Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven. By John Eliot Gardiner (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. XXXIV + 629 pp. Illustrations, chronology, glossary, notes, and index.)
The sacred vocal music of Johann Sebastian Bach is considered to be some of the greatest ever written; however, many feel that these great works are relics of a bygone era instead of pieces that are relevant to modern people, whether professing Christians or not. In his book Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven, John Eliot Gardiner puts this music of Bach into its proper social, religious, and historical contexts to show its relevance today.
Gardiner was raised in a “family where it was considered perfectly normal to sing...” (Gardiner 2) and, almost from the womb, was exposed to the unaccompanied choral music of the greatest composers of the Renaissance and Baroque eras. In addition to being exposed at an early age to vocal music, he was raised under the gaze of Johann Sebastian Bach. His parents had been entrusted with one of only two surviving paintings of Bach. From an early age it seemed as if the lives of these two musicians were to be intertwined.
Gardiner was taught and nurtured by some of the most important music teachers in the world, including Imogen Holst (the wife of composer Gustav Holst), Wilfred Brown, and Nadia Boulanger (who taught a who’s who list of composers and musicians), all of whom encouraged his love for Early music. He has conducted since the mid-1960s, focusing his attention on authentic Early music performance practice. His ensembles were some of the first to attempt to play Baroque music on historically informed instruments. His decades of scholarship and study have made him a widely trusted source in his field.
In the year 2000, John Eliot Gardiner and his ensembles set out on the “Bach Cantata Pilgrimage,” an amazing undertaking which resulted in recordings of the almost two hundred sacred cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach. They performed the cantatas appropriate for the week’s lectionary readings in venues all around the world.
In his book, Gardiner puts the music of Bach into many different contexts. He puts it in the historical context of Germany in the years before the Enlightenment and he also shows Sebastian Bach as the greatest composer in his family (who had all been professional musicians for generations). After developing these ideas, he compares Bach to other influential composers of his time—people like Domenico Scarlatti, George Frederic Handel, and Georg Philipp Telemann.
It is only after Gardiner firmly places these ideas into context, allowing the audience to see through his eyes, that he beings to talk about the music of Sebastian Bach. Then slowly, little by little, Gardiner unmasks Bach. He shows the composer not as some sort of demigod, but as a human. The audience can see the struggles he had submitting to authority, but can also see how desperately he wanted to use his work and talents to glorify God.
Johann Sebastian Bach was not just a composer. He was a theologian, at least to some degree. He studied his Bible and knew it well. He was familiar with the various commentaries available during his lifetime, and used all the information he gleaned from them in his music. He took his job, as described by Martin Luther, seriously. Luther said that music “is to give expression and added eloquence to biblical texts: the notes make the words live” (Gardiner 129), which is exactly what Bach’s music did wonderfully.
I have been in awe of the music of Bach for about three-and-a-half years, during which time I have studied and learned a lot. Until reading Gardiner’s book, however, I have not seen Bach so much as a person, but as some sort of superhuman, super-Christian composer who understood all things theological and musical. As I read his book, though, I was encouraged to find that Bach is a lot like me: stubborn to the point of stupidity, but always striving.
John Eliot Gardiner did an excellent job of staying fairly neutral in this book. His passion is obvious, but he seemed to be fair in his statements of opinion, citing many reputable sources, including primary source documents. His assumptions seem reasonable, and his knowledge of the subject is obvious. His sources come from a wide pool, including hundreds of years of scholarship in many different fields. He cites a wide range of musicians (including Michael Praetorius and Richard Wagner), authors (John Milton, John Butt, and Montaigne), at least one pastor (Martin Luther), and a professed atheist (György Kurgág) who finds it hard to keep his belief when listening to the music of Bach.
This is a very thorough book, though I would like to see how someone from a different background would handle the information. I would have also liked to have seen more time spent on the instrumental music by Bach, which was not really discussed (though it is understandable since Gardiner is more familiar with the vocal repertoire). There was, also, no examination of Bach’s organ music (for which he was famous, even in his own life).
This book is intended for musicians. A non-musician would be lost very quickly when Gardiner begins to describe and discuss various pieces of music. He assumes his audiences has at least a basic knowledge of music theory, formal analysis, and is at least somewhat familiar with Bach’s biography. A basic knowledge of Latin and German would also come in handy, though is not necessary. Knowledge of, or at least a familiarity with, the Early music repertoire is useful.
Overall this is a very well-written book. As a musician I was on the edge of my seat several times as his descriptions of the music were getting exciting. His facts and observations were very interesting, and he has a very clean style of writing. His use of musical descriptions were necessary, but they were also a downside since they made the chapters quite lengthy and thick. This is not a book for someone looking for light reading, but for someone interested in the topic, it is an invaluable text.
Gardiner, John Eliot. Bach: music in the castle of heaven. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. Print.
"John Eliot Gardiner." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 July 2014. Web. 29 July 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Eliot_Gardiner>.
Date: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 (for Tuesday, July 15, 2014)
Time: 7:12 pm local, EST
There really are very few words more beautiful in the English language than home--unless one includes such words as Big Franks and drinking fountains.
