05 May 2013

Day 12 (5 Mai) - Groundings

It is my intention to go to mass at the Frauenkirche, and the journey over is delightful.  The bells of the Dom are ringing out and the sound bounces from building to building making you think that many churches are ringing theirs, but it is really only the Dom.  (I wonder if there is a precedence observed in the ringing of bells?)

The cathedral is about half full, and at 9:55 a group of young men in dark suits and tie gather in the choir.  Finally the organ sounds, and the altar party (crucifer, two thurifers, torches, MC, two deacons, lay reader and the celebrant enter.  The mass is sung in Latin using Gregorian (which the people are expected to follow in their songbooks).  (Oh, here the hymns, etc. are introduced digitally as well).  The celebrant makes small talk as he introduces both the Kyrie and the Gloria.  The sermon is good:  The Church is the embodied resurrection, and the Spirit is its breath, and peace is its notoriety. It is all very pastoral and inviting.  When inviting, the celebrant always says, "My sisters and my brothers."  One interesting thing is that after the altar is incensed and the altar party blessed with incense, one of the deacons walks the entire length of the cathedral blessing the people with incense (no minor puffs from the chancel here!)  Communion is in one kind, the people rushing out of the pews to receive.  There is a pastoral letter from the Erzbischoff.  One personal note, during the communion a hymn is sung that brings tears to my eyes.  I'll look it up when I get home and add it here.

Lunch at Odeonsplatz, and then I take the Ubahn over to the museums.  What a treat.  The Neu Pinakotheka is a wonderful collection of late 18th, 19th, and early 20th century work.  So I visit:


Arnold Böcklin

Max Beckmann

And several others whose names I am unfamiliar with.  The collection here is very similar to the Alte Nationsgalerie in Berlin which has a fine collection of all these painters.  I enjoyed seeing work with which I was unfamiliar.  There's time for a stop at the restaurant where I have what I know as Rotegrütze, and here called Beerengrütze.  It is a pudding of red fruits - sour cherries, currents, and raspberries, here anointed with schlagsahne and an apricot coulis.  All the same it is quite delicious.

I go back to the hotel to rest, write, and check into my flight.  Have dinner at Zum Franziskaner again, and wander home quite tired.  I am in myself an example of a painting I saw earlier painted by Hodler - Lebensmüden (Tired of Life) - not of life, for me.  I'm just tired.

Day 11 (4 Mai) - Mitten wir im Leben sind

We begin the day by walking in the opposite direction from our hotel, walking toward Gärtnerplatz, and the huge theater that dominates the circle.  On the way Arthur notices a place that makes unusual glasses - I'll have to visit later (but then miss the times that he is open).  The theater is being renovated and we are fascinated with all the construction and destruction.  We make our way along streets until Arthur notices some woods, walking in that general direction.  What we discover is a very green walk along an enclosed stream - very calming.  The birds are singing, and we enjoy the walk to where we do not know.  I do notice, however, on the right side a brick wall that extends for blocks, with empty windows, and we wonder what it is.

When we come up to street level we notice another Klösterkirche.  There is a wonderful cemetery chapel and we sit for a moment.  The main church, an eighteenth century building is a bit of a disappointment, but we give it some time.

Across the street is the delight of the day.  It is the southern Friedhof, and it extends for some blocks.  It is what was behind the long brick wall.  It is burgeoning with new life - flowers, weeds, birds, ants, grass, trees, and ivy embrace the place with an abundance that makes one aware of the monuments.  They are rotting and declining, yet they bear a mute testimony to the lives that have been documented there.  We are stunned.  It is quite engaging, and we look for names, styles, and dates.  In the midst there is a wonderful portico, and at the end a chapel.  We are entranced.

Time for refreshment - so we go to where our favorite konditorei used to be (Bodo's) now under a new name, Wörner's.  I have a Johannesbeerenbaiser, and Arthur has Sreuselaprikosen.  We are pleased, but must run.  We go back to the hotel, so that Arthur can get the S8 and get out to the Flughafen for his 3:00 flight to Frankfurt.  So I accompany him to Marienplatz, and say good-bye until Monday.

I continue on to Odeonsplatz, where I stop in at Theatinerkirche (Baroque and all in white), and then continue on to see the Glyptothek, Propyläen, and the Sammlung - all of which rejoice in the Greco-Roman heritage.  The Glyptothek  is a collection of casts (not interested) and Greek pottery (interested). I grab lunch at Lehnbachhaus (I had wanted to visit, but the renewed museum opens on 8 May, two days after I leave.  I go back to the Sammlung, which was heavily damaged in the war, but was nicely restored, leaving off the heavily decorated interiors for white-washed brick.  It's a nice background for the wonderful sculptures.

