Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Other Cities I Visited in Europe

More from my trip last July:


The Chicago of Germany, and it even looks a little like Chicago.  The second largest port city in Europe after Rotterdam, and once a great Hanseatic city state.  The city is still a separate state in the German Federal Republic.

Here is the splendid Rathaus, a 19th century rebuild.

The Petrikirche viewed from the Rathaus, a mostly 19th century rebuilding of a medieval church.  The Hauptkirche St. Petri was once the city's cathedral church before the Reformation.

Speaking of Chicago, like that great city, Hamburg burned down and was rebuilt, not just once, but twice in its history.

Here is the Petrikirche after the Great Fire of 1842 that destroyed most of the medieval city center.

And the Petrikirche today.

I've always had a fondness for those great red brick churches of northern Germany with their tall spires, even after they've been rebuilt after fires or war.

Inside the Petrikirche.  Most of Hamburg's great churches, including this one, are Lutheran.

Here is a painting of Martin Luther with the swan.  "Today you kill a goose," said Jan Huss just before his execution in Konstanz in 1415 for heresy (huss is the old Czech word for goose), "but in a hundred years will come a swan whose voice you cannot still."

The surviving spire of the Nikolai Kirche under scaffolding when I was there.  This was the tallest spire in the city, and briefly the tallest building in the world.  It is still the second tallest tower in Hamburg after the giant broadcast tower that dominates the city today.  It was designed by British Architect George Gilbert Scott to replace a medieval church destroyed in the Great Fire of 1842.

Only the tower survives.  The rest of the church was destroyed in the Bombing of Hamburg in 1943.

British and American forces bombed the city of Hamburg in the last week of July, 1943 in the middle of an unusually hot and dry summer.  The resulting fire storm devastated most of the city and killed almost 43,000 people.  The city lost 10% of its population in the raids, and never recovered its former industrial capacity until long after the War.  This was the first and among the worst such raids on German cities in the Second World War.

The Michaeliskirche, first built in the 17th century and rebuilt in 1786 (and substantially restored after World War II), the church where Johannes Brahms was baptized.

Lutheran baroque.  Who knew that German Protestants could so enthusiastically embrace a very Italian Catholic building vocabulary?

Interior of the Michaeliskirche, the largest in Hamburg with its large seating capacity.

The very Baroque altar and even more Baroque pulpit.

The very remarkable pulpit

The main organ of the Michaeliskirche.  A lot of great musicians and composers performed on this instrument.  Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach is buried in the crypt of this church.

Just a few blocks south of the Michaeliskirche is the waterfront and the enormous port at the mouth of the Elbe river.

One of many canals in the city center.  To my eye, this looks a lot like Chicago only with shorter buildings.

The Hauptbahnhaus in Hamburg, as busy as Penn Station or Grand Central in New York, as were most of the train stations in major cities that we traveled through in Europe.

Our host in Hamburg, Chrystal Tsang, the 86 year old widow of Pastor Alvin Tsang, a close friend of Bill Paulsen to the right.  Chrystal and Alvin were married for 50 years and met in Hong Kong.  She now presides over a large German and Chinese family full of remarkable people.
Chrystal's own father was a pastor in the Confessing Church movement that actively opposed the Nazi regime.  She remembers vividly the troubles and difficulties her parents had trying to keep her and her sister out of Nazi youth organizations.  Membership was legally required.  She also remembers the bombing of her native city of Bremen when she was a young girl.
She was easily the most remarkable thing I saw in Hamburg.

Here is the view out the window of the room where I stayed in Chrystal Tsang's house in a suburb just south and east of the city center of Hamburg.

Chrystal Tsang's small but pleasant home in Hamburg.

An anonymous painting in the Metropolitan Museum in New York of a ferocious looking family of Hamburg Protestants, apparently a patrician mercantile family, getting right with Jesus.  The spires of old medieval Hamburg appear in the orb under Jesus' left hand.  All the text in the painting is old Nieder-Deutsch, old Low German which appears to be very close to Dutch.
All of the people we encountered in Hamburg were much more pleasant than these folks.


Frankfurt, the financial center of Germany, is the only German city that I've visited before.  I spent 3 days in Frankfurt at the end of my Italian Journey in 1988.  At that time, the cheapest flights across the Atlantic were to Frankfurt, so I flew into that city and took the train to Florence, and then took a train back.  The Goldenen Stern hotel where I stayed in 1988 no longer exists.
Like most financial capitals around the world, Frankfurt had grown larger and taller than it was in 1988.

The one museum in Europe that I've seen before is the Staedel in Frankfurt, and it was a pleasure to see this collection again.  Here are the Flemalle panels by the great Flemish painter Robert Campin, panels from a dismantled altarpiece.

