Nuremberg and the Nazis

I didn’t know that history could be so… heavy.

Yesterday afternoon, I arrived in Nuremberg and, after briefly settling into my hostel, hit the city.  As the sun began to set, I wandered around the old town, soaking in ancient churches, marketplaces, and the beautiful castle.

Then I did my research.

I knew that Nuremberg was an important city for the Nazis, but not much beyond that.  Before going to bed last night, I found some old photos that were uncanny.  They depicted Hitler, flanked by crowds of swastika-waving supporters, parading through the streets.  What bothered me wasn’t necessarily the pomp–I’ve studied history and have seen such photos before.  What bothered me was that the churches, marketplaces, and even the castle gleaming in the background of the photos were the same ones I had been admiring only a few hours before.

I dedicated my day to seeing Nazi-related sites.  My main stop was the Documentation Centre, a museum dedicated to the rise and fall of Nazi Germany.  I spent hours in the museum, going from room to room.  The entire exhibit was in German, but thanks to an audio guide, I was able to follow along in English.  I encountered the Third Reich in a way I never have before.  In American schools, they don’t explain all the steps that lead to Hitler’s rise in power.

Until today, Nazi Germany was just lines in a textbook or scenes in a movie.  It’s hard to explain, but I feel like I understand now.  I understand the political tactics Hitler took on his route to dictatorship–well, not all of them, but enough to appreciate his cunning.  I understand the fear-mongering.  I understand the purpose of the rallies–to whip up the people into an emotional fervor that keeps them from rationally realizing they’re being manipulated.  I understand the indoctrination of young people.  I understand the appeal of a unified country with a single, shared identity.  I understand the dehumanization of entire classes of people.

I understand… and I feel the weight upon my shoulders.  So many times as I walked through the exhibit, I wanted to break down weeping.  For the second time in my life, I feel like I encountered pure evil.

Pure evil is intelligent. It tells lies, it manipulates, it preys on fears, takes advantage of ignorance, and silences any voices other than its own.  The most dangerous thing about evil is that it disguises itself as truth.

And, God, the consequences.

The museum didn’t shy away from the Holocaust.  It hit it straight on, explaining in detail the different concentration camps, what they were used for, who went there, and how many people lost their lives to starvation, forced labor, biological experiments, and the gas chambers.  Millions of human lives exterminated, slaughtered, killed like animals.  I don’t know if I will ever forget the photos of the malnourished naked corpses piled in the dirt and grime.

Of all the Nazi’s actions, what disturbs me most is probably dehumanization.  I believe that people are made in the image of God, therefore the simple act of being human deserves dignity and respect.  Our humanity is what links us together–we differ in language, culture, and appearance, but at the end of the day, we are all human.  To deprive a person of their dignity is disgusting.  To strip away their humanity is disturbing.  But to slaughter millions of people… horrifying.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to visit the courthouse where the Nuremberg Trials took place after World War II ended.  For some reason, it was closed today.  But I did spend a few hours wandering around the grounds where the Nazis had their rallies.  The once-grand structures have fallen into decay–a remnant of history that Germany doesn’t care to preserve.  As I stood on the balcony where Hitler delivered some of his greatest speeches, I could imagine the scene: Banners waving, people cheering, thousands of soldiers in perfect regiments raising their arms.

Processed with VSCO with t1 preset
The platform from which Adolf Hitler gave some of his most stirring speeches at the annual Nazi Party Rallies.

I’ve loved my time in Nuremberg.  It’s a beautiful city.  I’ve loved wandering its historic streets and meditating in its grand churches.  What more, I’ve entered into–no–I’ve been sucked into history here.  I’ve encountered the past in a way that is so much deeper than storing away facts intellectually.  My emotions and deeper being have been touched.  It’s not often that I’m moved in this way and to experience it here has been incredible.

I’m so glad I came here.  Tomorrow, my adventures in Germany continue as I head south to the town of Konstanz near the Swiss border.  I’ve got an early bus and need to pull away from the blog so I can pack my bags…

Adventures in Amsterdam

The second chapter of my European adventure is well under way!

I arrived in Amsterdam on Monday night, which was an adventure in and of itself.  My flight from Scotland was delayed, which was okay, it just meant I got to my hostel later than expected.  Getting from the airport to they city’s center was an easy train ride, followed by a half-hour walk through the dark streets.  I got to my hostel at 11 PM and promptly went to sleep.