My alarm was set to ring at 4:45 am Tuesday morning, but I had already woken up by the time it rang. It wasn't because I was excited, but because it was so hot. I finally just gave up. I took a shower, got dressed, and finished my packing. Then, with much delight, I threw the remainder of my loaf of bread out the window and into the lake (I think it was a lake). One duck ate quite consitently and a swarm of seagulls divebombed the rest of the bread.
We left the hotel by 5:55, I carried my overstuffed backpack and pulled my small, light suitcase behind me. In front of me I pushed Kaiti's very large, heavy suitcase which I had volunteered to bring home so that they didn't need to lug it around Spain for the next week. It was about a ten minute walk from our hotel to the train station. We got on the train and had a (basically) private car for the hour-and-a-half ride to the airport. During that time Joel and I (but mostly Joel) wrote the Twelve Days of Christmas, a la Wholer's Europe Tour:
On the twelfth day of Europe, Wholers gave to me:
Twelve art museums
Eleven pricey meals
Ten small hotel rooms
Time in nine countries
Eight hours of train rides
Seven lectures, too
Five chocolate treats!
Four times getting lost
Three loud Argentines
Two hot night on a train
And a Eurorail pass that Chris lost.
Please note that none of these numbers are accurate (except the last three).
We got off the train which stopped in the airport. We went up a couple of excalators and made it to the Delta check-in window. I was very nervous that they would ask questions about Kaiti's suitcase--or even worse charge me for its weight. But they didn't. It was ever so slightly overweight, but they were nice and didn't charge.
I easily made it through security, and was the first one to our gate. I found a small waiting area and got comfortable so that I could read for the hour before the plane started loading. After I had been reading for half-an-hour an announcement came over the loudspeaker asking for volunteers to sit in the emergency exit row. When I had originally checked in I had asked for an aisle seat, but they said the only one was in the emergency exit row, which would cost an additional E80. But I got to the counter fast enough to get the same seat for free!
I got to sit next to Allison Brown, who became a pretty good friend of mine, but it didn't help the trip! It was so incredibly long! It lasted about 9 hours, but it felt like twice that. I watched a lot of movies, but got horribly sick of it!
We were scheduled to land in Atlanta at 2:51, but we managed to get there at 2:37 instead, which was nice. I was the first of our group to get off the plane, followed quickly by Allison. We were also the first through customs and to the baggage check area. I was waylayed slightly because I had brought back bulbs and chocolate, but I had no real problems. I truthfully answered the questions they asked me, but I didn't volunteer any information (unlike Chris who volunteered way too much information). After collecting Kaiti's bag, I left the baggage claim area and found Dad who was waiting in the long receiving line.
We left the airport, and began driving home, missing bad traffic. We stopped at the Taco Bell about an hour out of Atlanta, then sped home so that I could eat Big Franks. Then it was time for Doc with the family, then bed: blessed bed.
This afternoon (Wednesday) I had some free time, so I decided to attempt some math. My (very broad) estimate for mileage, from my door and back, including airfare, was 12,862 miles, approximately 140 of which were on foot. I visited 9 countries (10 if you count Vatican City as its own country) and spent 28 days with 25 new friends. I completely ignored the world cup, but felt like part of it anyway, since all the Europeans were watching their teams win or lose. I studied thousands of years worth of history, culture, art, and rulers. I now know a little bit more about politics, and feel a little less like I know it all. That's the beauty of international travel.
This is the last blog installment for my Europe 2014 study tour. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your prayers and support. It has been greatly appreciated. I would also like to publically thank Bill Wohlers, though he will probably never read it. In my opinion, Dr. Wohlers, you went above and beyond what was expected of you. I enjoyed most of the tour, and I learned so much. You showed a compassion for and interest in all your students, and I appreciate all the hard work you put in to making this trip amazing.
Love to all!
Date: Tuesday, July 14, 2014 (for Monday, July 15, 2014)
Time: 5:22 pm European Time/11:22 am EST
Place: Over Newfoundland, heading toward Boston. 2960 miles from Brussels, 1468 miles from home. Longitude 60 degrees 59' 17" West. Latitude 44 degrees 48' 36" North. Remaining time in flight, 3 hours 13 minutes.
We ate breakfast at 8 o'clock on Monday morning, which was the latest we've gotten to eat. We left the hotel a few minutes before 9 o'clock so that we could meet up with our walking tour guide, Ann.
Ann is a very happy woman, about 5' tall, and not quite as wide, but fairly close. Her personality and style of dress reminded me of Becky, which gave us a very fun and lively tour.
Ann led us through the same part of town we had explored the day before, but we got to hear all of the stories this time (there was no motor getting in our way.
We crossed a bridge and walked into a gated community from the 13th or 14th century. This is where the original Women's Lib ladies lived. They didn't want to have to be married. They wanted their independence, so they basically lived like nuns and dressed like nuns. Instead of praying like nuns, however, they went out and worked. The gate to their community was locked from 6:30 in the evening until 6:30 in the morning. I think I could handle living there, at least for the most part.
The next highlight we got to see was the Wall of Beer. In the country of Belgium there are 1,132 locally produced beers, and there is one bottle of each on this wall. There are fewer lectures I've been given that were more awkward than having someone lecture a group of 26 Adventists (most of whom have never drunk a drop in their lives) about beer.
Our next stop was the town square, but to get there we walked through several of the shopping streets. I saw several lace shops, and even saw a lace loom (I'm not quite sure that's the right word, but I don't have a better one at this point). I would have liked to see it done, but we do what we can...