A detail from Robert Campin's magnificent painting of Saint Veronica with here remarkable transparent veil with the image of Christ.
The hanging cloth of honor behind her is also a striking painting of expensive embroidered fabric.

My very bad photograph of a favorite early Rembrandt, the Blinding of Samson; a painting that is horrifically violent and comic all at the same time.

Another bad photograph of Nicholas Poussin's splendid stormy landscape with the story of Pyramus and Thisbe

A less awful photo of a beautiful Chardin

Gelli Tsang on the right with her 2 of her 3 children Ulrike and Franz.  I've met her oldest Tobias before in New York.  He lives in Cambridge in the UK.  I didn't see the kids very long.  They headed off for a sailing trip on the Bodensee soon after I got there.
Gelli is one of Chrystal Tsang's 2 daughters.  She is married to Peter Bader.
The Tsangs were definitely the best thing to see in Frankfurt and worth a trip back to that city to visit.  They are wonderful and remarkable people.


We took a day trip from Frankfurt to Koblenz to see a sight near and dear to Bill Paulsen's heart, which in his many years of living in Germany he had never seen, the Deutsche Eck, the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers.
Here are Gelli Tsang and Peter Bader.
Behind them is Kaiser Wilhelm I.

On the Deutsche Eck is a giant statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I (not Kaiser Bill II of WWI fame), the King of Prussia and the first Emperor of Germany united under Prussian domination after 1870.  The monument was first built in 1897 in defiance of French claims upon the Rhineland.  The monument was largely destroyed in  World War II and rebuilt in the 1950s.

Giant bronze Kaiser Bill the First

The Tsangs and Bill Paulsen walking toward the point where the Rhine and Moselle rivers come together.

Riding in a tramway gondola over the Rhine up to Ehrenbreitstein Fortress on the bluffs above the river.

The clear waters of the Moselle meet the muddy waters of the Rhine from the tramway.

Giant Kaiser Bill from the tram

I had to kick Bill Paulsen in the shins when he started singing this at the Deutsche Eck, "Heil Dir im Siegerkranz," the old Imperial German national anthem.
The tune should be familiar.  Sing along with the Hohenzollerns.

While Bill has a certain respect for Wilhelm I, I'm not a fan of the Hohenzollerns or of Prussia even though I have Prussian ancestors (from Posen and Pomerania).

While we're here, let's practice our goose-step.

A German friend of mine in New York says that the happiest period in the 3000 year history of Germany is right now, and I think he's right.  The "Business Man State" (as the late Günther Grass derisively called it) for all its abundant flaws is probably the best state Germany ever had with a lot of prosperous Germans.  Germany is a relatively healthy liberal democracy, though it too is having its struggles with creeping plutocracy, like most Western democracies (especially ours).  Like most European countries, Germany too struggles with issues of identity, trying to reconcile its historic national identity with a new cosmopolitan world.  I remember Bill Paulsen remarking that he never thought he'd see the day when Germans would be happy to be Germans again, especially when we saw so much flag-waving in the weeks that followed their big World Cup win.
"I'm loyal to the Black, Red, and Gold," said a 15 year old boy from Frankfurt , "never to the Black, Red, and White."

Quite a remarkable comeback 70 years after defeat, destruction, and infamy.

Germany today looks much more like its winning soccer team than it does the discredited visions of the völkisch nationalists of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The autobahn on the way back to Frankfurt from Koblenz;  yes, there are no speed limits on long stretches of the autobahn, but when there are speed limits, you better watch yourself.  They don't chase you down in a cop car (unless you're a menace on the road), but robots posted along the road will take your picture and send you a very steep fine in the mail.


We took another day trip with Gelli Tsang to Heidelberg, home to the oldest university in Germany and one of the great universities in the world, founded in the 14th century.  It counts many of the greats in science, medicine, and philosophy among its alumni and faculty; among them Georg Friedrich Hegel, Dimitri Mendeleev, Franz Boas, Alfred Wegener (who came up with the idea of continental drift), Phillip Melanchthon, Pope Pius II (when he was still Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini from Siena), Max Weber, Robert Schumann, Somerset Maugham, and Jürgen Habermas.
It was here that Hannah Arendt wrote her dissertation on the concept of love in the writings of Saint Augustine under the direction of Karl Jaspers.  Today, Heidelberg University is a public research university full of foreign students who crowd the city.

I think there is still a functioning American military base nearby because this was the only place we visited in Germany where we saw a lot of Americans.  We met an American veteran here who was stationed here in the 1960s, and was back for the first time in around 45 years for a visit with his wife.

