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Sunday, June 28, 2015

"Resilience Thinking" by Brian Walker and David Salt

      "Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World" was a very interesting read, because the concepts apply very much to congregations and how they can be resilient, as well as ecosystems.
       The authors write about all of life having a cycle of new life where there is fast growth and lots of innovation, followed by a time of sustaining growth in which a system grows more efficient, then when the system can't be sustained anymore it ends or dies, and finally it reorganizes.  These parts of the cycle don't always happen in order.  The authors also write about "regime shifts" which happen when a system crosses into a new way of operating.  For example, one regime shift from the book has occurred in one area of Australia where the water table has risen, bringing salt up to the topsoil and making it very hard to grow food.  Once a system has crossed into a new regime, it can be very difficult or impossible to get back to the way things were.
      Resilience is the amount of change a system can undergo and still stay in the same regime--still retain the same function, structure, and effects.  Resilience is often lost when a system is getting more efficient.  Many of the safety nets can be lost as a system specializes in just one way of doing things.  Resilience can increase when there is redundancy--lots of similar work being done in different ways.  Resilience can increase when creativity is nurtured and many options are left open.
       The book encourages us to see each system as a whole, rather than just the part that benefits us.  Understanding the interactions of all the different parts can help us understand how one part of a system will react when we try to enhance the part that benefits us.  In ecological systems this can help us make better decisions before a system crosses over into a regime that is undesirable.  In churches, too, we can find opportune moments to be creative so that our system is sustainable in a changing world and meets many needs rather than just a few.  When we use resilience thinking, we prepare ourselves for future changes and make sure we can continue to share God's love in a way our neighbors need us to most.

Friday, June 19, 2015

"Earth Community Earth Ethics" by Larry L. Rasmussen

Finished my second book of my sabbatical "Earth Community Earth Ethics" by Larry L. Rasmussen.

I got a lot out of this book and am hoping to integrate what I've read here into prayers and liturgies and actions for the congregation when I get back. 

The author names clearly the divide we've made as humans between ourselves and everything else, making ourselves the most important and only consideration, and disregarding the lives of other creatures on this earth.  This is a false divide, however, since our well-being is dependent on the plant and animal life on our planet.  He returns again and again to Genesis when all the animals are made out of Earth/dirt, including Adam--the animal named after the Earth "Adama" and made in the image of God.  We are all of the same substance, and this backed up in science when we see how closely human and animal DNA is, as well as how cells work in all living things, plants included.

Our false division of our life over and against all other life has allowed us or encouraged us to abuse nature, the Earth, other living things for our own benefit and their extreme detriment and even extinction.  This has been the idolatry of putting ourselves in the center instead of God. 

When we put God at the center, we treat all living things the way God does--helping them flourish and encouraging them to multiply.  This is what it means that we are made in the image of God.  We get to assist God in making sure that creation is nurtured and growing.

One point that especially caught my attention was about the creation story.  Humans have often seen ourselves as the pinnacle of creation since we were created last out of all the creatures.  However, the author points out that the last thing created was Sabbath, and that Sabbath is the pinnacle of creation.  Yet, Sabbath, or a time of rest, is something that we have forgotten that would do us and all of creation some good.  Sabbath was not just meant as a rest for humans, but also our animals and land were to rest.  It is good for all creation and humankind to rest, and to stop for a moment working and taking from the rest of creation, to listen to God, and listen to each other, the plants and animals included.

Another point that touched me was that we could not survive one moment without "nature," but that it would survive better without us and actually has survived for most of the Earth's existence.  Therefore, this Earth was not made for us.  It has other purposes.  Whether we will survive will depend on our ability to envision a new way of living as part of this Creation instead of constantly taking from it, treating it as a dump.