We were released by about noon, after giving a special book to Dr. Wohlers and Rita that we had all signed. At this point we also bid a fond farewell to the Laughlins (who left at noon to fly to Spain for the rest of this week).
By noon we were on our own, though I stayed with Kathy. We went into a couple of shops, including a shop where they make and sell chocolate. I didn't see how they made it, but I got to buy some for the family.
Kathy, Chris, Anastasia, and I all decided that we wanted to go to Gent in the afternoon. Gent is a city about an hour away by train. In it is a beautiful Cathedral (with a an absolutely gorgeous altarpiece) and a 12th century castle. It was a lot of fun.
We got to Gent by about 2 or 2:30 and took a short bus ride over to St. Nicholas' Church. Unfortunately the altarpiece isn't in St. Nicholas, but is instead in (another) St. Baavo's church.
As we walked in we were greeted with choral music performed by a middle school choir from somewhere in the United Kingdom. Their music added a wonderful effect to the church--these old churches were made for music--but it was very hard not to analyze them to death. I thought that they were a very poor choir, but it was wonderful to have them there.
After we had enjoyed their music we each paid our E4 for a ticket into the museum to see the altarpiece that had been painted by the van Eyck brothers around 1425. Even though this was so early in art history, this shows some of the very first attempts at realism. The altarpiece is in 12 different panels, all showing various aspects of worshiping the Lamb (as described in Revelation).
On the right side on the top of the altarpiece is Adam, and on the left top is Eve, showing the importance of Original Sin. I had never realized, but Catholics believe (at least they did at the time of van Eyck) that before the Fall we were in need of Salvation, but we weren't eligible for it until Adam and Eve sinned. It was very complicated, and I don't want to try too hard to explain it, because I probably would mess it up. Suffice it to say, it was full of hooey.
After viewing the Altarpiece and enjoying the audio guide that went with it, the four of us left the church and headed to the 12th century castle which was only a few blocks away. It was built around 1180, but wasn't intended for a king and queen, but (I believe) a count and countess.
Included in our ticket was a movie guide (not an audio guide), but I kind of wish that I hadn't gotten it. The movie really wan't especially factual, or well done. I could have gone through the castle in 20 minutes, but we spent over an hour because we were trying to watch the movie as we went.
Highlights from the castle included a sword that was over 6 feet tall (I took a selfie and it's just as tall as I am), a chapel, a tower where we got to take pictures of the scenery, and a surviving two-seater outhouse which was open at the bottom over the lawn below. I also saw remnants of several other outhouses, too.
We got home from Gent after trying about four train platforms, and I went to the grocery one more time (I was sick of peanut butter sandwiches, so I wanted some cold fettucine alfredo). Then it was back to the room to eat, watch Hogan's Heroes, and go to bed. We had to be up and out by 5:55, so I set my alarm for 4:45 am.
Love to all!
Date: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 (for Sunday, July 13, 2014)
Time: 4:42 pm European time/10:42 am EST
Place: 35,988 feet above the Atlantic ocean, at the very beginning of being over North America. 2,661 miles from Brussels, 1,775 miles from home. Longitude: 54 degrees 48' 11" W. Latitude 45 degrees 56' 17" north.
We left Leiden by about 9 in the morning, walking down to the train station from our hotel. The weather was iffy at best. We were forced to take a total of three trains, finally arriving in Brugge by about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I spent most of the day dozing, so nothing particularly wonderful happened.
When we arrived in town we were given a few minutes to check into our hotel which was a boat called "De Barge." Joel and I shared a double room. There wasn't a lot of space, but there was plenty to be comfortable. We were told to be back downstairs in about 10 minutes so that we could continue our adventures.
The whole group assembled, and then we walked about 15 minutes to the church of Our Lady (it had a really long Flemish name that I couldn't even hope to pronounce, so I don't remember it). In it is Michelangelo's statue of the Virgin and Child (or some very similar name). It was the only one of Michelangelo's statues to leave Italy during his lifetime.
It was confiscated by Hitler's men during World War II (along with the Gent Altarpiece, which we'll talk about in tomorrow's post) and plays an important role in Monument Men which is a fairly recent movie I haven't been able to finish yet. Suffice it to say, it's beautiful and the church got it back when the war was over.
We really didn't spend that much time in the church since there was really only that one piece of art to see. There were others, but we were very quickly able to see them on the way to the statue.
We left the church and walked across the street to St. John's Hospital which dates from the High Middle Ages. For centuries it was an actual hospital, but in the last hundred years (or maybe even less) it has been turned into a very nice museum.
It contains an altarpiece, dedicated to various St. Johns. I don't remember who is in the middle panel, but St. John the Baptist was shown (decapitated) in the left panel, and St. John the Revelator was shown (in vision) on the right panel. It was really quite remarkable.
Also in the church was a reliquary that (at least at one point) was supposed to hold the relics of St. Ursula. I don't think anyone told me the actual story of St. Ursula, but I like my story better anyway. I think she was a Christian octopus that was killed for her beliefs. But probably not...
Museums close about 5 o'clock in Europe, and the gift shops close even earlier, so I didn't get a postcard of the altarpiece. Too bad.
