take memory lane to Brussels

As my favourite form of procrastination is reminiscing about my semester abroad,  and as my week contains multiple exams and major assignments, I think this is the perfect time to write some more about my time across the Pond.  [Note: I do not condone excessive procrastination.]  I believe I have yet to tell about my visit to Brussels so I will commence there.

After saying goodbye to Anna in Frankfurt over Spring Break, Scott and I continued with our delightful first-class train ride to Brussels, Belgium.  I thoroughly enjoyed this segment of the trip by sleeping the entire 4 or so hours: clearly, I am a delightful travelling companion. We arrived that night and were met by Cory, a friend from Melville (our residence hall in St Andrews).  It was already dark outside but he showed us a bit of the city before heading to his house.  Our first stop was to get Belgian waffles.

Let me pause here.  Belgian waffles.

real. authentic. Belgian. waffles.

Belgian waffles

I am forever ruined.  They were beyond delicious!  We ate them while perusing La Grand Place–the public square–which is full of wonderfully ornate old buildings.  A few blocks away we also saw the obligatory Manneken Pis, which is a fountain of a little boy, well, peeing.  For some reason, Brussels is famous for this little fountain.  Who knows.  There were also dozens of interesting cobblestone alleyways and it was so tempting to explore each of them.  It was getting late though, so the three of us took the trams to Cory’s house in the outskirts of the city.  And what a cool house!  I wish I had time to talk about all of  the cool things they have.  My favourites were Cory’s huge Lego model of Hogwarts that he made himself and his room, which could have been fully decorated from a Harry Potter set.   (Cory founded the Quidditch team at St Andrews, runs a French HP fan website, and speaks at conferences.  I dare you to find me a bigger Potterhead. He’s the best.)

La Grande Place Janneken Pis alleyway

After a restful night’s sleep and breakfast–where we got to meet his family–we were off again to the city.  And what a city!  Aside from the fact that a wonderful friend and my academic dad are natives, it’s an amazing place.  One of the first places we went was the Justitiepaleis, or Palace of Justice.  It is called a palace for a reason.  That monster of a building should make anyone afraid of breaking the law.  The Royal Palace is probably smaller but lovely, and we spent some time walking around the park in front of it.

Buckingham Palace was awesome, but this is nothing to scoff at either.

Buckingham Palace was awesome, but this is nothing to scoff at either.

I’m very grateful to my friends for indulging my Catholic-ness.  When Cory asked us if there was anything in particular we wanted to see, I said Catholic cathedrals.  He asked which one and, not knowing anything about Belgian cathedrals, told him to choose.  I am happy in any cathedral.  So off we went to Église Notre Dame du Sablon, or Cathedral of Our Lady of Sablon.  I especially loved the way the chapels along the edge of the sanctuary were arranged in almost an open-air fashion, let alone being in a 15th-century cathedral filled with beautiful artwork and echoes of ancient hymns lingering in the rafters.  There was also a marble alcove dedicated to two families with statues and crests all around, and a baptismal font in the middle.  It was so still that I couldn’t help but feel solemn and reflective.

down the aisle altar look up! chapels another view DSCF1188 crucifix Requiëscant in Pace

I can't resist! Organs are such beautiful instruments.

I can’t resist! Organs are such beautiful instruments, and the lighting here is ethereal.

Wow. That was a lot of photos in a row.  I wish I could share them all! I also wish I could keep writing, but–alas–academics do come first.  I will share more soon; until then, please say a prayer for all of the Erskine students tackling midterms these next couple of weeks.  God bless and keep you!

life collision, take two.

If you happened to be near the State Capitol around 7.30 on Saturday night, you may have seen two crazy people doing some west coast swing on the building in the rain.  That would be me.  No surprise there.  The other person, however, was a crazy coincidence: my friend Tyler whose home town is Austin, Texas, and who graduated from St Andrews in June.  Tyler and I met at a swing dance event in February and danced together several times over the course of the spring semester.

This photo of Tyler and me (courtesy of the wonderfully talented Henry of ©Henry Legg Photography) was taken at the tea dance in late April.

This photo of Tyler and me (courtesy of the wonderfully talented Henry of ©Henry Legg Photography) was taken at the tea dance in late April.

