Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lübeck


Lübeck reminds me a lot of La Crosse, expect it’s older and cooler.

Haha.

I mean, can you really beat cobble stone streets, red tile roofs, and ancient churches? I don’t think so. But, besides those, this whole city reminds me of downtown La Crosse. It has that same smell of garbage, smoke, and beer, it’s by a river, the roads are the same amount of dirtiness as La Crosse, and there are a bunch of smoky bars. It was very nice to be there because of the great memories I have in La Crosse.






I flew my kite for the first time in Europe here. It was a little embarrassing running around in the city square, trying—and failing—to make my kite fly in low wind. I kept it in the air for a few minutes, which awarded to me a good picture or two.


I realized how loud Americans are today. We—especially people my age—tend to enjoy talking loudly and yelling to each other. It’s not that people in Germany enjoy whispering, it’s just that they talk quietly and peacefully to each other. I’ve been in two cafes so far, and I’ve had to catch myself (and my friends) talking too loud. It must be so annoying to enjoy a nice, relaxing meal and have a bunch of loud people come in and have their version of a nice meal. It’s an interesting cultural difference that I didn’t expect.

As I was wandering around Lübeck (in which I did end up getting lost with a few friends, causing the whole choir to wait in the bus for an uncomfortable amount of time), I found two nice little cafes. The first was a pastry shop from which I purchased a cherry tart of some sort. Delish. My main joy, however, was when I found a small meat market. I love meat. I asked the person behind the counter to cut off a piece of her favorite salami and put it on a sandwich, and let me tell you, it was one of the most incredible things I have ever tasted. I wish I could tell you what it was like. Imagine salami in heaven.
(I’m not going to deny the possibility of me thinking that the salami was better than it was just because I’m in Germany and I expect it to be more special. Just allow me to have that moment.)

Apparently it was market day in Lübeck, so I bought some raspberries, which were wonderful. Also, they had asparagus like I had never seen. They had very wide stalks—overweight asparagus. If I had a steamer in my rolling suitcase, I would have bought them in a heartbeat.


If I may, I’d like to reflect on the fact that I got lost. It made me really nervous. At first it was fun and exciting, but as it went on I became quite scared. Not that I felt in danger or anything; it’s just that I was afraid. I’m going to have to get over that because it will probably happen more when I’m alone in Europe. I have to work on calming down.

“For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of you right hand and says, Do not fear; I will help you.” –Isaiah 41-13

Maybe I’ll let Him lead me around.

Friday, May 29, 2009

I didn't expect to be impressed with Germany

I’ll start with telling about the rest of my flight.

I COULDN’T SLEEP.

I kept looking back at my watch. 11 o’clock PM U.S. time, 12, 1, 2… I was so tired, but not even my seemingly-awesome inflatable neck pillow didn’t work.

I noticed that the sun was rising, which was interesting, since I had seen it set only a couple of hours before. There was a commotion in the plane and I saw people leaning to look out the

window. I looked, and I saw the peaks of the mountains from Greenland poking through the clouds. It was the first sight to take my breath away.

That’s when I decided that sleeping could come later.

We arrived in Frankfurt, which was fine. No big deal. It’s a huge airport, though. Then we hopped on our first coach bus. The seats were a zillion times more comfortable than the plane. I konked out (fell asleep) right away.

I was jolted awake by Tim, my seatmate, yelling, “Holy crap!” My groggy eyes saw the wall of a building about three feet away from the window my forehead was previously shmooshed up against. Apparently the roads are a bit narrow.

We got to the 101 year-old church that we were going to sing at, which is gorgeous. Take a look at the pictures. Each wall inside is covered with beautiful mosaics. Those tiles were so small! I’ve found that stuff like that, the things that blow my mind, that took obvious skill and persistence, tend to piss me off. Not in necessarily a bad way, but I just find myself thinking, “Come ON!” and get frustrated with the grandeur of it all.





















I love it.

After that we had the rest of the day to explore the city. Me and my friends decided to take a random turn on to a street we didn’t know and try our best to get lost. It wasn’t easy to get lost, given that it’s quite a small town.

The neighborhoods are great, complete with cobblestones and roses on the walls. That’s something that really surprised me is that gardening is very important here. I haven’t seen one empty yard with a green lawn and lawnmower lines, like we treasure in the States. Each yard is full of roses and wonderful shrubbery.