After finishing up at the hospital we headed over to a place where you get on a tourist boat. As we were trying to all get on the boat we came very close to capsizing, but luckily we managed to not do that. The man driving the boat gave us all sorts of factoids, but I was sitting in the back (as some sort of a ballast, I suppose) so I couldn't hear anything.
After the boat ride (which was quite a lot of fun) we were given free time. It was around 7 by this point, so I went to the grocery story to get some more bread, then went back to the hotel and ate. Over this trip I've managed to introduce Joel to Hogan's Heroes, so we watched four or five episodes. It was a fun way to kill some time before we were ready for bed.
Love to all!
Date: Sabbath, July 12, 2014
Time: 8:35 pm local time (2:35 pm EST)
Place: Leiden, the Netherlands
I’m very overjoyed to let you know that I’m caught up with my blogging. I’m writing today’s post today. How cool is that?!
We started our day quite late today—it was almost 10 o’clock by the time we left our hotel this morning. We walked for about 20 minutes until we got to a place called De Brucht, which was an old fortress. It was fairly private and had steps to sit on, so it was a great place for us to have church, which was put on by Sharon, both Laughlins, and Kathy. I was pulled in to help teach/line out a song. They wanted to sing “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks” but no one knew it. We did managed to get a good chunk to sing it though, and I was very glad of that.
Kathy talked for a while, asking us to look at the characteristics and ideas that we’ve been learning about this month. Specifically the idea of all the enemies. Religious enemies, political enemies—no one was free of enemies it seemed. One innocent Hungarian after World War II was called in for questioning. “Who are your enemies?” he was asked. “I don’t have any enemies,” he replied. “No enemies?” demanded the incredulous guard, “How can you have no enemies?” Then she compared it to what Jesus tells us to do to and for our enemies. We are instructed to pray for them and love them.
Dr. Wohlers walked us into the oldest parts of Leiden after church, where we got to see a church where John Robinson, one of the Puritans, was buried at 49 years. He also showed us the alms house where they lived. Then we took the train a few stops (about 30 minutes or so) to Haarlem.
We got off the train and walked for 15 minutes or so until we found the blue awning with Ten Boom Juweliers written on it. We were finally on Barteljorisstraat! I’ve wanted to come here for most of my life! It was still too early go get into the museum, so we walked through the market square and entered St. Baavo’s church where we got to see the King of all Organs (which is already the king of the instruments). It’s a beautiful, extremely tall and ornate structure, with red wood and gold leaf. Simply gorgeous.
We were given some time to find food and were told to get back to the Beje (ten Boom house) by quarter of one. I managed to get myself separated from everyone else in the group, so I walked around, thinking I knew how to get back (it was only a couple of blocks), but about 12 minutes later I had to go into a shop and ask for directions. It turns out I went the wrong direction out of the market square. But I made it in time.
We entered the Beje and were ushered up to the second floor (Tante Jans’ rooms) and told to sit in her sitting room. There our guide told us their story and showed us pictures of the family. At one point she gave us a chance to stretch our legs, and Dr. Laughlin spied a copy of the words to “You are my hiding place.” I played their piano, and our group sang it. What a perfect song to sing in that place.
We were able to go up to Corrie’s room and see the hidden room. The opening is in the closet, behind the bottom shelf. There is enough standing room behind the wall for eight people, but it would be very tight. There is exactly enough room for them to stand in a line, no movement, no sitting, and no bathroom facilities.
They have removed part of the wall to the hidden room, so I climbed in that way and have my picture taken in the room. I didn’t want to smile, since it’s not a happy room, but it was a place of safety.
Our tour ended in the dining room where every morning and evening Father ten Boom read from the Bible to his family. The family motto, Jesus is Overwinnaar (Jesus is Victorious) is embroidered on a sampler and hanging on the wall. Corrie made another piece of embroidery, which is displayed backward at the beginning of the tour. You see a mess of tangled threads. Then this poem is read:
My life is but a weaving
At this point the sampler is turned over, showing a brilliant crown, revealing God’s ultimate plan for His children.
After the ten Boom house we were released and allowed to go back to the hotel if we wished. Dr. Wohlers had found us an organ concert, though, and both Laughlins, Kathy, Chris Dant, and I went to it. It was all late Romantic/early 20th century French organ works, so not exactly my favorite repertoire, but such a blessing on this Sabbath. The music was simply beautiful and it allowed me to retreat into my thoughts and experience a blessing.
After the concert I got permission to go up into the organ loft to look at the console. When I got up there, there were two organists up there (neither one had played in the concert), and they seemed slightly annoyed that I was there. I was polite and friendly, and they let me look (not play) at the console for a few minutes. Then the male organist walked me down. As we walked down the stairs I dropped the name John Brombaugh (who built the organ) and described the five organs on campus. He was thrilled and said he would look them up. He also said (I think) that he is the organist at the Adventist church in town, which is really quite amazing! It’s a small, small world!
I’m back at the hotel right now, and am trying to stay awake long enough so I can sleep tonight.
Love to all, and I miss you! I’ll be home Tuesday evening!
Date: Sabbath, July 12, 2014 (for Thursday, July 10, 2014)
Time: 7:43 pm local time (1:43 pm EST)
Place: Leiden, the Netherlands
We left Paris by about 8:30 on Thursday morning, heading for our hotel in Leiden. It was about a 3 hour train ride, going through many recognizable cities in both Belgium and the Netherlands. I spent most of the time on the train writing the blogs that you’ve been enjoying over the past few days.
