Sunday, October 30, 2011

Thursday October 20-Day 7

This morning Brother Minert took us around Berlin to show us a bunch of sites significant to church history. The first building was one where some sisters lived back in the day. Brother Minert told us about the terrible things Russian soldiers did to German Women when they were in control and I got to read a story to the group about a few sisters who were blessed to see a branch member when they had thought it had been Russians coming up the stairs.

            Another site, and the one that touched me most, was the prison where Helmut H├╝bener was executed. He was just a 17-year-old LDS boy with access to the BBC radio show and a type-writer, who didn’t believe in the principles being forced down their throats by the Nazis. After printing several anti-socialist flyers, he decided that his cause was noble enough to ask a French-speaking co-worker to help him translate his message into French. Those he worked with obviously didn’t agree on the importance of this cause and Helmut was turned in. Helmut’s two friends and accomplices received prison sentences, but Helmut received death by guillotine.
            Other Germans who had attempted to resist the Nazi regime had experienced similar fates, and the prison is now preserved as a memorial to them. Several of their stories can be read  on plaques on the walls of the execution room.

            We also visited the place where the old mission home stood before it was destroyed during the war. Now it is just a spot in a foresty area, but it was once a place of importance for the church. Luckily one of the brethren was prompted to move all the important records to another building before the building was destroyed. Gotta love the Holy Ghost am I right?
            Since we were so close to the Victory Tower after this excursion, naturally we meandered over there. We went to the top to get the sweet view of course, but my favorite part of the tower was the dents made in it by shrapnel. Not every tower can claim it has shrapnel dents, let alone that it survived a bombing. This one is a determined survivor.

            After that we went to see the Brandenburg Gate. which was totally huge and totally cool. There were some embassies around there and I thought it felt pretty good to see the American flag again. I saluted it.

            To finish off the evening we went to a Jewish Museum that was super cool. Even the shape of the Museum was cool. Most of the display descriptions were in German so I didn’t always know what was going on, and on top of that I think the whole place had a lot of symbolism, which I don’t always pick up on. Even though I didn’t always fully comprehend everything, it was still a sweet museum to experience. We spent a couple hours there but I don’t think I saw half the stuff I wanted to. I literally could have spent all day.
Exterior of Museum
                 One of the first things I saw was an outdoor area that looked like this:

And brother Minert explained to me that this represented what it might have felt like being a Jew during the war. It was hard to figure out where you were because everything looks the same and you can’t see very far around you. For a time the Jews didn’t really have a place to call home, where they could feel safe. To me it felt like somebody could come around the corner at any minute and there was no place you could just put your back against the wall and see whatever was coming because it could come from all directions! So ya, the museum was full of stuff like that and I really enjoyed this experience.

Vienna Today:

Just sayin

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wednesday October 19-Day 6

Wednesday morning was by far my favorite morning of the trip. What better way to wake up than on the temple grounds? And then go into the temple? I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my day. Brother Minert brought tons of family names (that we barely had time for. I think the temple workers were getting a little anxious to get us out of there) and the 3 boys in our group got to baptize/confirm us so that was a really neat experience. Heavenly Father brought me some personal miracles and revelations while I was in the temple so it was an especially unique experience.

            One of the men working in the temple told us the cutest little story while we were all there. When he has a very young boy he lived not to far from Lagoon. Every week on Wednesday he would buy a two-way ticket for the public transportation, play/swim in the park all day, buy a hotdog, then go home. All of this cost him $1, which is all the money he got each week. One week, however, between the rides and the pool, he misplaced his ticket for the return ride home. He said that he was probably close enough to walk home, but he was young and he wouldn’t even begin to know which way to go.
So he sat at the streetcar stop and just cried, thinking that this was it, he would never be able to see his family again. When the last street car of the day arrived and everyone boarded the driver got off and came over to this little boy. He put his arm around him and asked what was the matter. So he explained to the driver everything that had happened. Kindly, the driver said he believed that the boy had purchased a ticket and that he would take him home.
After the story I’m sure we could all guess what he would say next, but he likened this streetcar driver to us, and himself to our ancestors that have passed away without the ordinances required to make it home. It is our responsibility to go to the temple and do the work for these people because they want to make it home, they just don’t have a ticket! So I thought that was such a good story (it didn’t hurt that I think old, spiritual men are just the cutest ever) and it really topped off the wonderful experience I had in the temple!
After the temple we hopped on the bus and departed for Berlin! When we arrived we stopped by a piece of the wall that had kind of an outdoor museum. There was some background information about the wall itself but the exhibit focused mostly on Germany during the war. It is crazy to me all the messed up beliefs the Nazis were able to plant in the minds of the Germans. I learned that Hitler made his own birthday a national holiday. And it was a big deal. How do people not see that as an obvious sign of an egotistical power-hunger maniac? I would never celebrate somebody’s self-proclaimed birthday-holiday.
Escaping East Germany