I was surprised how peaceful Bad Hamburg is. People just walk aroun

d, unhurried, with no real destination. Good thing there’s plenty to see. There are no lines on the road; walkers just get out of the way when a car comes. Even the dogs are relaxed; I haven’t seen one barking or leash-pulling dog this whole time, just happy dogs happily trotting around with their owners.






It’s a very nice place to breathe.

My first host family was a cute little family—the father, klauss; the mother, Karen; and their 3 year-old son, Kai. Kai was probably the cutest kid I’ve ever seen. German being spoken by a toddler is very interesting; he kept asking us questions in German and not understanding why we didn’t understand. One morning, he came into the room in which we were sleeping and said, in German, “Are you up? Are you up? Are you up? Are you up? Are you up?” until Klauss came in and explained what he was saying.

For dinner they fed us bread with sausage spread and cheese spread. The sausage spread was a little gross (maybe it was old), but the cheese was very similar to Laughing Cow cheese. For breakfast they gave us bread with spreadable honey made from dandelion flowers, which sounds quite gross, but was delicious.

We took a trip to Worms (pronounced vorms, as to not gross anyone out), which was the place where Martin Luther attacked indulgences and came up with a lot of his major theologies in the 1500s. This is also where he was brought before a religious court (“The Diet of Worms” is what it’s called, which also sounds pretty gross) and asked to recant, but refused, causing him to be exiled to the outer reaches of the empire.

This was an awesome place to be because, besides from being a spooky old church, the amount of religious history that took place in this church is humbling.

I always sympathize with Luther because of the fact that he went against the current of the Catholic church, which I did for awhile (and still do, haha). The Catholic church was the popular church of the time, and now I also find myself questioning a lot of methods in other churches as well. So, thinking of him, going against the grain for that sake of what he thinks is right is something that inspires me to stick with what I believe.

Maybe I have a chance at this whole “following Christ” thing after all.

After Worms, we took a trip to Rudesheim, which I believe is nothing more than a pretty little city. My group of friends and I were quite hungry, so we looked for a restaurant. I only had one rule, which was that we would not eat anywhere with a menu printed in English. My friends thought it was a stupid idea, but they went along anyway. We actually walked around for quite a long time because there were a lot of English menus (it’s quite a tourist city). We finally found a nice one with decent prices and went in. There was an outdoor courtyard where we could sit, surrounded by old stucco buildings, and an overhanging gazebo covered with vines.

Oh, and we were eating right next to a nun. She was sipping wine and slurping noodles. I couldn’t help but watch her. (Notice her in the bottom of the picture.)

My friends laughed at me when the server brought out menus completely printed in English.

I ended up ordering apple juice with carbonated water (which is really popular around here), marrow soup with dumplings (beautiful and delicious), and my first German sausage. It was very tasty, on top of mashed potatoes and purple sauerkraut.

Oh yes.

Then we traveled back to Bad Hamburg for our concert. The German composer of one of our songs was there, which was an honor. The concert went pretty well, actually quite horribly, but we got a standing ovation and an encore. I didn’t expect that. The people in Bad Hamburg are so kind.

Afterwards, around 9:45pm or so, a bunch of us decided to “hit the town,” and get some ice cream or some tapas—maybe hit up some fun little shops. What we found, though, is that all stores close at 7pm, and all restaurants close at 10. So when we finally got downtown, everything was closing down. We caught an ice cream place right before it closed, and I bought a scoop of pistachio and a scoop of dulce vida. It was delicious.

I found it quite strange at 10:30pm, when it felt like it was two in the morning. Everything was completely closed down, there was only a few people walking the street. I’m an American boy; my night’s just getting started! We went back to our host’s home, stumbled through their dark apartment because they were all asleep, and got ready for bed.

Bright and early (7:30am) on a beautiful Friday morning my roommates and I took a walk to the church with Karen and Kai, and on the way we noticed that Bad Hamburg’s weekly market was just opening. Seeing a bunch of fresh, beautiful, fruit, we couldn’t get our wallets out fast enough to go get some. Strawberries, raspberries, and cherries all picked right in Bad Hamburg. There’s just something about eating fresh, warm fruit in a little German town on a sunny morning that just made me so thankful that I’m alive.

The second moment that took my breath away.

As I type this, I am on my way to Lübeck, Germany. That will be another post.

Peace, all. I miss you.

Brian

The Flight

(8:30 P.M. Fifty Nifty Time)

 

I would like to quickly talk about my thoughts as I am on my way to Iceland (our first stop before Germany). I’m aware that you all will be reading this a good amount of time after I land in Frankfurt, but I’d still like to share a bit with you.

 

Cool? Cool.

 

I was sitting in an aisle seat, leaning over my two seatmates who seem to only speak Icelandic, watching the ground fall beneath us when I was struck with the thought, “Whoa. This is the last time I’ll see Minneapolis, Minnesota, The Fifty Nifty for three months.” I kept trying to tell my eyes to appreciate that more, but they didn’t care; they’ve seen it millions of times.

 

And now, as I type this, I am sitting in a seat that is more uncomfortable than any other plane seat I’ve sat in. (Maybe they have stronger butts in Iceland…I would kill for one about now.) I finally unpopped my ears, which was a stressful ordeal.

 

Four hours to Iceland.  No big deal.

 

 

I suppose I should talk about my spiritual reasons for this trip.  I haven’t at all so far, I don’t think; I’ve been too stressed out to get into that.

 

There’s something sad.

 

It’s been sort of a tough year. Don’t get me wrong, it has been great, but it’s also been quite a tough year. As most of you know I was diagnosed with clinical depression over the summer, while continually dealing with an anxiety disorder. New medication for the depression itself, combined with my irresponsibility to take it everyday like I should, adds up to Brian going through emotional peaks and valleys. During the worst of it, I damaged a few relationships with friends that at this time are still being mended. My grades dropped, which is scary when one has a scholarship that is dependent on his GPA. Also, as it seems to always happen, my relationship with God has been faltering.

 

I’m glad to say now that I am now consistent with my medication and worked, toward the end of the year, to fix my grade problem. Things are looking up, but I am currently suffering from a “spiritual hangover” that does not seem to go away.

 

And now, as a remedy to that, I have decided to plop myself on a different continent, all alone, hardly able to speak any foreign language.

 

Oh, and I don’t have a lot of money.

 

Smart.

 

So what do I want from this trip besides a wonderful cultural experience? I dunno.

 

Will I find God?

 

Will I not find God?

 

I dunno.

 

We’ll see.  One thing I know is that He’s there. Well, He’s here. Location has nothing to do with it.

 

And I will have a lot of thinking time. Perhaps that means worship time. Or meditating time. Or spiritually wrestling time. Or repenting time.

 

Reconciling time?

 

God, I hope so.

 

Whenever I have been pushed to my limits, God has been there for me. I have always been able to find some sort of rest in the loving hands of my Father.

 

So this is a retreat.  A crazy, summer-long retreat. And God’s coming. Maybe I’ll see Him. I’ll be looking.

 

If anything, I hope to focus in on fixing our relationship. Well, I mean, our relationship has already been fixed by the Cross, now I just have to make it so it’s not awkward to talk to Him about it.

 

Talk to you in Germany. 

Monday, May 25, 2009

Me and My Kite


So I got a kite and it’s pretty cool.  

How cool, you ask?

So cool that I’m going to take it to Europe and fly it whenever I can.  My hope is to fly it in a bunch of different cities, taking a picture and writing on the kite in each place I visit.

And here’s my first picture. (It's also the picture on top of my blog. Duh.) 

Location: Onalaska, Wisconsin, The Fifty Nifty, North America, Earth.

It’s a good start! Getting on the plane at 6 tomorrow! I'll get back to packing now...

Europe, baby.

There are two things that I have to work on getting through my head: (1) I'm done with my sophomore year of college, which is hard to comprehend because of all the work I’ve been doing for Europe, and (2) that I’m going to Europe in three days, which is hard to comprehend because of all the work I’ve been doing for school.

Crazy.

I’m done with school, though, and I AM leaving for Europe in three days, so I’m just going to have to get over it get going.  

I thought you all would be interested in knowing about what the heck I’m actually going to be doing in Europe for the whole summer, so I made a little itinerary for you. (As good of an itinerary I can make right now anyway…A lot of my planning will be done while I’m in Europe to make sure I have flexibility.)

