history it portrays, that took place right in Prague. On a lighter note, this movie house has some entertaining seat covers, and, the building houses unique art by a current Czech – that hanging statue is of Good King Wenceslas on his horse, hanging upside down. Later we walked around town and saw the “Dancing Building” as well. Fun!
Back on a more somber note, we walked to the Prague church with the Catacombs where much of the events in the Anthropoid movie took place, as suggested by our newest UU friend. The kind attendant made sure that we saw the interior with the actual tombs not just the many exhibition description boards, even though it was nearing closing time.
When we arrived in Prague, we were wearing sweaters, but by the time we left we needed our jackets and wool hats too. We brought our visit to a close in Prague with a memorable Italian dinner. We had an overnight bus ride to Hamburg which entailed 5 hours by bus to Berlin, then 3 more on to Hamburg, partly through some scenic vistas.
We were picked up at the Hamburg station by the grandson of dear UU friends of ours from California. Loren had visited with their daughter, his mom, and her family in Oregon in the fall of 2014 while I was teaching yoga in California, meeting this young man then. When he saw on our blog that we were in Europe he reached out for us to meet up. We three had a fun evening on the Hamburg harbor, including walking the long tunnel below the river for a distant view of the city, before a lovely visit and overnight stay with our friends’ exchange student, her husband and cat. These families are long time friends, and we were happy to visit together with these family members too.
We spent the next morning with our friend for a daytime tour of the city before our bus to Berlin. Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city. We saw the BlumenundPlanten – Flowers and Plants park, the Botanical Garden, and tried traditional foods here, including Apfelschorle – apple juice with sparkling water. It was wonderful to spend this brief but memorable time here with this friend!
We are now in Berlin and have had several days to tour parts of this amazing city, the largest in Germany. We began with the East side Gallery to see the longest piece of the Berlin wall – a mile purposely left standing for historic purposes, and, a memorial museum about life during the Cold War. In all, the original wall was nearly 100 miles long. The rest of it came tumbling down on the night of November 10, 1989, when the citizens of East and West Berlin knew the time was right and began to hack it apart. We also visited an open air museum of the wall with moving accounts of people’s experiences.
We have used the U-Bahn and metro systems in Berlin which has made it convenient to travel around the city. We found a Bikram Yoga studio where Loren and I took a few classes together this week. It has felt so good to be back in the hot room in Prague and now Berlin! We have also seen Berlin’s Brandenburg Tor – Gate, and Oberbaum Bridge of red bricks… both have witnessed so much history.
Then we visited remembrances of the suffering and struggles during the Nazi regime and World War II – specifically, Memorial to the Murdered Jews, Checkpoint Charlie, and The Jewish Museum.
We were told that we would see Stolpersteine – stepping stones, “everywhere” in Berlin as small memorials with some small mention of victims, but I have only seen one here so far, and it is so different from the similar gold bricks we had seen in Freiburg last fall.
At our AirBnB I flipped through the German language version of a book about John Lennon, understanding none of the writing including even the title, but enjoying seeing his drawings in it. Tomorrow, Loren and I are off to Reykjavik, Iceland…
PLEASE NOTE: This week we have access to good internet, but we may not in the next few weeks. Please visit here again to find our next post when we can.