Wunderbar, Wunderbar Copenhagen

“Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen / Friendly old girl of a town

‘Neath her tavern light / On this merry night

Let us clink and drink one down

To wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen…”

Do my fellow old-timers remember Danny Kay singing this song? Later the lyrics call her a “salty old queen of the sea.”

Guard on duty at Amalienborg Palace, home of the royal family.

And a queen she is. Situated directly across Øresund Strait from Malmö, Sweden, Copenhagen is ideally situated for shipping and sailing all over Europe and beyond, making her one of Scandinavia’s prime ports. The larger metropolitan area is home to over 2,000,000 residents, including thousands of foreign students and a multitude of immigrants. Many of the natives stand so tall this visitor feels like a pigmy among giants. (Of course, this is not exactly a unique experience for me!)

The city is passionate about the green movement, targeting a carbon-neutral environment by 2025. We admire this country’s increasing use of solar panels, windmills, and recycling. Another goal: up to a third of cars here will run on electricity or biofuel by 2025. Generously wide bicycle paths are everywhere—and woe betide the absentminded pedestrian who gets in the way. Public transportation is excellent, though our use of it has been tentative because of the language. Signs are in Danish, a rather daunting language. Not really a problem when walking, though, since everyone we’ve dealt with speaks English.

Frederik’s Church, otherwise known as the Marble Church–even though it’s constructed of limestone. Even the 19th century, when it was completed, wrestled with budget constraints.

Denmark is officially Lutheran, but only a bare majority of Danes are adherents. As our guide explained, repeatedly grumbling that his tax dollars pay for the official religion, most people use churches only for baptisms, weddings, funerals, and special ceremonies. Not for worship. Not everybody sloughs off religion, though. Immigration has made Copenhagen a religiously diverse city. Islam is now the second largest faith represented here (about 10% of the population).

Our guide told us a touching story of the of Copenhagen’s successful collaboration with Malmö in saving the threatened Jewish minority. In World War II Nazis occupied Denmark, but Sweden was able to maintain its neutrality. Copenhagen secretly transported its Jewish population of over 7000 to safety in Malmö. This act of the Danish Resistance, helped by many other sympathetic countrymen, saved 99% of the Jews. After the war, they welcomed their old neighbors and friends back to the homes and businesses they had protected for them. It’s an inspiring example of humanity at our best.

Copenhagen’s ultramodern Royal Danish Opera House

We anticipated that our stay here would be costly. We were right. Copenhagen ranks as one of the world’s most expensive cities. It’s also rated one of the “most livable.” Its encouragement of bicycling and walking and discouragement of cars is one of the chief reasons, along with its good food, cultural activities, encouragement of community life and its many parks and public squares and gathering places.

One of the thousands of bicycles that zoom around the city.

You’ll recognize some famous Danish names like Hans Christian Anderson, whose tales of the “Ugly Duckling” and the “Little Mermaid” and many others still resonate with children and adults alike. Søren Kierkegaard, nineteenth century philosopher/theologian, was a huge influence on the twentieth-century existentialist movement.

The city is filled with statues. Here is composer J. P. E. Hartman.

Niels Bohr, Nobel Prize physicist so big in the world of quantum mechanics, was Danish, as was Tycho Brahe, the 16th century astronomer who insisted the moon orbits the earth and the planets the sun. (He was wrong about the sun orbiting the earth, though. That discovery came later.) Brahe’s artificial nose was also famous. He lost the real one in a sword fight. In his day people thought it was gold or silver but it was probably brass.

One of my favorite Danes is the late Victor Borge, famous for his  madcap antics at the piano (which he played very well when he actually wanted to). Because we are in his country, we You Tubed some of his concerts for an evening’s entertainment in his honor. (You can push this “honoring” business too far. This is also Prince Hamlet’s country, but I resisted the not-very-strong temptation to read or view Shakespeare’s Hamlet. With Las Vegas fresh in mind, an evening of literary tragedy didn’t appeal.)

I must add my favorite Danish movie (and one of my all-time favorites), Babette’s Feast, directed by Gabriel Axel. I’ve used it in class to illustrate some aspects of the Eucharist (communion). If you haven’t viewed it, do so with this Christian rite of worship in mind. Another outstanding Danish movie director was Carl Theodore Dryer (1889-1968).

Vitus Bering (1680-1741) of Alaska’s Bering Straits was also Danish.

Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid really is little. Maybe this is why The Hat likes her.
When we saw her a few years ago, she was partially submerged in the water. The city raised her up for better viewing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of our best experiences are serendipitous. After a long walking tour of Copenhagen, to which we added another half hour so we could see the Little Mermaid, we tried to take a taxi back to our apartment. Only we couldn’t find one. So we kept on walking in what we hoped was the right direction. It was nearly 3:00 and we hadn’t had lunch. We also couldn’t find a restaurant. Finally, with our strength ebbing dangerously, we spotted a little café (Café Paris, to be exact) across the street. It was really a take-away deli, with only a couple of small benches for those eating in, but the place was clean and the little chicken kebabs and the fresh vegetable salad were as good as you could find anywhere. Best of all, though, was getting acquainted with the young man who served us.

The Cafe Paris, where we ate one of our best–and least expensive–and our Iranian host.

He’s Iranian. His family had to flee Iran in the 1970s when the Shah was deposed. His father moved the family to California when he was just a baby. In 2006 he migrated as an adult to Copenhagen. If we lived in this city I’d eat at his table at least once a week. Friendly, helpful, and a good cook! He can’t return to Iran since the revolution, because “my family’s name is on the list.” Those hateful lists!

After all the eating we’ve been doing while on the loose, we were glad  to find a Tivoli Gardens mirror showing us as we like to think of ourselves–thin.
Carved wooden madonna and child.

One of our best outings was our visit the National Museum in the Prince’s Palace. The exhibition starts 14,000 years ago with Danish pre-history. Artifacts from the Ice Age and the Viking period, church carvings from the Middle Ages (triptyches, stand-alone saints and biblical figures), objects from ancient Greece and Egypt and Roman empires and even the Near East can be found here. Joy especially enjoyed the tableaux 0f village life: clothing, household utensils, other furnishings. I was fascinated by but didn’t particularly enjoy the instruments of torture and punishment and weapons employed through the ages. As we nearly despair over the cruelty and violence of our own era, a visit the past is instructive, isn’t it?

Autumn leaves on the Charlottenborg Art Museum walls.

We took in an emotionally wrenching exhibition of “The Best Visual Journalism of the Year 2017.” We should have been prepared for it, since photo journalism almost always focuses on tragedy, heartache, war and loss. As one of the photographers said, “The most important side to any conflict is the third one: that of the ordinary people caught up in the violence.”

Just a  couple of pictures Joy took will have to stand for the many; we can’t bear to publish the worst. This first one does not come out of global conflict but makes a statement about worldwide competitiveness.

These little Chinese girls are doing their toe-pressure training exercises. The sadness in their faces touches this parent’s heart. They devote 30 minutes a day to this one exercise.
Would-be rescuers toss a life jacket to refugees. This photo represents too many of the world’s people fleeing from disaster in their home countries–and the inadequate resources dedicated to saving them.
“Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” This man’s city has been nearly destroyed, but he plants and waters these sunflowers.

