Monday, December 31, 2007


We took the exchange students to Leavenworth, a Bavarian-themed tourist trap, for the Christmas Tree Lighting and to spend money on food and stuff. Half of our Germans think "this is so cheesy!" and then realize: "I can eat German food again!". Which is not so much different than ours, it just includes boiled red cabbage with apples, spaetzle and decent sausages. I spent the day with a local teacher who was muslim, and we had a great time. I just didn't feel comfortable eating sausages on the street (which is all that was available on the street) or finding the place that sold mulled wine by the glass. But I came out ahead.

On the way to Leavenworth, we stopped at a travel stop. The sign on the door said: "no shirt, no shoes, no service". One girl asked what that really meant -- to her it said you must remove your shirt and shoes to get services, and why would you want to do that when it is below freezing? And everybody was fully clothed in the store anyway....

One day our Chinese girl (who had excellent English) at dinner asked why the school was giving out drugs. We responded that you pay for them, fill out a form, and the nurse keeps them and dispenses them when you need it. No, she said, illegal drugs. After a couple minutes of talking about whether someone who sells illegal drugs would give them away in order to drum up more business, and this is definitely illegal and the school has we assure you, nothing to do with it and it wouldn't be on school property anyway, we finally asked where she got this idea. There was a sign up at school: "Drug-Free Prom."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

World War Two

My husband recommended a book for reading on the airplane: "Rise and Fall of the Great Powers" by Paul Kennedy, subtitled: "Economic change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000." This title is sort of inaccurate, since the book was published in 1987.
My husband promised me that, while the book has interesting high points, there are a lot of statistics to slog through, and it would help me sleep on the plane.
Didin't work.
In fact, I had to buy another book at Schipohl Airport for the flight home.

It was strange to read about World Wars 1 and 2 while in Europe, to see place where there had been such sorrow and misery. To finally understand what exactly the Hapsburg Empire Was. To find out what World War 1 was about -- nobody trusted anybody, and when the Archduke was fought, everybody invaded their favorite enemy. And then Germany gets punished because it is the last enemy standing -- Russia withdrew into its own revolution, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire disappeared.

The result of that punishment was World War 2.

I asked the German Kid what he was taught about Hitler and WW2. He said "To be ashamed."

I remember in grade school, hearing that Auschwitz and other Concentration Camps had been preserved, feeling admiration for the Germans, that they would preserve such things as a warning for the rest of us.

I think that, were the US in the same position as Germany after WW1, perhaps we would have allowed the rise of a Hitler.

In Haarlem, I visited the Ten Boom house. The Ten Boom family, because they were Christians, hid Jews during WW2. They were arrested and sent to prison, but their Jews escaped. Corrie survivied the war and wrote "The Hiding Place." We were warmed and encouraged by the story.
The top picture is a plaque on the outside of a house, the bottom picture is of the space where the Jews were hidden during the raid.

Friends went to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. They felt down afterward.
The Dutch are not taught that today's Germans are repsonsible for WW2.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A dog's life

I found my dog like this the day after Christmas. Poor thing, no opposable thumbs means that she is subject to our wishes for entertainment.

I'm looking for captions. I've already thought of the usual: "Can I watch 'Lassie?'"
The eye is because she has been eating the cat food.

Friday, December 14, 2007

More awe-inspiring stuff

Here are the last of the cathedrals pictures, this is Sint Jan in den Bosch in the Netherlands. The top picture shows the flying buttresses. The second to last picture is the bottom of the organ.
Everything is decorated.
My camera and I were just learning to get along in Germany, so there is only the one picture of the Marienkirche. I guess I have to go back!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Promises, promises

Here are the pictures I promised a few days ago. These are three different Cathedrals in Prague. That is enough pictures for one post!
The detail is incredible! And there was a reason for it: in a mostly illiterate society, all the stories are in the stained glass and the art and the statures, making you functionally literate. (Is this why the Catholic church at that time did not emphasize people reading the Bible for themselves? The protestant reformation (or the great breakup of the church, depending which side of the aisle you are on) which did do so, succeeded because movable type had made books easily available, and the literacy rate rose.)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Other religious buildings

In the Prague castle I there was also a Romanesque church, St. George's Basilica and Convent. It was much simpler, I think I liked it better! There were still arches and statues, just not the detail that I saw in the Gothic cathedrals.
I also visited an visited the Old-New Synagogue n Prague. It was very simple, more like what I am used to. The only picture I was allowed to take was over the entrance to what we call the sanctuary. It is a vine, showing twelve roots. Other interesting tidbits include: the rabbi preaches from a lowered floor; it signifies humility and service. The interior was arched, but instead of keeping the 4 ribs, a 5th was added. The 4 ribs form a cross, and the Jews didn't want to see that.
I have heard that our architecture reflects how we view god. In cathedrals, God is on high, and his ministers preach from elevated pulpits that are attached to a column with hidden entrances. The Romanesque also was quite large, and the pulpit is elevated: the preacher is between God and Man. I think I could be comfortable in the Romanesque church because of its simplicity.

Monday, December 03, 2007


I have been to the National Cathedral in DC. It just does not compare to the ones I saw in Europe, I was impressed by the detail and the scale.

We just don't put detail in our churches. I grew up in the Episcopal church. We had stained glass windows and a few statues. Now I belong to a Presbyterian church. It has banners, wood details, and some stained glass.
Our sanctuaries are large, but not overly so. These are huge. I wonder what it would be like to worship in these buildings; I think the sound of modern instruments would not fill the space like the organs.
For the record: the top picture is the ceiling (somebody actually painted that!) of Sin Jan in den Bosch, Netherlands; the middle picture is the Marienkirche in Lubeck, Germany, which has been restored after allied bombing in WW2 (the sign did not attribute the destruction to us, which is very diplomatic of them); the bottom picture is the top of front of St. Vitus, in the Prague Castle in the Czech Republic. The stonework is amazing.
Maybe tomorrow I'll just post pictures.