Despite it being an awful distraction, social networking is good fora fair few things: one of those things is happening upon a friend’s Facebook status which says that he will be in South Carolina for a week.  A friend who lives in Texas and whom I met while dancing in Scotland.  Some messages and phone calls back and forth, and a fair bit of looking up directions, and we set plans to meet up over the weekend.  I drove from Erskine down to Columbia on Saturday afternoon and met Tyler at his uncle’s flat downtown.  There happened to be a music festival going on and even though it wasn’t really our type of music, we still walked about and enjoyed it.  We also found a wee coffee shop that reminded me a bit of my favourite place to get coffee in St Andrews.  Along our walk, we came upon this makeshift plywood wall surrounding a work site.  The wall had been painted with chalkboard paint and there were cups of chalk along it.  Painted on it were the words “Before I die, I want to…” and hundreds of people had written their wishes and dreams along the wall.  We spent a good few minutes looking at it and I added my own to some empty space at the bottom.  What a lovely idea! I really wish I had gotten a picture.

We had a great afternoon ambling around downtown Columbia, eating dinner, and dancing in the rain.  We unfortunately had to stop because it was getting slippery and falling a couple of stories off of a building would kind of ruin the reunion.  Later we went to a jazz club and listened to great music all night, danced some, and talked for hours.  Second crazy coincidence of this story: there was a gentleman in a kilt there.  I kid you not.  A true kilt.  I was perhaps a bit too excited.

All smiles after taking a dance break on the state capitol building.

All smiles after taking a dance break on the state capitol building.

Tyler’s uncle was kind enough to let me stay the night at his flat, which I was so grateful for because driving home that late would not have been very much fun.  I am so glad that I had the chance to see a SECOND friend from across the Pond since I’ve returned to the States.  I will also never complain about the coincidence that both of them are absolutely amazing dancers  a ton of fun to be around,  the way friends should be.  It was also fun to attempt a bit of west coast swing again, which is something outside of my normal repertoire.

Despite getting a wee bit behind on homework, my weekend was well worth it.  It is a blessing to have friends around the country and around the world, and the ability to see them!  I love seeing God play in people’s lives: seeming coincidences end up being moments that you will remember for the rest of your life.

I’m off to work on some of that homework now…
Until next time, may God bless and keep you!

The liberal arts experience

I would just like to say that I adore going to a liberal arts college.  There is little more exciting [at least for me] than making endless connections among disciplines and having the pieces fall into place. For example: a world civ lecture on Greek philosophers the other day helped me figure out how to finish a paper on Rousseau for my Family Theory class.  A couple of days later, an American Government lecture on Calvinism helped put Rousseau in context even better for me.  I constantly find overlaps with psychology and every other subject.

I also love just learning.  In my Sensation & Perception class, we have been discussing the psychophysiology of the brain as it relates to vision.  I now walk around campus thinking about how the parts of my eyeballs, the optic nerves, and all of the various areas of my brain are constantly working together to make sense of the world.  Our homework assignments for this class are always quite fun as well: for example, last night I got to play with Play-Doh!

Our professors at Erskine are truly an exceptional source of information.  I frequently find myself, on my way to or from class or errands on campus, running into a professor and spending the next 20-60 minutes discussing life, classes, future plans, and almost any other topic you could imagine.  I found my professors in St. Andrews to be quite easily approachable, but not in the unique way that makes Erskine the strong, close-knit community that it is.  My favourite part of studying here (yes: studying can be fun!) is coming across quotes from professors as I review class notes.  My pen is always poised to copy funny comments during class.  I truly love being around sociable intellectuals: they are truly witty.  (I’d like to note that this also applies to so many students here as well.  Academia is wonderful.)

One of my favourite examples of this happened just a few days ago.  Dr. Christie, our acting president and probably the best English teacher I have ever had in my life, gave the address for the formal opening of the college and seminary.  (That’s a lot of words to say that school has officially begun.  Let the work commence!)  I had to laugh when, sitting with the Choraleers in the balcony of Due West ARP church before it started, I saw on the program that the title of his address was “Dude! Alas!”  Only Dr. Christie could tie the word “dude” into Scripture so effectively.  Curious as to how this could be?  Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eqU7X85GGY&feature=youtu.be.  The Secret Sevens even make their way in to the ceremony.  I much prefer this one to the alarm clocks a few years ago…

I wish I had photos to add to this post, because that’s one of my favourite parts about blogging; alas, I have none.  I promise to make up for it in the next post though!  I should probably go catch up on homework though…being a senior is no easy task.  If you have any recommendations I would be happy to hear them.

when worlds collide

I have plenty more blogs to write about Scotland and travels, but since I am BACK at Erskine now (welcome to the class of 2017!), I want to write about my first time back at Erskine since I returned from Scotland. [Note: unless otherwise stated, all photos in this post are by The Mondays Photography, LLC.]

My roommate from freshman year, Megan, married her high school sweetheart on 13 July and I was blessed to be a part of the day as a bridesmaid.  Megan lives in Honea Path, about 15 minutes from Due West, so when I came up for the rehearsal dinner and wedding, I stayed at Erskine.  [Fun fact: Erskine has guest rooms for you to stay in when you’re visiting! They are quite inexpensive, too.]

