Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A month is short

We are leaving Dresden on tomorrow morning (Wednesday) and heading to Berlin for a couple of days before we fly to Liverpool Saturday night. It turns out that a month goes by really fast! Well, I knew that before, but it has been confirmed yet again. There's a lot we didn't do, but I'm happy with what we did do.

We took a tour of the Volkswagon Transparent Factory, which was really cool (and now all the kids are planning to buy a custom-made Phaeton someday, for somewhere between 70,000 Euros and 180,000 Euros). We took the ferry across the Elbe River just a mile from our house and wandered around the beautiful gardens at Schloss Pillnitz. We walked around Altstadt, went into the three main churches there and checked out the cool courtyard and walls and fountains of the Zwinger.

My brother Colter came to visit us (and I have another post all about that in the works), and Jon, Zed, and Phin went to Warsaw, Poland. Jon took a few kids to Oybin to see the abbey ruins he remembered exploring as a missionary more than 20 years ago and they got to be in Germany and the Czech Republic at the same time (it's on the border). The next day he took a couple of different kids to Görlitz, his first city he lived in as a missionary. A member family fed them dinner and they got to cross the border into Poland, which Jon had only been able to gaze at longingly as a missionary.

This last Sunday, we all went to Zwickau, which was incredible. I didn't expect to be remembered -- I was only there for two months at the end of my mission -- but we were welcomed with open arms (and recognition) by the members, who have a comprehensive record of all the missionaries who have served there since the mission was opened in 1989. Next to a photo of me and my companion and Jon and his companion, our names were listed and someone had added a bracket uniting mine and Jon's name with a little infinity symbol and the date of our marriage. The Jähnert family fed us twice, lunch and dinner, and they and others picked us up at the train station and drove us around all day. Always with two cars, of course, because that's how much room we take! We met with other friends, too, and Jon found one old friend by showing up at her door. He'd written to her and called her and hadn't been able to contact her, but there she still was, in the same apartment 20 years later. (I'll just say that his memory is way better than mine. I can't even remember where I lived, although I did drag him to the area where I think our apartment was in Dresden.)

I went to lots of organ concerts and heard the organs in the Frauenkirche, Hofkirche, and the Kreuzkirche.

There was more, but I'm not going to try to fit it all in here.

A couple of pictures, though. Here are some of the kids walking to church across the Grosser Garten in Dresden. That is the summer palace in the middle of the garden.

And here is Seth out to lunch with me on his 11th birthday.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Brush with fame

Last Sunday, we met Rachel Willis-Sørensen, who is an American opera singer currently at the Dresden Semperoper. She gave a talk in the Dresden ward right after I gave my testimony (her German is fantastic!) and I thought she looked familiar. That's because I read this article about her in BYU Magazine last fall. It's a really good article!

It's not really accurate to say she's an opera singer -- she's an opera star. She sings the biggest roles and all over the world. It was fun to meet her -- she's friendly and funny and lovely and really nice! I wish I was going to see her in the opening of Don Giovanni tonight at the Semperoper, but it turns out I'm too cheap to buy the only tickets that were left. I hope to see her perform someday.

Couple of short videos

Here's a very short video of the kids dressing up in armor near the Fürstenzug. The guy behind Mira is the Polish man who was doing this unique kind of busking -- dressed up in homemade armor and letting kids dress up in the extra stuff he had with him.

My brother Colter came to visit last week. More on that later (I hope), but in the meantime, here is a video of him singing, with Mira doing percussion. They were having a recording session -- Seth joined in later with some interesting background vocals!

(I'm trying to train myself to take videos the wider way, rather than the taller way, but I guess you'll have to be patient with me, because I keep forgetting.)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dresden Verschiedenes

Today we went to church in the Dresden ward. The bishopric member conducting sacrament meeting invited Erin to give her testimony and me to give the closing prayer. Erin got to meet with some people she knew from her mission time. Our kids got to hear some parts translated into English by ward members.

(Besonders für Bruder Frank Fuchs in Görlitz: Schau mal! Meine Frau und andere Kinder sind doch sichtbar!)

On Prager Straße there's still a die-hard missionary of Soviet Communism who's out most days willing to talk to people and distributing literature:

And sometimes we still run into Trabis in the wild:

Terezín aka Theresienstadt

I visited the Terezín (Czech) or Theresienstadt (German) concentration camp on April 2 with Zed and our friend Ian from Brazil. Terezín was not an intentional extermination camp, but more of a detention and transition point. "Only" about 33,000 people died there. It's a very sad thing to consider and very affecting.

There's national cemetery outside the fortress:

We went on an inexpensive paid tour and had the inside explained to us by our tour guide, seen here walking ahead. There are various monuments, some of which mention the other Nazi death camps, because none of these existed independently of the others.

That last one was where the "eternal flame" was lit in remembrance of the victims. Our tour guide said the eternal flame is no longer lit due to security or safety concerns. Which is a sad statement about our times in itself.

Here in the first photo is where the guards and their families lived, and in the second, their swimming pool:

Most of the fortress complex dates from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and was intended to defend against Prussia from the north, but the invaders never came, so the huge walls and the ability to fill parts up with water as a moat was never used.