Our last tour was of Christiania, an autonomous, anarchic enclave within Copenhagen’s city limits. In the 1970s a military installation. This was when the worldwide “flower children” movement was flourishing. The city’s hippies moved in, claimed squatters’ rights, and now several hundred run the little settlement (about 84 acres) almost entirely independent of the city government. Drugs that are illegal in Copenhagen are illegal here, too, but the city turns a blind eye (and an inoperative nose–the smell of hashish is strong). Christiania is now a top tourist attraction. So we had to investigate.

One entrance into Christiania.
The most prominent mural in the enclave. Almost every building is covered with artistic (and not-so-artistic) graffiti.
Before entering Christiania we paused to be refreshed by this scene.

[Note: This is probably our last post for a couple of weeks. On Sunday we sail aboard Norwegian Getaway for a two-week repositioning cruise to Miami (if it’s still there). We’ll be out of touch by phone and email until we hit America’s mainland and then it’ll take us awhile to catch up. Thanks for your patience.]

JOY’S PICK OF THE PICS

Poster of a coming exhibition in the National Museum.
Tivoli Gardens is ready for Halloween. Our visit was on Friday the 13th. We escaped unharmed.
This is Roy’s pick for Joy’s Picks. You can see why I like it.
On the tour to Christiania we were caught by a heavy downpour. Then came the rainbow–and the end of the rain. A good note to conclude with, don’t you think?

 

We’re Singing in the Rain–in Tallinn and Helsinki

Tilting windmill at Open Air Museum in Tallinn

Earlier this week you received three photos of Tallinn’s Open Air Museum. You shouldn’t have. Joy forwarded them from her camera to Word Press’s media library for inclusion in today’s post. Somehow they went directly to all lawsonsontheloose.net subscribers. Isn’t modern technology the best? In those words all travelers know so well, “We apologize for any inconvenience.”

Father-daughter stroll in Tallinn woods.

Our timing may have been off but our intentions were noble. We wanted to share our refreshing day in the woods with you. Estonia is mostly rural, replete with forests and scarce population. To spend all one’s time in the city is to miss some of what’s best about this nation. Of course, the Open Air Museum is not really rural, situated on the outskirts of the capital (hence the name Museum, a protected glimpse of the past). Altogether these 178 acres hold 68 farmhouses, 12 farm-yards, church, school, tavern, windmills, storage sheds and more. The regular tourist season is over, so we had to peer through the small windows to see how Estonians lived in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. The Museum even included a farmstead from the 1930s—the decade of my birth. I’ve reached the historical curiosity stage!

Tallinn’s Old City  Orthodox church

We’d been in Tallinn a few days when we spent the day in the Open Air Museum with daughter Candy and son-in-law Michael, who took a vacation week to join us here. (That’s not exactly a true statement. Thanks to the magic of modern technology, both of them spent several hours a day working over the telephone and internet. Still, we got to be with them while they worked and they got to play a little with us.)

It’s kind of crazy to go north in late September. Tallinn and Helsinki are near the same latitude as Anchorage, Alaska. The color of the leaves and the chill in the air announce autumn’s arrival. Our experience here offers additional proof that I missed my calling. I should have been a weather man. I can end a series of sunny days whenever I want. All I have to do is schedule an outdoor excursion a few days from now and voila! on that very day the rains will fall. Thus it happened on our one-day ferry ride to Helsinki.

Umbrellas don’t last in Helsinki wind

It rained. And blew. And destroyed two expensive umbrellas—turned them inside out and broke their ribbing. And I had paid a solid euro ($1.18) apiece for them. You’d think for that kind of money they’d have lasted more than just a few minutes before giving in to the forceful gusts.

We can’t complain, though. While we have been indulging ourselves our world back home exploded with grief. First Hurricane Harvey pounded America’s mid-Southern states. We had barely caught our breath when Irma devastated much of Florida and the American Southeast. Then what Maria did to Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands beggars description. As if what the insurance companies like to call “acts of God” were not enough, along came a home-grown terrorist attack in Las Vegas to set a record for domestic slaughter.

What is most disheartening of all regarding Las Vegas’ tragedy is that even this heinous act won’t be enough to convince diehards that America needs protection from our insane addiction to guns for killing one another. My frustration and sense of helplessness in the face of such suffering, so much of it inflicted by humans, grows daily. While we are here comparing the violent histories of Estonia and Finland and Belgium with today’s news, we have to conclude that the human race may be getting bigger but we’re not getting smarter.

That’s the negative. The positive note in the news has been the reporting from all these hard-hit areas that many heroic individuals, first responders who defy the odds to get to the maimed and bereft and the government agencies working around the clock to provide relief. Compassion is not dead. Americans rise to the challenge of disaster relief; now if we can just get with the program of disaster prevention. We can’t prevent hurricanes; if we can’t prevent, we can at least dramatically reduce, homicides. Yes, I know the slogan: “Guns don’t kill; people do.” But they use guns to do so. (I’m from gun-toting country. My people are hunters. But they don’t hunt people! And they don’t stockpile military weapons of mass destruction.)

Candy couldn’t resist. Note the writing on the brick wall, “Save the camera honey, enjoy the view.”  IN ENGLISH!

Now back to the subject at hand.

Like Belgium, Estonia and Finland are relatively new countries. Finland celebrates its 100th anniversary this year and Estonia does the same in 2018. However, most of this past century both have been squeezed by communism and fascism and territory-grabbing by more powerful neighbors. Only after the collapse of the Soviet Union (1989-1991) have they been able to breathe free. Even now they cast a wary eye eastward. Both countries joined the European Union, belong to NATO, and in other ways lean toward the West, but cautiously.

Tallinn street

Through our walks and walking tours we soaked up the charm of Tallinn. UNESCO dubbed the Old Town a World Heritage Site in 1997, freezing it in time. We walked the original cobblestone streets (which feel a lot like Bruges’) and gazed at its famous churches and houses and towers and warehouses dating back to the Middle Ages.

Palace of Catherine I, built by her husband Peter the Great. Now a museum.
Piano Duo of Argo and Arko. They were practicing for an evening performance as we toured the Palace. We lingered and enjoyed the free concert.

We were glad to have the Ohanessians with us. They do a better job  negotiating the mysteries of other languages than we do. We’ve been adrift before but we could usually find enough similarities between German, say, or French or Spanish and English that we could guess the meaning with modest success. Estonian, however, is not an Indo-European language. Its cousins are Finnish and Hungarian. Its grammar is complex (14 noun cases says Wikipedia; our guide said 16) and its pronunciations are incomprehensible, at least to this half-deaf speaker of English. Some examples:

Maantee, as in our address (13 Paldiski manatee), is road. Bread=lieb, ticket=pilet, church=kirik, pen=pliiatsi, weather=ilm, butter=või. For example, Google Translate renders the sentence, “Let’s go to town,” as “Läheme linnale.” You see the problem. Fortunately, English is once again the “go to” language, so we were comfortably able to ask for and receive directions. The Estonians have a reputation for being rather stand-offish, but their brusqueness quickly dissolves when helping a stranger. Of course, it helps to look pitiful. I’ve mastered the art.

One of Tallinn’s claims to fame, perhaps the one we heard most about, is that Skype was born here. In fact, Tallinn’s often called Europe’s Silicon Valley, one of the top 10 digital cities in the world. Indeed, it’s one of the few places we’ve been where we haven’t grumbled about our internet connectivity.

Olde Hansa restaurant. While walking along a Bruges canal I met two English ladies on holiday. They insisted we dine here. We did as instructed and feasted on elk, bear, and beef steaks and boar sausage.