My guest for the wedding was none other than my academic dad, Lawrence (yes, the Belgian one).  He was in Miami for the summer doing research at a university and flew up to Charleston to visit me for a long weekend.  He got to meet my family, and I had company for my first time driving to Erskine in my new car.

Lawrence and I danced a lot at the reception: no surprise there.

Lawrence and I danced a lot at the reception: no surprise there.

Taking a break from setting up the reception to say "cheese" for the camera.

Taking a break from setting up the reception to say “cheese” for the camera. [Photo by Pepper Shrock]

When we got to town on Friday, Lawrence and I headed to Theo’s–one of two restaurants in DW–for lunch with my favourite professor, Dr. Elsner.  I was so excited to see Elsner after such a long time! Our lunch turned into the three of us talking for 4 hours, until I finally looked at my watch and realised that we were late for getting ready to go to the rehearsal dinner.  Elsner and Lawrence got along so well and I really enjoyed catching up with both of them.

The rehearsal dinner was my first time seeing Megan in almost a year! I didn’t know many people there (and Lawrence knew none) but I felt right at home.  Megan and Michael, her husband, both have super friendly, close-knit families.

Friends since freshman year, and now this lovely lady is married! Guess she has a new roommate now, haha.

Friends since freshman year, and now this lovely lady is married! Guess she has a new roommate now, haha.

I caught the toss bouquet!   ...to be fair, though, I was one of the only eligible ladies there.  I'm not getting married any time soon!

I caught the toss bouquet! …to be fair, I was one of the only eligible ladies there. I’m not getting married any time soon!

The wedding was Saturday evening, so that morning I gave Lawrence a tour of Erskine.  This will be my fourth year as an Ambassador for the college, and Lawrence laughed at me a few times because I was slipping into Ambassador mode on the tour.  He really enjoyed the campus, though, and seeing all of the places that I would tell him about when we were in St Andrews.  At one point we were sitting on the swing outside of Moffatt Dining Hall and Lawrence remarked, “Now I understand why St Andrews was so exciting for you!”  He was referring to how quiet and rural DW is compared to St Andrews, Brussels, and Miami.  Of course, DW has a lot going for it despite its small size, and the campus and town community is some of the strongest and friendliest I have ever encountered.

Toward the end of the tour I showed him Memorial Hall and we spent about 15 minutes swing dancing on stage.  The floor in there is excellent for dancing, in case  you were wondering.  I also sang a little bit so he could get a feel for the acoustics (also great).

Megan and Michael’s wedding was the first wedding Lawrence had ever been to!  We had to get there pretty early for preparations and photos, but Lawrence was such a good sport about it.  He brought a book and read helped however he could.  Despite having to dodge some rain, it was a beautiful day with a beautiful group of people.

Michael and Megan: look at those smiles!  It was such a beautiful day and I am so glad I got to share it with them.

Michael and Megan: look at those smiles! It was such a beautiful day and I am so glad I got to share it with them.

Megan with her bridesmaids.  What a fun group of people!

Megan with her bridesmaids. What a fun group of people!

I loved getting to see such a great friend from St Andrews.  Being at Erskine with Lawrence was an almost surreal experience: it was like two worlds, or two separate lives, colliding.  It was wonderful to be able to introduce him to my families, both my actual family and some of my Erskine family.  We also ended up having an unexpected extra day together due to some airport logistics (but that wasn’t too much of a disappointment).

One last photo before I drove Lawrence to the airport. I am beyond blessed to have such a wonderful friend, and to know that friendship endures even over an ocean.

One last photo before I drove Lawrence to the airport. I am beyond blessed to have such a wonderful friend, and to know that friendship endures even over an ocean. [Photo by me]

That weekend with amazing friends was probably the highlight of my summer.  I hope to be able to introduce others to Erskine and I cannot wait to be able to see others from St Andrews in the future.  Well, back to SLA duties and creating more memories of my Erskine experience.  Today is move-in day for upperclassmen as well! So many sweet reunions to be had, and memories to be made!

Frankfurt finale

I promise this is my last post about Germany (for a long while, at least).  Nothing against Germany.  Au contraire: I adore Germany, but I think it is time for me to finally move on.  So I conclude with a few more photos and stories of my day in Frankfurt with Anna.

After the Cathedral, we went some place a bit different.  Paulskirche (St Paul’s Church) was rebuilt after WWII and turned into a conference/meeting area and a museum of sorts.  It was almost a little sad to me to see it not being used as a church any more, but I am very glad that they rebuilt it and that the building can still be used and appreciated.  I also love the modern organ, which I feel is a nod to its history as a place of worship.  I also think they did a great job fusing the old look with a modern facelift.