The author believes that our faith will aid us in the times ahead.  Our faith helps prepare us for big changes, whether we decide to change how we relate to the Earth, or our Earth changes so much we have no choice.  It is helpful because our faith helps us express our yearning "to see things whole and sacred."(p. 178)  Our faith helps us to envision the sacred, helps us find the words and images that express our deepest hopes.  Our faith helps us understand our place, where we've come from and where we are going, and that we will never be alone on that journey, even though we don't necessarily know the path we will take.  Our faith can give us the courage to do something, even though we don't have all the answers or even know much of the territory at all.

Martin Luther's Theology of the Cross is referenced for one possible way forward.  Luther saw the presence of God in every creature and all of creation.  He saw the world and all of creation as God wearing masks, God's very presence in our midst, disguised as a grain of wheat or a bird or another person, at the same time that the creatures' essence was also there.  But he saw the most compelling glimpse of God in Jesus because of his compassion--his "suffering-with." Com=with, passion=suffering.  The theory is that only one that has suffered all can overcome all.  Because of Jesus' suffering, he is truly suffering with all of creation that is hurt, damaged, destroyed.  God is found in the beauty of creation but also in the pollution and the destruction of the earth.  Whenever we hurt the Earth, we hurt God.  But with God, it never ends at death and destruction.  We can look there for the power of life and renewal.  Our compassion for the Earth as earth-creatures made in God's image, we suffer with the earth, but we do not lose hope.  Instead we envision with God the healing of the world and we are inspired to go forward in a different way.

The reader is then guided in a vision going forward to spur us in hope.  One of the first steps is about community.  We need to know our neighbors, both the human and nonhuman ones.  We need to know each other so that we can work together.  The author advocates "designing industrial systems in tune with natures economy." (p. 326) He cites an example already at work in Denmark in which a power plant recycles its steam heat to other businesses and homes in town, a refinery removes the sulfur from its exhaust and sells it to a chemical company that can use it, a pharmaceutical company gives its nitrogen-rich slurry to local farmers who use it for fertilizer, farmers then grow biomass for the pharmaceutical company who then give back the yeast cake from their fermentation vats to the farmers who feed it to their pigs.  This town has found a way to take what was waste from each of their industries and help fill a need for others in the community, basically mirroring nature's way of recycling everything back into the system for the good of all.  The author offers some other ways of expressing values that take into account all of creation and many other examples around the world of communities working together for the good of every member of the community, human, animal, or plant.  But he says, there is no one single answer for every place.  We all have to get together with those around us and figure out what is best for our community and then take action, working together.

I decided that one action I will take after reading this book, is to offer my homemade laundry and dishwashing detergent to those around me.  Commercially made detergents must be shipped from far away.  They weigh a lot which takes a lot of fuel to ship.  They are full of perfumes that cause cancer.  They are expensive to buy.  I will offer my detergents, which cost me pennies to make, but are safe for the environment and for today's washing machines.  I will first offer free samples so people can make sure they like them.  After that, I will barter my detergent for goods that others offer me.  This removes us from the consumer economy.  It also builds a bond of community. 

Also, after reading this book, I biked 4.3 miles to pick up my son from preschool and 4.3 miles back home!  We have to start somewhere.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Silent Spring

The first sabbatical book I read was "Silent Spring," by Rachel Carson.  This is a classic.  I can't believe I hadn't read it before.  It was the book that got DDT banned.  I was concerned it was going to be all outdated, but I got a lot out of it.  If you haven't read it, I recommend it.  If you don't want to read the whole thing, I especially recommend chapters 11. Beyond the Dreams of the Borgias and 14. One in Every Four.

This book was not out of date, as 2-4D is still in use, and although we may not see as much spraying from the skies, people have been marketed home weed-killers and pesticides which are very difficult to use, store, and dispose of properly.  Part of this I learned in my Master Gardener Class.  Each herbicide or insecticide has a directions on it which are a contract that the one purchasing is making to use, store, and dispose of the poison properly and should be reviewed before each use.  But most of us don't read the label and even if we do, we often don't or can't do the math to know how much to apply to our area, or when conditions are right to use the product safely (ie there isn't sufficient wind to blow the poison onto something we or our neighbors don't want it on.) 

