Monday, July 30, 2012

Last Day in Germany

Ed and I woke up early this morning and went for a little walk along the Elba river. We couldn't have had nicer weather for our last day in Germany. We had a nice view of Pilnitz Castle from our side of the river.
Our hotel was at the end of the line for the street car, and just down the street a fairy was taking cars across the river.

After breakfast we packed up the car and took the fairy across the river to get a closer look at the palace.

The castle was closed (as they often are on Mondays), but we enjoyed a leisurly stroll through the gardens. It took a couple of attempts to pay for parking, but Ed and Amanda figured out how to do it.

Crystal and I waited on a bench in the shady lane for them.

The castle was really not one building but more of a compound. The gardens were beautiful and well kept.

The most amazing thing in the garden was a large Camelia tree that is 200 years old. They built a giant glass enclosure to keep it warm in the winter. In the summer they slide the enclosure away from the tree. That is a lot of work for one tree!

We're safely ensconced in our airport hotel, ready for our 3:45 a.m. wake-up call tomorrow. We dropped off our Renault Scenic at the airport and will take the shuttle tomorrow morning. We'll miss that car. It had some really nice features. It had a navigation unit, mirrors that fold in when you get out of the car. It had a car key that just locked the car automatically when you walked away and unlocked itself when you walked up to it! Goodbye car, goodbye German!

Auf wiedersehen, Germany! Thanks for the memories!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day of Rest

Sunday was really a day of rest after a busy two weeks in Germany. We went to church in the Dresden ward this morning, and got to meet Sister Clay, Amanda's MTC companion who is serving there. They had a lot to catch up on, so we had to drag Amanda away from her after church. We had a nice visit with her companion, Sister Linford, as well.

We had a great lunch at our hotel. We had planned to eat on the patio. Then, it rained hard. That wasn't really enough to chase us inside, however, till a giant spider landed at our table. Then we joined the rest of the dinners who had grabbed their plates and ran indoors when the rain started coming down in sheets.

We went back to Dresden to see the inside of the Frauenkirche, which was closed last night. It was so beautiful and really worth the 180 million Euros it cost to restore it.

We climbed the Hausmannsturm for a beautiful view of the city. It was nice and cool with a light breeze, which was so refreshing after the heat we've had the past week. There is a nice view of the Elbe river from there with the opera house on the left and the Catholic church on the right.

We walked across the Elbe on the Augustus Bridge. Looking back you get a nice view of Bruhl's Terrace, a lovely place to stroll with a view of the river below.

On the opposite side of the river is the Golden Cavalier tribute to August the strong, Prince of Saxony and King of Poland. Without him none of this would have been possible!

We had ice cream for dinner. They don't just sell ice cream here, but all sorts of fancy concoctions. Fortunately, the menu has pictures of each item, so you know what you're getting. Unfortunately, with so many choices it takes forever to decide. I chose the apple strudel with vanilla ice cream. That hit the spot! After I post this blog we're going to play some more Ligretto, which is a card game Amanda bought in Germany. It requires someone with quick hands and a a quick mind, two things I lost many years ago! They let me cheat sometimes. That way I don't loose every hand!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Freiberg and Dresden, Temple and Cathedral

We stopped in Freiberg this morning to see the LDS temple, which was built before the wall fell. It was amazing to think that the church was allowed to build this beautiful building inside East Germany. Two years later the wall came down and the country was re-unified, but it stands as a testament to all the saints that remained faithful to the church behind the Iron Curtain.

Another coincidence (or was it a tender mercy?) was that we ran into a group of ward members from Halberstadt that were on a temple trip. They were taking some names to the temple. Thomas, who was baptized when Amanda was there, had done geneology research for his parents, grandparents and great grandparents! They greated us like long lost family. Sisters Munke and Mussman were both wearing necklaces that we had given them. And Sister Munke had listened to our CD (A Taste of the Prairie) three times already. She loved it and especially loved Ed's solo on Santa's Workshop. I love Sister Munke!

Our hotel, the Kleinshachwitz, is about a half hour outside of Dresden, right on the Elbe river. It is a cute old Kurhaus (resort hotel) that seems to have a hopping restaurant business. They don't have internet in the rooms, but have been nice enough to let me use theirs if I don't dawdle too much. When I asked them by email if they had internet, they said yes. Apparently, that didn't mean we would!

We saw lots of museums in Dresden this afternoon! They are even better than the ones in Berlin. There are several reasons for this:

1. Better treasures!
2. Everything printed in English
3. Air conditioning!
4. Not too crowded
5. Better treasures!

They have the most incredible riches here! August the Great must have been incredible wealthy to accumulate so much. This is his palace. That was our street car in front of it!