Anyway, here it is.  

CHOIR TRIP:
May 26, 6:00pm: Fly out of Minneapolis Airport
May 27, 12:50pm: Arrive in Frankfurt, Germany
May 28: Bad Hamburg, Worms, and Rudesheim, Germany. Concert in Rudesheim.
May 29: Lubeck, Germany. Free night.
May 30: Wyk auf Fuhr, Germany.  
May 31: Wyk auf Fuhr, Germany. Concert.
June 1: Celle, Germany. Free evening.
June 2: Weimar, Germany. Concert.
June 3: Erfurt and Wartburg, Germany. Concert.
June 4: Prague, Czech Rep. Concert
June 5: Prague, Czech Rep. Sightseeing.
June 6: Arrive in Salzburg, Austria.
June 7: Free day in Salzburg / Mass at Salzburg Cathedral.
June 8: Nidderau, Germany. Concert.
June 9: Choir leaves from Frankfurt, Germany.

And THEN, me and three of my friends from the choir are going to do traveling for 10 more days.

TRIP WITH FRIENDS:
June 9-10: Pfortzeim, Germany. (Black Forest)
June 11-12: Munich, Germany.
June 13-16: Ireland. We’re landing in Belfast and working our way down to Dublin.
June 17-18: London, England.
June 19: Friends leave (in the morning).

I will be on my own from here on out.  Here’s where the planning gets a little more general. (I’m alright with that, though.)

BY MYSELF:
June 19: Spend the rest of the day in London.
June 20: 4:25pm, take the Chunnel to Paris.
June 20-July 7: 18 days in France. My plan: to see the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph, Giverny, La Rochelle (they check out bikes for free there), and probably somewhere near Provence.

July 7-14: Pamplona, Spain. I will VIEW the running of the bulls festival.  Notice I did not say “run.” I will simply watch happily from a protected area…preferably on top of a building. This festival is filled with music and food and fireworks every night. And bull-running every morning. Can’t wait.
July 14-August 2: More Spain. I need to see Madrid and Barcelona. Also, I’m planning on checking out a few other gorgeous towns like Cirauqui, Noja, Puente la Reina, Astorga, and Fisterre. My whole time in Spain will be 27 days.

August 2-20: 19 days in Italy. This one is barely planned because I will have more than a month to do that. It’s really far in the future anyway. I have sort of a plan to go to Pisa, Cinque Terre, Florence, Assisi, somewhere in Florence, Civita di Bagnoregio (look it up), Rome, and Venice.

So that’s what it looks like. Three months in Europe. Whew.

As far as how I’m doing right now, I go back and forth from being desperately excited to desperately nervous. But I suppose that’s good. Most of my ducks are in a row now, so I just have to make sure I get everything packed.  

Thanks, everyone, for your support with this.  Also, I’m open to travel suggestions from those who have been to Europe.

Peace.

Brian

i'm taking a risk this summer...

 so i’m taking a risk this summer. the choir that i am a part of here at bethel is touring europe.  for 15 days or so, we will be traveling through germany, austria and the czech republic, singing the songs we’ve been rehearsing for the past year. after the choir leaves, me and a few friends are going to be staying for ten more days and go to france, england and ireland.  i realize that europe is a place i probably won’t visit again ever, or at least for a very long time. so i’ve decided, since it is cheaper to stay in europe than it is to leave and come back, i’m going to extend my stay a bit.

i’m talking the rest of the summer.

if i was the abbreviating kind, i would say, “OMG!”

i will be in europe this summer from may 28th to august 21st. after my friends leave, i will be in france for a week and a half, italy for another week and a half, and spain for about a month.  

terrifying, right?

right.

but it's also pretty darn exciting. this time will be spent immersing myself in other cultures and learning about the people in each country. especially in spain, where i’ll be spending a majority of my time, i will be able to take the time to work on my spanish skills and, once again, learn about the culture.

this is going to be an incredibly challenging time for me, i know. but also a wonderful growing experience. so what i plan to do is revamp God’s Call is Loud for the summer so i can share with all of you my journey through europe.  

is that cool?

‘hope so. that is what my summer is going to look like.  i’ll give a more specific itinerary sometime soon.  

i leave in three weeks. i would truly appreciate your prayers and support.

peace to you all,

brian