We see these products as safe, but they can be very dangerous.  On our yards--we wonder why our pets get all these cancers.  In our water--we wonder why there are these massive fish die-offs, or why the Willamette River is so polluted we are afraid to eat fish caught there.  In our parks and trees--we wonder why the bees are dying and in certain places we find huge numbers of birds destroyed.  

To think that we can't co-exist with insects is erroneous.  Our welfare depends on them.  The pollinate our food.  They break down our waste so that plants can use the vitamins and nutrients.  When we kill them off we ensure our own destruction. 

But it isn't all doom and gloom.  This book started this country examining our use of chemicals in the environment and got DDT and several others banned.  She offers the alternative of using natural predators to attack insects and plants that are invasive and noxious.  The Earth is resilient.  Healing can and does happen.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Day 10 Munich

When we woke up, Nick was still feeling awful.  I boiled some water for him put his head over the steam to loosen his sinuses and I massaged his head.   It was raining as we drove on to Munich.  There were several options of things to do in Munich, but we were getting tired of museums.  We had both noticed before we left that Dachau was so close to Munich.  I guess I thought concentration camps were far from anywhere else.  We thought we'd at least go drive to Dachau to see where it was and see how the weather was at that point.

Dachau was right there in the town.  The town has probably grown up around it in the last 60 years, but still it was right there in town.  The rain had slowed to a sprinkle, so we parked and walked to the visitor's center.  Dachau is very raw.  It is mostly open-air.  It is not glossed over or painted over or dressed up.  We walked along a gravel path.  Because of the rain, it was full of puddles of water.  There was no smoothing over this path.  We walked that path that prisoners and victims had walked after being dropped off by the trains.  The front gate had provided offices for Nazis overseeing the camps and had been the location of torture.

We went through the gate that said, "Arbeit Macht Frei."  I thought this was only on the Auschwitz Gate.  This is the gate that was stolen a few years ago.  They had to make a new one. 

We went to the right, to the prisoner area.  These were individual cells for those who had caused trouble and were later used after the war to hold Nazi war criminals.  There were pictures of some who had been held in these cells and accounts of those who had been imprisoned here.  At one end there were cells for pastors and priests who had refused to cooperate with the Nazis. 

Outside this complex was an open-air area for public humiliation and torture, as well as hanging and firing squad wall. 

The next building over held more of the museum part.  There were so many different stages of the war and holocaust.  Sometimes they were trying to kill more Jews.  Sometimes they needed them to live longer.  At one point there was an attempt on Hitler's life that nearly succeeded.  Then thousands of people were rounded up and sent to camps.  Dachau was more of an infirmary, where sick people were sent.  It wasn't until near the end of the war, when the other camps were evacuated to Dachau, that women and children came there, too.  Dachau was the first camp established and the first liberated.  Over 200,000 people died there--were murdered there.  Even after the camp was liberated some people had to continue to stay there because there had been an outbreak of typhus because of the camp being so overfull of people moved there from other camps.  These people needed to be nursed back to health.

Outside this building, there was a big yard.  People were forced to stand here for hours, if someone tried to escape, or for various other offenses.  Many died standing there.  In this yard are some works of art trying to depict the range of feelings one encounters at Dachau including the inscription "Never Again" in many different languages.

We walked across the yard to the rebuilt barracks, where people slept on bunks 3 high.  Toward the middle was an area with benches and in the center were the bathrooms.  There had been 34 of these barracks, but only the one stands today--as I said, rebuilt.

We walked to the back of the camp where there are several areas of prayer, one Jewish, one Roman Catholic and one Protestant.  Even further to the left, outside the perimeter is one Orthodox.  We walked along the perimeter where some threw themselves when they couldn't take it anymore and were shot.  Then we crossed to the crematorium.  People were not routinely gassed in large groups at this facility, but some smaller groups were.  It was hard to imagine that people could do this to one another. 

It was a very moving experience to be on those grounds.

