June 4, 2015
Cologne, Munster and the Autobahn
Our friend Tom easily directed us away from Aachen towards Koln or Cologne. We were surprised at the relative lack of traffic. This was especially true as we entered the large city of Cologne. Only upon reaching its magnificent cathedral did we realize that something was up.
Catholic regions in Germany have a religious feast day for the Body of Christ, 60 days after Easter. We found ourselves in the middle of an amazing display. Outside the cathedral that survived the almost total distraction of the city gathered thousands of worshippers. We quickly became part of the gathering but not a participant. I asked some gentlemen about the celebration because my Protestant background limits my understanding of these events. I turns out that I should not have been surprised since the celebration focuses on one major difference between Christian Catholics and Christian Protestants. The Feast of Corpus Christie focuses on the miracle of Transubstatiation or the mystery of the Communion as Catholics believe it be. I’ll stop the theology for now and focus on my impressions of the feast.
It is asserted by some conservative Christians that Europe is devoid of real Christianity. My observations contradict this opinion. In Cologne today we witnessesed tens of thousands of Christians celebrating their Lord. Young girls were in their Santa Lucia-like costumes, young men were in traditional costume, the church was closed to tourism, and the bells were thundering. I am sure we lost a lot in translation but seeing thousands of people in attendance at this huge outdoor service singing the service was moving.
The bell tower was open so we went for it. All the time we could see and hear the service as we climbed some five hundred feet up a circular stone staircase. I made it almost to the top before chickening out atop the steel stairs leading to the small circular stairs and platform suspended atop the bell tower. Peggy made it all the way and took some great pictures.
We then ventured out of town and onto the Autobahn. Our GPS tells us the posted speed limit and that information disappeared on several sections of the highway. When that happens, you stay in the right lane. We were moving at 75 or 80 mph and passed by cars going warp speed. Actually, I felt safe so long as I stayed in the safe lane. Of course, German road workers have learned from Caltrans. They would reduce the open lanes from 4 to 3 to 2 and then 1 with not piece of equipment in sight. Still with the freeway mostly wide open, the speeds averaged out to at least 60 mph.
We found our hotel in center of Munster and found some lunch. Our waitress couldn’t explain the holiday but was quick to point out that almost everything was closed. Restaurants and the all important ice cream stores were open. Peggy commented that it was amazing to see a religious holiday in a “secular” Germany celebrated on such a wide scale. Imagine a country where there is no shopping on a religious holiday? Costco is closed for Christmas but observes no other church holidays. Maybe Americans are not so religious as the think. So much for my observations. Oh yes, the feast had been celebrated in the Munster town square before we arrived in the afternoon.
We toured the Munster sights with Germans so laid back and relaxed that I thought I was in Southern California. Ice cream was the menu item of the day and every cafe table was occupied. Interestingly, there was little spotting of beer mugs. That may change by evening.
Munster achieved its fame during the Reformation. The city was an Anabaptist stronghold. In brief, Anabapists believed that you must be born again and confess your sins before baptism. They rejected the common infant Baptism. They also believed some things that Evangelicals have a problems with like polygamy, common ownership of property (socialism?) and rejected owning weapons. Catholics and Lutherans both hated them. They got bad press and Munster became known as the place where Monsters lived. Poor Herman Munster. When the town was overrun by Catholic forces, the leaders were executed and suspended in iron cages as a warning. The cages are still there high up on the Lambertikirche.
The Lambertikirche also had a wonderful Tree of Jesse sculpted above the main portal. It also was the place where Bishop Von Galen condemned the Nazi practice of euthanizing the mentally ill. The local Rathaus also was the scene for the settlement of the Peace of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years War. The result was that Catholics and Lutherans would have religious freedom. Nothing was settled about the Baptists, Amish, Mennonites, etc. who had to look for safe havens in the Netherlands, Switzerland and the Americas. The Thirty Years War took the lives of every third German through starvation, sickness and murder.
We visited the Cathedral briefly to listen to the service and admire the 12th Century sculptures that survived the brief rule by the destructive Anabaptists who rejected any religious decoration. I loved the sculpture of St. Christopher. I recognize that grin. We still have folks like that in places like Iraq and Syria. But enough of old Munster survived the carpet bombing of the city in October, 1944 to be rebuilt into a beautiful and very easy place to visit and enjoy.
Found a Blue Heron for Bobbie and a purple Maclovio for Suzan. Also plenty of pastries in pizza pans for everyone else.
Another meal of Wurst. Peggy avoided the veal head stew. Place filled with young kids playing trivial pursuit. Nice sunset and to bed.