This part was built by the Nazis to house more prisoners in 4-level wooden bunks that were freezing in winter and sweltering hot in the summer:

After the war, that same section was used to house German prisoners including the former director of the camp, and later many unconnected ethnic Germans who were being driven from Czechoslovakia. Our tour guide said there were even tours being given of the rest of the camp while there were Germans interned in this section!

There are a lot of damp, dank rock rooms that you can explore on your own and just think about things.

Outside of the town is the Židovský hřbitov (Jewish cemetery):

That monument reads:

כימי עץ ימי עמי

Tento strom byl o novém roce stromů / 15. ševat / r. 1943 židovskou mládeží terezínského ghetta zasazen, náboženskou obcí v Praze o témž dni r. 1948 na tento hřbitov přesazen a vzat pod její ochranu.

Which with some help from Google Translate and a Hebrew calendar converter means something like:

Chemical tree of the people's days

This tree was planted in a new year of trees, 15th Sh'vat 1943 [21 January 1943] by youth of the Jewish ghetto youth. The religious community in Prague on the same day [in the Hebrew calendar] in 1948 [26 January 1948] it was moved to the cemetery and taken under its protection.

Better translations welcome!

These two monuments list all the countries that victims came from:

The last one says in Hebrew and Czech "Mír, mír dalekému i blízkému": peace, peace to both far and near.

There are some really cool tunnels that go inside the walls. They were walled in and inaccessible during the Nazi occupation, but were reopened later:

They reminded me of the Suomenlinna Swedish fortress walls in Helsinki, but being part of a concentration camp complex makes it hard to just enjoy them in the same way.

On the topic of Holocaust history, I recently read an article called 20 Photos That Change the Holocaust Narrative which has some interesting photos I hadn't seen before.

And I came across some unrelated but interesting odd footnotes in history adding to the picture of Adolf Hitler's megalomania: die Breitspurbahn, a planned 3 meter gauge (!) railway with trains rolling in luxury, and the Welthauptstadt Germania, Hitler's future vision for Berlin as metropolitan headquarters of his Europe-wide empire after the expected victory in World War II.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Frauenkirche

I have some photos of the inside of the Frauenkirche, but this video from the dedication of the organ has some great shots of it that show amazing pastel colors of the marble. There's also a shot from above the congregation, which is pretty cool. The organ sounds great, too, but for some reason the people in the audience look unimpressed.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Video tour of our Dresden apartment

To clarify some of the video:

Our apartment is on the second floor of an older, nicely renovated house. In Europe, the second floor is called the first floor because it's the first floor above the ground floor. In an elevator the button for the ground floor will say 0 or, in Germany, maybe E for Erdgeschoss ("ground floor"). The floor above the ground floor is 1 or the first floor.

It's Seth's 11th birthday today! For his birthday, we went swimming at a local pool, which is why our swimsuits are hanging all over the bathroom in the video. It turned out that the pool was only open for lap-swimming, so it wasn't loads of fun, but the kids learned that swimming laps is actually exercise! Apparently they didn't know that, which is embarrassing and I'm glad they know it now.

Also because it's Seth's birthday, the kids are watching TV and playing video games. Phin thought he was very funny to hit the table and yell something about being killed. Just thought the viewers should know that was just for y'all.

I failed to say that Lillian and Mira are sleeping on the couches in the living room.

I think the ceilings in this apartment are even higher than in our Prague apartment. It's wonderful.

We have a tram stop (Straßenbahn here in Germany) just a few feet down the road from us. It's really convenient but a little noisy when the windows are open. It takes almost 30 minutes to get into the city from here, but there are two discount grocery stores within walking distance and several more just a few stops away on the Straßenbahn.

Here's a video of the view from our balcony, too.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Dresden. And organs.

A couple of pictures to prove that we're really in Dresden. Der Fürstenzug (the Procession of Princes):

I feel like I have to prove to myself that we're really here, sometimes. Many parts of it look so different from when I lived here 20 years ago, and even the parts that look the same are disconcerting because there are people everywhere! Dresden was not a tourist town when I was a missionary here, and now it is. And Prager Straße was not a super busy shopping mecca, and now it is.

I've been to three organ concerts since we got here -- two at the Catholic Hofkirche, where they have free 30-minute recitals on Wednesdays and Saturdays (I think these are the same recitals that I sometimes went to as a missionary), and one at the newly rebuilt Lutheran Frauenkirche, which was literally a pile of rubble when I was here. The rubble was just beginning to be organized and cataloged for the rebuilding when I left Germany in July of 1993. The rebuilt church is really beautiful, bright and colorful inside. The organ is in front of the congregation and two stories up (really high!), which is not the usual placement in a cathedral -- usually it's behind the congregation and one story up.

I have loved hearing different organs here and in Prague, but the more I hear, the more I love the Tabernacle Organ and the daily noon recitals there. I love that they're free and that they're every day (and in the summer months, there is also the same recital performed at the Conference Center at 2:00 pm), and I think the programs are just about perfect: thirty minutes long, they always include a familiar tune arranged by the organist and "Come, Come, Ye Saints" arranged by the organist, and they always finish with full organ.