Munich is less than a half hour away.  We found our hotel and checked in.  We were right next to the main train station, which was a pain to have a car there.  Every train in the city converges right there and traffic was terrible.  We left our car at the hotel and headed out on the train.  First we went to a record store.  Again I walked around the block and found an Oxfam store.  I bought a shirt for Sterling and a few scarves.

We took the train to go to the Hofbrauhaus, the oldest, largest beer hall in Germany or something like that.  JFK had visited there.  When we got off the bus, we found ourselves in a town square next to the rathaus, which was an amazing building.  Here is a picture of the fountain there:

Then we got lost walking to the Hofbrauhaus.  We found it about 45 minutes later.  It was full of people.  You just sit down any old place.  The band was playing.  We found a table and it turns out our table mates were from San Diego.  They were really the first Americans we had talked to since arriving in Germany.  Then when they left, the next couple was German, but they have put in their papers to move to Florida if they get the chance.  They don't like all the German rules and regulations.  They like the sun and the beach.  They explained to us that all the fields of yellow flowers in Germany are for making biofuel.  They complained about that--with all the hungry people in the world.  And they complained about the German government promising people huge subsidies to put solar panels on their homes and now going back on that promise.  It was an interesting inside view of German politics.  What we had seen as good (renewable energy everywhere) is not always seen that way.

We drank a lot of beer--standard size is about a pitcher here in the US.  Fortunately, the beer there has lower alcohol content so much more can be consumed before one gets drunk.  We found our train back to our hotel and went to sleep, ready to leave for the airport in the morning.

A couple of other reflections on Germany:  There are no billboards.  It is so refreshing to drive and be able to see the beautiful land and not always see advertising.  There is no litter.  Everything is so clean.  Also, we saw less than 10 homeless people the entire time we were there.  We especially liked Hannover and found it liveable with concentrated neighborhoods and trains connecting everywhere, little balcony gardens, and people walking and biking.  In the smaller towns, people were not very friendly, which I can understand, and maybe it was just about us being American or because of the nearby army base, I don't know. Anyway, I'm glad we came and I am glad we are going home!

This concludes my account of our trip.  I'll try to post occasionally about my sabbatical.

Day 9 Nurnberg

First thing this morning, I read that Mel from my church had passed away.  I felt sad.  I just saw him a couple of days before I left for my sabbatical.  I remembered our parting and a hundred memories of him from over the last 11 years.  He was a gentle guy, very compassionate and kind. 

I had been dreading that anyone would pass away while I was gone.  What would I do?  But this instance was clear.  I was in another country.  I couldn't be there for the family.  It was out of my hands.

Nick was feeling sick, so I found a pharmacy and headed off to get him some medicine.  I felt pretty good about speaking German by this point and started describing his symptoms to the pharmacist.  She understood me and spoke the best English she knew.  Between the 2 of us we figured out what I should get.  Medicine in Germany seems very different from in the US.  For one thing, you don't just go pick out what you want, even if it is nonprescription.  The pharmacist helps.  Secondly, most medicines don't seem to cover a whole list of symptoms. You buy one for each symptom.  Next, many of the remedies seemed natural or plant-based.

I brought Nick his medicine and then headed out to find the street where the army hospital used to be where I was born.  They bulldozed the hospital in 2002 and built a neighborhood there.
I think I found it.  I was on the right street, anyway.

Nick was ready to go when I got back and we headed out to see the glockenspiel go off at the Frauenkirche at noon in the town square.  We stopped by two other churches that day, St. Sebaldus, and St. Lorenz.  Each of the churches was just filled with art of all kinds.  Each had several altar areas, with carvings and paintings.  They all had more recent art, as well.  St. Sebaldus has been bombed out at the end of WWII and was restored and stands as a witness to peace.  I lit a candle at St. Lorenz, the Lutheran Cathedral, for Mel and his family.

 We drove to a record store so Nick could do some shopping.  I went walking around the neighborhood and found a thrift store.  This was something I had hoped I would find!  The proceeds benefit the charity Oxfam.  I found a shirt for me and a small pitcher and glasses as well as some gifts for other people.