We arrived a little before noon and were able to check into our rooms at the Hotel Mayflower. We were given time to go get food, and so I went down to the McDonalds which is about two doors down from the hotel.
Later in the afternoon we walked a little ways and arrived at the Windmill Museum. I was kind of dreading that it would be a big museum all about the history of windmills but it wasn’t. They showed us a video that was a few minutes long, then we were free to explore the building. I even climbed most of the way to the top. I knew that the building was secure and strong, but I got nervous because it looked and felt a lot like our Campmeeting cabin. But I survived.
Dr. Wohlers then took us to a stairway by a museum, where we sat down for a while and heard a lecture about the Netherlands, which was quite well done and I enjoyed it a lot.
For a long time the Netherlands really just weren’t important, though they fell under the rule of one of the most powerful people in Europe: the Duke of Burgundy, who, at one point, was more powerful than the king of France. The Hapsburg family arranged to have their son Maximillian marry in to that part of European royalty.
Maximillian and his wife Mary had a son named Philip the Handsome, and then his son, Charles V got to rule all the Hapsburg lands and became the Holy Roman Emperor. He later retired and split the kingdoms: his son got Spain and her colonies, with his nephew getting the title of Holy Roman Emperor.
The Netherlands were content under the Hapsburgs until about the 17th century, when they decided that they wanted to have their own rights. The Thirty Years’ War ended in 1648 with the treaty of Westphalia, which made the Netherlands its own, independent country.
It is ruled by the House of Orange, which, at one point, was run by William and Mary, who were also asked to come and be the king and queen of England, though when this happened the two countries did not merge.
The Netherlands is connected to the Ocean, and so they made a lot of their fortune as seafarers and traders. They colonized and ruled in South Africa (Dutch and the native language of South Africa, Afrikaans, are closely related), and in Indonesia, forming the East India Company.
They became very good bankers and were involved in finance all around the world, and still are. They are not very industrial, but are quite agricultural, growing many of the world’s flowers.
They were neutral during the First World War, but they were invaded during the Second. Queen Wilhelmina got on the radio one night and said that the pact with German would keep them from being invaded, but the next day it was invaded. She took her government in exile to England where she continued to help her people.
Leiden was the home of the Puritans (Pilgrims) between the time they were kicked out of England and when they decided to go to the New World. The Netherlands has a reputation of being very accepting, so they fit in very nicely. They also had Anabaptist roots, which say that the church shouldn’t be based on a creed, but on the belief and understanding of its members, and that only adults should be members of the church. There should be a conscious decision to be a Christian, not just being baptized into the Church.
Dr. Wohlers released those of us who didn’t want to go with him to our next destination, and most of the group stayed home. Those of us who went with him, however, got to go see a very nice art museum called Mauritshuis (Maurit’s House) in The Hague (Den Haag). It is a 17th or 18th century house which was donated to the country and turned into a nice art museum. Featured in the museum are works by artists from the Low Countries (Belgium, Flanders, the Netherlands, etc.). I got to see wonderful paintings by Rubens, van Dyck, van Goyen, Rembrandt, and Vermeer (along with many, many others). It was not very crowded, so it was a nice place to go for an afternoon.
On the way back to the hotel Kathy and I stopped and ordered a pizza from Dominos. It was quite yummy!
Love to all!
Date: Friday, July 11, 2014 (for Wednesday, July 9, 2014)
Time: 10:23 pm local time (4:23 pm EST)
Place: Hotel Mayflower, Leiden, the Netherlands
I actually started this blog yesterday evening, but I didn’t get beyond “Hello folks!” before I decided to go to bed. So I’ll try again now.
Wednesday morning dawned chilly and overcast. We left the hotel early again, heading to Notre Dame, the Cathedral of Our Lady in Paris. A Cathedral is where the Bishop has his seat, and in Paris it is at Notre Dame. My closest guess is that our equivalent is the conference office, or the church most closely associated with it.
Dr. Wohlers lectured for a few minutes before letting us go into the museum. He started to outline for us the six periods he sees in French history. In very short detail here they are:
We got to go into Notre Dame by this point, and it’s very beautiful inside, though darker than you would expect for a Gothic church (which was built specifically to let light in). The rose window was simply gorgeous, and there was an air of ancient, sacred goings on—though it could have just been incense.
As I was walking around I heard the organ being played, which was very exciting. As I continued to walk, though, I realized that he wasn’t actually playing anything. I got my hopes up that they let Joe Schmo go up into the organ loft and fiddle around, but alas and alak, it was only being tuned.
Notre Dame was built in 1163, though it wasn’t completed until the 19th century. That’s close to 800 years! The original builder, Maurice de Sully, didn’t even expect to see his building finished. He did it out of a desire and a willingness to serve God (actually, technically, to serve Mary, but we’ll take what we can get).
We walked around the outside of the Cathedral to see the flying buttresses and gargoyles. I can finally say that after studying and learning for almost 20 years, I finally understand the point of a flying buttress, and how they work. Special thanks goes to Kathy for taking the time to explain it.
We walked around Paris for a while, stopping by the opera house where The Phantom of the Opera is set. After that we were freed, and I went with Joel and the Laughlins. Little did I know that we would end up at an expensive Chinese restaurant, but I made the best out of it and it was decent.