We were not able to take any photos in the museums. When you have great antiquities I guess you don't want everyone sharing them with the world! So, instead, I took pictures of Amanda and Crystal  (two of our treasures) outside the Zwinger museum right after we saw the Sistine Madonna with her cute little cherubs at the bottom of the picture.

Ed and I got our picture taken from the balcony of the Zwinger in the Oriental Porcelain wing.

We had dinner in the shadow of the Liebfruenkirche (Church of our Lady). It was only restored about 7 years ago. It is amazing to see the pictures of Dresden after the war. This church, as well as the Residence Palace were just a pile of rubble till after the re-unification of Germany . Russia held onto some of their antiquities for years after WWII (under the guise of having rescued them). Now they're back where they belong, and make Dresden a tremendous place to visit. We would have been sad to have missed this city!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Seiffen, Toy Town

We checked into the Seiffenerhof Hotel this morning and found out we finally had wireless internet again. We have had some troubles in all our hotels since Berlin. Fortunately, we've been able to get wired internet in the previous hotels, but that means all four of us have to check our email with my little netbook! Now, we can use our tablets again!

Seiffen is a famous toy-making town, and we've come here with the express purpose of shopping. This is where Crystal really excels, and she kept us moving! Everything closes at 5, which gave us exactly 5 hours to hustle through town and pick up a few souvenirs. We were able to catch of few of the workers putting on the finishing touches on some of the nutcrackers and smokers.

Ed and I posed like the kissing wooden figures in the toy window of the shop behind us. Then we split up to divide and conquer, and we sent Amanda and Crystal out on their own shopping, and Ed and I went a different way.This also meant that the old people could go slower. Yea!

We went out to eat at a great pasta place right on the main intersection of town. Not only was the pasta delicious, but they brought us a pitcher of ice water to go with the meal! That made it a 5 star restaurant in my opinion!

We're in our hotel at a reasonable hour again, and hope to catch some of the Olympics opening ceremony on TV tonight!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Halberstadt City Tour

Before we did the city tour of Halberstadt we dropped in to see Sister Mussman this morning. We weren't able to catch her by telephone, as she is hard of hearing, so we dropped by unannounced and caught her with her pants down, so to speak! She was sad she didn't have time to tidy up before we came, but welcomed us in, anyway! We were so glad we dropped by, because the other members had already told her we had seen them, and we didn't want her to feel left out!

We then toured the Dom (Cathedral) downtown. It was beautiful, but like 80 percent of the city, it was destroyed in WWII. It has since been restored, and has maintained it's treasures from the middle ages. It has the oldest tapestries in Europe, dating to 1150. They were in pretty great shape, too!

We ran into Sisters Abemonte and Tidwell in the Dom Treasury. They caught Amanda up on the doings of the branch and told her how sick they are of hearing, "Sister Bush this, and Sister Bush that!" That made Amanda really happy! Apparently, she left an impression here!

There are so many churches here! You'd think people would be more religious. There are three big ones almost next to one another downtown! Here Amanda and Crystal are in front of the Liebfrauenkirche (Church of our Lady).

Amanda says one of the great things about Germany is their ice cream  confections. We tried some out downtown.We really couldn't think of many places in the states that serve as much variety of fancy ice cream treats as they do here!

The city museum had a diorama showing the destruction of the town after allied bombing on April 8, 1945, three days before American troops marched into town. It was especially sad, as East Germany tore down all the rubble and built cheap apartment houses. All the beautiful half-timbered houses are gone. Although many of the churches were rebuilt, not all were saved. The Rathaus was not restored until after the re-unification of Germany.

We finished off our tour with a visit to the John Cage Organ concert. It is a piece written to be played "As Slow As Possible." It will take 639 years to complete the piece. It has been ongoing now for 10 years, and changes a note every 6 months or so. The little weighted bags hold the keys down. The organ is being built as it goes. When they need a new note, they'll add a pipe.It ends in 2640. Two of us thought it might happen, and 2 of us thought it was unlikely. One of the doubters said the second coming of Christ would probably interfere with it!

We're back to our hotel  early tonight and have big plans to watch Valkyrie together on Ed's tablet. Since we're staying at a hotel with a connection to the story (the plot to assassinate Hitler), it will be a fitting movie to watch!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Heart of Halberstadt

We arrived at our hotel in Halberstadt early this morning. We found out that one of the men involved in the failed plot to kill Hitler lived in Halberstadt, and this hotel was his home. He was executed for his complicity in the affair. He lost a beautiful home, to boot!