After dinner we walked down to see part of the old city walls of Nurnberg and take more pictures.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Day 8: Obernzenn

Nick was feeling pretty awful by the time morning rolled around.  He had a fever.  We had decided to go straight to Obernzenn, where my family lived when I was born, then drive to the army base, and then take a look around Bad Windsheim where mom remembered there being a monastery. 

It was a beautiful drive in the countryside.  I tried to picture my young parents, traveling these roads in the VW bug or walking or taking public transit.  It really was so isolating.

We got to Obernzenn and no one would let us use a bathroom anywhere.  Almost everything was closed, in the first place.  Nick was feeling awful.  We found a baker that was open, but even after we bought something they didn't have a bathroom we could use.  I found a small grocery that was just about to close for a couple of hours in the afternoon.  It was probably a place my parents used to shop.  I had probably been there before.  It smelled like sauerkraut.  The grumpy lady very begrudgingly let me use the restroom after I said bathroom in about 7 languages, the first of them being German, of course. 

First we saw the two "castles' of the town, a huge red house and a huge blue one right next to it.  Then after passing the house where I lived in infancy probably 5 times, I finally figured out which one it was.  I walked around it to the cemetery.  It was a really beautiful cemetery, with families all buried in a small amount of space and flower gardens planted on the burial places.  Mom had mentioned a church, but I didn't see it there.  Here is the house where I lived when I was a baby:

When I got back in the car, I couldn't find my phone.  After about 20 minutes of searching, we finally determined that Nick was sitting on it. 

We drove to Illisheim army base, where dad was stationed.  Everything we found online said because of terrorism, guests aren't allowed.  We drove around the outside of the barbed wire fence and saw barracks and gardens and play equipment.  Then we drove to Bad Windsheim.  We couldn't seem to find any information on the Monastery and Nick was feeling awful, so we continued on our way.  As we drove out of town, I saw what might have been the monastery up on a hill to the left, but there was no sign pointing the way and I didn't want to linger with Nick being sick.

On to Nuremberg and to the apartment, on the 13th floor.  There was an elevator and our host was on time.  Nick went straight to bed.  I went out to get some food and we cooked some tortellini that night, did some laundry that we hung out on the balcony, and got some sleep.

Day 7: Eisenach

We drove straight to Eisenach where Luther translated the Bible at Wartburg Castle.  We walked around the town a little and had pastries and headed up the hill to the castle.  We parked and walked up hundreds of stairs up to the castle.  It was a beautiful day and the view was gorgeous.  We went up in the tower where one poor anabaptist was imprisoned for eight years in the tiniest little cell, because he wouldn't baptize his infant son. 

We walked around the grounds.  The bath area was interesting, it featured Louis the Springer, who decided to locate the castle here.  According to legend, when he saw the location, he said, "Wait mountain, you shall bear me a castle."  "Wart burg" meaning "wait mountain."  Louis then put some of his soil on the location so that he could say the area belonged to him.  He was called "the springer" because he once lept to safety into the river Saale upon being condemned to death for killing a count.  These baths were constructed after the Crusaders learned to bathe from the people they encountered in the Holy Land.

The castle is only accessible by guided tour.  The next one in English wasn't for another 2 hours, so we took the one in German with the a brochure in English.  Some interesting features include the fireplaces, usually in the corner of each room, the indoor bathrooms that carried waste outside the walls of the castle (I wouldn't exactly call it plumbing), the mosaics honoring St. Elizabeth who was queen for a time and lived within the castle and did all kinds of compassionate works for the poor, a large banquet hall that was later copied in Neuschwanstein castle. 