The afternoon was spent at the Louvre, which was very exciting. I paid the extra E5 to get the audio guide, which was able to take me on a guided tour. We were given two hours, and that was the perfect amount of time. The tour I chose was the “Three Highlights” tour, though I’m not quite sure what the three were, since they also showed me several others.
The first thing that I saw was the Winged Victory, which had just recently been put back out on display, after having restoration work done on it. It is a statue that looks like an angel (without a head or arms) landing on a boat (or part of a boat). It’s famous and kind of pretty.
Then I got to see the Venus di Milo, another statue of a lady without arms, though this one does have a head (but no shirt). She is really quite breathtaking and looks very real, though she is larger than life size. She has a calm serenity about her that is very enjoyable.
The next place I was taken was to see La Giaconda, who(m) we know as the Mona Lisa. I had been told that the guards didn’t take kindly to pictures being taken, but they weren’t stopping us, and so I got a nice picture of her, and then a selfie with her. What a memory!
In the same room as Mona, though on the opposite wall, is Véronèse’s painting of the Wedding at Cana, which is really quite nice. I discovered, however, that the old masters had no clue what it actually looked like in the Holy Lands, how they dressed, or what musical instruments were available. The painting looks like it could have come out of Rome, and there is a cellist and a violinist providing the music. Whoops!
I also got to see the very famous painting of the coronation of Napoleon, which is a misnomer. It depicts Napoleon after he has been crowned Emperor. It depicts Napoleon crowing Josephine as the Empress.
In the gift shop I saw a 3D puzzle I want to get of the Eiffel Tower, though I will look for it when I get home so that I don’t have to pay E45 for it. It’s really nice (and I believe numbered), so I think it would be fun to do.
It was raining as we left the Louvre and started to head back to the hotel. Dr. Wohlers wanted to take us to l’Arc du Triomphe, so we stopped there briefly. It’s quite impressive, and is actually a war memorial. Carved onto the inside of the arch are name after name after name, but as far as I can tell they aren’t names of people, but of places. I will have to investigate more at a later date. Also under the arch is the French answer to the Tomb of the Unknowns. This is specifically an unknown soldier from World War I, so my bet is Ben Walton (the brother of John, not the son). Carved onto the memorial are these words: “Ici repose un soldat francaise mot pour la patrie 1914-1918.” Here rests a French soldier who died for the homeland.
We made it back to the hotel unscathed, then Kathy and I ran back out to go to a couple of grocery stores. Then it was off to bed.
Love to all!
Date: Thursday, July 10, 2014 (for Tuesday, July 8, 2014)
Time: 11:12 am local time (5:12 am EST)
Place: Train from Paris to Leiden (just past Rotterdam)
I woke up Tuesday morning in France, on the way to Paris. Our train was supposed to stop at Le Gare de l’Est at about 9:30, but we didn’t stop until 10:30. It turns out that the Police either stopped our train or made us wait while they handled something at the station. My theory is that the person that was to be in our car was arrested for murder, so it was a good thing we gave him the other ticket.
I’ve just been informed that we only have 7 minutes until our stop, so I’ll get back to you…
Love to all!
Time: 8:58 pm local time (2:58 pm EST)
Place: Hotel Mayflower, Leiden, The Netherlands
We unloaded ourselves from the train and made our way to our hotel, which was on the Rue de Magenta. As we were walking out of the station selected ones of us were given box breakfasts to compensate for the hour that we were late. Unfortunately they didn’t hand me one and I wasn’t sure if I was eligible, so I didn’t push. I was hungry later.
Our hotel was quite nice, and Joel and I had a room to ourselves, though we didn’t know this at that point. We weren’t able to check in until later in the afternoon, so we put our luggage in a closet and went on our merry way down into the Paris Underground (subway system). Kaiti tells horror stories of the Underground system, but I found the trains as easy to navigate as Washington, D. C. or Vienna (my favorite transport system). The stations were a different story, however.
We managed to find our way to Versailles, which was about 30 minutes away. The trains seemed quite dirty at first, but they were easy to navigate and I felt quite safe. It was either on our way there or on the way back to the hotel in the evening that an accordion player got on the train and played for a stop or two. He played songs and tangos, and lots of fun music! I enjoyed it a lot!
We managed to miss our reservation to Versailles, so we had to wait in line which wound like a snake and was at least five or six columns wide. We heard rumors of a two hour line, but it only took one hour. The only hitch was that it had started raining, and it was that cold, misty kind of rain that is just absolutely miserable. No one was happy about needing to stand in line, but we all did it, and, at least my group, made the best of it. I was standing with Kathy and Allison, with both Laughlins right behind us. Kathy told us stories and we all chatted, letting the hour fly quickly by.
We went into Versailles and were given about an hour to go through the wing that we had bought tickets for. It was fine, but way too crowded. I have no desire to go back. It was every inch a French Baroque palace, with gilding all over the place. There was a statue or a bust or a painting of Louis XIV in just about every room, reinforcing his absolute monarchy at every opportunity.
I walked down the Hall of Mirrors, which is a very famous room, though at this moment I really don’t remember what went on there. I want to say there was some famous wedding, but I can’t tell you at this point. The ceiling is gilded and painted, and there is one wall of windows and one wall of mirrors, making for an incredibly well lit and happy room. If only there hadn’t been that many people.
