“Do you want to see a dancing skeleton?”
We’re walking around Munich with our very personable, energetic and knowledgeable tour guide, who, after our assent, suddenly grabs Amanda’s hand and runs in the direction of a fountain in Marienplatz and points out a carving of a dancing skeleton and excitedly explains the story of John the Baptist’s beheading as it was depicted on the fountain. Throughout the rest of the tour, our enthusiastic guide (who spoke expert Denglisch—a mix of German and English) explained the history of the city and pointed out places we wouldn’t have known about otherwise. He used us as characters to help us visualize the founding of Munich (very simply put: the king, Heinrich der Löwe [or Henry the Lion], built a bridge near a monastery so that salt traders from Salzburg could cross the Isar River. They had to pay him, and he became rich and the city was formed). I also learned that the Wittelsbachs (the family who ruled after Henry until 1918) started Oktoberfest to unify the four parts of Bavaria. The origin of the English Garden: an American suggested creating an open space for everyone as a democratic gift from the king to the people so they wouldn’t have a revolution like the French. And they didn’t, until 1918 when Kurt Eisner overthrew the Wittelsbach monarchy and became the first president of Bavaria, until he was murdered one year later, leading to much political unrest. If that hadn’t happened, Hitler and the Nazi party would have had a harder time rising to power.
The next day we toured the city library and learned about its origins and how to use it. Not quite as interesting as the tour of the city, but still very useful! One of my favorite parts of the week was visiting the Frauenkirche on Sunday, which was a completely new experience for me. Growing up in a contemporary protestant churches, I’ve only been to three Catholic masses in the States, and I’ve never been to a church service in German before. As we sat in the huge and beautiful cathedral, the phenomenal children’s choir led us in singing the hymns. Since it was Palm Sunday, the priests read a long passage from Mark about the Last Supper and the Crucifixion, which I could understand! It was also neat to say the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed in German and increase my vocabulary so I can talk about what I believe in a different language (still have a lot to learn!). While I listened to the priest give a brief message, it reminded me of how big God is because we can worship Him in so many different languages and formats. I found myself really liking this traditional way of worshipping, and it was cool to think that people have done it like this for centuries.
Having grown up in the Historic Triangle, I am finding all of this history fascinating. And as we trudge around in the cold windy weather that can’t decide if it wants to rain, snow, sleet, hail or be sunny, I’m remembering that places aren’t the only ones with history. Each person has his or her own story, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know many of the other students in the JYM program.
Whether it’s sitting at a café drinking delicious cappuccinos, exploring IKEA, going to watch a German movie (which I mostly understood and even got some of the jokes!), running through the English Garden, decorating our rooms and talking about our colleges and religious experiences, or dashing around Marienplatz to buy Milka chocolate because the store is closing (hey, I got 9 chocolate bars for less than 7 euros), we’ve made quite a few memories. And while these stories may not be engraved on a fountain, they still leave an imprint on our lives.
“The years go by and time just seems to fly, but the memories remain”—”September” by Daughtry.