Brainwashed Citizens

My Leader (The children say):
I know you well and I love you like a Father and Mother
I want to always be obedient to the Father and Mother
When I am big, I will help you like a Father and Mother
And thou shalt look on me as Father and Mother
After the wall we went to the Check Point Charlie Museum. This museum was especially interesting and taught me a lot about the Berlin wall and what it was like to live in the Soviet occupied territory of Germany after the war. People were trying desperately to escape the lives they led under those extremely stressful conditions. They had life-sized dolls crammed into impossibly small containers to demonstrate what great lengths people went to to escape Soviet-occupied territory. It's the kind of thing that makes you think about everything you have and appreciate how good our lives really are.

Tuesday October 18-Day 5

Today I got to go to a couple Dresden museums. The first was a transportation museum with old cars, trains, streetcars and things. It was really neat stuff! I love seeing the evolution of technology and am always amazed at how far technology progresses in such a short amount of time! I really believe there is no coincidence in the correlation of the restoration of the church and the sudden takeoff in discoveries and inventions of man. It is insane what progress we’ve made.

The museum also has a video that we watched. The commentary was in German of course so I wasn’t always exactly sure what they were talking about… but the old black and white footage was fun to watch. They had a lot of footage of the rebuilding of the Kirche and it was crazy! After it collapsed it was just a HUGE pile of stones as you can imagine and they had assembly lines of people picking up the stones to get them on shelves and numbered so they could be put back close to where they originally belonged. Once the reconstruction was finished there were hoards of people there to see. I was shocked at how many people where in those shots. And can’t even have been an exaggeration because it was legitimate footage from the actual event! This building clearly meant so much to these people and I’m glad they were able to get it back.
It reminded me slightly of our lovely tabernacle back home and the tragic fire that brought that down. It was sad, but now we will get a temple to replace it! I have no idea where we’ll have stake conference now, but a temple?! What a blessing!
Then I went to the Dresden History Museum which had a lot of old artifacts and stuff from older decades and centuries of Dresden and it was pretty cool. My favorite part though was the propaganda posters from the 30’s and 40’s put forth be the National Socialist Party. It’s so crazy to me that this stuff wasn’t even that long ago. A lot of the people we hear stories about are still alive! Brother Minert keeps telling us these incredible miraculous stories and then ending them by saying something like, “and now she lives happily in Logan, Utah”. It blows my mind sometimes.

After walking around, peering in shops, and eating lunch, we hopped back on the bus and headed for Freiberg! I thought it would be a much bigger town than it is. I didn’t think about the church maybe building the temple in what seems to me to be a little out of the way for most people. I guess that’s why they have a little Mormon Hostel on the temple grounds, so people can come from far away and stay a while.

We got to stay there and it was quite fun. We all bought food from the grocery store across the street and ate it downstairs in the kitchen/dining area. We had 6 girls in each room so it was a pretty big party! While we were all downstairs playing cards one of the girls came in with crazy claims of Moroni in the sky! So we all rushed out to have a look. It turns out the cloud cover was so low that the light from the temple cast a silhouette of the angel Moroni into the clouds! It was so cool. Too bad nobody’s camera could quite capture the image. It was a beautiful sight though.

Monday October 17-Day 4

We woke up this morning still in Prague and I was ready to go straight to Dresden but we had a few more free hours so I went with a group back to the cathedral we went by last night. On our way there we saw a marching band followed by official looking men (soldiers). I marched along side them for a bit and it was very fun. Apparently something official was going on in the Palace that surrounds the cathedral.

The Cathedral in the Daytime
After viewing the beautiful cathedral in the daylight, we went to see a mummified hand in a different cathedral. According to the legend, a thief tried to steal some jewelry off of a statue of Mary and the statue grabbed his wrist to stop him. He was trapped there until the next day when the proper authorities could release him the only way they knew how: chopping off his hand. So, apparently, this creepy withered thing hangs from the wall in the cathedral to remind people that stealing is bad.
Hand handing from the wall

Dementor Statue 
For lunch I got an interesting Czech Panini that I was worried about trying at first, but turned out to be chicken and BBQ sauce! I’m not sure whether or not this is a Czech original, but it was yummy so I didn’t complain.