Just one meal to report. I can’t improve on Olde Hansa’s web site spiel: “The medieval restaurant Olde Hansa is the home of a rich merchant, whose guests enjoy delicious, authentic Hansa-era meals and drinks, true period music and always friendly service. All of the dishes on the menu, including many wild game delicacies, are cooked using 15th century recipes and methods.” We feasted on bear, elk and wild boar and, once our eyes adjusted to the candlelit semi-darkness, loved the ambience.

This young university graduate skillfully guided our city walking tour.

Our beautiful walking tour guide, whose name sounded to me like Mabel as pronounced by an Aussie, a Tallinn native, loves her town and infected us with her enthusiasm as she described the town square, the ancient wall and towers, and the charms and history and quirks of Estonians.

On a gray, rainy day it’s easy to understand Estonians’ love of color. This is the Old Town Square.

A constant challenge here is the question of identity. Who is a genuine Estonian? Since the land has been occupied by Russians, Germans, Frenchmen, Danes and Swedes (have I left any out?), and since the occupiers left a remnant behind when they withdrew, the estimate is that no more than two-thirds of the people are Estonian; the rest have their roots in these earlier occupying countries. Who then can vote? Who really belongs? Once again we also learned the power of language to divide: Estonian speakers and Russian speakers hold each other in mutual distrust. Still, they have been able so far to stick together as one nation.

Coming into the Helsinki harbor
Crossing to Helsinki in the big ferry. Passengers travel in surprising luxury.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The highlight of our day in Helsinki was our visit to Temppeliaukio Church (Rock Church), the city’s primary tourist destination, in the heart of the city.

The church in the rock

It’s simply stunning, a place of worship that itself is an invitation to worship. The rock was excavated and then walls extended to form a stone circle domed with copper held aloft by reinforced concrete beams. The acoustics, as you can imagine with all hard surfaces, make it an ideal venue for concerts. We just wanted to sit quietly and, as we have done so often in these adventures, give thanks. In spite of all we humans do to destroy it and one another, it’s still a wonderful world we live in.

JOY’S PICK OF THE PICS

Our Olde Hansa server, dressed in his medieval finest.
An interesting face on a Helsinki tram
Open the book and you have a lamp.The Finns are very proud of their modern furnishing designs
…and are having.

BEER, CHOCOLATES, FRIES AND WAFFLES IN BRUGES

This photo taken outside a chocolatier’s shop introduces today’s theme, I’m afraid.

According to the guide on our walking tours of the city, Bruges has four gustatory claims to fame: beer, chocolates, fries and waffles. He gave us samples of all four. Because she’s gluten intolerant, Joy couldn’t sample either the waffles or the beer, so she compensated by doubling up on fries and chocolates. I, on the other hand, did as I was told. I confess–we’ve got to get out of this town soon. We’re in grave danger of calorie overload, especially of those packaged in chocolate.

Joy loves doors. Bruges loves beer. Their loves meet in this picture.

What’s worse: Wednesday we have to face our children. Many months ago we appointed Candy our dietician, advising us how to eat right to stay fit. Frankly, she has taken the assignment much too seriously. Even when she’s not with us in person, her spirit hovers. We can’t even sneak a chocolate bit (and yet another chocolate bit) without feeling her disapproving eyes on us. When we meet her we’ll explain the medicinal value of dark chocolate on people’s cholesterol level. Joy has no cholesterol problem, but takes chocolate just in case. I think her practice is called sympathetic eating. She feels it would be disheartening for me to have to take my medicine alone.

Shops like this one are everywhere in the tourist areas of town. There ought to be a law to protect people like us from temptations like this.

We were introduced to these temptations in the delightful company of Kevin and Jenni, who came from Genk for a day to show Indianapolis friend Alicia the sights. Kevin Verstraeten is a native of Belgium. He did the same

Jenni, Kevin and Alisha getting ready for take off on the first of two walking tours with us.

terrible thing to Jenni’s parents, Monica and Jeff Reynolds, and grandparents, Kent and Donna McQuiston, that our rapscallion Aussie Michael Ohanessian did to us. He stole Jenni and carried her off to Belgium. She went willingly, as did Candy. (Here’s the problem with parenting: You bring up your children to be independent adults. And you succeed!)

We’ve known Jenni since before she was born. When I was pastor of East 38th Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, her grandfather Kent was chairman of the church board. He also was our tax accountant for 25 years, doing his best to keep me out of trouble with the IRS. The McQuiston kids and ours were about the same age, our boys fairly regularly getting into trouble together. I had the privilege of marrying their son Matt to Joanna and daughter Monica, Jenni’s mother, to her father Jeff. Unfortunately the McQuistons and Lawsons share something else, the loss of our sons.

Colorful side of the market square

I suspect you can guess how privileged Joy and I felt that the grandkids and kids of our longtime friends wanted to spend a day with the elderly. And what a good day, touring and talking and eating together. We caught up on their interesting lives. They live in Genk where Kevin works full-time in a sports ministry, using athletic camps and demonstrations to befriend young people and earn the right to share his Christian faith. He and Jenni are passionate about this ministry.

Typical Brugge canal shot.

Joy and Alicia had a great time together. They’re both photographers, and Bruges is a photographer’s paradise. They compared notes, gave each other tips, and helped the rest of us see through their eyes.

A couple of days earlier we learned that Belgium’s coast is only a short (15-minute) train ride from Bruges. We decided a day trip was in order. Besides, it’s a direct train; no connections to make, no way to get lost. We’re water people, having both grown up on the Oregon coast, so we were eager to get to the beach.

Oostende boardwalk view of the beach.

Belgium has only 41 miles of coastline; Ostend is the largest of the 15 resorts crammed into this small area, we were informed. Its beach is wide, its boardwalk (of stone and concrete) one of the most spacious we’ve seen. High rise buildings line the way. This is anything but a quiet little resort town. But it’s family friendly, a good destination for a brief holiday.

In Ostend it’s spelled Oostende, as in this floral clock.

Joy also discovered a two-hour photography class—she’s always on the lookout for them. She signed up for “Discover Bruges Rediscover Photography.” Turned out she was the only taker, so she had the teacher to herself as they shot photos around the city. She liked what she gained from him. Of course, he recommended she buy an expensive lens for her camera. (I must not keep encouraging this expensive habit.)

The view of the nearby university building over the rooftops from our upstairs window .
This young man pedaled us in his electrically enhanced person-driven pedicab from the train station to our apartment door. A regular cab would have been cheaper, but not as much fun.

On our first day here I told Joy we should eat out one meal a day, to advance our acculturation. We generally do our own cooking. She liked my idea, so she selected a restaurant with linen tablecloths. Always a bad sign. We studied the menu. Food options looked good. Then we studied the prices. We’ve been mostly eating our own home cooking.

Brugge view across the canal at sunset.

Bruges (spelled Brugge here) is a fascinating city in a fascinating country. Belgium is an almost artificial construct. It has been overrun too often—by Danes, Germans, French, Austrians, Spanish, English, Dutch. It has no natural boundaries, no means of defeating its predator neighbors. Centuries of suffering occupation at their hands has left Belgium with something of an inferiority complex, we’ve been told. It just can’t compete with the big nations. It’s been the unified nation we know for less than 200 years of its long, complex history. The people are divided linguistically into Flemish- and French-speaking sections, with other local dialects compounding the picture. We’re getting around readily with English, since it’s the go-to language for the Flemish who don’t speak French and the French speakers who won’t speak Flemish. They resort to English if they must.