Since I didn't have my camera in the morning, I go back to the Friedhof for pictures.  It's time for a nap and I take one, getting up in the early evening for another walk.  As I walk by Sankt Petrus, I realize that a service is being held, so I duck in, just in time for the consecration.  The mass is being celebrated to the east.  The celebrant is vested in a fiddleback, and he is served by a deacon.  The ordinary is in Latin, although the extraordinary form is not being used.  What is interesting, however, is the digital read-out that announces the hymn and psalm pages. The church is fairly well filled, and the hymn is sung with gusto.

When I go outside, a different milieu greets me.  A band is sounding forth from the Marianplatz.  Odd, I think.  She has her back to them, and faces the audience.  I go into a kitchen goods store and then into the Kaufhof.  I'm not looking for anything so much as observing.  There are two worlds operating here.

Hotel for dinner, writing, and bed.

Day 10 (3 Mai) - Schinkel and other old haunts.

We begin the day by walking from our neighborhood, over past the new Jewish Synagogue and while we're there stop in at Sankt Jacob am Anger Kloster, which is right next door.  What has delighted me in the past about the Synagogue, its bright architecture, quality materials, humor, and presence, are somewhat met in the church as well.  Since it is a cloister church, it is more interior that the gregarious synagogue next to it.  What I delight in in the church is the outstanding metal and stone work, a small amount of stained glass, and a wonderful painted ceiling, all in a building that was probably built in the late '50s or early '60s.  It is also a Pilgerkirche, the first step in a long trek to Santiago de Compastello.

We cross over, passing in front of Asamskirche, which we greatly admire and make our way through Asamshof, toward our old hotel.  It's still operating (I thought they had remodeled and had new owners) but know we know.  Before we get there, however, (this is my lucky day) I notice that Aller Heiligen is open, a 14th Century church that has always been locked away in the past.  We are able to look in through the grate that encloses the narthex.  A wholly different place than Sankt Jacob.

From there we walk over to Saint Michael's and rest awhile, neglecting to visit our friend Ludwig.  We walk around the Dom and have coffee at Guido al Dom, a delightful Italian restaurant in the Dom's close.  Before going into the cathedral we notice its bookstore, but nothing grabs my eye.  Arthur, however, notices a place that sells clerical drag (Tracht?!), so I fall for some wonderful tailored clerical shirts.

The cathedral is truly amazing, and I dearly love its calm presence.  As sorry as its destruction was during the Second World War, what has replaced it is very spiritual and enlightening.  We wander, take some pictures, and then leave.  We want to go over to the Kunsthalle at Fünfhöfe where there is a remarkable display of work by Friedrich Schinkel, court architect to the Prussian Court.  The exhibition truly mirrors all of his many talents and applications with drawings, paintings, architectural plans and theater pieces.  We are quite glad that we availed ourselves of this.

For lunch we go back to Guido al Duomo for a tasty lunch (I - vitello tonnato, and Arthur - spaghetti bolognese).  The owner comes out and talks with us.  He is Guido, but was born in Munich of an Italian father.  Interesting guy.  At dessert (a nice chocolate torte) he brings out a couple of glasses of a rich sherry - very nice.  From there we are chocolate hunting and end up at Rottenhoff's, although I take Arthur through Dallmayr, just to see what we missed.  Amazing.

We take our purchases back to the hotel and write and rest.  Bruce is available for dinner again.  I suggest a new restaurant near Odeonsplatz which I am then unable to find.  We end up at Zum Franziskaner (Späten is being remodeled) and have some nice Rouladen.  Once again, Bruce invites us out, and we decline so that we can recline.

04 May 2013

Day 9 (2 Mai) - Rotensol to Munich

The morning is beautiful, with a fog making the forest mysterious and yet inviting.  We share breakfast with Günter, Franziska, Vera, Philipp, Henri, and Elisa.  In addition there is Tobias, Leia, Oris, along with Ralf’s family, Maria and Emme, Maria’s sister.  We make our goodbyes.  We have grown very close to these people.  Arthur drives and I navigate.  We circle under Stuttgart, and notice signs for Kirchenheim unter Tek, which is near the village of Nabern from which the Hillers came.  They are widening the highway, so there is constant detouring.  And the fast lane!  So fast.  We speed by Ulm (can’t even see the famous tower from the road) and Augsburg which we had hoped to stop and see – too anxious to get to Munich.  Once there we drop off our car, and cab over to our hotel.

We are staying at Deutsche Eiche – gay and very nice.  There’s lunch first with Gulaschsuppe, and then we walk around acquainting ourselves with the city once again.  We go out for a walk looking at all the shops and visiting familiar sites.  Arthur notices a shop that specializes in Tracht, so it's not Lederhosen that will make its way to Arthur's closet but a lovely Bavarian coat.  He will look great in it.  Later on I find a wonderful linen scarf - just to keep up on the purchasing part of our trip.