Paulskirche (St Paul's Church), built in 1790.  This was the location of the first German National Assembly, where the first German Constitution was resolved (1848).  It was rebuilt in 1948 following World War II.  Now a meeting area and museum, this was the site of President John F. Kennedy's "Ich ben ein Berliner" speech.  Talk about walking in the footsteps of history!

Paulskirche (St Paul’s Church), built in 1790. This was the location of the first German National Assembly, where the first German Constitution was resolved (1848). It was rebuilt in 1948 following World War II.

Left: what the church looked like when it was first built Right: after the bombing of Frankfurt during WWII

Left: what the church looked like when it was first built
Right: after the bombing of Frankfurt during WWII

inside collage

Our next stop was a Catholic church called St. Leonhard’s.  (Has anyone else noticed that the majority of places I visited in Europe are churches? I regret nothing.)  Anna and I lit candles and spent some time praying here.  There were so many others there worshipping, too. I love seeing that!  Like so many European churches, this one is–literally–ancient.  It started as a chapel in 1219, and acquired relics from St. Leonhard in 1322.  Here are a few photos:

outside altar quiet moment

Anna and I each lit a candle here and spent a while praying. It was such a lovely, peaceful moment.  The Lord is truly present in the still, quiet moments of life!

Anna and I each lit a candle here and spent a while praying. It was such a lovely, peaceful moment. The Lord is truly present in the still, quiet moments of life!

A beautiful German prayer asking the Lord to be the light that we may walk by in the darkness of our lives.

A beautiful German prayer asking the Lord to be the light that we may walk by in the darkness of our lives.

I thought it a bit odd that there was such modern art in such an ancient cathedral, but I was also greatly drawn to it.

I thought it a bit odd that there was such modern art in such an ancient cathedral, but I was also greatly drawn to it.

Now, I am normally not a huge fan of shopping (no, really).  But Frankfurt has literally the coolest shopping mall I have ever seen in my entire life.  The Zeilgalerie is 10 stories tall with a rooftop viewpoint where you can admire the city from above.

the Zeilgalerie,by far the largest shopping centre I have ever seen.  It is 8 or 10 stories high and a rooftop terrace where you can eat in the café and admire the Frankfurt skyline.

the Zeilgalerie,by far the largest shopping centre I have ever seen.

another view of the Zeilgalerie

another view of the Zeilgalerie

I felt like I was in the Jetson’s or something: I don’t think I have ever been in so modern-looking of a building.It also boasts a ridiculously tall escalator, 4 or 5 stories tall.  Anna, bless her heart, is not fond of heights but rode it with me to the top! And then we had Chinese food. In Germany. Yep.

Here is a collage of photos I took inside Zeilgalerie.  Seriously. How cool is this? Just look.

Here is a collage of photos I took inside Zeilgalerie. Seriously. How cool is this? Just look.

We also shopped around a bit and then went to the roof.  THE ROOF.  Frankfurt is gorgeous from every view, including above.  I can find few words to say how fun it was to see, especially as the sun was beginning to set, so again I will let some pictures speak for me.

skyline

I know I just had almost the exact same picture (with me), but the sky in this photo just blows me away. This picture is not edited at all: I snapped the picture at just the right moment when the sun was peeking through the clouds the perfect way. How gorgeous is God's creation?!

I know I just had almost the exact same picture (with me), but the sky in this photo just blows me away. This picture is not edited at all: I snapped the picture at just the right moment when the sun was peeking through the clouds the perfect way. How gorgeous is God’s creation?!

My turn.

My turn.

What a beautiful German church! It doesn't look very big until you consider that those little ant-sized shapes on the ground are full size people.

What a beautiful German church! It doesn’t look very big until you consider that those little ant-sized shapes on the ground are full size people.

No visit of mine to a European city is complete without visiting the opera house.  This was our last stop on the way back to the train station.  Along the way we passed the largest book store I’ve ever seen.  Frankfurt has a habit of impressing me.  There was a university orientation activity going on, so we were around large groups of German freshers chanting and cheering and acting rather silly at times.  I wish I spoke enough German to understand what they were saying, but I’m glad they were enjoying themselves.

pretty

This is the largest book store I have ever seen in my life! I dearly wish we could have gone inside, but I would probably still be there if we had.  Anna said that they have a massive selection of English books as well.