Two full days proved to be all I needed to check all the boxes in my “To See” list.

Yesterday was spent in art museums.  My first stop was the Rijksmuseum, which is the Dutch national museum.  I spent a few hours wandering the galleries, soaking in the country’s history through paintings.  There were a few of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings in the collection, which were amazing to see in person.

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset
Stereotypical tourist shot featuring the “I amsterdam” sign, tulips, and the Rijksmuseum.

I lingered for a LONG time in the Van Gogh Museum, which might just be one of my new favorites.  I feel like I appreciated the collection more than anything I’ve seen in quite a while.  Going from room to room reading about Van Gogh’s life and viewing his art, I actually felt like I was getting to know him.  It was more than just empty information.  I feel like I encountered a flesh and blood man.  The collection was impressive–there were at least a hundred of his works on display.  (To think that, in the States, just having one is a big deal!)

This morning, I got up early… but not early enough to beat the crowds at the Anne Frank House.  I arrived right at opening, but the line was already stretching down the street and around the corner.  Half-expecting this would be the case, I brought my Kindle and read a book during the two-hour wait.  The museum was definitely worth it.  To walk through the Secret Annex (entering through the original concealed door), to see Anne’s handwriting in person, to watch videos of her father reflecting on the experience… it was incredible.  I was deeply moved.  At the end, they had a book with all the names of the Dutch Jews who lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis… the book was the size of a Bible.  Over 10,000 names.  That really hit me–I can’t even wrap my mind around those kind of numbers.

IMG_0400
Dutch tulips!

My second stop today was the Rembrandt House.  Although not as moving as my first stop, I thoroughly enjoyed touring the rooms and studio of one of my favorite painters.  Like Van Gogh, I learned a LOT about the artist that I didn’t know before.  At the end, there was an hour-long video (produced by the BBC) about his later career.  I watched the whole thing… partially because my legs were tired from walking all day, but mostly because it was fascinating.  They examined several of his paintings in-depth, which gave profound insight into the painter’s methods.

Aside from grand museums, it’s been enjoyable just walking around Amsterdam.  It’s a great city, filled with beautiful buildings and picturesque canals.  The city definitely has its dark corners and dodgy bits, but I was able to avoid them.

Also, bikes!  There are bikes everywhere!  I have to continually remind myself to watch out for them, lest I get run over.

One of my favorite bits has been meeting locals.  I had a long discussion with a man in a cafe this afternoon–he told me all about Dutch art, history, and even pointed me to some lesser-known museums (which I will have to visit if I’m ever back).

So… that’s Amsterdam!

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset
Canals in the Jordaan neighborhood.

 

 

Edinburgh: City of Light and Dark

I’ve spent the past couple of days exploring Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.  Now, this isn’t my first visit.  I was here a few years ago while studying abroad… but a weekend just wasn’t enough.  The historic city stole my heart and I knew I had to come back.

I spent two full days in the city and was easily able to see all I wanted, and then some.  I Now, I decided to avoid paying for things I’ve already done, which means I didn’t go into Edinburgh Castle or take an underground tour.  I learned about the turbulent, divided history during my bus tour, so I skipped doing a walking tour.  Sightseeing in Edinburgh is easy and my hostel is well positioned on the Royal Mile, which means everything was a short walk away.

During these two days, I did all sorts of things.  I climbed Arthur’s Sat, the volcanic mountain in the middle of the city.  I toured Holyrood Palace on a whim and was swept away into Scottish history.  I spent hours in the National Museum of Scotland and Scottish National Gallery.  This morning, I attended church in the historic St. Giles Cathedral.  I went for evening strolls up to the castle in the rain.  I walked up Calton Hill and visited all the monuments.  I lingered in coffee shops, cafes, and pubs.

Some of my favorite time, though, was spent lingering in quiet places–sketching the city on Arthur’s Peak, reading poetry in the Princes Street Gardens, wandering solo through narrow streets.

I feel as though I’ve drunk my fill of the city, but I’m sure I’ll be back someday.

It’s time to move out of English speaking waters.  Next stop: Amsterdam!

