Another autumn in the books, this one was of the craziest and best weeks to be up north.
Last fall was busy busy and somewhere in there I moved my website and didn’t add the piling up posts…here is one sunset during an otherwise very rainy week up north.
One day for a rest, Janet I took off and met a friend at her country garden for wandering through the flowers and dinner. It was such a beautiful, relaxing evening!
‘work sets you free’
Auschwitz was a network of three main labor/extermination camps and 45 satellite camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II. We visited Auschwitz I.
Auschwitz was first constructed to hold Polish political prisoners, who began to arrive in May 1940. The first extermination of prisoners took place in September 1941. At least 1.1 million prisoners died at Auschwitz, around 90 percent of them Jewish.
Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Romani and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses, and tens of thousands of others of diverse nationalities, including an unknown number of homosexuals. Many of those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.
The SS officer who did role call had his own little hut to stand in, outside of inclement weather while the prisoners stood out in the elements.Janet and I discussed how unfair it seemed that a place that housed such evil could be so beautiful, and even in the haunting silence some places there was even a peace. But yet, somehow – good will come out of this evil.A memorial was resurrected at the back of Auschwitz I for people to pay respects to the victims of Auschwitz. A place of silence, there were candles burning and a bouquet of red carnations. We both left a stone in the memorial as in the Jewish tradition to signify that we honored the deceased person’s memory with a visit to the grave.Even now, I am overwhelmed by the enormity of evil that happened in this place, that time period. If I had been alive then, which side of the Holocaust would I have fallen? Would I have blindly followed Hitler, agreeing with him, or obeyed in fear? Or would I have silently stood up to him by hiding and helping Jews and other people the Third Reich sought to exterminate? I cannot think on that too long – it shreds my heart. I will never know, unless I live through something like that. I pray that if I do, I have the strength and courage of Jesus Christ to do what is right and not give in to the reigning terror.Here are the train tracks that brought prison at Auschwitz. Today they are covered in daisies, forget-me-nots, and a variety of other wild flowers. I have decided to not post much about the history of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau (which we didn’t have a chance to visit). Here are some different resources to read if you wish to know more history about the camps.
How blessed the man you train, God,
the woman you instruct in your Word,
Providing a circle of quiet within the clamor of evil,
while a jail is being built for the wicked.
God will never walk away from his people,
never desert his precious people.
Rest assured that justice is on its way
and every good heart put right.
The drive to Kraków was long and beautiful, with a KFC every few miles! The bridges were fantastic and the forests dark and mysterious. Clouds kept the drive from getting too hot and added interest to the drive. We spent the weekend in Kraków. There was so much to see there we didn’t explore anything else. Our host’s dogs, Onyx and Amber, like to play soccer with their ball! Onyx is good keeping the ball going and Amber is good at chasing Onyx and cheering her on. Lori took us into Kraków for a short tour the evening we arrived. Kraków started as a hamlet on Wawel Hill and is the second largest, and one of the oldest city in Poland. It dates back to sometime int he 7th century! By 965 it was reported as a busy trading center in Europe.Following the invasion of Poland in September 1939 by Nazi Germany, Kraków became part of the Nazi’s General Government and eventually its capital. It was headed by Hans Frank who was based in Wawel Castle. The Nazis envisioned turning Kraków into a completely German city after removing all Jews and Poles. Legend says women saved this portion of old city walls from being destroyed by the men. They told the men that if this wall were taken down, the wind would gust through the market square and lift the ladies’ skirts on their way to church, thus embarrassing the women and making the men think badly of them. So the men did not tear down this wall. This is how the women saved the wall of Kraków. There are roughly 120 churches registered in Kraków. We walked by many, and went into only two (St. Mary’s Basilica and the other were a wedding was taking place, so no pictures were allowed). Cloth Hall was originally designed in the 14th century as a center for international trade. The ground floor is continually used for commerce with its many souvenir shops and cafés; upstairs houses the Gallery of the National Museum. It has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978.We did not spend much time at Wawel Castle because we had so many other things to see, but it was lovely! And the other tourists were a HOOT to watch!Legend tells about a dragon, Smok Wawelski, who was terrorizing Kraków during the reign of King Krakus, the city’s legendary founder. Each day the evil dragon would reign down destruction across the countryside, killing the civilians and devouring their livestock. The king wanted to put an end to the dragon, but his bravest knights failed. In desperation, the King promised his beautiful daughter Wanda’s hand in marriage to anyone who could defeat the dragon. Great warriors from near and far fought for the prize and failed. One day a poor cobbler grew tired of the ongoing terror. He stuffed a lamb with sulfur and set it outside the dragon’s cave. The dragon ate it and became incredibly thirsty. He turned to the Vistula River for relief and drank and drank, but no amount of water could quench his aching stomach and after swelling up from drinking half the Vistula river, he exploded. The cobbler refused the princess’s hand in marriage because his wife would not be happy. Read more legend versions about the dragon here. During the reign of Casimir III the Great (1333 to 1370), St. Mary’s Basilica was rebuilt on the remaining foundation of an earlier church destroyed in the Mongol invasion. Vicar Jacek Augustyn Łopacki had the interior rebuilt in the late Baroque style in the 18th century.Legend says two brothers were hired to design and build St. Mary’s Basilica towers, but they wouldn’t work together. This is why each tower is different. The brother who built the shorter tower was jealous of the other’s tower so killed him. The knife hangs in an arch in the Cloth Market across the square.