We hopped back on the Underground and made it back to our hotel by about 6 o’clock. Our next appointment was 8 o’clock to go see the Eiffel Tower. We went back down into the Underground, went down a few stops, changed trains and got out after another 11 stops or something. We came up and went around the corner, and there it was. Some 900 feet tall (in comparison, the Washington Monument is only about 555 tall, or about 2/3 the size of the Eiffel Tower). We were at the perfect place to take great pictures, which we did.
Wohlers had told us that we needed to pay attention and know how to get back to the hotel in groups (since he has been to Paris many times and didn’t want to wait out until 1 am like he had done in the past). I finally found my leadership niche in our group of 5 chiefs: I’m the one who navigates the subways, so I took my job very seriously. I marked on my map exactly where we stopped and changed trains, so later on I was able to get us back to Gare du Nord (the North Train Station), which is just a few blocks away from our hotel.
I keep getting ahead of myself, though. We walked down to the Eiffel Tower, which was another 10 blocks or so. I wanted to go up (at least to the first level), but when we got down there and saw the line and the price we all chickened out (and Joel gets nervous in cities after dark), so we decided to head back. But I can say that I stood under the Eiffel Tower in France!
We walked back to the hotel, and I went to bed! The next day was quite full of great, fun, and exciting things to do!
Love to all!
Date: Thursday, July 10, 2014 (for Monday, July 7, 2014)
Time: 10:04 am local time (4:04 am EST)
Place: Train from Paris to Leiden (we just passed through Brussels)
Hello folks! I’m slightly more awake now!
Monday morning started out fairly early again, as we were to go over to Museum Island to visit some of the finest antiquities that exist. We started with what is called the Eastside Gallery, a section of the Wall which has been graffitied. I appreciate it for its artistic and cultural significance, but didn’t especially care for the art. It’s just not quite my style.
We made it to the Neue Museum, which Dad and I had gone to last year and spent quite a lot of time in. We had managed to miss our reservation, so we had to come back in an hour. We walked around for a few minutes, visiting St. Hedwig’s Lutheran Church, which has a beautiful organ on the side. My guess is that it is about the same size as the organ at home, though it might be just a little bit bigger.
We went back to the museum and were let in, and Dr. Wohlers told us to be out in just about an hour. Pretty much the first thing I did was to go to find Neffertiti. She is very beautiful, so it was nice to get to see her again. After that I just kind of wandered through the museum. I went through a hall which showed the change in how Egyptians depicted the human face, and it was really quite remarkable.
I discovered that there was one more level with “prehistory” type things on it, which included a ceremonial golden hat that was used as some sort of a calendar. It was quite cool. Also included was a Neanderthal skull which had been crushed and glued back together. They had also made a probable reconstruction (which I don’t think is particularly probable since there was no nose on the skull, so we’re only guessing that he had a very wide nose. I’ve watched too many episodes of Bones, I guess
We were released to go to lunch after going to the museum, and I went to McDonalds and ate with Rita and Wohlers. It was nice to get to sit with them. I spent most of my time chatting with Rita, since Wohlers didn’t really chime in, but I think he is enough like me he enjoyed being there and hearing the conversation.
Next we went to the National Museum, which told the story of Germany from the early ADs to the present. I thought it was very well done, but most everyone else took Dr. Wohler’s assignment too seriously. He pointed out a few people that we should be looking for, and they all were stressing about not being able to find them. I, on the other hand, decided that it was fine to see as much as I could see, and enjoy as much as I could enjoy. If I did that, then I would probably learn what I was supposed to learn, and I would certainly have fun doing it.
At that museum I saw four or five pianos, a really nice portrait of Handel (the original that we often see in books) and several other great works of art. I compared the busts of Napoleon and Joseph Bonaparte, saw paintings of King Frederick the Great of Prussia (who was ruling at the time of Bach and his son Carl Philipp Emanuel. CPE actually worked for him) and our very own King George III (the king during the Revolutionary War). I never did find anything about Karl Adenauer.
We went to one more museum that day, and it was called the Pergamum Museum, situated right next to the Neue Museum. In it is the Ishtar Gate and the ceremonial passageway from Babylon, both of which date to the time of Daniel. Daniel very possibly would have walked this gate every day on his way to work, and by looking at it, it’s not hard to discover where he got the ideas for the beasts. Both are absolutely breathtaking. The gate very easily stands 35-40 feet tall.
I went upstairs in the Pergamum Museum and was treated to Islamic art. Their culture, along with Jewish culture, forbids the use of animals or people in their art. They believe that doing so would be breaking the commandment against graven images. Instead the Muslims have developed art full of intricate patterns and geometry. Everything is extremely intricate and beautiful.
There was one rug hanging on the wall that I spent a fair amount of time trying to comprehend. There are five panels that have the same bell-like pattern. In the sixth panel, however, there is only one vertical half. Most of the rugs on the walls had holes, but this one seemed to have the border all the way around, so I couldn’t figure out why the pattern didn’t continue. They must have run out of red yarn.
After we finished in the Pergamum museum we were given some free time to eat, go back to the hotel, and gather our belongings. We were taking a night train between Berlin and Paris. We were supposed to have a stranger in our compartment since Lisa went home on Sunday, but Dr. Wohlers very kindly bought us another ticket that we could give to him so that we could have the compartment to ourselves. The man was very nice, and was happy to move.