A Day in Midhurst

Thursdays are days off at L’Abri and we took advantage of our free time to explore the nearby town of Midhurst.  We got there by bus, arriving around one o’clock and spending several hours wandering the picturesque area.

Our first stop was the ruins of Cowdray, which were absolutely stunning!  We learned from the tourist website that, before being destroyed by fire, the site was host to illustrious figures like Elizabeth I, Henry VIII, and Guy Fawkes.  Although we couldn’t enter the ruins due to January being the off-season, we were able to satisfy our wonder and curiosity by exploring the perimeter of the property.

Next, we visited St. Ann’s Hill, which has played host to pagan rituals, an Iron Age fort, and a Norman castle.  We caught glimpses of the surrounding countryside.  The hill itself was capped with a ring of ancient trees and a network of stone ruins.

For the rest of the afternoon, we wandered around Midhurst itself.  It’s a beautiful little town and we marveled at the varying architecture–a conglomeration of medieval, Georgian, Elizabethan, and Victorian.  We wandered into the former school of H.G. Welles, found a small duck pond, and wasted time in a bookshop while waiting for our bus.

I’m not posting much these days, due to the fact that my internet access is limited to days off when I’m able to visit pubs and cafes.  It’s definitely been a challenge being so removed form technology, but it’s also extremely refreshing.  L’Abri is a wonderful place to explore ideas and reflect on life.  In many ways, living here feels like living in another time.  I’ve been having lots of adventures and have been continuing to write!  I spent an evening earlier this week drafting potential blog posts.

Hopefully, more of my reflections and adventures will make it to this space soon.

 

Tis the Season: Lucia, Lady of Light

IMG_6743
Lucia in watercolors. Painting by me.

Growing up in a community founded by Scandinavian immigrants, my childhood was sprinkled with homages to my heritage.  On my mother’s side of the family, I’m a third generation American, with ancestors from Sweden and Norway.

There are some beautiful holiday traditions that come from these countries.  One of their most celebrated is St. Lucia, lady of light.

The story of Lucia goes way back:

 Her legend stems from Syracuse on the island of Sicily. It is thought that during a time when the rulers of the land did not look favorably upon Christianity, a woman named Lucia had devoted her life to God and the poor. She gave her entire dowry to the poor, and the man she was to marry was very upset by this. Lucia was put on trial, refused to renounce her Christian beliefs and was declared a witch. She was to be burned at the stake but when the guards tried to light the fire it would not light. Ultimately, she was stabbed. (Quote Source Here)

No one really knows how Lucia’s story came to Sweden.  One of the most popular tales surrounding the legend is that, during a terrible famine, a lighted ship sailed across Lake Vannern bearing a woman at the helm.  The woman’s head glowed with light and aboard the ship was food for the starving people.

Because of being so far north, winters in Sweden and Norway are dark, long, and harsh.  Over the years, Lucia has become a symbol of hope in that darkness.

Today, Sankta Lucia, or St. Lucia’s Day, falls on December 13.  The tradition began in the home, but now is celebrated as a community event.  A young woman is chosen each year to portray Lucia.  She is dresses in a white robe with a red sash around her waist.  Atop her head is a crown of candles.  She carries a tray of cookies to her house and community while her attendants (often siblings and small children) sings carols.

Although I’m not Catholic and do not really pay attention to saints, Lucia is incredibly special to me.  As a child, I participated in my community’s annual Sankta Lucia pageant.  Over the years, I played many parts, from simple attendant to Sugar Baker to member of the Tomte chorus.  When I was seventeen, I had the honor of being selected as my community’s Lucia.

The Lucia tradition is very near and dear to my heart.  America is such a great melting pot that culture and heritage is often lost and forgotten.  I’m very thankful that my parents got me involved in celebrating Swedish customs at a young age.  Someday, if I’m lucky enough to have a daughter, I hope that I will be able to pass on the tradition.

DSCN2237
Me as Lucia in my local pageant in 2009.


Tis the Season is an annual holiday-themed series on Keep Your Feet.  The goal is to bring the blogging community together to celebrate holiday memories and traditions.

River Haze

This past weekend to celebrate my mother’s birthday (which just-so-happens to be on the 4th of July), my family took a boat cruise on the St. Croix River.  Although we live five minutes from the launching point in Taylors Falls and know the owners of the company, I hadn’t been on one of the ferry boats since I was a little girl.

