I would like to take a moment to thank my friend Scott for his incredible trip-planning skills. I have no idea how much time he spent figuring out the best times and cheapest prices for our travels, but it worked out so perfectly and I definitely could not have done it alone. If I’m being honest (which…I am…), taking two overnight buses in a row during the first part of our journey was a bit rough, but the FIRST CLASS trains on the way home made it more than worthwhile. I highly recommend it.
Continuing with my Easter travel adventures: Scott and I said goodbye to the rest of the group in Dresden and continued to Frankfurt, where we stayed in a hostel for two days. This was my first experience in a hostel and it is certainly one that I will never forget! I met so many lovely, kind, interesting people there from around the world and still talk to several of them. I will expand on this more in my Frankfurt post. This one is to tell you about our day in Mainz where we met up with my friend Anna from high school! Anna is German and spent a year at my high school while I was there; we have stayed in contact since then and when I let her know that we would be travelling through Germany, she offered to show us around her home! We met her in the train station and spent the day touring around the beautiful city of Mainz. As large European cities go, it was not touristy (which I really appreciated). It was also very nice to have a native showing us around! Anna confessed to me that she had done some research the night before into some of the places she was showing us so that she would be able to give us more information and answer questions. How sweet! She’s so lovely. Anna is Catholic like me, so we geeked out a lot together over the churches and the history but Scott didn’t seem to mind too much.
Our first stop was to Mainz Cathedral; construction on this impressive place of worship began in 975 AD. Half a dozen monarchs were crowned in this cathedral, and many prince-archbishops of the diocese are buried beneath. The artwork inside literally spans a millennium. My entire perspective of art and history and the concept of OLD is forever altered by places such as this one. I felt such a connection with my brothers and sisters in Christ throughout literally the past thousand years. Moments such as these put my life and anxieties in perspective.
(Random fact about the cathedral: If you know anything about typical cathedral construction, it is quite rare for the cloister to be two stories: this cathedral is one of only a few in the world to be constructed so.) I find it difficult to believe that anyone can walk into a place such as this one and NOT feel the very presence of the Lord.
After our time in the Cathedral, we all decided to placate our stomachs and find lunch. Anna took us to her favourite restaurant which is right across a wide road and plaza from the opera house, called the Staatstheater. In this area is a statue of Johannes Gutenberg (yep, the guy who invented the mechanical printing press) and a design in the ground letting you know that you are standing on the 50°N parallel. Lunch was delicious Italian food and I had my first ever cappuccino. (Yes, Italian in Germany. Don’t judge us.)
Anna then took us to tour a bit of her school, Johannes Gutenberg University. It was interesting to see and hear about a foreign [to me] university and her experiences there. I really enjoyed it but it was strange to thinking about being at such a large university, especially after 2.5 years at little Erskine! Gutenberg University is far larger than even St Andrews.
The second church we visited was St. Stephan zu Mainz, or The Collegiate Church of St. Stephan; it was originally built in 990 AD on the tallest hill in Mainz. The current church, pictured below, was completed in 1340. The view inside and out was gorgeous! I absolutely love the back story of how the church came to look the way it was. The altar is 13th century and the tabernacle dates to the early 1500s! Is anything that old in America? Marc Chagall, a Russian Jew who fled France during the Nazi occupation, created the stained-glass windows of the church in the 1970s-80s at the request of the bishop who was a friend of his. Chagall considered the windows a contribution to Jewish-German reconciliation and the windows with pictures demonstrate commonalities between the Christian & Jewish faiths. I love the story and symbolism of this loving act. Though we were not there to see it, it is said that at certain times of day the way that the light plays through the windows makes it seem as though there are angels flying through the air. It is an amazing effect either way.
I think this post is quite long enough for now, but I will finish up a few more stories [and quite a few more pictures of course!] in my next post.