Brugge Belfry. The oldest section dates from 1240, the stone parapet at the top from 1822. It’s 272′, 366 steps high. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you: it leans 87 centimeters to the east.

The 20th century was hard on Bruges and the rest of Belgium, which was one of the main theaters for World War I and a hotly contested territory in WW II. Its minor status in Europe, however, became an asset when the belligerents (Germany, France, England) needed a “neutral” location to house the headquarters of the European Union. Brussels is that location.

Canal bridge at sunset

Bruges was so insignificant and poor following its glory days in the 15th century–when it was a central meeting place for Flemish, Walloon, German, Frisian and Anglo-Saxon merchants–that it was able to survive much of the two wars’ devastation with many of its buildings intact. It wasn’t important enough to destroy.

The result is that the rediscovery of this almost hidden town that began in the 19th century paved the way for its booming tourist industry in the late 20th and now into the 21st century.

Bruges, a city of canals, is sometimes called the Venice of the North (along with Amsterdam, Strasburg. Gdansk, and many others).

JOY’S PICK OF THE PICS

Let the sunset in
Brugge architecture dazzles, as in this example near our apartment.
Bruges art museums specialize in 15th-16th century Flemish paintings. (Joy sees a similarity between this elderly gentleman and The Hat. I don’t.)
“Visitor diets are to be ignored…” (Joy and I find this advice much more congenial than our dietician’s.)

Two Lost Souls in Germany

[First, a word of thanks. With every blog post we publish I wait eagerly for your comments. Knowing you are out there infuses this modest undertaking with a sense of purpose. It makes us more intentional as we visit new sites; we feel we’re there not only for ourselves but also for you. Your comments have been consistently encouraging, a pleasure to read. Thank you. Rest assured I read every comment you post and email you send. I appreciate your understanding that I can’t answer each one. My promise: if you’ll keep commenting I’ll keep reading. Gratefully.]

This Tübingen building isn’t typical but it does exhibit the proliferation of graffiti art, a phenomenon we’ve been observing worldwide!

From Freiburg we returned to Tübingen for a brief stay before moving on to Belgium. They were relaxed, rich days. Tyler and Shalynn (and Finn) Crawford saw to our every need, including hosting an Unterwegs dinner in their home across the hall from us. Teammate Tony Cole laid out a feast. Max and Emily had come back from their wedding celebration, so the whole gang was together. A great evening.

Shalynn and Tyler Crawford. That’s Finn on his dad’s shoulders.

At the suggestion of the Crawfords, we rode the train into Stuttgart to take in the huge Mercedes-Benz Museum. They gave us careful instructions so we wouldn’t get lost. They underestimated us. In spite of their best efforts, we got lost anyway. You’d be surprised how complicated the Stuttgart train station is, especially when you aren’t supposed to be there. Their instructions didn’t work. We became disoriented. We were in the wrong station. It’s amazing what the difference missing your station by just one stop makes. Finally, we gave up, caught a taxi, and were deposited at the curb of the museum. Eighteen euros. The price of another bit of our education.

The first gas motor, on display at the Mercedes Museum

This museum offers a good corrective to us Americans. We like to think we invented everything. We didn’t. Take the gas-powered car, for instance. Henry Ford’s wasn’t first. The Benz Patent Motorwagen appeared in 1886, well ahead of the Ford (1908). In that same year the partnership of Daimler and Maybach added a gas-fueled engine to a stagecoach. Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft produced the first Mercedes, a race car named for car dealer/racing enthusiastic Emil Jellinek’s daughter in 1901. It boasted 35 horsepower. In 1926 the first Mercedes-Benz brand name appeared. Daimler and Benz had merged.

First engine-driven motor boat.

As you walk through the 178,000 square-foot museum you can trace the development of motorized vehicles from the primitive to the latest and most sophisticated, 160 of them in all. Individual audio tours are provided in several languages, English among them. Trip Advisor names the museum the #1 tourist attraction in Stuttgart. Porsche and Audi museums are here also, but we opted for #1.

This 75-hp Phaeton (1907-1911) is motoring in the style that  was meant to be!

Back in 1972 when Joy and I first visited Germany I was shocked when I saw my first Mercedes truck—a garbage truck, no less. Until then I had thought the company made only luxury cars, the kind I drooled over and knew I could never afford.

Mercedes’ first motorcycle. It’s a long, long distance between this model and my Harley!

On display here were all kinds of vehicles: the first motorcycle (which made me grateful for my Harley), first gas-powered boat, first engine-driven railroad car—and passenger automobiles and trucks of every description.

Joy immediately decided that this sports car was sized for me and the larger vehicle in the back would be more appropriate for Jeff and Mike.

Then there were the racing cars—from the beginning Mercedes regularly entered races and often won. Some particularly caught our eye because they reminded us of Velcro sons Jeff and Mike, the family car afficionados; they haven’t raced Mercedes, but they’d love to!

I thought this would make a great car for a minister to make his pastoral calls in.

Daimler Benz provided automobiles for some of the 20th century’s most prominent persons, from Pope John Paul on one extreme to Adolf Hitler on the other. During WW II the company was dedicated to the war effort. In 1944, 46,000 forced laborers bolstered Nazi war efforts. After the war the company apologized, forking over $12 million in reparations to the laborers’ families.

Pope John Paul II’s Popemobile, powered by Mercedes.

I appreciated the museum for not hiding this part of history even as it extolled the company’s advancees from its humble beginnings to its renown among the best recognized automotive brands today. Mike recently reminded me that to say Mercedes sets the standard for excellence is like saying Einstein is brilliant. Some things don’t have to be spelled out.

If you’d like more information and pictures of these dazzling cars, go to You Tube and search Stuttgart Mercedes-Benz Museum.

Hohenzollern Castle–picture this on “a dark and stormy night…”

We had one last outing near Tübingen. The Crawfords took us to see a couple of castles in the area, the modest Hohenertringen Castle overlooking the village of Ertringen, and the majestic Hohenzollern Castle which, from a distance, looks like a perfect set for a gothic horror flick. Up close, though, it is one of the best restored castles we’ve seen. This one is the third erected on this sight.

Castle courtyard view of steeples.
The castle could use a good escalator!

The first, built in the early eleventh century, was destroyed in 1423; the second, more solid structure arose in the mid-15th century and provided a Catholic refuge during the Thirty Years War. It had fallen into disrepair by the end of the 19th century when King Frederick William IV, in a visit to the ruins of his ancestral home, had a vision of its reconstruction, which was realized later in the century (1850-1867). Thus it’s not a medieval castle, though it looks old enough. It’s 19th century neo-Gothic, but still an enticing tourist destination.

Interior of the Catholic chapel in the Hohenzollern Castle. There is also a more modest Protestant chapel.

An ancestral home, maybe, but no Hohenzollern family member ever took up permanent residency here, nor did any of the three German Emperors in late 19th and early 20th centuries. Still, it’s lovely to look at. After WW II, Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany, whose father, Kaiser Wilhelm II, was the last Hohenzollern king, stayed here briefly. That’s all. In college we learned to call this “conspicuous consumption,” Thorstein Veblen’s term for showing off how rich you are. All that money spent for a house not lived in!

The Hat takes in the view from Hohenzollern Castle

After the magnificence of Hohenzollern Castle, Entrigen’s fades into insignificance. We enjoyed a kaffe und küchen break there and a walk in the nearby woods to a campsite that offered a great view of the valley. Its dominant simple cross and log benches took us back to the Christian camps that have served generations of children and youth. Tyler and I sat awhile, talking quietly and meditating. Finn explored. Joy snapped pictures. Shalynn did double duty as mother and photographer.