This is the largest book store I have ever seen in my life! I dearly wish we could have gone inside, but I would probably still be there if we had. Anna said that they have a massive selection of English books as well.

where old and new meet city at sunset

the Frankfurt Opera Hosue

the Frankfurt Opera Hosue

opera house detail

I will conclude my stories of Germany with a photo of one of the people that led me there in the first place: the wonderful, beautiful Anna.  I am truly blessed to know this lady and to have had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with her.  Thank you thank you thank you for everything Anna! From meeting you and befriending you at Fort Dorchester to the postcard you sent me from the Vatican, to seeing you in Germany, you are a truly lovely sister in Christ. xx

xxx

xxx

friends in Frankfurt, old and new!

Out of all of my posts describing my spring holiday travels, I may be the most excited to write about this one.  My favourite thing about memories is being able to share them with people, and I spent time with quite a few lovely people in Frankfurt.  I mentioned in my last post that Scott & I stayed in a hostel (my first one ever!) for two nights: I could not have asked for a better place to stay!  The hostel was quite close to the train station (which was very convenient for us) and from the moment we walked in I could tell I was going to like it.

After storing our luggage, we went down to the common area for free crepes and to hang out.  Over the course of the evening we talked to people from Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Australia, and all over the United States and Europe.  I really got to practice my Spanish, too: I had a great conversation with five native Spanish speakers from both sides of the Atlantic.  Several of them were staying the second night as well so we got to talk more.  Two of them were brothers from Spain, Miguel and Carlos, who gave me a small Miraculous Medal (inscription in Spanish) on the last night to remind me of our shared faith and our Holy Mother.  Though I have several of my own, this one has special meaning to me and I wear it often.  We  talked with a couple of US Army guys and a Canadian firefighter, as well as a very sweet American man who moved to Europe after graduating high school and became a flight steward. He is still in Europe over a dozen years later and loves travelling.  I also loved talking to the guy who was on night shift at the hostel: he was Australian, Catholic, and had dreadlocks and we got along quite well.  There were many others but I do not want to bore you too much.
I absolutely loved meeting everyone and hearing their stories: where they came from, what travels they had done so far, and where they were heading next.  I am still in contact with several of them and it was truly a great experience.  Who knew that a hostel stay could be such an adventure?

Scott decided to spend our last day in Germany studying for a big exam he had after the holiday, so I spent the day exploring Frankfurt with Anna.  I was originally going to visit another friend from high school who is stationed at the air force base nearby, but his work schedule didn’t allow any time for it so Anna agreed to come meet me. It was really nice to get to see her for a second day! She knows as much about Frankfurt as she does about Mainz: I learned a lot and had loads of fun in the process.

I always thought of Frankfurt as an extremely urban area known mostly for banking and big business, but Anna showed me the old part of town which had so much charm and a lot of friendly small-town feeling.  I will let the pictures do most of my talking: included are my usual collages, pictures of churches, pretty views, slightly cheesy poses, and the mandatory opera house shot.

The old square in Frankfurt.  I couldn't decide where to focus my attention!  It was quintessentially German and I loved every bit of it.

The old square in Frankfurt. I couldn’t decide where to focus my attention! It was quintessentially German and I loved every bit of it.

Of all of the beautiful buildings and sights in the old square, this teddy bear store is what caught my eye. Go figure. The sign around his neck says that you can't touch him, which is just torture. What child (including adults who still act like children..ahem..) would not want to hug this? So I gave him an air hug.

Of all of the beautiful buildings and sights in the old square, this teddy bear store is what caught my eye. Go figure.
The sign around his neck says that you can’t touch him, which is just torture. What child (including adults who still act like children..ahem..) would not want to hug this? So I gave him an air hug.

After getting to the old section and wandering around for a bit, Anna took me to Eiserner Steg, the Iron Bridge, over the River Main.  What an incredible bridge! It is over 100 years old and strictly for pedestrians.  The ancient Greek inscription overhead is a line from the Odyssey and means something like “while crossing the wine-dark sea to men of strange speech.”  That is an awkward translation of a phrase that describes the way that people of all civilisations have crossed bodies of water to find people of other languages & cultures.  I read that they chose this saying to represent the diversity of Frankfurt.  I would have loved another day in Frankfurt to explore the part of the city across the bridge; perhaps another day!

Eiserner Steg from Homer's Odyssey bridge collage

I love that there was a man playing an accordion on the corner: it seemed so appropriate!  And I loved seeing the love locks along the edge, a common theme on my trip.
We next went to see  Alte Nikolaikirche, the Old St. Nicholas Church.  It was lovely!