We stopped by to feed the animals first. They have a cute little zoo with a lot of tame animals that you can feed. Crystal loves zoos only second to safaris, and enjoyed feeding the alpaca.

The church is very small here with only a dozen or so regular attendees. They meet in an old mansion, and the missionaries also live in an apartment upstairs. What the church lacks in size they make up for in heart. They really love the missionaries and show them they do.

Thomas was baptized while Amanda served here, and it was so good to meet him and his son Tobias. They were happy to see us and gave Amanda a German flag to bring home. Thomas said he was sorry he spoke slowly as a result of a stroke earlier this year. I didn't notice he spoke slowly, but I did tell him, that that was better for me anyway! It would make it easier for me to understand!

Bruder Lau gave us chocolates, which always makes us happy! He is retired Navy and had lots of stories to tell us, most of which we didn't understand, but Amanda did. He made us feel so welcome!

By the time we got to Sister Munke we were starting to feel the love that Amanda felt for the four months she was there. She didn't speak much German when she first arrived, but the branch welcomed her as a member of the family and appreciated the musical talents she brought. Sister Munke fed us a roast pork dinner better than anything we've eaten in the restaurants so far! We were glad Amanda told us we were expected to have seconds, because we really wanted them!

The Schwabe family has been stalwarts of the branch for many years. We got to see their 175 year old farmhouse that was big enough for two families. They had a daughter who spoke English who translated a lot for Ed and Crystal. That was nice for them, so they could follow the conversation. The daughter is going to Guatemala in two weeks to visit her boyfriend. His dad is a stake president in Guatemala, but he has studied in Germany. We told her mother not to worry, that Guatemala is not to dangerous, or maybe just a little dangerous!

We got back to the hotel well fed and happy in the knowledge that while our daughter was so far from home she was surrounded by lots of surrogate parents in a very caring branch!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sights of Celle

We started our tour of Celle this morning at the Beekeeping institute. We are interested in bees, after learning so much about them from our friends, the Weatherbees. They would have enjoyed seeing the different hives and learning that they have several harvests here in Germany. We enjoyed taking our picture in the traffic mirror outside the institute.

Crystal was terrified of getting stung the entire time we were strolling in the gardens. Luckily, although a bee landed on her arm, she wasn't stung. I got a great picture of this bee on a flower!

The castle in Celle is really beautiful. We enjoyed the tour and learning more about e Dukes and Kings that lived there.Amanda spent a good part of the tour talking to one of the tour guides about the church. She has been wearing her nametag, which always brings up questions about the church. The tour guide had been showing us the plaques about the different religions in the region. Surprisingly, he'd never heard about the LDS church.

The Bowmann museum across from the castle had  a nice display of life in the 17th century. This kitchen looks like it has everything one would need to make a great meal!
They also have a nice modern art museum in Celle. It is apparently open 24 hours a day, except Mondays. That makes it hard for missionaries to pop in! I liked this picture. It says to me, time is a wastin'!
 We met one of Amanda's investigator's, Florian, and his friend Julia for a carriage ride through the old town. They both spoke very good English and translated some of the narration along the ride. We had brought some American candy (Butter Fingers, Reese's and Skittles) especially for him. He was so excited about it that it was worth the effort of packing it and dragging it around Germany for a week! We enjoyed his outfit--a shirt, tie and shorts! If he got a pair of pants he'd look like a missionary!

The carriage gets to ride right down the pedestrian zone among all the half-timbered houses. The oldest of the buildings dates to 1532! Celle was lucky to escape destruction in WWII. 

Our carriage driver was so terrific. He spoke some English and was nice enough to let us water the horses afterwards. We find out that if you put water in their poop bucket they won't drink out of it. It has to be in the clean water bucket! We didn't blame them!
St. Marion's church in the old town was very pretty inside and out. We were the only people inside it, and Amanda asked if she could sing a song. The lady selling postcards said, "Why not!" She sang "How Great Thou" part in English and part in German. It was very beautiful, and the sound was fantastic. We really enjoyed the private concert, as did the woman in the back! 
We drove by to see the LDS church and found Sister Thornton and Sister McCappin there. Amanda wanted to know how all her investigators were doing. She's missing them and hoping they're all doing well! It's harder than one would think leaving all your friends in the mission!
Amanda showed us one of her favorite graffiti walls. She had sent Ed a picture of her standing beside it for his birthday this summer. Maybe he can send this picture on to someone else!

My one goal was to go to bed at a reasonable time. However, it was 9 p.m. before we started looking for somewhere to eat. Luckily, Fong Wong's was open! It was not far from our hotel. We had the family dinner with duck, beef and pork. It even included soup, salad and ice cream! It was a delicious end to another great day!