Tyler and the Hat caught in a meditative moment.

We rounded off the day with dinner along the Neckar River in the heart of Tübingen. Good food, good view, good company. Who could ask for anything more?

View from our Neckar River restaurant.

Shalynn generously offered to drive us from Tübingen to the train station in Stuttgart. We eagerly accepted. It meant we would only have four rather than five trains to board en route to Bruges. On the way she asked, innocently but presciently, “With all this travel, do you ever get stressed?” No, we assured her. We’re veterans.

She dropped us off at the curb in front of Stuttgart’s main station. We bade our farewells and she drove away. We headed for the entrance which, it turned out, was a massive staircase, almost two stories in height (or so it seemed). We couldn’t find an elevator. The luggage was more than we could lug (ever notice the root of luggage before?) up the stairs. Joy found a kind young security officer who didn’t know where the elevator was, either, but she immediately went to fetch some beefy fellow workers. They came, hefted our bags as if they were filled with feathers, and set them down at the top of the stairway. Good start to the trip.

First train: Stuttgart to Mannheim. All went well. No stress. In our car two friendly guys from down under (an Aussie and a Kiwi—New Zealander—traveling together, rather amazing in itself) helped us with the suitcases. Again. Even the nice ticket lady was helpful. She told us our next train (to Cologne) would be on the same platform where we were arriving in Mannheim. Just on the opposite side. Perfect.

Voila! When we stepped off our Stuttgart train there, across the platform, was the waiting train, just as the lady promised. I looked at my ticket.  Car #29. Check. We boarded it, found our seats, managed the luggage ourselves, had a brief conversation with a woman in one of our assigned seats, who looked a bit puzzled but politely moved so we could sit together in #33 and #35. Excellent. Alles gut, as we say in Germany. Until after we were underway and the conductor came by. He studied our ticket and said, rather abruptly I thought, “You are on the wrong train.” And it was so. We were headed to Berlin via Frankfurt. We’d have to get off at Frankfurt (which was OK, since we hadn’t wanted to travel to Berlin in the first place), go to the information office and purchase new tickets to Brussels.

I had visions of euros flying out of my wallet. But we went where pointed, impressed once again by the helpfulness we’ve experienced so often. Long story short, this efficient agent printed out instructions that sent us to Platform 18 to catch the 12:29 direct train to, yep, Brussels. It was the very one we were supposed to be on from Cologne in the first place. We even got the same assigned seats (#81 and #82). Even better than that: someone was in our assigned seat again, so the helpful conductor put us in a six-person private compartment. By ourselves. No extra charge for the compartment–or for the missed connection. Once again as we say in Germany, alles gut.

Then–after arriving in Bruges from Brussels–to keep us from thinking too highly of ourselves, came the next chapter. Since it had been a bit of a tough day for Joy, I decided to pamper her. I put us in a taxi (not on a bus) for the ride to our Airbnb. Good idea. Except that it was a special day of some kind so no cars were allowed on our street. Not to worry, our cab driver assured us as she let us out at the end of our street. Your apartment is “close.” She had the street right.

It was a long, long way from taxi to Airbnb over cobblestones–not designed for luggage!

Our number, however, was at the extreme other end of that cobblestone street. After asking several pedestrians for directions, we lugged (there’s that word again) our suitcases more blocks than I want to recount to #4 Sint-Clarastraat, then up two flights of stairs to our quite adequate accommodations.

I was going to tell you a bit about Bruges in this post, but getting here has worn me out. I’ll just catch my breath while you enjoy…

JOY’S PICK OF THE PICS

Calla lilies are Joy’s favorite flowers. They adorned our wedding and Lane’s memorial service. She even has calla lily ear rings. These were in the Brussels train station flower shop. She snapped the picture but didn’t buy the flowers.
Oil/Cold Wax.      “The Hat”
by Joy A Lawson
Unique beauties  at the Tübingen street market.
Even squash can be interesting. These also were in the Tübingen street market.

 

 

FABULOUS FREIBURG

You’ve got to hand it to McDonald’s. Can you imagine a better location than this city center site? There’s also a Starbucks nearby, a convenient spot for meeting with students one-on-one. Erin Harper, Unterwegs leader (and our guide) is in the foreground.

You already know how impressed we are with the beauty of Tübingen. Friends there promised we’d find Freiburg even more beautiful. We didn’t think it was possible. Now that we are in Freiburg, we admit it’s pretty dazzling, especially when the sun shines as it did Sunday, when Joy snapped some of her best pictures. Here’s what we think: The town itself (meaning the buildings, streets, waterways, etc.) is as beautiful as Tübingen. What makes it seem more  beautiful is that there is much more of it–and the beauty is pervasive. Tübingen’s population is a little over 85,400; Freiburg’s is 220,000.

Dreisam River runs through town. When I called Joy’s attention to the swing, a pretty girl was posing on it. Joy was too slow. The girl has been replaced. This guy’s not as interesting.

What strikes us refugees from Oregon, Indiana and Tennessee is the luscious foliage in and surrounding this town. We rode the bus from Tübingen. Joy noted, on one especially long curvy descent through the hills, how much it reminded her of the highway between Johnson City TN and Asheville NC. I agreed. But I had actually been thinking it reminded me of the drive from Eugene, Oregon to Roseburg (Douglas County). She agreed. It seems no matter how far from home you travel you regularly compare the new place with where you used to live. North Carolina’s author Thomas Wolfe says in the title of one of his books You Can’t Go Home Again. It’s a good title and true. But another would be equally true: You Can’t Leave Home Completely. Anyway, there’s a super-abundance of beauty in this world, certainly in both Tübingen and Freiburg.

Joy’s eye for beauty of all types is apparent in this father-son picture. The man’s physique looks quite a bit like my own. Still, you’ll note the Hat slinking away. He’s obviously not intended to be in this photo. His day is past.

The real beauty of Freiburg for us is personal, as in the persons we’ve been with. This is the last of our European Globalscope visits, to one of Globalscope’s newest campus ministries. The Unterwegs team (yes, it’s the same name as the Tübingen ministry) began arriving in March. Fall semester will be their first one with the whole team here. They’ve just returned from the annual Celebration of Globalscope leaders, in Colorado this year. They’re refreshed and eager to get to work.              Erin Harper served her “apprenticeship” with Beth Jarvis Silliman (though neither knew in the beginning that Erin would lead this new work) in Tübingen before accepting the call to assemble and head the Freiburg team. She’s joined by her husband, Donovan, Luke DeGraaf (who directs the student exchange program) and Anna Schroter, who is from Leipzig. We also got to meet this semester’s exchange students from Illinois: Park Leacock, Mason Nelson, Emily Workman, Alicia Moshon, and Bryanna Stoiber. We just missed teammate David Horton, who will arrive on Tuesday, the day we leave.

The Freiburg Unterwegs team including this semester’s five exchange students from Illinois. Back row: Anna, Emily, Luke, Donovan; Front row: Alicia, Bryanna, Mason, Park, and Erin.

They don’t have a meeting place yet, so the Harper apartment functions as temporary headquarters. This means that instead of inviting students to come to them, on their turf, they must go out to greet and meet students on the students’ turf. It’s an effective tactic forced by necessity. And of course for several of the team members, language classes are a must. This also is not only a good way to learn German but an excellent opportunity to meet other students.

