Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Organ day

Today we got to play not one, but TWO historic organs. We first went to Clauen. This church was stunning and the organ gave me goosebumps. It wasn't a large organ, and had only one manual, but it was a total knockout as Craig would say. I'm not sure which I enjoyed more, hearing it or playing it. It sounded very different out in the room than it did from the bench. The touch was esecially good. This is what I live for. I would kill to have an organ like this back at home. Sigh. Enjoy some pictures.

From here we went to Schelerton. This organ was nice, but didn't make my heart race the way Clauen did. Good thing we had nearly twice the time at Clauen! This organ at Schelerton was a bit peculiar in that the manuals didn't really match, so registration options were somewhat limited.

Once we had played, we went with the Ehlerdings for some more sight seeing, and then back to their house for one final dinner together.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Going back to former times

This morning we woke up and said goodbye to Manfred, went through the town once more, then boarded the train to Hanover. I was so excited to be going back there. Despite our train being 20 minutes late, we made it to the Ehlerding's house in one piece. We enjoyed some cake and coffee and water in the garden, then Walter took us to see the gardens of Hanover. I love these gardens. They are so vast that you really must go in person to get the full effect. I will post a few pictures, but you may want to go to their website for some better ones.

Unfortunately, the fountains were already turned off for the evening. We had a wonderful time regardless, and a pleasant conversation as we strolled around. We got back to the house pretty late, had some dinner. I am so glad it worked out to visit here again this year! I haven't been here for 2 years. It's always nice to go back to a city and somewhat know your way around!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Exploring Magdeburg

Today we woke up and spent the morning wandering the streets of Magdeburg. It is nice to be in a city I know fairly well. We walked by the dom, the old city ruins, the catholic church, etc. etc. Basically, we were tourists taking a million pictures.

After sufficient wandering, we went to the Magdeburg Dom for a real treat. We got to play the new organ. I have played the big organ a few years ago, but they recently completed a new "little" organ for the side chapel. Their idea of a "little" organ is not little at all. I would take their "little" organ over most any American organ any day. This organ had more than 20 stops and was situated in the chapel which is used in the winter when it becomes too cold in the Dom as well as for some weddings. Mind you, all these photos are of the CHAPEL, not the dom. The dom is much, much bigger!!!

After this, we took the train to Niederndodeleben. My, oh my did it feel good to be back on that organ. The wind is still a bit temperamental, but that makes it all the more fun. I wish we had more time, but I was grateful for the time they did give us.
After this we met Manfred and all enjoyed dinner together. It is still asparagus season, so we all had some. The white asparagus is quite yummy. We took the long way back to Manfred's and enjoyed some stunning views of the city from afar as the sun set. I tried to capture it, but there is nothing like standing there in person.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Back again

This morning we woke up and enjoyed a nice breakfast. It felt very strange not to go to church on a Sunday morning, but since this village is so small and they have to share their pastor, services are only every other week. This was a real disappointment, since I love to worship here. We left and went to Gotha, where we went to a hymnal exhibition. There were cases full of old hymnals of all shapes and sizes from various times. It was quite fascinating to see them all and to think how hymnals have developed over the year. It was thrilling to recognize many of the tunes in the books that are still used today all these years later! After we had looked at everything, we walked around outside a bit and enjoyed the lovely weather.

From here, we got on a train with Manfred and headed to Magdaburg. We passed through many towns that I wish we could have stopped to see, but our schedule was just too full this time around. Once we got to the Magdeburg Hauptbahnhof, Manfred got on a tram to go home and Ross and I dumped our luggage in a locker and got on another train and headed to Niederndodeleben for an organ recital. It was wonderful to be back and to see many familiar faces. It was so nice to sit and enjoy the music. I have usually been the one playing, so never really had an opportunity to hear the organ in the space. After the recital, we stayed and visited with a few people, then took the train back to Magdeburg, walked to Manfred's flat, and crashed. Looking forward to finally playing some organs tomorrow!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Recital day

Today we woke up and enjoyed a typical German breakfast, then headed to the church to practice a bit more. We took a short break from practicing to visit Erfurt, which is not too far away, and a much bigger city. We spent a couple of hours wondering among the crowd looking at all the touristy things. After that, we went back to the house, then to the train station to pick up my friend Manfred, and then once more back to the church. I gave my recital, and after that we had a garden party. It was delightful to sit in the warm sun eating German food (not the sausage, of course!) and visiting with these wonderful people. Everyone was very warm and friendly and we stayed until after 10 PM. It was such a wonderful experience any way you look at it, and I am so thankful for the opportunity.

