06 May 2014

4-5 May 2014

Es gibt kein da, da

I’m going to combine two days, Sunday, 4 May and Monday, 5 May.  On Sunday, Arthur leaves for Berlin, so we taxi over to the Hauptbahnhof, have a coffee, and he mounts the stairs for his train to Berlin (which happens to be operated by Czech Rail – the same people that took me to Prague just the week before.  I have some sadness at his leaving, and not a small bit of loneliness.  I do go to the Reisecentrum and buy a round trip ticket for Lutherstadt-Wittenburg for the following day.  Now what to do?  I revisit.

Well, not really.  I go to the Porzellan Sammlung at the Zwinger.  It apparently was an exhibition that Arthur was not interested in.  So I go by myself.  August the Strong collected over 22,000 pieces of porcelain and then established his own concern at Meissen.  Beautiful things are held in the collection, which manage not only to reflect his taste, but also the development of porcelain manufacture in China and Japan.  Porcelain + Baroque = Incredible! 

I go to revisit two of my favorite things.  One is the van Eyck triptych, which I showed in an earlier post.  The other is the Dürer Adam and Eve.

The first was newly discovered here, and the second was something I have longed to see all of my life.  Both of them encapsulate not only my faith, but my esthetic as well.  It’s delightful to see them in the pigment.

In the early evening, I go to the Hofkirche for Mass.  It is not a pontifical mass, even though the Bishop turns out to be the celebrant.  It is a warm, welcoming, and “just what I need” kind of mass.   The sermon is an excellent exposition of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and the readings are done by a laywoman, who also serves as a Eucharistic Minister as well.  She has a no nonsense kind of presence, while the bishop tosses off several jokes.  It is an interesting juxtaposition.  The mass is celebrated at the new altar at Hofkirche.  I don’t know what it is made of (stone and glass, I think) but it comes across as a not-so-good green dress with sequins. My friend, Lizette Larson-Miller, asks me what I think of it.  I comment that it is certainly no worse than the Pieta in the front chapel.  Another friend, via email, warns me about Roman pitfalls.  At this point in my life I prefer to see our points of agreement and prayer rather than detect fine lines of difference.  I go home quite satisfied.

The next morning I make my way to the Hbf again (it is only later that we discover that Dresden Mitte is much closer.  The picture above, the main door of the Schloßkirche is what I was hoping for.  From a very desolate train center (First Clue) I take a taxi to the Church. “Really?!” says the driver (Second Clue).  When we get there I see the problem:

When I check in at the information center my worst fears are realized.  Both this church and the “city church” are closed…until 2016.  So I go to a restaurant that specializes in potatoes (101 Angeboten) and drown my sorrows.  I walk around the town a bit; discover a Lutheran convent (Christusbrudershaft) and their beautiful little chapel (closed).

A small bulletin board tells me all about them.

I go back to Dresden, go to my hotel, and check into flights.  I do have a ticket to Schwannensee at the Semperoper, but I’m not expecting much.  I go over early expecting to be rejected at the door (these are the tickets I purchased from a scalper.  I get in – go up to the FOURTH Ring, Row 1, Seat 73.  From this vantage point, I can see nothing. 

The people sitting next to me are from Holland, and as luck would have it, purchased their tickets from the same guy.  We laugh.  During the performance we make our way to the SRO rail, and see the entire performance from dead center.  Wunderbar!  I have wonderful conversations with Tom and Maia (who spent a great deal of her life working with people with AIDS), and then we take our leave.  They are on to Berlin in the RV, and I’m flying home to San Francisco.  What a wonderful time zusammen.

04 May 2014

3 May 2014

Deep, at the Root

This post is dedicated to so many people, people who gave me gifts of vision and insight, of art and music, of mind and understanding.  So this is for Carl Otto Albert Hiller, Flora Meyer, Norman Gienapp, Rita Henning, Ms. Wasmund, Louise Hiller, Marcus Schweder, Paul Gibson, Michael Bicklen, Prof. Zawoiski, George Hoyer, Joanne Koerber, Adalbert Rafael Kretzmann, and Betty Kretzmann, Robert Bergt, Mark Bangert, Art Halbardier, David Hogan, Jon Rollins, Gertrude Döderlein, and so many others who gave me the gift of seeing and loving beauty.  Dankeschön.

It’s cold and a bit drizzly but we still make the hike down Praterstraße in order to catch our train to Leipzig.  This long walk takes us through the modern realizations of the new city scape that was to remake Dresden.  In my younger days, I might have appreciated it, but right now it seems to be “all mall, all the time.”  It is quiet, however, with not too many pedestrians.  We catch our train, and soon we’re off into the Saxon countryside – which is quite beautiful.  The spring green meadows are punctuated with rapeseed fields’ bright yellow and gleaming in the sun.  This is a Saxonian milk run, but who can complain for €14, round trip.

Arthur has never been here, but he immediately spots what I noticed the first time that I was here, a couple of years ago, and that is the wonderful sculpture that adorns not only the civic buildings, and churches here, but also the commercial buildings as well.  I quickly take him to one of my most favorite of places, Riquet, a wonderful coffee shop opposite Speckshof, a wonderful warren of commercial passages, like those in Paris.  Riquet is a fine place and we stop first to see what the offerings are.

