As I write one last post before I finish packing before heading to bed for some rest to prepare for the long day of travel home, I was reminded of our first flight out last weekend. The student sitting next to me remarked as we broke through the clouds, “this never gets old” and that is true. The trips may get a little tiring but the time with these students watching and hearing what they accomplish never gets old.
I wear a bracelet that says “Ancora Imparo” – I am still learning. Every time you travel, you learn. I see it in these students faces every day on this trip. They face new situations, foods, customs and more and learn each and every time.
Some things I have learned on this trip:
Kids are cute around the world
Germany has got it down on being a bike friendly country – I wish we could add the same kind of bike lanes they have everywhere in Germany to our own cities and towns
Living out of a suitcase is made easier with copious use of ziplock bags
You can never have too many batteries or SD memory cards
Pointing, laughing and smiling can communicate a lot in markets, shops and train stations
Always have some euro change to use the public restrooms in Europe
Eat a local places as much as possible
Thank everyone who helps you
So, I thank you all for reading these postings. Knowing how much you appreciate them helps me stay up late editing video and getting it online for you to enjoy as much as possible.
Our last full day in Germany is today, also in Berlin. Our hotel is very near the main train station, which makes it easy for us to get to the performance locations as well for groups to explore the city for shopping, museums and other sightseeing options.
Today at noon, Variations performs in the Berlin Cathedral (called the Berlin Dom in German). It is massive and should be a similar experience to singing in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris last year.
Tonight’s final concert is in a smaller church and we are expecting it to be very meaningful as we end our week together here.
Tonight’s concert was in the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which is a Protestant church dedicated to peace and reconciliation. It consists of a very modern sanctuary and tower around the ruins of the original tower that was damaged during the war. We were sorry to see that the tower is being renovated and was covered by an aluminum sheath until it is completed later this year.
Before we left Wittenberg, however, we stopped briefly at a school that was designed by Austrian artist and architect Freidenreich Hundertwasser. It is colorful and full of interesting aspects such as cupolas, mosque like towers and a roof with vegetation on it. After a rainy drive through several small villages, we hit the autobahn and headed into Berlin.
Our hotel is very close to the main train station, which is a massive glass structure that looks very space-age. We met our tour guides there and headed out on a walking tour that took us past many historical landmarks such as:
the site of Hitler’s bunker where he died (ironically, it is just an ugly parking lot. According to our guide, Germany does not want to memorialize the creators of the Holocaust but rather those who died because of it.)
the memorial for Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, which is up to interpretation by each visitor as the designer will not spell out what he was trying to do with his work. It is a massive memorial of large gray stones on an undulating site. In the middle, it has a very disorienting, maze-like feel as every pathway looks the same. From the distance, it looks like a graveyard with above ground tombs.
an example of Nazi architecture that was not completely destroyed in the war that now has the German equivalent of the IRS in it.
A portion of the Berlin Wall that is still standing
The weather set the mood for such serious sites as the memorials as it was grey, cold, windy and drizzling. However, as we moved through the tour and ended up home by navigating the public transportation, the clouds broke and now we have nice blue sky and sun. We hope this will remain for the rest of the day.
Tonight, Variations will sing at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which is located in the Zoological Gardens.
Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.
Two videos from our day in Wittenberg.
First, Variations performed “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” in the Castle Church, which is where the 95 theses were nailed (but not Luther’s home church). The arrangement is a bit different and came our way thanks to Doug Manley and Jeanne Williams at Keith Memorial United Methodist Church in Athens, Tennessee (full disclosure: Thanks Mom!). In fact, after the concert, Mr. Brewer was asked about the arrangement by the music director of the church as they are always looking for new versions of the hymn.
Second up is Variations singing for “Martin Luther” after our dinner with him. I believe he truly enjoyed their impromptu performance!
Today, we traveled from Weimar to Wittenberg, the home of Martin Luther and where he nailed his 95 theses to the door of Castle Church in 1517 to start the Protestant revolution.
Variations sang in the Castle Church as part of the noon prayers. Then, in the afternoon, they had a full concert in the refractory of the Lutherhaus, in front of a priceless painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder from that depicts the Ten Commandments.
Tonight, we actually had dinner with “Martin Luther” sharing in food as he would have eaten in the 1500’s. He told stories, asked us questions and revelled in the singing of Variations. It was a great day!