Our friend, Bruce McCoy is in town, so we meet up with him for dinner at Zum Alten Markt, and I have beef in aspic and not much else.  I’m still dealing with yesterday’s excess.  Bruce asks if we're up for going over to the Frühlingsfest in the south part of the city, but we're done.  

Day 8 (1 Mai) - Food!

Day 8 (1 Mai) – Food!

It’s Labor Day here, so everything is closed.  We have to entreat Frau Schwemmle to lend us some wrapping paper and a card that we had hoped to buy in Schwann.  I have brought a huge assortment of chocolates from Cocoa Bella in San Francisco.  I hope that she will enjoy them.  We have breakfast at the hotel, and then have a couple of hours before the festivities begin again.

At eleven, the cousins gather again, only this time with the addition of old friends and acquaintances, and some who were unable to make it the previous evening.  It’s a wonderful gathering and we meet many new friends.  Philipp has a friend, Oris, who drove from Milano, to join him for the celebration.  I finally meet Armin, a cousin, about whom I’ve heard a great deal over the years.

Once again we gather in the Weinstubbe where there is sekt and appetizers, toasts, and a very happy Maria.  We meet a host of people, and I again get to speak with my cousin Karl Hiller, whom I met on my first trip to Berlin, several years ago. 

Maria Hiller Ortlieb

There is a lunch.  We begin with a watercress soup with lox, followed by beef fillet with spargel and hollandaise, and something else, which escapes me.  There is a dessert of mint chocolate ice cream, and wonderful wines that Günter has chosen.  We go for a walk, and when we come back, four (count them) cakes await us: cheese, strawberry, Blackforest cake, and a Waldbeeren cake.

The grandchildren make a presentation of gifts accompanied by a poem that lauds all the things that they wanted to buy but couldn’t, and finally offer a teacup from which she might drink – and they name numerous things.

Maria and her family
In the evening, the close family watches the Munich, Barcelona football game.  Leia, Tobias’ girlfriend is from Barcelona, so there’s a mixed crowd watching the game.  Maria unselfishly roots for Barcelona.  At the end of the game, we are all tired beyond belief – bed harkens.  One final photograph that seems to sum up the day, and that is the huge bowl of schlagsahne that greeted us when we returned with our pieces of cake.  There's always room for more...

Day 7 (30 April) - Cousins!

We have to get up early, grab breakfast at the Hotel Hansablick and then drag our luggage over to the S Bahn in order to catch an 8:30 train out of the Hauptbahnhof for Stuttgart.  There’s a catch.  We have to run from Gleis 4 to Gleis 5 in Mannheim to change trains for Stuttgart.  Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that the first train ends up in Karlsruhe, which would have actually been more convenient. 

The trip down is smooth and comfortable, with the countryside green and inviting.  We are also traveling through an industrialized area, the most notable of which is apparent from the tracks as we pass through Wolfsburg, with its huge VW plant.  The old factory is in the same theme as Templehof.  It is a set of very engaging buildings.  All through the trip, a young German (of Turkish descent) sits across from us, and listens to endless recordings of Strauss on his Walkman. 

I again experience what I experienced with my mother when I drove her from Straubenhardt to Aachen in 2008.  The autobahn floats on the tops of mountains (high hills really) and then flies over fantastic valleys, filled with villages and small cities.

Stuttgart is nothing like I had imagined it.  Previously I had only been to the airport, and to an ancestral village (Nabern) to the south of the city.  We had arranged to pick up a car at the Haupbahnhof, and now I had to navigate us out of a city built on a series of peaks and valleys – really quite beautiful.  We get the car, but it is not the one we ordered.  A German man waiting in line behind us says, “Take it, they never have the one you ordered.”  Loaded up and anxious to get to Rotensol, we wend our way around the irregular streets of Stuttgart, until I notice a sign for Tübingen.  “Take that one,” I cry – praying that it will take us to the A8.

It does, and soon we are involved in a huge traffic stall, that lasts several kilometers.  We speed toward Pforzheim, and from this point on I am operating on memory.  The map is no good.  We do well, arrive in Schwann, and make our way to the Hotel Lamm in Rotensol.  Günter is there to greet us, and soon we are meeting relatives who express a great deal of joy that we are there.


This evening is a reunion of cousins.  Some I have met, but most I have not.  I only have to say, “Ich bin Michael Hiller” and I’m in.  The guest of honor is Maria Hiller Ortlieb, Günter’s mother, and she is delighted at all who have gathered to honor her. There is wine and appetizers in the Weinstubbe, and then we all go upstairs for dinner.  In the midst of dinner I get a huge sinus headache and proceed to bed.  All will have to wait for the morrow.

Maria mit Philipp

Tobias und Arthur

03 May 2013

Day 6 (29 April) - More than we wanted, or less, depending.