I think everyone should go to the Temple Square Organ Recitals. The organists are excellent, world-class musicians and the music is wonderful. They are Monday through Saturday at noon and Sundays at 2:00 pm in the Tabernacle (sit towards the back or in the balcony facing the organ for the best sound). Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the same program is performed in the Conference Center Monday through Saturday at 2:00 pm. The Conference Center organ is not as big as the Tabernacle Organ, but it's in a much bigger space, so the best place to sit is as close as possible. And yes, I've gone to both recitals on one day, just so I could hear both organs. I like the Tabernacle organ best, but the Conference Center organ is also outstanding.

If you're still with me, here's a video of me playing the Tabernacle organ last August. Yes, me! On the Tabernacle Organ! Much thanks to Andrew Unsworth, one of the Tabernacle organists, for letting me play it. As Mira says, "That's the organ that's on the hymn book!"

Finally, here's a picture for my dad, to show him that the former East Germany is no longer black, white, and grey. Look at those colorful buildings behind Seth!

Thursday, April 11, 2013


On Friday we moved from Prague to Dresden, Germany. It's our first move on our Family Field Trip, and Jon and I had both been dreading the actual moving part for a while -- getting all 8 of us onto tram-metro-train-tram-tram again with everyone loaded down with backpacks, duffel bags, and suitcases large and small. I think it went better than we thought it would, though maybe not as well as it could have. The hiccups: accidentally leaving luggage (and Zed and Phin) on the train for a bit (mostly my fault and maybe I'll tell the story sometime) and not having the right code for the lock box at our apartment in Dresden, both of which were solved pretty quickly.

Here's a picture of Zed huddled in the midst of the luggage. All of the luggage is not shown.

This is on the Dresden end and we were all tired and it was really cold outside the train station. I have no idea why we waited outside the train station while Jon bought our monthly passes for Dresden's public transportation. Maybe just because we got there and couldn't even think about picking everything up and moving it again, even if we could have been warm.

Anyway, the short version is that we are safely in Dresden now and have been for almost a week. How does the time just fly by like that? Below are a few pictures from our last days in Prague and our first days here.

The incredible Schwarzenberg coat of arms in the bone chapel near Kutná Hora. What an amazing place.

The Lennon Wall in Prague, an ever-changing wall of graffiti that started when John Lennon was killed in 1980.

Mira in the Children's Room at the Prague City Museum on our last full day in Prague. We loved the Children's Room in the Museum of Idaho in Idaho Falls, which has a teepee and log cabin, so it was great fun to experience the Czech version.

Also at the Prague City Museum, Zed standing next to a sword that's almost as tall as he is.

And here we are watching General Conference via the Internet in our Dresden apartment. The kids who are staring at screens are playing chess against each other. Really. I checked.

Jon and I are happy to be able to communicate in German here, and the kids are more lost than ever but enthusiastically and good-naturedly studying German now (we love Memrise!). I think we all miss Prague, though, and I'm so glad we'll be going back. More about Dresden later!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Kutná Hora and Prague Castle garden

We visited the town Kutná Hora, about an hour from Prague by bus. Its Sedlec area is home to the famous ossuary = bone house, a church with a still functional chapel upstairs and displays of human bones in the basement. Many others have published photos of that, including these by Zed: signature, chandelier, coat of arms, angel weirdness, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc., IHS.

In the town proper we saw this Soviet war memorial:

The plaque reads:

Zde stanul 9.V.1945 první voják Rudé Armády naší osvoboditelky z německé poroby vděčni a věrni zůstaneme

Which roughly translates to:

Here stood on the 9th of May 1945 the first soldier of the Red Army, our liberators from German bondage. We remain grateful and faithful.

This was a neat church that was closed to prepare for Easter Sunday the next day, but a very nice lady who arrived to do some setup work there let us in to look around:

And while I'm documenting memorial plaques, here's another one:

Which reads, if I've transcribed correctly:

Na tomto místě stávala budova Tellerova cukrovaru, kde došlo v r[oce] 1926 k velké dělnické stávce za zlepšeni pracovních podmínek a zvýšení mezd

With rough translation:

On this site stood the building Teller sugar refinery, where in 1926 there was a large working-class strike for better working conditions and wage increases.

The building has been torn out, and there's a large vacant lot now.

Now, back in Prague we went to the Kralovský Letohradek, the king's little summer castle:

And some more walking around to other buildings and the sv. Víta = St. Vitus cathedral:

And here in the sidewalk remains a sewer lid from the GDR, former East Germany:

Monday, April 1, 2013

Graffiti in Prague

This post is for my Uncle Howard, who is a famous chronicler of graffiti in and around L.A. -- he's been published and has had photos exhibited in art shows. A while ago on Facebook, he requested more photos of graffiti, so I'm trying to oblige. There's a lot of graffiti here and below are just a few examples that are pretty close to where we live. I don't have insight into any of it.

These are at a tram stop called Královský Letohrádek near Prague Castle:

And these two are very near our house: