Sunday, January 1, 2017

4 Days, 4 Religions, 4 Places of Worship

We finished our year visiting Eastern Germany and the Czech Republic. While our main focus was a visit to the Freiberg Temple, our visits took us to several religious sites of historical significance.  The photo below is in Prague where we also visited our last Christmas Market.  We returned home to Frankfurt in time to see amazing New Years Eve firework displays.

With most employees taking the holiday time off, we decided to make a trip to the Freiberg, Germany temple, our first visit back since the Open House.  It was a chance to do some more work for our ancestors and of course for our personal benefit.  Since the temple is on the eastern end of Germany we decided to stop in the Czech Republic on the way home.  We had never been to Prague and we wanted to check out a possible location for one of my great grandfathers which wasn't too far off the path.

We started on Wednesday, leaving home early so that we could arrive in Dresden, Germany and see a few things before going to the temple on Thursday.  Dresden is one of the larger cities in Germany and only a half hour from the Freiburg temple.  We especially wanted to see the Frauenkirche which was destroyed in World War II but has since been rebuilt.  This was the Church referred to in President Uchtdorf's talk in April 2016.

Traffic was great and we arrived in Dresden by 1:00 pm.  After checking into our hotel, we proceeded to walk to the "old town" of Dresden.  We first walked by the Zwinger complex which was a former palace (originally built in the 1500s and today is a museum).  We were impressed with the structure but decided to wait until our return from the Frauenkirche to visit.

Sister Rueckert in front of the Zwinger

Inside the courtyard
We proceeded to visit the Lutheran  Frauenkirche and were not disappointed.  It is beautiful and has been totally reconstructed using as many of the original materials as possible.  The black spots on the building are where older blocks were utilized in the reconstruction.

In front of the Lutheran Frauenkirche (The Church of Our Lady)

As we entered into the Church, it was even more amazing.
We took time to watch a movie that showed the history of this Church, it's destruction in World War II and the painstaking efforts to rebuild it.  It just added to our appreciation of what was accomplished.

This was the top of the previous Church.  It was not able to be functional, but is shown inside the Church as a reminder of what was and what occurred.
On our way to Dresden, we had taken time to listen once again to Presdent Uchtdorf's talk.  His words now sunk deep inside our hearts.  I share just a few of them:
"As I pondered the history of Dresden and marveled at the ingenuity and resolve of those who restored what had been so completely destroyed, I felt the sweet influence of the Holy Spirit. Surely, I thought, if man can take the ruins, rubble, and remains of a broken city and rebuild an awe-inspiring structure that rises toward the heavens, how much more capable is our Almighty Father to restore His children who have fallen, struggled, or become lost?
It matters not how completely ruined our lives may seem. It matters not how scarlet our sins, how deep our bitterness, how lonely, abandoned, or broken our hearts may be. Even those who are without hope, who live in despair, who have betrayed trust, surrendered their integrity, or turned away from God can be rebuilt."
As we entered into the Church, we noted a real live angel.  After making  a small contribution, we were able to take a photo of my angel wife with this "angel".

We also noted that a Christmas Market was still open on the outside of the Church.  We took advantage to once again eat a bratwurst and drink a hot drink in this cold weather.

Frauenkirche Christmas Markt, only food booths.  The normal Christmas Market was in a separate location.
Sister Rueckert with the large Pyramid and the Church
On our way back to our hotel, we stopped at a Medieval Stable Market.  This was set up to enjoy in between Christmas and January 6.  This was similar to what we had seen a few weeks ago, but it had some good entertainment and food.

Sister Rueckert greeted by the door guards.

Potato Chips on a stick

Live brass band in near freezing temperatures

Additional entertainment, bagpipes, guitar and percussion
We returned to the Zwinger and spent a few minutes viewing the Porcelain Collection.  Over 2,000 of the 20,000 pieces are displayed.  This collection was accumulated in 1715 by Augustus the Strong.  Although the complex was also destroyed in World War II, the art collection was evacuated and preserved.

A few of the 2,000 artifacts
One of many wall displays

Sister Rueckert with the "Dragoon" collection.  It was received in exchange for a dragoon (German regiment) in the 1700s.  At that time many German soldiers were rented out to others, such as the U.S. in the revolutionary war.

One of the life size porcelains of a lion with the face of a human
We returned to our hotel and got a good night's sleep before spending the next day in the temple.  We arrived early in Freiberg and were able to do two endowment sessions and a sealing session.  The temple closed after the 1:00 pm endowment session.  As wonderful as our experience of the previous day had been, nothing can compare with the spirit that we feel within the holy temple.

During the second endowment session I was pondering the symbolism that we experience both inside the temple and in all of our Church ordinances.  I was questioning in my mind why this symbolism was needed.  As I was pondering I received a very clear one word response to my question: "Remember".  I was humbled as I received that answer and as I have pondered it since.  It is so clear to me now that the physical aspects of our ordinances, such as the bread and water in our sacrament services are all in place to help us remember HIM and our covenants with Him.  If we did not participate in these ordinances often, we very possibly would not be remembering HIM as we should.   I love the temple and the strength that I receive as I participate in temple ordinances.

In front of the Freiburg Germany temple
It was very special as we did sealings for six of our ancestor couples and were able to have nine children sealed to their parents.  Of these, 7 were children who died before the age of 8.  What added special joy to us on this occasion was the sealing of Anna Schlerf to her parents.

Let me share what led to this opportunity.  I have been working closely with my cousin, Gloria Rueckert, in the U.S. who has been very helpful in indexing many of the images that we have able to gather.  She has also given us much help to direct our efforts in Germany.  On the day after Christmas, I sent her an email sharing our experiences of the previous week in Nürnberg.  Her email response included the following:

"I had a quiet, but wonderful Christmas.  I did family history research using Archion most of the afternoon and was rewarded by finding some of the information I had asked you to look for on your trip to Nuremberg.  My most precious find was Grandma Rueckert's little sister Anna (document's attached).  It was quite by accident that I found these records, and I can't help but feel that my searches on Christmas day were guided by those on the other side.  I am putting Anna's information into FamilyTree today, and I was wondering if you and Sister Rueckert might be able to seal her to her parents on one of your trips to the temple."

Within minutes of receiving the email, I was able to reserve the temple work for the little sister of my Grandmother.  Within just a few days we were in a temple in Germany and were able to be proxy for the parents as another sister was sealed to us for Anna Schlerf.  The spirit was strong during that particular sealing.  We know that Christine Steger (my great grandmother) had been taught the gospel by my grandfather while on his mission.  She lived a worthy life and for sure is on the other side waiting to get her daughter sealed to her, something that had not happened during her earth life.  I testify that the Lord and our ancestors are busy helping us as we strive to do his work.  This was one more in a long line of spiritual experiences that we have had.

We continue to see signs of Christmas everywhere.  Even on the temple grounds we found this beautiful nativity scene.

We went into the city of Freiberg to find a meal since we had not had time during the day to stop to eat.  We found a restaurant at the city center that provided us with perhaps the best meal we have ever had during our mission.  What a blessing after a day in the temple.  We also found another Christmas Pyramid and Christmas tree in this city. 

Christmas Pyramid in front of Freiberg City Hall

View from the restaurant, including their traditional Christmas decoration and the Pyramid and Christmas Tree in the background.

We returned to our hotel in Dresden that evening.  We need to share a little about this unique hotel room.   This was a special priced hotel with an Art theme.  Certainly the room was different from any we had ever experienced.  The photos below highlight some of the uniqueness.

Basic room, television is behind the curtains, a little bit different.

Different opening to the room.  However, we could not find any closet or dresser drawers.  so we hang our coats on a hook on the wall.

After a few hours of pondering, we noticed a door knob on the desk

When we opened the desk, we found a closet behind the moving desk!

The bathroom had a unique sink and it was surrounded with mirrors.    When photographing it, we saw many sinks!

After finishing our Dresden experience we left on Friday morning for Prague, Czech Republic.  The drive was just under 2 hours and we arrived at the Prague Castle just after 9:00 am. We then spent the rest of the day enjoying the Czech Republic.  We loved it!

We started at the Prague Castle which dates from the 9th century.  The castle was a seat of power for kings of BohemiaHoly Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room inside it.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, occupying an area of almost 70,000 m2, at about 570 meters in length and an average of about 130 meters wide. The castle is among the most visited tourist attractions in Prague attracting over 1.8 million visitors annually

Even though we were in the middle of winter and had temperatures right at freezing, there were more tourists in Prague than we have seen in any other site during our mission.  The day was cold but clear and sunny, so we couldn't complain.  Within the Castle complex is some very large churches, homes of Catholic relics  and much more.  In fact, it seemed to be a city within the complex.  And also once again, we found a Christmas market within the castle complex.

One of the key leaders of Bohemia was King Wenceslas who is strongly emphasized in the Castle:

Saint Wenceslaus was the duke (kníže) of Bohemia from 921 until his assassination in 935. His younger brother, Boleslaus the Cruel, was complicit in the murder.
His martyrdom and the popularity of several biographies gave rise to a reputation for heroic goodness that resulted in his elevation to sainthood. He was posthumously declared to be a king and came to be seen as the patron saint of the Czech state. He is the subject of the well-known "Good King Wenceslas", a carol for Saint Stephen's Day.
From one of the biographies:
"But his deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his Passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched."
Outside of the Prague Castle, spires from Church and the Royal Palace

Guards of the Palace, we were able to witness the changing of the guards which occurs each hour

Inner Court of the Royal Palace
Of all the Churches that we see, the Catholic Churches appear to be much more ornate.  These were no exception.  We went into a building of the rectories and the relics.  The relics are parts of clothing or teeth or something related to the Savior, Mary or any of the saints.  They are housed in incredibly ornate rectories which are covered with gold and jewels.  The rectories seem to overshadow what is inside.  These were very common over the years to attract people to the different churches if they had their own relics.  It is amazing to see and very beautiful but appears to be so far over the top for religious worship.  This remind us to focus on those things that are much more important and eternal.