The rest of the tour was on our own so we went down the hall to see Martin Luther's room.  Over the years many people tried to take a souvenir of Luther's desk and even the woodwork in the room, others carved their names around the door.  Some of those names could still be seen there.  The one thing that remained from when Martin Luther was there was a piece of whale bone there beside the desk.  I wondered if he spent most of the 9 months he was there in this room.  There were reports of him going into to town disguised as a knight.  He must have spent a lot of time there, since he accomplished so much.  But he also might have spent some time roaming the castle grounds, wandering through the forest, maybe thinking through some of the passages that he was working on with his translation.
This was a very interesting part of our trip. 

Afterward, we stopped by the bratwurst stand and decided to purposefully eat meat for the first time in over 10 years.  It was fine.  Thankfully we didn't get sick--not even a twinge.

We looked for a place to hike the forest there, but our GPS took us out of the way.  Instead we drove through the forest to our AirBNB.  This was a lovely little apartment, and we didn't have to climb any stairs.  It is mostly used in the winter for those who are practicing on the big ski jumps for competitive ski jumping.  There were about 4 huge jumps just up the hill from the house.

Even though it was Sunday and almost everything was closed, thankfully we found a restaurant that was open.  Later we Skyped with Sterling.

In the night, Nick complained that he was cold and I asked if he was getting sick.  It turns out he was catching the same thing that I had almost a week before.

Day 6: Eisleben

This day we were leaving Berlin.  We packed up and took a bus to the car rental.  After picking up our car, we drove to the Victory Tower and spent some time there.  It was built after Germany/Prussia won three wars in a row.  There are depictions of young men going off to war, of the poverty and hunger war causes, but also the glory that can be found.  We didn't go all the way up to the top, but at the second level there is one gorgeous mosaic all the way around the tower. 

We left Berlin and drove to our AirBNB which was an apartment in a huge house near Eisleben.  The house was at least three levels.  Our area of the house had 7 rooms--four of them for our use, and that was just one wing of the house.  There were stables and fields. 

We drove to Eisleben to see the house where Martin Luther was born and where he died.  The birth house had exhibits about mining--that's what Martin Luther's father did for a living, and improvements Luther and his father helped bring to the town--including a new hospital and cemetery when black plaque decimated the town, and a central treasury to care for the poor.  There were some big amazing paintings of kings and princes and many of Christ on the cross, or one of Jesus' miracles, with an influential family gazing at him in reverence.  There were several versions of Martin Luther's family tree, and explanations of his relationship with his father (they did reconcile later in Martin's life), and his marriage to Katarina Von Bora--including some of their wedding gifts. 

At the house where Martin Luther died, they had the chalice that he probably took his final communion in at the ordination of two pastors the previous Sunday.  He purposefully did not have last rites, because he wanted to show it was completely unnecessary.  He apparently had several heart attacks in the weeks before he died, on on the road to Eisleben where he died.  There were many of his quotes about death, thoughts on the death of two of his children, accounts of his maladies including tinitis and vertigo and cataracts.  Also there were drawings and paintings of him on his death bed.

Almost everything was closed, it being Saturday.  But we finally found a place to eat.  We got back late to our place and our host was waiting up for us.  I felt like we were sneaking in past our curfew.  It was probably 9:45 pm. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Day 5, Wittenberg

We took the train to Wittenberg, where Martin Luther lived with his family and where he posted the 95 Theses.  We took the train from Berlin--about 45 minutes.  The maps I had printed showed us dropped off at a different location, so we walked for 1/2 hour on the outside of town before we saw the church spire and headed in.

The Schlosskirche, or castle church is closed for renovations leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.  We knew that would be the case.  It was a church, a seminary, and a castle.  Later it was a military barracks.  We walked around the outside and took pictures.  I took some comfort in knowing that very little was the same as in Martin Luther's day.  I felt connected to him all through the town.  He was buried here and everywhere I went I imagined him standing in that spot, seeing the things I was seeing, thinking whatever thoughts he was thinking, maybe carrying one of his infant children here to be baptized at this church.

On the way to the other side of town, we stopped at the Lucas Cranach house.  Here, he ran a pharmacy and a painting school.  Both a pharmacy and painting school still exist at this location.  He was a genius.