Where we ate all our meals

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hello, Germany, I have missed you!

Today was a travel day. We left Prague relatively early and spent the majority of the day on public transportation of some sort traveling through the Czech Republic and into Germany. The moment we crossed the border, I felt like I was at home. It was so nice to see the familiar landscape and rooftops and countryside. Once we arrived to Germany, we had to transfer to a small bus to get where we were going...
Tröchtelborn. This sleepy little village has a population of 340 people. Someone met us at the bus stop and took us to the house where we will be staying the next few days. We got to know our host family over some cake and coffee after they assured us that the church would still be standing in an hour and that we didn't need to rush. After this, we went to the church and I practiced and worked out registrations. It was wonderful to be playing an instrument like this again. After a good practice, we headed back for dinner, which was served outside. We ate slowly and talked as we got to know each other a bit more. We sat outside late into the night, enjoying the sounds of the birds and other wild animals as well as their very crazy cat, Willy, who not only jumped from tree to tree, but brought us a mouse that he had caught. It was wonderful to just sit and relax, and I am looking forward to a busy day tomorrow!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

One country down, four to go

Today we left Austria and went to Prague. It was a VERY long train ride, so at least the scenery was so pretty. Upon arriving, we went in search of our hotel. I just love the hustle and bustle of this city. This city has a very different feel than any other city I've visited. I would never want to live here, but I sure love to visit. The city is set up in a very strange way with long blocks, no grid system, and very few streets labeled well. Needles to say, we got lost and walked in a few circles before finding our hotel. Then we set out to see the city. The castle was closed, so I was a little disappointed, but that just gives me an excuse to go back sometime.

We walked on the crowded bridge and looked at all the different statues that line it. The photo below is my personal favorite. I wish I could take it home with me and put it in my yard.

From here, we met up with another one of Ross's friend and had dinner. We then spent the evening together and the three of us went all over Prague. It was great to have a personal tour guide who knew the city so well. My earlier disappointment about not getting into the castle quickly disappeared when the sun went down. I had never before experienced Prague at night. It is absolutely stunning. I took a million pictures, none of which did justice to what we saw. I'll post just a couple of my favorites. I particularly like the sky in the first one. Beautiful and haunting all at the same time.

We didn't get back to the hotel until well after 11, and after a long day of travel, I fell into bed exhausted. Though we only had a few hours to really enjoy Prague, it was 100% worth it. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Another day in Vienna

This morning, we visited a museum and spent several hours looking at art and marveling and the detail and the history and talent. Basically, we stared at these pictures like a couple of fools. I needed to pick my jaw up off the floor on a couple occasions, had to sit down a few times, and almost needed some oxygen. This art is amazing. Especially Cranach.  Any room that had a Cranach painting acted like a magnet. I could stare at his work all day. Obviously, since this was a museum, I don't have any photos to share. You must go see for yourself. I highly recommend it. From here we went to grab some quick lunch, and then headed off to a different cemetery to find Mahler. It was raining a bit, but that didn't stop us. After searching around, we found him. I will never tire of cemeteries or standing so close to these famous composers.

After this, we met up with a friend of Ross for dinner and after dinner Ross and I spent our last evening in Vienna wandering the city. We stopped by for one final chat with Brahms. I love how he looks right down at you. During the day, this statue was loaded with tourists, but in the evening it was just us.
Then we just wandered the city. It was a perfect night for walking around Vienna since the weather was gorgeous. It was cool enough for a jacket, but not cold, and the sun set was stunning. I took out my camera and took pictures of everything I could. I'll leave you with just a few snapshots to give you a small taste of what what we experienced. Understand that these pictures barely scratch the surface of what is here. I enjoyed Vienna very much and  am really glad I got to visit this city.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Come, Sweet(s,) Death.

Today, we went to the Zentralfriedohf and saw many, many graves. This cemetery was absolutely huge and my photos didn't do much justice to capture the vast span of graves. There were tombstones and markers as far as the eye could see. I have always loved cemeteries and crypts and such. So peaceful. This cemetery was dense with graves stacked on top of each other and many of them were so close together there wasn't even an isle. We saw many famous composers. It's really surreal to stand at the graves of these people.