By the front end of the Church, blue sky and sun
At the other end of the enormous Church, larger than two normal size cathedrals.  This is all within the courtyard of the Royal Palace.
And yes, once again we discovered an active Christmas Market.  We got to experience a Czech version, including special pastries.

Sister Rueckert eating a Czech cookie
These were made on the spot for us and were very tasty

After we finished at the Prague Castle, we went to the Old Town and saw some more historic sites, including the Tyn Chapel and the famous astronomical clock on the Town Hall.  Each of these are around the Old Town Square.  The Tyn Chapel, built in 1385 was heavily adorned with gold everywhere.  Some say that this Church is the model for Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle.
And once again we found an active Christmas Market.

Tyn Church.  The two towers are not symmetrical and represent the male and female parts of the world.  The larger size represents the masculine side.  
Christmas tree and Christmas market on the Town Square
In front of the Town Hall with the Town Square, Tyn Church and the Christmas Market behind us
The Astronomical Clock on the Town Hall, originally built in 1410 which makes it the oldest working astronomical clock in the world.  We watched the hourly musical show which occurs around and above the clock.
On Saturday we left our hotel and headed home.  On the way home we stopped at the city of Plzen which is where our son-in-law served his mission.  We visited the Great Synagogue, built in 1888.  It is the second largest Jewish Synagogue in all of Europe.  During World War II, the Jews were exterminated and the building was used for a storage facility and was spared destruction.  The building is now used for concerts and part of it is still used for worship for the 70 Jews in the city.

In front of Great Synogogue, second largest in Europe
As we finished our trip, we realized that each day had been highlighted with a significant religious building from a different religion.  4 days, 4 religions, 4 religious shrines or temples.

Day 1 - Lutheran Fraunkirche in Dresdon, Germany
Day 2 - Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Temple in Freiberg, Germany
Day 3 - Catholic Cathedrals - St. Vitus Cathedral in Castle & Tyn Church in Prague, Czech Republic
Day 4 - Jewish Synogogue in Plzen, Czech Republic

 After Plzen, we did a little family history searching.  One of my great grandfathers left Bohemia in 1867 and went to the U.S.  We know very little about him or his ancestry.  One of his granddaughters has thought that he was born in a city called Nedanitz.  She remembers this from a conversation years ago with her father.  This is all we have to pursue, so we decided that it was our responsibility to see what we could find.

We had found a few cities names Nedanice and Nedanicky so we thought we would visit them.  We went with a prayer in our hearts, asking for guidance to see what we could find.  No big miracles this time, but perhaps some direction on where to look or if we are looking down a dead end.
In the village of Nedanice

As we arrived at the little village of Nedanice, we finally found one person outside and talked to him. He was very helpful.  He told me that I was lucky because he was probably the only person in the village that could speak English.  He went with us to talk to others to try and see where we could find records or as cemetery.  No one that he talked to ever heard of the name of Hartman or Carlile, the names of the parents of my descendent.  He told us that we could find records at the Black Tower in Klatovy.

Our young friend on the right with an individual who tried to give us guidance.

Based on his direction, we went to the cemetery in a neighboring larger village, Mecin.  There we found many tombstones, but none with any name close to Hartman.  We did find another individual there who spoke good English who gave us a little background as to the area, cemeteries and records.  He told us that Hartman would be spelled the same in Czech, but that it was a German name.  He confirmed that we would need to go to the city of Klatovy where we could find records, independent of the religion of the individual.

Cemetery in Mecin

On our way to Klotovy, we passed through Nedanicky, which appeared to be about the same size as Nedanice.  We also stopped at the cemetery in the next town and checked out the tombstones.  All the names that we have seen are clearly Czech and appear to have nothing close to Hartman.

Village of Nedanic

Cemetery behind Church in neighboring village
Black Tower in Klatovy, next to City Hall.  
 Not sure where to go from here.  We will try to contact this city hall and see if they can help us.  Not all Family History efforts bear immediate fruits, but at least we know more than we did when we started.

Throughout this trip,we were driving in near freezing temperatures throughout many patches of fog.  Although we have not experienced any actual snow, the frost on the trees gives us a special feeling of a winter wonderland.

 We arrived home in Frankfurt just after 6:00 pm.  This gave us time for Sister Rueckert to make a cheese ball and to enjoy our New Years Eve putting together a puzzle of a castle.  What a fitting end to our four day trip.
We got carried away eating before we took the picture, it really tasted good.

In the middle of the puzzle experience

 We had heard that there were fireworks on New Years Eve, and we heard and watched some fireworks throughout the evening.  However, at midnight, we experienced fireworks like we have never seen before.  Every neighborhood  and it seemed every neighbor set off large fireworks for a half hour.  They were opening up right by our balcony, just like our own personal fireworks show.  They were shooting out from everywhere.  These few photos don't begin to show what we experienced.  All of these shots were right from our balcony with no zooming in.

We woke up this morning with our own dusting of snow and/or frost.  I'm not sure, but it sure looks like winter from our balcony.  Happy New Years to all!