Alte Nikolaikirche inside St Nicholas organ stained glass collage

We then visited the Kaiserdom Sankt Bartholomäus, or Cathedral of St. Bartholomew.  What a building!  I was unable to fit the entire building into one shot, so I will regale you with photos of the inside instead.  Construction began in the 14th century.  I apologise if I have sounded repetitive in my posts when I talk about churches and cathedrals: I find words difficult when it comes to describing both the structures and the feeling of actually being inside.

We walked through this cool courtyard on our way to the Cathedral. I felt like I was participating in a piece of modern artwork.

We walked through this cool courtyard on our way to the Cathedral. I felt like I was participating in a piece of modern artwork.

entrance sanctuary art

This organ.

^^this organ.

Mother Mary Mother & Son

I didn't notice this when we entered the Cathedral, but it stopped me in my tracks on the way out.  How can you not be humbled?

I know you are quite possibly sick of reading about Germany but I promise I am almost done! I have ONE MORE blog to finish up Frankfurt, and then I am so excited to tell you about Brussels!  Writing about these travels has kept the memories alive and brought me so much joy; if you have smiled even a bit or learned anything from my writing then I feel very fortunate indeed.  To be completed soon! God bless xx

more of Mainz

You may be sick of hearing about Germany by this point; I promise that I am more than halfway done though.  Just to cheer you up, I’ll start you with a fun fact: Carnival is HUGE is Mainz!  So big that they have a statue dedicated to it in the centre of town with over 200 unique figures on it to celebrate their favourite celebration.  I would love to experience Carnival some time in my life!

Anna and I posing in front of the Carnival statue. It's actually much larger than it looks in the photo.

Anna and I posing in front of the Carnival statue. It’s actually much larger than it looks in the photo.

To continue where my last post left off, the next church Anna took us to is called Petruskirche, or St. Peter’s Church.  The baccalaureate ceremony for her high school graduation was in this church.  If I ever attended a service in this church, I’m not sure I would be able to pay attention at all to what was being said.  Pictures truly are worth [at least] a thousand words, and I think the photographs below are explanation enough for this (click to enlarge):

looking in ceiling the organ! to the left altar to the right

Of all the beauty contained here, I think the organ has to be my favourite.  I also have an immense respect for the artists who painted this church.

Never fear: we visited some Protestant churches too!  I really enjoyed Christuskirche, or Christ Church, which was built around the turn of the 19th century and rebuilt after World War II.  We also got to sit in on a rehearsal for an Easter concert the church was hosting.  It was wonderful to warm up from the cold outdoors while hearing some very talented musicians rehearse.  Not wanting to be too much of a distraction, we didn’t take many pictures inside.

Christuskirche Mainz entrance

Our last stop before the train station that evening was–believe it or not–a shopping mall.  Now, I definitely do not enjoy shopping but Anna wanted to show us what was under the mall: an ancient Roman temple dedicated to Isis, the Egyptian goddess of fertility, and Mater Magna [Great Mother], a goddess favoured by soldiers.  We got there just as it was closing but the lady was nice enough to let us down to see it as long as we didn’t take too long.  This article goes in-depth into the history and discovery of the temple–so interesting!  I began my day in a thousand-year-old cathedral and ended it examining ruins and artefacts over 2500 years old!  We’re talking Old Testament times here.  I wonder what those who built and worshipped here would think of it now.  Below are some of the photos I took; the article I linked to above has more.

Roman temple ancient artifacts temple ruins

We DID buy something in the mall after all; when we had looked around the ruins we went and got ice cream! I mixed raspberry and the Mozart flavour which was quite possibly the best ice cream I’ve had in my life!

ice cream and smiles

I will conclude with some miscellaneous photos that I took around the city.  My next travel post will focus on my final adventures in Germany.  God bless! xx

This is the Proviant-Magazin in Mainz.  I love the building and I love the sunlight in the picture.

This is the Proviant-Magazin in Mainz. I love the building and I love the sunlight in the picture.

This is the Landtag Rheinland-Pfalz, a central government building in Mainz.  [This explains what exactly it is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landtag_of_Rhineland-Palatinate]

This is the Landtag Rheinland-Pfalz, a central government building in Mainz. [This explains what exactly it is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landtag_of_Rhineland-Palatinate%5D

Left: a Roman column of Jupiter still standing Right: a larger-than-life hourglass that actually turns; we happened to be there just about on the hour

Left: a Roman column of Jupiter still standing
Right: a larger-than-life hourglass that actually turns; we happened to be there just about on the hour

Top: Statue over the doorway of a building.  I love little architectural details! Bottom: a random sculpture of a foot--I'm not certain whether there was actually more to it at one point, or what its significance is.

Top: Statue over the doorway of a building. I love little architectural details!
Bottom: a random sculpture of a foot–I’m not certain whether there was actually more to it at one point, or what its significance is.

a world apart and yet the same: our visit to Mainz

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.