I finally spring for a slice of the Eierschecke, and Arthur is soon involved with a very series cake filled with sour cherries, and a little schlag. 

Each of the Höffe has different architectural aspects and ornamentation, and each one is a delight.  The stores gleam like jewels and beckon one in.  I am leaning backward to take the picture above, when suddenly I hear a brass choir begin to play In dir is Freude.  At once I am bent over in tears, and recall a couple of other moments in my life when this has happened.  The first was at the Louvre in Paris when I came upon the Nike of Samothrace.  Looking at it, I realized that what all those people had told me about beauty was true – and I cried out of the joy of knowing that.  Here I am reminded of my deep Lutheran roots, now nourished by other traditions - but deep roots they are.

We are in Bach’s other church – Nickolaikirche, and later in the evening we will come back for a concert here.  Right now it is enough to look at the beauty of this neo-classical room with its pillars crowned with lily of the valley.  We walk around a bit, and then decide to go to Thomaskirche, the other Bach church. 

On the way over there we stop by the Mädler Passage with its wonderful sculptures, where I buy a pair of reading glasses.  I love German glasses.  We also stop in at the Altes Rathaus, but decide not to go in. 

Thomaskirche, at its heart, is a medieval building, and I think that I gravitate to it more.  The altarpiece is stunning, and the message of the artwork and windows is unabashedly Lutheran – Christian.  We immerse ourselves in this a bit, and I remember another moment where my roots began to show.  It was right after I had decided to seek reception into the Episcopal Church as a priest.  I was standing in the choir at Trinity Church in San Francisco, and we began to sing the hymn Jesu, meine Freude.  This one choked me up as well, reminding me of all that had been given – was I giving it up?  (No, but it’s good to know your roots.)  Thomaskirche moves and will continue to move me for not only what it was under Bach, but also what it continues to be.

We grab lunch, a delicious fish.  Hordes of people are circling the church – there are pilgrims there.  After lunch, full 40 minutes before the three o’clock concert is to begin we go to the church.  It is packed, and we are lucky to find a seat.

We quickly realize that we are not at a concert at all – it is a service.  It is Gottesdienst.  The Pfarrer in his robe and befchen greets the assembled people (who are sitting in pews, standing along the edges, propped up at the columns in the aisles) and greets them in the name of the Good Shepherd, a hint at the following day's readings.  Here is what we were treated to:

Prelude: Toccata und Fuge d-Moll, Max Reger
Mottet: Singet dem Herr nein Neues Lied, J. S. Bach
A Reading: The Gospel for Easter III
Gemeindelied: Der Herr is mein getreuer Hirt (Evang. Gesang. 274) sung between choir and congregation.
Ansprache: A crystal clear homily on Jesus the Good Shepherd
Vater Unser
A Blessing
Kantata: Du Hirte Israel, höre, J. S. Bach.

The bulletin asks us not to applaud and no one does.  The people leave in silence.  In it all, I feel as though I have been steeped in all that I have been taught over time, steeped in a concentrated wine of its essential goodness. 

We go back to Nikolaikirche, and for all its beauty, it doesn’t even touch the Thomaskirche experience.  This is a concert, and in spite of the greetings from the dressed down Pfarrer, and his closing prayer, there is applause, and it remained only a concert.

We rush back to catch a 6:00 train to Dresden, and arrive back tired but exhilarated.  A small statue greets us as we make our way back up Praterstraße. 

Beauty seems to follow us.

1 May 2014

Getting lost and finding everything.

First we have an errand to perform, so we walk over to the Hauptbahnhof (this is some distance) in order to buy tickets so that we can train to Leipzig on the morrow.  It’s easily enough done and its only 28 for the both of us – round trip!  So we are all set.  The goal is to go to the Hygiene Museum, and it looks doable on the map, but we soon get lost, winding up in the Blüherpark – and what a pleasant surprise that was with a delightful memorial to Mozart (above) and other sculptures and fountains.

Thanks to Arthur’s telephone, we figure out where we are and make our way past a huge stadion easily to the German Hygiene Museum.  The building was built in the 30s, and is a moderne wonder.  Huge masses of linear white masses are set off by curving interior walls, and monumental stained glass windows praising the benefits of good health.

The museum, however is aller Kinder, alle Zeit, and the Café seems unmoved by human need, so we walk back to the Zentrum, wondering what we are going to do.  We pass by the City Museum, and go in.  It is really quite interesting, with displays on the development of Dresden as a commercial center, and later as a capital, and finally as “the Florence of the North.”  There is a complete and helpful rehearsal of events leading from the revolutions in the mid-Nineteenth century up through the First World War, the Weimar Republic, the Nazi horrors, the 1945 bombing, the DDR, and the quiet revolution at the end of the 80s. 

Throughout all of this the material culture of the city is carefully explained, and one can see how various political reactions were nurtured by situations in the workplace and industry.  On the bombing: a very humbling film showing the bombing of Dresden, along with London, Guernica, and other cities is shown.  There is, however, little said about Dresden’s Jews and their fate.

On another level there is a wonderful gallery showing the work of Dresdner artists, from the past century and current efforts.  Some names I remembered, but others were entirely new to me.  That’s what’s so wonderful about travel.  We remember that there is always something more to learn.  Sometimes we get lost in our own culture, or in the pocket of our particular culture.  It’s always good to get lost somewhere else.