The gate and bridge in Heidelberg

We had lunch in Heidelberg with Gelli Tsang's God-Mother, 86 years old, who speaks English and Mandarin.  She lived for many years in Hong Kong as a missionary nurse, and knew Gelli's father Alvin Tsang very well.  She was born and raised in Heidelberg and remembers the pastor of her church, a Confessing Church pastor, drafted into the Wehrmacht at age 70 and sent 5 times to the Russian front, and amazingly survived.  She also remembers as a young girl during the War that her family hid a gypsy woman in the attic of their house, and what a dilemma they faced when the Allies started bombing nearby Mannheim in 1943.  They had to protect their guest, but moving her out of the attic risked exposure and arrest.  Fortunately, the Allies never bombed Heidelberg, though fighter planes strafed the city a few times.

The 18th century Rathaus in Heidelberg

Heidelberg castle from the Rathaus

A better view of Heidelberg Castle from the river.  The castle is mostly ruins after King Louis XIV invaded and devastated the city in 1688 in a war over the Palatinate succession (the local dynasty had died out and Louis wanted to give his cousin the Duchess of Orleans the title).

The very beautiful Heilige Geist Kirche in Heidelberg surrounded by small shops.  The church mostly dates from the 15th century.  The spire and the roof are 18th century rebuilds after destruction by King Louis' troops.

Interior of the Heilige Geist Church, now a Protestant church.  The church went back and forth between Catholics and Protestants many times over; the two factions even sharing the church at times with a partition through the church that was torn down in the early 19th century.  The local dynasty ruling the Palatinate had their tombs here, all destroyed by Louis' armies in 1688.

The very beautiful choir of the Heilige Geist Kirche, a splendid example of a German hall church.

Some very striking modern windows in the church.

Modern glass in the 15th century window frames that uses photographic imagery.

Another very striking window;  I have to admit that I rather liked them.

Me photographed by Gelli Tsang on a short boat tour through the town

The Heidelberg Bridge


I spent just a day in this magnificent city, only an hour train ride from Nuremberg, enough to make me want to come back and spend more time here.

The late 16th century Church of Saint Michael

The very German-interpretation-of-Italianate interior of the Saint Michael Church in Munich

The splendid altar of the Saint Michael Church; one of my regrets about the trip was neglecting German Baroque, and this church was a major precursor of what was to come in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Despite considerable war damage, there is still a lot left of the Baroque and Rococo architecture cultivated by the ruling Wittelsbach dynasty to see in Munich.

Our host in Munich, Daniele Bruno.  She is the mother of a mutual friend of ours in New York, and we kept our promise to visit her.

Here I am with Daniele Bruno and Bill Paulsen at the Augustinerhof in Munich sampling the Bavarian national beverage.

The Frauenkirche in Munich right across the street from the Augustinerhof, the cathedral church of Munich and the former Pope Benedict's cathedral when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop of Munich.

The west front of the Frauenkirche

The interior of the Frauenkirche; a beautiful an unusual German hall church, the large columns conceal the side windows, a deliberate effect.  The church suffered extensive damage in World War II and has the feel of a post War rebuild.

The altar of the Frauenkirche

Side aisles and side chapels of the Frauenkirche

Various sculptures of saints from the 15th and 16th centuries whose original contexts are long gone.

A 15th century tomb slab with a transi image of a corpse decaying in the grave; a preoccupation with the disintegration of the flesh that began in the wake of the Black Death and never really left Western culture.  The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out here and in any number of horror movies ever since.

Bill Paulsen and Daniele Bruno in her apartment in Munich.  She's a remarkable woman who does her own carpentry and builds a lot of her own furniture, like the book shelves behind her.

The now very austere main staircase of the Alte Pinakhotek museum in Munich designed by Leo Von Klenze and built in 1826 to house the Wittelsbach collection of art, especially their collection of paintings by Rubens.  The staircase was once elaborately ornamented, but the museum suffered extensive damage in the Second World War and was only partially restored.
When it was first built, the Alte Pinakhotek was considered an innovative modern gallery that influenced museum design throughout Europe and the Americas.

Alas, the galleries containing the museum's spectacular collection of paintings by Rubens were closed for renovation, but happily, the rest of the museum and its collections were wide open.

Visitors looking at Rogier Van Der Weyden's Columba Altarpiece, a great favorite of mine for many years.  It was a great pleasure to finally see this work in the original.

Me posing with Albrecht Dürer's most famous and controversial self portrait.  The museum has a spectacular collection of major works from the German Renaissance; including paintings by Dürer, Mathis Grünewald, Albrecht Altdorfer, Lucas Cranach, Hans Holbein, Michael Pacher, and many more.


From Paris, we arrived in the ancient city of Lyon where the Rhone and the Saone rivers meet on a rainy day.  Lyon was once the great Roman city of Lugdunum, a capital of the Roman province of Gaul on a very strategic hill overlooking the confluence of two major rivers.  The Emperor Claudius was born here, and the great early Christian Church Father Irenaeus lived here in the 2nd century.