Once we all made it back the bus we were finally on our way to Germany! First destination: Dresden! It took a while but I was so excited when we got there. Brother Minert took us to a certain street and told us about some church members who lived there and were kept safe during an air raid because they followed their dad because he had the Priesthood, even though what he was doing didn’t seem to made sense.
While Dresden was on bombed and burning, most people were trying to get to the river where they would be more safe. By the house of these certain members there was a wide street and a narrow street. Of course most people would take the wide street because, naturally, there would be less smoke because there was more space between the burning buildings. The mother and the kids were on their way toward the wide street while their father went toward the narrow one. They decided to follow their father because he was a priesthood holder and made it to the river safely. A while later they encountered their neighbor who had gone with her husband down the wide street that seemed like the obvious way to go. Apparently the street had been covered in liquid phosphorous (I like that’s what it was) that exploded with the slightest amount of friction. So this woman’s husband had been blown up as he tried to walk down this street and she was forced to turn around and find another way. If the LDS family had gone this way most, if not all of them, probably would have been killed. This was just one of the wonderful ways Heavenly Father kept members of the church safe during the war.
After that we went to see the Frauenkirche, which had collapsed after the air raid on Dresden and has since been reconstructed. Once the Soviets no longer had control of Dresden, they were able to sort through the mess that had been left and collected all the sandstones that could still be used in the reconstruction. It was cool to see the black spots on the church where those torched stones were used.
Notice the black blocks

Inside the Frauenkirche
For a few Euros we also got to go through the church to the top and had a lovely view of the entire city. It was beautiful but it was still sad to see the parts of the city that have not yet been restored after the attack. It will be such an exciting day when the whole city is returned to its glory.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sunday October 16-Day 3

Ah. Another wonderful Sunday with the wonderful European saints! For church today we went to the little branch they have here in Prague. There were so many missionaries there it was crazy! I think about half the ward was just missionaries! Fortunately for all of us (who don’t speak a lick of Czech) many branches here in Europe have a bunch of headsets and a missionary to translate the meetings. Even though we knew what was going on in the meetings, we still got to make fools of ourselves as we tried to sing the hymns! Czech has so many weird consonant combinations that make the weirdest sounds that I’m sure we all sounded completely ridiculous. Mercifully the Czechs didn’t comment on our ignorance.
There were some sister missionaries there that were the cutest missionaries I’ve ever seen! I didn’t know that it was possible/acceptable to be a sister missionary without being frumpy… haha I guess my perception was just a little off. Church was wonderful. I love meeting these European saints and seeing their testimonies and sharing in their sweet spirits! I love that the Lord’s gospel can now be found all over the earth! It is wonderful.

After church we got Jewish museum pass type things that let us into a few different Jewish History sites around the city. First there was a massive cemetery with headstones all helter-skelter around the place. There have been so many mass murders of the Jewish people it’s hard to find a place for them all. It’s so sad that these people have been so severely persecuted over the years. It would be so hard to stick to your guns after all that the Jews have been through and I admire their faith. I hope that I can be as strong in my faith as these people.
Jewish Synagogue

            We also got to go inside a Cathedral and see a lot of the things Jews use in their worship. You could even buy a wide variety of Kippahs. There were a lot of displays about Jewish history and artifacts used in a typical Jew’s life. It was very interesting to see but, unfortunately, photos were not allowed.
We also found the famous Lennon Wall! Which I didn't even know about... haha but I don't know about a lot of apparently famous things (like the Charles bridge in Prague. Didn't even know it was a big deal 'til I was standing on it). But I guess it's a wall that was graffitied by rebels lobbying for equality. For us it's just a wall that looks really cool :)
Lennon Wall

On the way there there was a little bridge with locks all over it. Couples put a lock on the bridge after getting engaged. We saw another bridge like this in Munich. I thought it was so romantic.

 For dinner we gave in to our desires and went to Hard Rock again. This time I got a burger with avocado, cheese and ranch. It was simply delectable.

After our second Hard Rock meal, a few of us went up to the palace cathedral, which is lit up at night. It seemed to glow in the night as it looked marvelous. I almost didn’t go because of the cold but I sure am glad that I decided to tag along with the others. We had a big group walking home too so I felt very safe even though our Hostel seemed like it was in a pretty sketchy part of town.
Our Luxurious Hostel.