I wondered how and when Freiburg (“Free Town”) got its name. It’s an ancient city, tucked into the extreme Southwest corner of Germany astride the Dreisam river which flows between our Airbnb and the hill behind us, right on the edge of the Black Forest. It was founded in 1120 as an independent (hence “free”) town (“burg”). In the 12th century the name indicated a certain degree of autonomy. “Burg” connotes “fortified.” So there you have it: a fortified, self-governing community of free citizens—a pretty impressive claim for its day.

What drew Globalscope here to plant another Unterwegs ministry is one of Freiburg’s primary claims to fame: its university. In 1457 Albrecht VI established the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität. It was quickly pointed out to us that this university was founded 20 years before Tübingen’s—not that there’s a rivalry or anything like that. Both universities are famous for their high academic standards.

We also learned that in the turbulent 16th century Protestant Reformation, Freiburg elected not to join the movement but remained Catholic. Famed Catholic theologian Desiderus Erasmus, one-time friend and later opponent of Martin Luther, left his home in Basel (newly Protestant) and took refuge in Freiburg, by then a recognized center and haven for Catholics.

Terraced hillside vineyard as viewed from the street  near our apartment

The city didn’t escape the witch hunts of the 16th century. When the Black Plague (which killed 25% of the city’s population of 8000)  hit in 1564, a witch hunt that lasted for decades ensued. Scapegoats must be found. Too many innocent people were killed. Then later, another shocking figure is that during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) Freiburg’s population (variously stated as 10,000 to 14,000) plummeted to 2,000 survivors.

But that was yesterday. Surely such a thing couldn’t happen again. But it did, in World War II.  In 1940 all the Jews in the state (Baden) and 350 Jews from Freiburg were deported.

Jewish Memorial pool on the site of Jewish synagogue destroyed during the Nazi era. That’s the ultramodern university library across the plaza.

Many died. In 1942 all the remaining Jews in state and city were rounded up and shipped to Auschwitz. You know the rest of that story. You can see their memorial, a marble footprint at the site of the synagogue which the Nazis burned down on “Kristallnacht,” November 9, 1938. Refreshingly, it’s a paddling pool for children to safely splash in, a memorial that looks to the future. There’s a bronze plaque there with the story. We also saw small brass plates outside former Jewish homes. I couldn’t help grieving for the millions of Jews, gays, and mentally and physically handicapped persons rounded up, deported, and ultimately killed in the name of racial and national “purity.” There’s a lesson here.

This landmark was spared in the bombing of WWII. The scaffolding on the spire symbolizes the almost organic nature of gothic structures like this one–under construction or reconstruction for centuries.

The physical presence of Freiburg also suffered heavy damage from both the German Luftwaffe (the pilots’ mistakes cost 57 lives) and Allied Forces. On 27 November 1944 they destroyed most of the city center. They spared the church. Often in the bombing of cities, churches with their easily identified spires escaped damage. They weren’t the target but pointed to the targets.

Many of the medieval buildings we admired aren’t medieval at all. The core of the city was rebuilt to look like pre-war Freiburg.

On Sunday morning we walked fifteen minutes to the Harpers’ apartment to join them and two of the exchange students, Mason and Park, to walk another 45 minutes to worship with their Baptist Church. What greeted us was a closed door and a sign (in German, of course) explaining there’d be no service here today. Erin and Donovan had been away the previous two Sundays, so missed earlier announcements. In church work, communication is everything! As for us, well an hour-long walk (one way) is good for the body–and not so terrible for the soul!

“Today one finds here no worship,” the sign says, with information directing interested parties to another time and place.

Our stay in Freiburg has been a mere four days, an almost criminal slight to this fascinating city.

JOY’S PICK OF THE PICS

This shot captures much that is Freiburg: the river, the foliage, the graffiti, the modern bridge and vehicles, the pedestrian walkway.
Alhough Freiburg is a pretty secular city, the Catholic presence is still felt here.
Street daisy glowing in the sun.
Freiburg’s graffiti is prolific. Here it adorns the riverside walk through town.

Wunderbar Tübingen, Deutschland

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We’ve been here before, but not since we’ve been lawsonsontheloose. It’s one of our favorite towns, home of historic Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen (founded 1477) and, more important for our purposes, of Unterwegs, the Globalscope campus ministry here.

Tübingen is a natural location for Globalscope, which has been active here for a decade. Not that the university has a campus in the American sense. It doesn’t. Rather, the various faculties of medicine, natural sciences, humanities and theology, etc. are housed in their own buildings throughout town. In Tübingen, town and gown are inseparable.

Tübingen is a bicycle-friendly city. It’s also “green” in all the current meanings of the word.

The list of prominent persons associated with the university boasts some of Europe’s most accomplished:

Philip Melanchthon, colleague of Martin Luther in the Protestant Reformation

Astronomer Johannes Kepler

Hans Kung, one of the 20th century’s leading Catholic theologians

Joseph Ratzinger, the man we know as Pope Benedict XVI

Poet Friedrich Hölderlin

Philosopher Friedrich Schelling

Philosopher George William Friedrich Hegel

Biologist Friedrich Miescher, who discovered DNA here in 1868

Protestant Theologian Helmut Thielicke

Theologian Ferdinand Christian Baur, who led the “Tübingen School” in developing the “higher criticism” school of Biblical studies.

Alois Alzheimer, who delivered his paradigm-changing paper on dementia at a seminar here. The plaque commemorating the occasion reads, “Alois, wir werden dich nie vergessen.” “Alois, we will never forget you.” Appropriate.

Not all of Tübingen’s history is praiseworthy, unfortunately. University leaders offered academic legitimacy to Nazi policies. Very early, even before that infamous regime began (1933), the faculty included almost no Jewish professors and precious few Jewish students. One source says 1158 people were sterilized at the university hospital. Today’s university bears no resemblance to those infamous days.

Of equal importance here to the above list of notables is my own list of friends associated with the Christian Church’s Institute for the Study of Christian Origins: Earl Stuckenbruck (whose wife OttieMerle is one of these bloggers’ most faithful encouragers), who established the Institute in the 1960s; Fred Norris, my colleague at Milligan College and Emmanuel Christian Seminary; Bruce Shields, another Emmanuel colleague and chair of the Institute board; Scott Bartchy, a Milligan graduate, distinguished professor at UCLA; Dennis Lindsay, Academic Vice President of my alma mater, Northwest Christian University and former Principal of Springdale College in Birmingham; Ron Heine, longtime professor with service also in Springdale College and in America at Lincoln Christian College, Puget Sound Christian College and Northwest Christian University. I’m leaving out too many; I’ve included enough so you will understand my feelings about this place.

The campus ministry office-meeting rooms-coffee shop-welcome center. “Unterwegs” roughly means “underway” or “on the way.” The earliest Christians were often called “followers of the Way.”

The foregoing speaks mostly of yesterday. We’re here, though, because of what’s happening now. Globalscope has maintained the campus ministry here for nearly a decade. In this secular university setting, these dedicated young ministers provide a safe place for students to ask serious faith-related questions, to find acceptance and develop a sense of purpose and a God-directed life. It’s gratifying to see former student participants in Globalscope now on staff, serving students as they were once served.

The team: Chris Godwin, Tyler Crawford, Julia Kopp, Tony Cole, Shalynn Crawford, Finn Crawford and the visiting Hat. Joy took this photo outside the restaurant in which we ate too much. Missing from the photo: the celebrating Max and Emily.