The crowd looking out over the city from the top of that once strategic hill.  Behind us a few meters away are the remains of the old Roman city.
We are standing on a terrace near the Basilica Notre Dame de Fourviere that dominates the city.

A view out over the city with the Saone in the foreground and the Rhone behind indicated by a green strip of trees.

Jean Yves Bonnamour, our host in Lyon, with Bill Paulsen and a close friend of Jean Yves.

It was in Lyon that King Henry IV finally met his new wife Marie de Medici after a proxy marriage conducted by ambassadors in Paris and Florence, commemorated here in this magnificent and sublimely ridiculous painting by Rubens from his cycle of paintings about the life of Marie de Medici.  You can see Rubens' portrait of the city of Lyon in the lower left corner of this painting.
Henry and Marie dress up as Jupiter and Juno married by Hymen, goddess of marriage.  An allegorical personification of the city of Lyon looks on from below.

Dominating the city of Lyon and visible from just about everywhere in the city is the 19th century Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourviere, dedicated to the Virgin Mary credited for saving the city in the 14th and 15th centuries from the plague, and again in 1870 from the advancing Prussian armies during the Franco Prussian War.  Like Sacre Couer in Paris, the basilica is a triumphalist monument over the vanquished forces of the Paris Commune, and a big public apology by the Third Republic for everything that had happened since 1789.

No expense was spared on this church.  Here is the too-much-is-not-enough interior of the Basilica.

A very different monument in the Lyon area that I think Jean Yves felt to be a little more sympathetic.  A very eccentric artist and veteran of the left with all kinds of left anarchist sympathies created an always changing museum in collaboration with many other artists.  I must confess that I actually enjoyed the place and liked some of the art there, though the artist's neighbors feel otherwise.  This museum is in an old medieval village that is now an affluent suburb of Lyon, and its neighbors are very unhappy with it calling it an eyesore.  I have a feeling that this complaining only increases the artist's street creds.

And here I am with a sample of some of the graffiti here.

The highlight of our trip to Lyon was lunch with Jean Yve's mother in law, a woman in her 80s who lives alone on a hilltop a few miles outside the city.  Her nearest neighbors are the forests full of deer.  The 50 year old tractor in the garage under the house still works, and Jean Yves still drives it to help her maintain the property.
Here we are dining on wild mushrooms, rabbit, the best au gratin potatoes I've ever had in my life, local cheeses and fruit, and a home made caramel custard.  I had seconds and thirds on all of it.  She must have spent hours preparing this, and it took hours (happy ones) eating it.

We visited another old friend of Jean Yves who lives in an old 16th century chateau near Tournus.  She is a retired psychiatrist who makes the chateau available for spiritual retreats free of charge. You can see her with her large and very friendly black dog with Jean Yves in the red shirt and Bill Paulsen coming out the door.

The chateau once owned all the land in the valley around the Saone river here.  Now it owns the land from the chateau down to the river bank.

The chateau flower garden.

The chateau's ground floor kitchen opening out into the garden.

A 16th century barn on the chateau grounds that contains a lot of very old wine making equipment.  The chateau once made wine for the great Abbey of Tournus.  Here is the old wine press behind stacks of fire wood.

Vats that once held hundreds of gallons of wine.


The next post about the trip to Europe in 2014 will be the last.  It will be about the city where the trip began, Oslo in Norway.


JCF said...

Oh My! Going to have to dig into/enjoy this one, at leisure...

Thanks, Doug.

JCF said...

"I've always had a fondness for those great red brick churches of northern Germany"

I really prefer stone: brick looks too "new" to me. :-/

...but inside, it's beau-ti-ful!

"Interior of the Michaeliskirche": that's gorgous, too. [Boy, that crucifix looks more RC than Lutheran though]

"in Munich sampling the Bavarian national beverage."

I was going to ask!

Even if it's overdone, kinda love that ceiling in the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourviere.

Speaking of love: "The chateau's ground floor kitchen opening out into the garden."

Great post, Doug! Merci boucoup, Danke schoen!

Counterlight said...

That chateau kitchen really is pretty wonderful.

rick allen said...

Doug, I can't recall whether I've thanked you for this series. If not this gives me a chance to correct the omission.

Beautifully photographed, and always-interesting comments. If your blog is representative, you have very lucky students.

I'll offer one brief correction: St. Irenaeus was bishop of Lyon (or whatever the Romans first called it) in the late second century, not the third.

My daughter is studying this spring semester at Aix-en-Provence, and she made a trip with her "host-brother" up to Lyon to spend a weekend with a group of his friends. She was quite taken with it.

I hasten to add that, unlike her old man, she has no interest whatsoever in St. Irenaeus.

Counterlight said...

I believe you may be right about Irenaeus, and I will make the correction.