Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Lutherstadt Wittenberg: Guided and minded

Setting out
My visit to Lutherstadt Wittenberg was planned for a Wednesday. Two days before I had booked my train ticket from Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Hauptbahnhof is main or central station and it is usually written as Hbf. I decided on using the high-speed Intercity-Express (ICE) train. The journey would have lasted 40 minutes and it was the second stop from Berlin.
That morning, I had to ply an alternative route to my boarding station from my hotel because the suburban train link from Berlin-Zoologischer Garten Station to Berlin Hbf was not running, I had plenty of time.
When I finally made it to the station, I first cooled my heels in the DB lounge before boarding my train as I reminisced about the affordability and comfort of high-speed trains on mainland Europe.
Walking through
On arrival at Lutherstadt Wittenberg, the station was being refurbished and the information point at the exit was really for buses, however, the lady at the counter kindly informed me that I only had to walk into town for the tourist information office. What she did not say was that it was at the far end of the main street.
The borders of the footpath to the town centre had beautiful aromatic flowers that released a fragrant scent of sweet smelling savour, like some scriptural sacrifice preparing one for devotion, yet the flowers looked wild rather than tended.
I followed the directions into town and then began to notice the signs in front of historic buildings and plaques to famous indigenes, citizens, residents and visitors to many of the buildings. When I got to the tourist information office, I had literally walked passed everything of significance, I was just not adequately informed about the places.
Guiding oneself
The guided tour was only in German, though you could obtain an audio guide in a number of world languages including English to walk through town and key in the numbered locations as indicated on the map that accompanies the guide. The numbers differ from the numbers on the signs in front of the historic buildings. I think whatever organisations are involved should align themselves and synchronise their efforts.
To be given the audio guide requires you offer some identification or pay a refundable deposit of €50.
I started with the gate/door on which Martin Luther is purported to have nailed the 95 theses at the Castle Church, the episode that apparently kicked off the Protestant Reformation. In the church itself were memorials for Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon who carried on the message after Martin Luther’s death.
Not much in the church was original, having been besieged, plundered and razed through the centuries. It was, however, beautiful, colourful and quite serene apart from the fact that you can walk up to the altar, enter the precept and take pictures too.
Other interesting stuff
Even with a full day’s visit, it was not possible to see all the notable places, like the old Wittenberg University where Martin Luther earned his doctorate; dissolved in the 19th Century, but presently known as Leucorea University and a campus of Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg. Leucorea is the Greek translation of the German Wittenberg, which means white mountain.
Lucas Cranach the Elder was a contemporary and friend of Marin Luther, a painter and printmaker, and once owned the largest homestead in Wittenberg. He with his son Lucas Cranach the Younger painted portraits of prominent Protestant figures as well as some religious scenes.
Having majored in electrical engineering, it was interesting to realise Wilhelm Eduard Weber who along with Carl Friedrich Gauss, invented the first electromagnetic telegraph was from Wittenberg as well as the electrical engineering pioneer, Werner von Siemens.
The main street has a cosmopolitan feel to it with typical high street shops in mostly old buildings.
A Lutheran Service
At 16:00, I attended a short Lutheran services presided over by an America priest. The language  was Old English and as is traditional for such services, we sung A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, written by Martin Luther. The service was held in the sacristy of the city church where Martin Luther frequently reached.
I am not sure of where the tradition for standing up at the reading of the gospel emanates, but we did stand for the gospel at the Lutheran service, just as I have noted that we stand in the Anglican Communion, such a tradition is not normally observed in Pentecostal churches. However, a biblical reference in the book of Nehemiah appears to suggest the Genesis of this tradition.
5. Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up.
6. Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
Nehemiah 8:5-6 (NIV)
The day was long, as I walked around other sections of the city, the Martin Luther garden being prepared for the quincentennial of the Protestant Reformation in 2017 has 500 trees planted by global Lutheran organisations, with an additional tree planted in the locality of the organisation. Late in the day as things closed, I returned to the main station to catch my train back to Berlin.


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