Looking up at the altar in the Mainz Cathedral

Looking up at the altar in the Mainz Cathedral

Some of the artwork is visible in this photo, as well as some of the truly amazing architectural and artistic detail of the building itself.

Some of the artwork is visible in this photo, as well as some of the truly amazing architectural and artistic detail of the building itself.

Oh, to worship in such a place! I couldn't help but spend a while kneeling in prayer here.

Oh, to worship in such a place! I couldn’t help but spend a while kneeling in prayer here.

(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.

Anna, my beautiful, wonderful sister in Christ!  The two-story cloister is visible in the background.

Anna, my beautiful, wonderful sister in Christ! The two-story cloister is visible in the background.

Another view of the cathedral's exterior

Another view of the cathedral’s exterior

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.)

standing on the 50th parallel

standing on the 50th parallel

Opera house!! I wish we could have gone inside.

Opera house!! I wish we could have gone inside.

It was beyond cool to be walking the streets where  Johannes lived, invented the printing press, printed the first Bible, and died.  Quite unfortunate to see the golden arches in the background though...

It was beyond cool to be walking the streets where Johannes lived, invented the printing press, printed the first Bible, and died. Quite unfortunate to see the golden arches in the background though…

Yes, I ate this entire pizza.  And, yes, it was delicious.

Yes, I ate this entire pizza. And, yes, it was delicious.

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.

Arriving at Gutenberg University: Anna told me that she had never seen her uni look so beautiful as this picture makes it look. I thought it was quite nice though.

Arriving at Gutenberg University: Anna told me that she had never seen her uni look so beautiful as this picture makes it look. I thought it was quite nice though.

There were many interesting modern sculptures around campus like this one.

There were many interesting modern sculptures around campus like this one.

This was spray-painted on an archway we went through. It seemed like a well-timed reminder from God just when I was feeling a bit insignificant in this big world of ours. He truly works in mysterious and wonderful ways!

This was spray-painted on an archway we went through. It seemed like a well-timed reminder from God just when I was feeling a bit insignificant in this big world of ours. He truly works in mysterious and wonderful ways!

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.

DSCF0893 DSCF0897 DSCF0903 windows

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.

but wait: there’s more! (Dresden continued)

As I said in my last post, there are so many more parts of Dresden that I want to share that I decided to do a second post.  These other adventures include: exploring Dresden Zwinger (the palace), [me] singing outside of the Semperoper (the opera house), admiring the Fürstenzug and other murals, having a delicious lunch in a bakery, exploring this awesome store called Globetrotter, and other assorted adventures around the city.

I think I am going to let my pictures do the talking; as always, click on any photo to see the full-size version.  I’ve included descriptions for almost everything.

Posing in the courtyard gardens of the Dresden Palace. It was immense and so lovely!

Posing in the courtyard gardens of Dresden Zwinger, the Dresden Palace. It was immense and so lovely!

Another view looking into the courtyard

Another view looking into the main courtyard of the Zwinger.

An interior courtyard of the Zwinger; statues lined all of the walls surrounding a fountain.

An interior courtyard of the Zwinger; statues lined all of the walls surrounding a fountain.

One of countless fountains in the Zwinger; empty for winter, it was still a beautiful sight to behold!

One of countless fountains in the Zwinger; empty for winter, it was still a beautiful sight to behold!

The Dresden Opera House

Semperoper; The Dresden Opera House

Yes, I actually sang on this statue outside of the opera house. (The photo may be posed but the singing was real.)

Yes, I actually sang on this statue outside of the opera house. (The photo may be posed but the singing was real.)

I love these beautiful ladies!

I love these beautiful ladies!

The Fürstenzug on Augustusstrasse; it was nearly impossible to get this entire mural into one shot, but it shows centuries of Germanic princes and historical figures.

The Fürstenzug on Augustusstrasse; it was nearly impossible to get this entire mural into one shot, but it shows centuries of Germanic princes and historical figures.

Hannah, Anna, and Christabel posing like some of the figures on the wall.

Hannah, Anna, and Christabel posing like some of the figures on the wall.

mural

German bakery. Delectable.  (left to right: Anna, Scott, Nick, Christabel, and Hannah)

German bakery. Delectable.
(left to right: Anna, Scott, Nick, Christabel, and Hannah)

We found an awesome six-person bicycle and tried it out for size. It was quite an interesting contraption!

We found an awesome six-person bicycle and tried it out for size. It was quite an interesting contraption!

I cannot remember what this building was but it was immense and beautiful.  Have you noticed a common theme yet?