I thought the Staadtkirche, or state church, would also be closed, but it wasn't.  Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon both preached there.  It is considered the mother church of the reformation since this was the first place the mass was held in German and both wine and bread were distributed to the congregation during communion.  It was a very similar layout to St. Andreaskirche that we visited in Luebbecke.  There were many great works of art here, paintings, sculptures, and carving.  There were several works by Cranach, including the altar piece which was similar to the one in Hannover.  As we exited, the church bells starting ringing the noon hour and went on for some time.  It was a beautiful sound on a gorgeous day. Here is a picture of the interior of the Staadtkirche:

We walked to Lutherhaus where he lived with his wife and children.  The house was formerly an Augustinian Monastery where Luther had stayed as a monk and as a professor.  He wrote the 95 Theses here.  It was later given to him by the Electorate of Saxony after the Reformation started and monasteries were abandoned.  Very little remains of what it was like when Martin Luther and his family lived there, but it was still interesting to think of him in the space, maybe looking out the window, or entertaining guests.

The things that stuck out in my mind were that his wife, a former nun, refused to marry the former monk assigned to her when she abandoned the abbey, but instead chose Martin Luther for her husband.  Martin Luther translated the Koran into German as well!  Also, there was a letter written by Martin Luther regarding his wife's choice of a trunk for storing clothes.  Apparently they were quite poor, since Martin Luther received no wages as a professor.  She had several garden plots throughout the town that she tended to raise food for the household.  They took in boarders, seminary students especially, to make an income.  They were given most of what they had, but apparently this particular trunk that they were given Katie was complaining about.  It left rust stains on the clothes, and that was where they kept their clothes all the time.

There were so many Lucas Cranach paintings here--all the famous Luther and Katie ones, plus ones of Martin Luther's parents, many of Philip Melanchthon, and many Kings and other royalty.

One of Martin Luther's last robes was on display there, the first complete edition of Luther's Bible translation into German complete with his own handwriting in the margins, and his death mask.   Martin Luther's study was the only room that was kept mostly as it may have been in his time.  Most amazing was the huge (7 feet tall, 5 feet long and 3 feet wide) ceramic stove that was like the one used to heat the room:

Most of the top floor is ancient books, hundreds of shelves of books of all kinds.  It is a historical library, really.

After this, I mailed the postcards and we went back to Berlin.

Day 4, all day in Berlin

We took the train to Museum Island.  Arriving early, we, unexpectedly, saw the Berliner Dom.  It is hard to describe  how huge and dominating these buildings are.  I went inside.  There was a church service starting in 20 minutes and a choir and orchestra was there warming up.  I walked all around and looked at the ornate crypts of dead kings and queens.  A lot of people were arriving for church.  Unfortunately, we had to be on our way and couldn't stay.

We visited the Pergamun Museum, with ancient gates, statues, and cisterns, reassembled from rubble.  I had been under the impression that they had been plundered from the Middle East, but from what I learned, a lot of work went into finding the pieces and reconstructing them and then getting permission to take them to Germany. 

We went to the Neues Museum, which I assumed would be more Modern Art, since Neues means "new."  "New" refers to the building, which was only recently restored and reopened.  There are ancient collections from Egypt, including the "Bust of Nefertiti."

Next was the Gamaelda Galerie, which means "Paintings Gallery."  This place was full of late medieval and early Renaissance paintings.  We saw the Lucas Cranach paintings that I was so excited to see.  There were also paintings by Durer and Raphael.  It was a lot of Jesus and Mary.  It was amazing to see one of the first paintings that had a background instead of just a black void.  There was another picture of some peasants that really struck me.

Right across the street is the library where one of my favorite films "Wings of Desire" was filmed.

We went to the Museum of Film and Television.  I was pretty tired by this point.

Stopped by the flea market.  Nick got some records.  I had fun looking around.

One cool thing about Berlin, there is an intersection in which all the pedestrians cross at the same time.  All cars stop and everyone crosses either to adjacent corners or even diagonally. It seems so efficient!