We missed seeing Emily Brewer and Max Faul. Emily is the team leader and Max a fellow Globalscope team member and former student. They are away for a pretty good reason: celebrating their wedding. In German style, they married a year ago in a civil ceremony in the States, but the real nuptials took place last week, surrounded by friends and family. I don’t know—you might have thought they’d postpone all of that fuss when they learned we were coming. They didn’t. We are determined not to feel offended.

Our home is Shalynn and Tyler Crawford’s Airbnb. They are double-duty hosts. They welcomed us to the wonders of Tübingen, meeting our plane in Stuttgart, driving us here, showing us around their city, hosting a delicious meal in their home. They are also our landlords, providing solicitous personal attention as well as every possible amenity. The room is spacious and well-furnished. The view out the kitchen window starts our day on an upbeat note:

The view from our Airbnb’s kitchen window.

My favorite feature of the B&B is the bunk bed. It’s no dainty twin-bed size structure. Each bunk has a queen-size mattress, more than adequate for the two of us. But there’s something even better. There’s a ladder, an enticement for any adventurous eleven-year-old (“You have to understand, Roy’s eleven,” Velcro son Brian explains. Disrespectful comment, even if true.).

Bunk bed with ladder and hat–and obvious reason for the Hat’s hat.

So I opted for the top bunk (six feet above floor level), hoping to prove I can still climb a ladder. I can, I did, and I slept like a baby on its form-fitting mattress.  Joy, poor dear, was a bit intimidated by the ladder, so she chose to make do on the lower bunk without my company.  She managed somehow. I expected complaints of desertion, protestations of how much she missed me. They remain unuttered. She bore her disappointment a little too complacently, if you ask me.

Our team dinner in Unterweg’s favorite Tübingen restaurant will long be remembered. We were all there except for the absent Max and Emily who, as I mentioned above, were otherwise engaged. Chris, Julia, and Tony joined the Crawfords and us. What fun it was to observe—and participate in—the easy banter and camaraderie of this talented group. They had a challenging year of adjustment following the departure of longtime leader, Beth Jarvis, who is in the Chicago area where husband Daniel Silliman is pursuing post-doctoral studies. She’s missed, but under Emily’s gentle guiding hand the ministry is prospering and the fellow workers are glad to be regrouping after summer break.

As I’ve indicated, we liked the team members just fine, but we were totally smitten by Finn Crawford, aged 19 months.

Finn Crawford, 19 months, on our Bebenhausen Monastery outing.

His parents took us on an outing to nearby Bebenhausen Monastery, built around 1183 by Rudolph I, Count Palatine of Tübingen, as a Cistercian monastery.

Bebenhausen Monastery and village

The Protestant Reformation changed all that, of course, so it subsequently served as a school, a hunting palace, and even housed the legislative assembly of the State of Württemberg-Hohenzollern. It’s a magnificent place, kept up by the State Heritage Agency of Baden-Württemberg (I love typing these German place-names. It’s even more fun trying to pronounce them. I only make the attempt when no real German speakers are around. They’d wonder what those ridiculous sounds I’m making are supposed to mean).

The buildings and grounds deserve one’s full attention. Ours, however, was diverted. It was more entertaining to watch Finn explore the premises, the various gardens and courtyards ceaselessly fascinated him. It was even more fun eating our picnic lunch with him. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are equally good when eaten or when applied as decoration to hands and faces. The oldsters in our group marveled at Finn’s positive disposition all day. Joy noted how much better he behaves without his nap than does certain company she regularly keeps.

Team member Julia Kopp volunteered to show us around on our last afternoon. She’s a native of Swabia, this part of Germany, a graduate of the university who now serves on the Unterwegs staff, and an impressively informed guide.

Julie describes the distinctively Catholic features in St. George’s a Protestant church.

Thanks to her we visited St. George’s Collegiate Church and the Tübingen castle, sites we probably would have missed without her guidance. Wherever we visit, we like to connect with a “native,” so we can get the insider’s perspective. Julia fully satisfied this expectation.

View from the Tübingen rooftops from the castle parapet.

The oldest building in Tübingen’s central marketplace is the Rathouse (City Hall). The original building dates back to 1435; it was then added onto and rebuilt several times: 1508, 1849, 1970s. Of special note is the astronomical clock, added in 1508. Johannes Stöffler, a Tübingen math and astronomy professor constructed it. To this day you can rely on it for the time of day, date, phase of the moon and “special astronomical events such as solar and lunar eclipses,” Wikipedia reports.

JOY’S PICK OF THE PICS

Doors continue to fascinate the photographer.
Bicycles are not the only popular form of human-powered transportation here.
As I said, a “green” city. This is the balcony on the Rathouse (City Hall).
We were walking along the trail to the monastery. These mushrooms stopped Joy. You can see why.
Even in an ancient monastery work is never finished.

FROM CHESTER TO NOTTINGHAM

Our last Chester breakfast. Joy gets pretty creative with leftovers that must be eaten before we leave.

We were loath to leave Chester but eager to see our Globalscope friends in Nottingham. Our final days left us with some more happy memories, like a couple more walks along the canal from our Airbnb home to the heart of the city. It’s not a particularly picturesque scene. The brown water moves slowly, attracting ducks and their feathers and other debris. The accompanying sidewalk attracts bicyclists, strollers, shoppers hurrying to or bearing bags from stores, determined walkers and even more determined joggers. Narrow canal boats attract a different breed of people, those appreciating the slow life, relaxing with drink in hand and a smile for any pedestrians who take the time to glance their way.

The two friendly canal boaters who took me aboard for an ascending ride through the Nottingham Canal locks.

This particular canal runs through a dozen locks, lifting or lowering the boats through hand-cranked gates.  Joy and I paused to watch a woman crank open the upper gate; a city employee, we surmised, paid by the hour for manual labor unchanged since the canal network was constructed in 1792-1796. We were wrong. She was the “crew” of a canal boat making its way downstream. Her husband was the captain. He guided the boat; she did the work. Kind of like the way our marriage works.

The next day I ran into the same couple, this time chugging their way upstream. They persuaded me (with very little effort) to come aboard and ride to the upper level with them. It was fun. I’d been through Panama Canal and many locks on the Rhone River; by comparison, Chester’s are rather puny. But this friendly couple’s enthusiasm made this an uplifting experience. He’s a retired farmer. He and his “crew” spend several weeks a year exploring England’s canals. They typify the warm, friendly, generous people we’ve met everywhere in England. And not just England.

We ate lunch in town before going on to Grosvenor Park’s Open Air Theatre for a Saturday matinee of Shakespeare’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. Chester’s main streets were almost as crowded as a week earlier for the Pride Parade, and this crowd was gussied up. For a wedding? Too many of the. They couldn’t all be wedding guests.

“It’s Chester Race Day,” our waitress informed us, surprised by our ignorance.  Everybody knows this is race day! Chester boasts the UK’s oldest continuously operated race track, dating back to the early 16th century. Today’s not just any old race, though. It is Ladies’ Day at the track. Hence the elegant attire, men uncomfortably stuffed into suits and ties and women decked out in a mix of cocktail and formal and Sunday-go-to meeting dresses. If I had known about the horse races in time, I might have tried to persuade Joy to join me at the track instead of the theater. I love horses. It wouldn’t have worked out, though. We didn’t have the proper clothes.