Every hour a fire fighter climbs to the top of the main tower to sound a trumpet call, the Hejnał mariacki. The melody is plaintive and historically was played to signal the open and close of the city gates. It stops unexpectedly mid-stream to salute the famous 13th century guard who was shot in the throat by an arrow while playing the tune to warn the city of the coming Tatar invasion.
The extravagant Altarpiece is the largest Gothic altar piece and a national Polish treasure. It was designed and carved out of lime (linden), oak, and larch wood by Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz) between 1477 and 1484. During the German occupation, the altarpiece was dismantled and shipped to the Third Reich on order of Hans Frank. It was sent to Nuremberg Castle in Bavaria, where it survived heavy bombing to be recovered and returned to Poland in 1946. It underwent major restoration and was put back in its place at the Basilica 10 years later.
Julia took us to the Jewish Quarter where we saw a few Synagogues and an ancient Jewish cemetery. I learned how in the Jewish culture, stones are left on the headstones to tell the family that someone stopped by to pay respects. And thus ended our tour through Kraków. The next day we went back to do our tourist-ly duty of shopping and souvenir buying before we drove to Auschwitz, which I am posting about next week.
While Janet was in town this fall, there was the Thresher’s show in Dalton, MN, and I was invited to go check things out! Being a city born and bred girl, I kinda geeked out at all the cool old engines I saw and watching two farmers thresh wheat! WHAAAAT?! Chaff! Many of the machines were over a hundred years old! All the belts and gears were fascinating! And seeing how the belts are repaired because replacement belts aren’t made anymore! The little town there was sweet, with a church, store, and red school house. We also watched a Railroad stake being made in the blacksmith shop! There was a cute little old man sitting in the General Store.
The “Frauenkirche” (Church of Our Lady) was first built in 1726-43 by George Bähr. After the bombing of Dresden in 1945, the heat was so great the sandstone church succumbed and was destroyed. The church was left in ruins for 45 years as a memorial and reminder of the war. Rebuilding was started in 1994 and the outside of the church was completed in 2004, consecrated in October 2005 once the inside was complete, and reopened.The dark color of the old stones mingled with the different sized and lighter stones from the re-building resemble old scars of healed wounds, a mosaic of past and present. They also speak of overcoming hostility and hope and reconciliation. The motto of the building project is “Building bridges, living reconciliation, strengthening faith”.I love how people from other countries came together to help rebuild this church, making it a symbol of reconciliation between former enemies.Oh, the splendor of the Frauenkirche in Dresden! The sheer size of this church is alone amazing! The main sanctuary was closed for Mass when we first arrived, so we trekked to the top to get a bird’s eye view of Dresden.From here we were also able to see the old city ruins, which are being built over so the fences block viewing from street level. I think it would have been fun to walk through there. Some of the ruins are already filled in.From our perch we saw the Cathedral and Hausmannsturm in the distance. We later walked past the Cathedral and Palace it is connected to.We also saw City Hall and the Driekönigskirche. We later ate at a little Mexican restaurant named Don Pancho right outside the Driekönigskirche, which was quite the experience! I never thought I’d eat authentic Mexican in Germany! The woman who owns the restaurant imports her spices from Mexico. It is a place to stop if you are ever in Dresden!The Augustusbrücke is the oldest bridge in Dresden, built in 1727 by Augustus II the Strong of Poland and rebuilt in 1907. Further back is the Marienbrücke.Janet is a very good tour guide. Not even her fear of heights kept her from taking us here! The heights are quite dizzy-ing, so I appreciated that Janet took us up and went out on the viewing platform. And she didn’t die! Neither did I. Or Erika. We could see pretty far, even with the fog.The top half of the climb is narrow, winding hallways like this. We were lucky to be able to miss the steps going up by taking the elevator! Seeing into the center of the church, and out the windows, made the walk more interesting.After spending a long time at the viewing platform, 25-ish stories up, we headed back down to see the incredible nave and down to the depths of the Frauenkirche too see the historical displays. Looking from the ground floor up through the many levels of the Frauenkirche to the viewing platform. The ceiling paintings were originally painted by Giovanni Battista Grone of Venice between May and November of 1734. The paintings (and door carvings!) were painstakingly recreated based of old wedding photos and church plans that survived the war.There are original plans on display from 1726, which is how architects determined were each stone should be placed from its place in the rubble based on the stone’s medallion. The altar is glorious in size and detail. Carved from sandstone in 1738 by Johann Christian Feige, it was pieced together after WWII from more than 2,000 fragments. There are 4,876 pipes, and only a small portion are visible The smallest one is less than one centimeter and the largest one is over 5 meters. The altar shows Christ praying alone in Gethsemane with his sleeping disciples and the soldiers approaching to arrest him. A sermon unfolds in the sweeping altar with the message of God’s mercy.