Our friend and photographer, Steven Savage, suggested that while we were in Berlin we might want to go see the Markisches Museum – a museum of Berlin history.  So we make our there, and recognize the building as one that had caught our eye on our Spree cruise a couple of days ago.  It is a striking building of brick, with intricate workmanship.  It is closed.  What to do?

Making our way to the Nikolai Vierteil (which was no mean trick having to cross one canal and the River Spree) we decide to have a quick coffee and a pflaumkuchen – very good.  We go to Nikolaikirche, for which the quarter is named.  Destroyed in the Weltkrieg, it was abandoned for several years and then given by the Evangelische Kirche to the government of East Berlin.  Earlier it was a place where the state and church were mixed in prayer and prestige.  The last Abendmahl was celebrated in 1920 or so, and then it was used as a museum.

The hymn writer, Paul Gerhardt, (Nun ruhen alle Waelder, O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden, Auf, auf mein Hertz mit Freuden, u.s.w.) was a pastor here.  There is an interesting painting from the 17th century of a Lutheran Eucharist celebrated with local nobility, and celebrant in chasuble, and other clergy in surplice and cassock.  It’s a good picture of what the Lutheran Church was like before the forced union with the Reformed in the 19th Century. 

The church itself was built in the 13th Century and earlier foundations are indicated in the flooring of the building.  A baroque altar (now destroyed) is displayed in an interesting fashion (see the picture).  There is an attempt to preserve all the various stages of the church’s use and decoration.

Time for Gulaschsuppe und Kirschennektar, at a restaurant we know around the corner.  We want to drop by the Schinkel’s Friedrichswerder Kirche, but it is closed for renovation, so we walk down to St. Hedwig’s and I light candles for friends.  We pass through Gendarmenmarkt on our way to Französischerstraße so that we can go on to our next big adventure.

We are bound for Templehof Flughafen again, this time for a four o’clock tour.  We buy our tickets, but this is only a German language tour – so it will be a bit of a mind stretch.  The tour guide used to work for the US Army so we are regaled with personal stories as well as facts and figures about the building itself.  We get to see the tarmac and hanger areas with their amazing over-hang, and the main hall, which is quite awesome.  What I really find amazing is when we are taken to the opening lobby, some two stories high, and then up several flights to see the remains of the foreshortened lobby below, which stretches several stories.  Stripped of some of its stone it still retains a sense of grandeur. 

Then its more mundane things: gymnasium, cafeteria, loading docks, and an underground bunker with paintings.  At this point however, we are bored out of our skulls, and can’t wait to get away, which we do at the earliest opportunity.

Dinner is at Tiergarten Quelle, which is both close to the hotel and good.

01 May 2013

Day 5 (28 April) - Repeating History

Day 5 – Repeating History

We have decided to see whether or not the German History Museum is worth a visit or not, so we take the S Bahn and get off at Friedrichstraße and walk up to the Spree and then over toward Unter dem Linden.  We walk past the wonderful museums on Museuminsel, the Bode, the Pergamon (which is still being worked on – extensively) and then the Altes.  Along the way there are booths selling stuff – silver, china, handcrafts, unusual eye glasses (I pick up a pair of round dark glasses – a style that I dearly love), paintings, and other stuff.  It’s delightful and we meander through, taking our time. 

We get our tickets and our audio-guide and begin to make our way on the second floor, hoping to make our way down to the first, where the mid part of the 20th Century is displayed.  I don’t know what we were thinking.  After two hours we had made our way to the Reformation and the rule of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and King of Spain.  It was clear that we would not be able to do the exhibition any kind of justice.  So we skim the remainder of the 16th and the entirety of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.  Lunch was calling.

After ein Paar und Kirschennektar, we took up the remaining part of the 20th Century.  It was sehr Schwer (very hard) to see the gradual decline and indecision of the Weimar Republic, and the complexities of an emerging National Socialism.  By the time I had made it to the death of Hitler, I was emotionally exhausted, as was Arthur. 

What we have planned for a soporific, as it were, by attending a concert (Classic meets Jazz) at Sankt Jakobi Kirche in Berlin.  It, like the Dom Vesper, is music with even less of a worship component.  Here the music is Couperin and Ravel played by a trio composed of a violin, a saxophone, and amplified guitar.  It is hypnotic, but a less than successful experiment.  We both zone out, and the “sermon” is again a long exposition on Cantate Sunday.  We leave just a bit disappointed, go to the U Bahn, and make our way back up to Alexander Platz.

Karl Marx Allee

Our goal is to ascend the Fehrnsehturm built by the East Germans as an announcement of their own prowess and engineering skills.  It is a lot of fun in spite of having to wait an hour to ascend (we grab snacks and something to drink).  The views are spectacular and the film on the building of the tower is quite interesting.  There is much to see and discover as we look at things from above.  The evening ends with a spectacular sunset, and we make our way home.