Shakespeare was less fussy. We patrons on the hard bleacher seats (cushions provided) dressed much more casually. We had come to see, not to be seen. What we saw was a rowdy, sometimes raunchy, often hilarious adaptation of the Bard’s beloved fairy tale. Joy had trouble following the plot, as if that mattered. It didn’t. It’s an improbable tale of four young lovers who run away from parental wrath into the woods where they fall prey to a mischievous fairy king and his queen and their obedient servant-spirits. Through a magic elixir, generously misapplied, the queen and the young lovers obsess over the wrong objects of their affection. Chaos breaks out. But this plot is almost the sideshow to the sideshow, which is the play within the play being rehearsed and then produced for the weddings (of the Duke and his Intended and the four young people finally sorted out) by some of Shakespeare’s most unforgettable—and most lovable—clowns/craftsmen. Their delightfully inept reenactment of the ancient myth of Pyramus and Thisbe would have brought the house down—except this outdoor theater has no house.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s open air daytime setting.

My excuse for the confusing foregoing paragraph is that there’s no way to succinctly capture the play’s zaniness. A new twist in this version: one of the young male lovers was updated to make a modern political statement. The actor playing Lysander was black and female, so that in the final wedding scene we witnessed the marriage of lovers mixed in color but not in gender. The words were Shakespeare’s, but their application was as relevant and controversial as today’s headlines.

Creative casting: a white bride and black groom at their same sex wedding.

 

We can’t leave Chester without a word about the town’s famous cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of Chester since 1541. Parts of the building are even older, though, dating back to 1093. Scholars think this site may have been used for Christian worship as early as the Roman times.

 

Joy was tied up Sunday afternoon so she couldn’t attend the Choral Evensong service with me. She missed a treat. An excellent visiting choir led the service. Like so many ancient cathedrals, the acoustical resonance of this one is superb, leaving this worshiper unable to move for some time after the service was over. The organist mesmerized the handful of us who lingered. I confess that no music reaches me quite the way a cathedral organ does.

That was Sunday. The next morning we left for Nottingham. It took three different trains to get us there.  We made every connection without incident, not always the case with us! When we stepped off the train in Nottingham, Globerscopers Christine Barber and Matt Hawkins greeted us–and offered to help with the luggage. We let them.

A favorite building in the heart of Nottingham.

We are so glad to be visiting campus ministries again. If you followed lawsonsontheloose.net last year, you are already aware that looking in on these CMF-Globalscope operations has been one of our top goals. When we were in Edinburgh and Birmingham in 2016, the Nottingham team hadn’t gathered yet. Now all six members are here, and a pretty impressive lot they are–although they might not look so impressive in this photo taken of our group dinner. For dessert they chose….cotton candy! A more mature group you can’t imagine.

Here they are, starting clockwise from Joy: Ashley, Matt, Miles, Joel, Tabby, and Christine (their fearless leader) and Hatless.

We met together and ate together and laughed a lot. The university students don’t return for autumn term until later this month, so we didn’t get to meet them. This more relaxed time gave us more quality time with the team, discussing their work, their plans, their projected move into their own facility, and the students they’ve already established relations with. This is a contagious, harmonious, visionary group. Their future looks good. I should add also that they know how to take good care of the elderly.

While they worked we played. We knew a little about Nottingham already as the former center for lace production in–I guess in the world. Here in England’s Midlands the industrial revolution was born, and in Nottingham lace manufacturing moved from cottages into consolidated factories employing the latest technology. This transformation inflamed many of the weavers and other textile workers who felt their jobs threatened. The more aggressive fought back. They destroyed the machines but they couldn’t stop progress. Their rebellion gave us the term “Luddite” (after their supposed but probably fictional leader Ned Ludd), which still identifies “a person opposed to industrialization or automation.” Our era’s adoption of computerized technology in so many fields (transportation, communication, manufacture, etc.) has popularized the word anew. And it all started in Nottingham in an intermittent rebellion that lasted from 1811 to 1816. Protestors were finally stopped at gunpoint and military force.

We also knew that Robin Hood and his merry men used to hang out in Sherwood Forest not far from here. You’ll find his likeness around town, as in this statue in front of the Nottingham Castle Wall.

A tanner from 500 years ago explained his family’s trade. He even tried to recruit some of us, though his description of the working conditions drew no takers

One thing we didn’t know is that the city is built over caves. Nottingham sits on a large sandstone ridge. Sandstone is relatively soft. Simple hand tools are sufficient to carve out a cave large enough to serve as a pub cellar, a shelter for a poor man or family, or even a tannery. Over 500 individual caves have been discovered–all man-made–dating back over a thousand years. During World War II at least 86 of them functioned as air raid shelters.

A WW II gas mask. These were handed out in the caves to protect the citizens from inhaling poisonous gasses. The filter was asbestos!

And now they draw income from tourists like us who have never seen anything quite like this labyrinth of cubby holes and connecting passages.

After spending time underground we found Nottingham’s Beach a welcome change. During summer the central marketplace/town square is transformed into a beach-like carnival, complete with rides, booths, music, and sand. Yes, beach sand, carted in for the season. There is water as well, but it’s here year-round in the fountain and pool that little children find irresistible.

Nottingham is a pub city. There’s nothing new about this, as the date (1189 AD) on Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem testifies. This unusual name comes from its claim to have provided refreshment for Crusaders on their way to the Holy Land to fight for King Richard the Lionhearted. (I should add that there is no documentation to back up this claim. Makes a good story, though.) The building sits up against the castle wall and incorporates some of the famous caves.

There’s a sadness about the success of the pubs and the decline of the churches. One of the most beautiful is the Piano and Pitcher. You can see the towering stain glass window which gives this pub its unique ambience. As we toured the building Joy told a waitress that it was a bit hard for a preacher to see this great church facility being used as a pub and not housing an active congregation. She was right.

Another repurposed building is this former music hall. In a reverse twist, a group of Christians have converted it into a pub that’s run by volunteers and serves the community through seasonal musicals and charitable activities. Notice the quality of the construction, including this unusual 19th-century rounded roof. “The Malt Cross,” as the facility is now known, has recently been granted permission to make use of caves beneath the building for musical performances, private dining, and maybe a brewery where once monks stored meat and beer.

Nottingham names among its famous sons some notable 19th century literary figures. The poet Lord Byron lived here for a few years. So did novelist Samuel Butler. J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, was born in Scotland but spent some early years here. And of course there’s D. H. Lawrence, who scandalized polite society with Lady Chatterley’s Lover and other famous writings. He was born in Nottinghamshire and attended high school in the city. He’s of special interest to me because of a college student in one of my classes years ago who insisted she much preferred Lawrence to Jesus. I might have said a word or two in rebuttal.

We opened this post with a shot of our last Chester breakfast. We close with a return to the food theme and a confession. Yes, though we are in England and enjoy the native cuisine, in Nottingham’s Five Guys restaurant we nostalgically ate hamburgers. And peanuts. And fries. And drank a chocolate milkshake. And repented the next day.

JOY’S PICK OF THE PICS

As we waited for A Midsummer Night’s Dream to begin, Joy caught this scene in Grosvenor Park
Nottingham Castle Wall
A favorite piece of Joy’s from the art exhibition in Chester Cathedral
In this pub we watched several men and women fail to swing this ring, suspended from the ceiling, to successfully drop it over the horn. Joy wants you to know she mastered the technique on her second attempt. She’s the athlete in the family.