I was in the compartment with Kathy, both Laughlins, and Joel. Joel and I got to have the bottom berths, then Kathy and Dr. Laughlin slept in the middle. Kaiti slept on the top, with her suitcase sleeping in the other top berth. We had good strong air conditioning, so I had a fighting chance to sleep well.
Love to all!
Date: Thursday, July 10, 2014 (for Sunday, July 6, 2014)
Time: 8:39 am local time (2:39 am EST)
Place: Train from Paris to Leiden (just a few minutes out of Paris)
Good morning all!
Sunday morning we had to be out and about by about 8:30 or so, and we went to the Berlin Hauptbahnhoff where we met a tour guide named Kevin. He took us on another train to the town of Orianburg (sp?) where we took a 15 or 20 minute walk to the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen.
Sachsenhausen was the first concentration camp, and the model for all those that came after it. It was the one that was spruced up and shown to dignitaries and the Red Cross in order to get the approval of the international community.
We walked through the gate of the camp, and, like Dachau, the words Arbeit Macht Frei greeted us. Works Brings Freedom. This was twofold. The first part was to give a sense of false hope to the prisoners. The second was to justify themselves to themselves. They had come from a tradition of hard workers, and they wanted to keep themselves tied to this good, honest time in their history.
Kevin showed us a lot of the sights of the camp. There was a barrack still set up like it would have been. We saw the “no man’s land” between the edge of the grass and the wall. If they walked into it, they would be shot.
We were taken through solitary confinement, which seemed nicer than in Dachau. The cells were a decent size, with plenty of room for a bed, and a washbowl. Nothing fancy, but I have imagined much worse. A friend of Dietrich Bohoeffer was held for years in solitary.
Another man held in solitary confinement was Martin Nemuellor, who was originally a part of the Nazi party. When he saw what was wrong and objected he was arrested. After the war he was very big in the reconciliation movement. He said, “At first they came for the socialists, and I did not speak up because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak up because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak up because I was not a Jew. And then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak up.”
He took us to Station Z, which was a fake hospital/extermination area of Sachsenhausen. Early in the war, when prisoners were to be exterminated they were taken into a pit and shot. As the war continued, however, that got to be too much on the guards. They needed to look at the faces of their victims. So they set up Station Z as a hospital. Prisoners were taken into the hospital for a checkup, and when they were measured for height, they were shot in the back of the head by a guard who never saw their faces. It was much more humane for the guards, and even for the prisoners in a way. Instead of being herded into a pit and being terrified, you are taken to the hospital for a routine checkup. There isn’t the same sort of fear in a doctor’s appointment. I need to be clear that they weren’t doing it that way to be humane to the victims, but to save the emotional damage done to the guards.
Outside Station Z is a quote by Andrzej Szczyplorski (and I’m not even going to attempt a pronunciation for his name) which very eloquently sums up how I think the Germans feel about the importance of having these Gedänkenstätte (memorials, but I always see something closer to “Holy Ground” in the word). “And I know one thing more—that the Europe of the future cannot exist without commemorating all those, regardless of their nationality, who were killed at that time with complete contempt and hate, who were tortured to death, starved, gassed, incinerated and hanged…” We must remember what happened, for if we don’t, it will happen again.
Sachsenhausen was a very good experience, but I think that I preferred the camp and museum at Dachau. Our Sachsenhausen guide was an Englishman named Kevin who, in my opinion, didn’t stay neutral enough in his teaching. He got very accusatory at times, and had a definite bias. I appreciated that our guide in Dachau was more neutral. He was a German graduate student, but he was not apologetic. He didn’t have to be. He didn’t hunt down any Jews. I appreciated the demeanor of the German more than the Brit.
After we finished at Sachsenhausen we walked, very quickly, over a mile to the train station to get back to the Hauptbahnhoff. We were told to meet at the train station at about 6 o’clock to go up to the top of the Reichstag (which is their equivalent of the Capitol building).
I went back to the hotel and took a nap for about an hour or so. Then I headed back to the train station with both Laughlins and Kathy. I decided to leave my backpack (with passport) in the room because I didn’t want to carry it around anymore. That proved to be slightly difficult, because we needed ID to get into the Reichstag. Luckily for me, Dr. Wohlers is amazing and thinks of everything. He had student ID cards printed for us all, which he keeps in his bag. He handed me mine, and it worked wonders. This man needs to be sainted.
We went to the top of the Reichstag and had a wonderful view of Berlin. We got to see all sorts of wonderful buildings, including the Sony Center (where Dad and I went to see the new Star Trek movie last year), the Philharmonie (where the Musical Instrument Museum is), and the Brandenburg Gate (which was right up against the Wall).
We went back down and walked around a little bit. We walked to the Brandenburg Gate and the beginning of Unter den Linden Strasse (Under the Linden Tree Street, one of the most famous streets in Berlin. We were surrounded by embassies, and I got to see the (rebuilt) Adlon Hotel, which is where Murphy lives in Vienna Prelude. It was bombed to smithereens in WWII, but was rebuilt after the fall of the wall.
From Unter den Linden we went home and went to bed.
Love to all!
I'm a Classical musician, a growing Christian, and a world traveler. I'm learning, exploring, and trying to understand this wonderful world I live in.