The day we spent in Dresden was partly cloudy and just the right temperature. We took the train in so we wouldn’t have to keep track of the car, or time! We got off the train and took a long walk through Prager Straße.
In shame and sorrow
Remember Christians the Jewish people of this city.
In 1933, 4675 Jews lived in Dresden. 1945 there were 70.
We were silent, as their church burned, deprived of the right of citizenship as Jews, they were expelled and murdered. We did not recognize in them our brothers and sisters.
We ask for forgiveness and Shalom.
Our first stop was at Kreuzkirche (Cross Church), first built around 1168 and was dedicated to Saint Nicholas. It has been through many re-buildings, fires, and renovations from 1401 to 1945. It re-opened in1955 in its current form.
Dresden is a beautiful city built along the Elbe river. Dresden has a wealth of cultural and art treasures and was the residence of sovereigns and kings starting in 1425. Although it was badly destroyed in the Dresden Bombing of 1945, it has been rebuilt and is a splendor to view. We spent some time in Dresden’s Frauenkirche, which I’ll post more about next week. There is entirely too much to see in Dresden in just one day, but we did a fair amount of wandering around and enjoying the views of Elbe, walking through Theatreplatz, seeing König Johann’s statue, the Hofkirche and Royal Palace (Residenzschloss), Semperoper (Semper Opera House), Goldener Reiter, Albertinum, Dresden Academy of Fine Arts, Brühlsche Terrassen…this list would be very long if I listed everything we saw!
Schloss Moritzburg is a Baroque palace in Moritzburg which was built between 1542 and 1546. It was a hunting lodge for Moritz, Duke of Saxony. A Prince of the House of Wettin lived here until 1945 when the postwar Soviet administration evicted Prince Ernst Heinrich of Saxony. We only had an hour to walk around, so we didn’t take the tour, but there was plenty to see outside! Walking up to the castle is a treat and if you turn around, you will see a breathtaking view of the town. The bright yellow makes the castle look cheery and the front is decorated with wooden deer heads with antlers mounted to them. There are 71 throughout the castle, most ranging from 270 to 400 years old! Most of them were purchased as gifts, but there is a 66-point red deer antler from an animal killed by Elector Frederick III of Brandenburg in 1696…which we did not see. The statues are in the process of being cleaned, so some are dark and some look fresh and new. The grounds are kept immaculate and plenty of friendly Pomeranian geese waddled or swam over for a visit – and to see if we had food for them. We didn’t, and they soon went looking for the school children who were eating a snack on the lawn. In 1972 Moritzburg Castle was one of the locations in the filming of the Czechoslovak-German Cinderella movie, Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel (“Three Nuts for Cinderella”), which is quite a popular movie in central Europe. Cinderella’s shoe is on display. Yes, we tried to fit into it. No, it did not fit any of us. (Which was expected!) Cinderella is a fairy tale every little girl wishes would happen to her – a handsome prince will see past the rags, the less-than we’re told we are, and he’ll whisk her away out of the normal into the life of no need and love her forever. And the geese giggle. As we left with ice cream cones in hand, the sun came out making the Schloss look even more striking!
The Giechburg Castle is right outside Scheßlitz in Upper Franconia, Bavaria, Germany. It looks over Scheßlitz and the Bamberg region. Janet likes to call it The Topless Castle because the roofs were taken off in the Romantic Age. The castle was first mentioned in writing in 1125, and came into the possession of the prince-bishops of Bamberg in 1390. It as fun walking around there and seeing flowers growing out of walls and the 4290+ year old tree!