Due to wildfires in the Western U.S. and Canada, the air has been incredibly hazy over the past week.  For days the sky was stained white from the smoke that’s drifted across the continent.  At one point, we could even smell the smoke.It’s amazing how events have a way of effecting everyone–even people hundreds of miles away.

The haze made for some beautiful photos.  I’m no photographer, but I like to dabble with my iPhone every now and then.  Here’s a shot of the Taylors Falls Princess, one of the oldest ferry boats in the country.  Or, as my best friend and I used to say when we spotted it on the river from our school bus, it’s the “Fairy with No Wand”.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Edited on VSCOcam

Finals have arrived

Last night, I had a dream I met Barack Obama.  I’m taking this as a sign that finals will go well.

After a wonderful weekend of hanging out with friends, studying, and praising Jesus, it’s time to tackle those tests.  The next couple days are going to be busy.  With extra library shifts, study sessions, exams, packing for break, and saying goodbye to friends who won’t be here next semester, I’m expecting the time to pass quickly.

What have I got in terms of tests?

Today I take my Visual Journalism final.  It shouldn’t be too bad.  It’s open book, open note because the professor never talked about any of the assigned readings in class.  Half the test will be on these readings and the other half will be activity-based.  We will be given a story prompt and will have to describe how we go out and capture it.  Studying for this involves organizing all the information available and knowing where to find things.

Tomorrow is the Grammar & Language final.  This is probably the hardest test I’ve had thus far in college.  We’ll be tested on the complete history of the English language, tracing the phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon from Old, Middle, Early Modern, Modern, to present day English.  It’s a LOT of information.  I started studying last Thursday and have been nosing my way into various study groups with classmates.  It’ll be challenging, but I think it will go well.

That’s it!  Two exams stand between me and a month off.  Let’s do this.

If you’re in the midst of finals right now, best of luck!  What are some of your coping mechanisms?

Friday Favorites 8

It’s the final day of my school week and after a two and a half hour lecture on media literacy, you could say I’m trying to cling to whatever bits of joy I can.  So, what better way to cheer me up than with another Friday Favorites?

This book:

https://birkhola.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/4cafe-outlander.jpg

Originally recommended to my mother by extended family, I recently picked up the novel Outlander by Diana Galbadon.  It tells the story of Claire Beauchamp, a nurse recently reunited with her husband in the aftermath of World War II.  While vacationing in Scotland, Claire touches a mysterious stone and finds herself transported back in time to the year 1743.  Alone amid the tribal clans of the Scottish Highlands, she finds herself torn between returning to her own time and the love she finds in her new life.

I’m not very far into the book yet, but so far I’m enjoying it!  After studying abroad in the UK, I tend to latch on to anything that brings me back.  The characters are interesting and engaging, and the story definitely appealing. I love the historical elements, especially Claire’s perspective and experience from WW II in contrast with the warlike Highlands and (impending) Jacobite rebellions.

My main issue with the book is the amount of steamy romance.  I enjoy a love story as much as any other girl, but the constant sex is more than mildly irritating.  I find myself skipping pages at a time to avoid all the passionate bits.

This kitten:

IMG_2478

My older brother keeps sending me pictures of the kittens at home, resulting in me squirming around on the floor because they’re too adorable for me to handle.  (Much to the confusion and amusement of my roommates.)

This show:

http://img1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20130828000142/greenarrow/images/thumb/d/dd/Arrow_TV_Series_Season_2_Promo_Poster.jpg/500px-Arrow_TV_Series_Season_2_Promo_Poster.jpg

I started watching Arrow last Spring, having heard good things and seen bits and pieces about it on Tumblr.  However, with the semester ending, I only made it a couple episodes in until giving up.  Sometime this summer, though, I over heard some of my fellow camp staff gushing about how great it was.  My older brother, a comic book enthusiast, told me that it starts out slow and gets better as it goes along.  All parties insisted that season two was mind-blowingly-amazing.

I just finished the second, and most recent, season yesterday.  They were right.  Oh my goodness.  All my fandom “I CAN’T EVEN HANDLE THESE FEELS” urges are hard-core triggering.  It’s SUCH a fantastic show.

This song:

I first started listening to Bastille this summer, and this song has been in my head all week!

Have a great weekend!