I cannot remember what this building was but it was immense and beautiful. Have you noticed a common theme yet?

Nick, Hannah, me, Christabel, and Anna posing in one of the many picturesque parts of Dresden.

Nick, Hannah, me, Christabel, and Anna posing in one of the many picturesque parts of Dresden.

Christabel showed off her gymnastic skills; unfortunately I caught the shot on her way down.

Christabel showed off her gymnastic skills; unfortunately I caught the shot on her way down.

University kids know how to entertain themselves.

University kids know how to entertain themselves.

I have a thing for doors. I found this under a giant staircase and really wanted to see what was on the other side, but unfortunately it was locked.

I have a thing for doors. I found this under a giant staircase and really wanted to see what was on the other side, but unfortunately it was locked.

A collage of photos I took inside the Globetrotter store; there was actually a multi-story climbing wall, an indoor pond, and rain falling from the ceiling.

A collage of photos I took inside the Globetrotter store; there was actually a multi-story climbing wall, an indoor pond, and rain falling from the ceiling.

history in real life: Dresden, Germany

Every time I come to write a new blog post, I am amazed at the time that has gone by since I last posted!  It seems that only upon reflection do I ever realise how quickly life is passing.

For example: this post is about my day with friends in Dresden, Germany, which was 4 months ago! I still remember it so clearly though. I am so grateful that God has given us the capacity for memories.  I am equally grateful for the beautiful people that I created these memories with!

I think the most incredible thing about touring Dresden was exploring the city centre which was completely bombed out by the Allies at the end of World War II.  Photos of the city after this happened show the unbelievable damage that essentially flattened it.  Yet the only evidence of this that we saw in person was the colouring of some of the bricks in buildings that they rebuilt.  During restoration of the city, they used as much original stone and brick of buildings as they could; it is easy to spot the old bricks because they are charred from the bombing.  I think one of the best examples of this that we saw was Dresdner Frauenkirche, the Church of Our Lady, where Martin Luther himself preached. Talk about historical!   We sat for a while inside the Frauenkirche, which was rebuilt about 10 years ago to look exactly as it did when Luther was alive.  Words and pictures cannot express how exquisite this church is, though I’ll try to show you below (click on any photo to see it full-size).  As with the cathedrals of Europe, I think it is impossible to be in this church and NOT feel the presence of God.

The outside of the Church of Our Lady. I spent some quality time with Luther there; we may have our disagreements, but he's a pretty good guy.

The outside of the Church of Our Lady. I spent some quality time with Luther there; we may have our disagreements, but he’s a pretty good guy.

Can words express the exquisiteness of this sight? I cannot find them.

Can words express the exquisiteness of this sight? I cannot find them.

In my humble opinion, no church is truly complete without a pipe organ. This one is certainly beautiful!

In my humble opinion, no church is truly complete without a pipe organ. This one is certainly beautiful!

I love how the sunlight streaming through the windows played on the life-size statues at the front.

I love how the sunlight streaming through the windows played on the life-size statues at the front.

This shows you how intricate the carvings and artistry is in the church.

This shows you how intricate the carvings and artistry is in the church.

I include this photo because the man there gives you an idea of the sheer magnitude of the size of this amazing church.

I include this photo because the man there gives you an idea of the sheer magnitude of the size of this amazing church.

Kreuzkirche, Church of the Holy Cross, was another beautiful Protestant Church we visited, though I have fewer photos of that one.

Outside of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (unfortunately it was locked so we couldn't go in). This is another example of the combined old and new stones used to reconstruct the city.

Outside of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (unfortunately it was locked so we couldn’t go in). This is another example of the combined old and new stones used to reconstruct the city.

Black & white, old & new. History intertwined!

Black & white, old & new. History intertwined!

inside the Hofkirche

This is one of hte most unique crosses I have ever seen in a church.

This is one of hte most unique crosses I have ever seen in a church.

Can you tell I love pipe organs?

Can you tell I love pipe organs?

Dresden was absolutely freezing; there was still snow and ice on the ground (especially in the shadier areas), but it was still such a beautiful place.  I think the coldest part was when we walked Augustusbrücke (Augustus Bridge), which crosses the river Elbe.  The wind was so biting! But the view was gorgeous and definitely worth it.

Enjoying a calm moment on the bridge with the lovely Christabel!

Enjoying a calm moment on the bridge with the lovely Christabel!

Nick and Scott were admiring the view by the river; I snuck a few shots.

Nick and Scott were admiring the view by the river; I snuck a few shots.

In terms of Dresden, I think I will let the photographs do the rest of the talking.  Because I have so many more pictures from to share, though, I am going to put them all in my next post.