After standing there marveling at being so close to these people, we wandered around the cemetery for a bit looking at headstones and names, etc. and then headed back into town. We used the mass transit system and when we got to our destination, we had to climb up many stairs to get back to ground level. As I neared the top, Ross turned back to me and said with a smile and exclaimed "Ta-da!!!" I looked up and saw this:

TA-DA is right. No, it's an understatement. This sight was unbelievable. I knew we were going to see the Stephansdom, but wasn't expecting it to be right there at the top of the stairs! Here's a view from the side.

We walked back to the place we were staying after stopping by the grocery store. I bought a package of strawberries and a bottle of bitter lemon for lunch. The berries here are one of my favorite things!! Then it was out for some more walking and sightseeing. Eventually we were hungry and decided to find dinner. Any guess what I had for dinner my first day in Vienna?

Oh yes I did. Big, giant concoction of gelato and other goodness served in a bowl. And thus it was in fact a day of sweet(s) and death. Come, Sweet Death, but please don't come now. I'm having too much fun!

Monday, June 11, 2012

The hassles of travel

I write this as I am sitting in the airport at Copenhagen waiting for our connecting flight to Vienna. I don’t mind the wait, and its interesting to people watch, though this layover is a bit longer than what I would prefer. It’s been quite a trip so far. We arrived at the airport in a timely fashion, checked our bags, and headed to go through the dreaded security. Well, we got there just as they shut down the metal detectors and directed everyone to those crazy backscatter image things instead. Creepy. But, whatever, you do what you have to do to get to Europe. We boarded the plane and were off. I had a few flashbacks to last years fiasco first attempt to fly over, and was very happy when the engines worked the entire flight and the landing was very smooth. Dinner wasn’t great, but what can you expect from airplane food? Once we arrived in Copenhagen, we were once again directed to go through security. I set off the metal detector, though I’m not exactly sure how since there was no metal on me. I wasn’t even wearing jeans, thus avoiding having a metal button. Who knows. Then, while waiting in the airport, I decided to find a bathroom and was initially pleased to find that you didn’t have to pay to use it. I was displeased, however, to find two men washing their faces in the sinks. I don’t think they belong to this country, but seriously, isn’t the sign of stick figure wearing a skirt the universal symbol for NO MEN ALLOWED? Needless to say, I walked right back out. If this is any indication of the rest of the trip, I’m slightly concerned. But don’t worry, I’m still on cloud nine and quite eager to get where we are going. This trip is going to be amazing.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


I am so excited, I can't sleep. I suppose this is just as well, since I want my body to think this is morning. Perhaps if I'm utterly exhausted I'll be able to sleep on the plane for once? I can't wait anymore. Each year, I count down days in great anticipation and before I know it, the anticipation becomes a reality. Every year I wonder if it will just become ordinary. Every year, it continues to be a whirlwind of excitement. The  magic of travel hasn't toned down at all. In fact, it only gets stronger and the desire to see the world gets more intense with each new part I see. Come on, tomorrow, hurry up and get here!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lighten up!

I have heard it said that one of the marks of an experienced traveler is one who can travel light. I must be on my way to becoming this, since every year my load gets lighter. This year, I weighed in around 26 pounds in one carryon-sized bag which I checked as well as a small backpack to carry on. This is quite an improvement of the first year I went….. All 49 pounds of who knows what crammed in a very large suitcase on wheels. If I recall correctly,. I packed enough stuff so that I would have a new outfit every day. I had well over 20 shirts, 4 or 5 skirts, several pairs of pants, 3 pairs of pajamas, etc. etc. Seriously, what was I thinking? Now, being older and wiser (well, older anyway) I have learned to lighten up and have discovered the simple joys of laundry in the sink. I brought only about 1/3 of the clothes this time, and 3 times the music. It’s all about priorities…..

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Trinity Sunday

In exactly one week I will be on a plane to go back to the place I love so much. To celebrate Trinity Sunday, practice for my recital in Tröchtelborn, and to share music with family and friends, I gave a recital at Redeemer. I felt so blessed to be able to share this music and to look out and see faces of parishioners, students, choir members, family, and friends. What a joy it is to gather and share God's gift of music together! While I still have a week to wait before I leave, this recital seemed to mark the start of this year's adventures. I was thrilled that two of my dearest friends from Notre Dame made the trip from two different states to be at Redeemer this afternoon. Having them there brought back many memories of grad school days. While a part of me wishes I could go back and live those wonderful grad school days, a bigger part of me is wonderfully content and happy serving at Redeemer. It's been a great first year here, and I hope to be here for many more!