Sunday, August 7, 2016

Friends and Traveling Companions in Germany and Amsterdam

My traveling companion and some friends along the way in this year's trip to Germany and Amsterdam.

Bill Paulsen with the Rathaus of Coburg in the background

Bill Paulsen in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin

Bill Paulsen and Chrystal Tsang (who is 88 this year) in the Marienkirche in Lübeck

Bill Paulsen with Chrystal Tsang in Lübeck

The dramatic sky of northern Europe where the Gulf Stream meets the Arctic air over the North Sea seen from my window in Nettelnburg, a suburb of Hamburg where Chrystal Tsang lives.

A dramatic sunset from that same window

Dr. Gelli Tsang and Dr. Peter Bader in Frankfurt.
She is a gynecologist who works with the immigrant population in Frankfurt.  He is a prominent pediatric oncologist who mostly does research on treating leukemia and other blood cancers in children with stem cells.  We briefly saw 2 of their 3 children, Franz and Julika, before they headed off to do summer kid things like bicycling tours and sailing.  The oldest son Tobias lives in Southhampton where he is finishing a Ph.D in physics.  Bill and I see Tobias from time to time in New York.

Late night discussions at the Tsangs' on the back patio.

Bill, Gelli, and Chrystal Tsang enjoying a fine meal at Schloss Vollrads near Wiesbaden.
Chrystal is the matriarch of a large German/Chinese family.  Her late husband Alvin Tsang was a Lutheran pastor from Guangzhou.  They met in Hong Kong.  They returned together to Germany where Chrystal worked for many years as a school teacher and Alvin was rector of a parish in Hamburg.  There is a large Chinese Tsang family and a large German Tsang family with more scattered around the world.  In Hamburg, we met Gelli's sister Lisa and her children at a dinner for her son Max to celebrate his Abitur, his final examination for 12 years of primary and secondary school, a rite of passage similar to graduation from high school in the USA.  Lisa Tsang followed in her father's footsteps and became a Lutheran pastor.  She is on the staff of the Jacobikirche in Hamburg.

Some of Bill Paulsen's oldest German friends in Berlin.  We had dinner together in an Indian restaurant in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin.  The older ones here were part of the staff of the church where Bill did a pastoral internship in a very different Berlin over 50 years ago.

The Christuskirche in Nuremberg, a post War rebuild of a 19th century church that served a once affluent neighborhood of lavish private villas.  While the spire survives, the original church and its neighborhood did not.  Today the church serves a very working class area of apartment buildings with rented shops and a large immigrant population.  Christuskirche is one of a growing number of Lutheran churches in Germany with baptized members named Muhammad.

On the staff of the Christuskirche is our old friend Peter Meyer seen here wearing his German Lutheran pastor garb for Sunday Eucharist.

Bill Paulsen with Luisa, Peter Meyer's longtime partner, ordering coffee in Coburg.

Erika, another Lutheran pastor from Nuremberg, and a close friend of Peter Meyer and Luisa with Bill in Coburg.

Our hosts in Amsterdam, Ramonde and Knight.  Knight is Bill's oldest friend.  They met when they were students at very conservative Grove City College in Pennsylvania.  Ramonde is his longtime companion.  They live together in the house that she grew up in in the suburb of Badhoevedorp.  Her father built the house in 1939.  The occupying Germans seized the house in 1940 to house the commandant of Schipol Airport during the occupation.  At the time, the house faced open fields.  The Germans built a garden wall on one side of the house to protect them from the wind while they sunbathed.  The wall is still there.  Ramonde's father finally got the house back at the end of the War, but only after a long struggle with reconstruction governments.

A friend of this blog Gerrit Tijink, who runs the slide database at Radboud Nijmegen University Department of Art History.

Gerrit and I met at the Cafe Americain in the American Hotel, a major landmark in Amsterdam.  Gerrit later took me on a tour of a major landmark of early modern architecture and design in Amsterdam, a housing project from the 1920s called Het Schip (The Ship).  More about that later.

Enjoying Dutch pancakes at a cafe attached to the Nieuwe Kirk in Amsterdam with a friend Bill met by chance years ago in a Starbucks in Brooklyn, Hans Mater and his daughter Lisa.

The Hellgermanns in the village of Westbevern near Münster, who sometimes call themselves the "Hell Germans."  Left to right:  Andreas who teaches religion and German language at a vocational school in Münster, Andrea who works as a geriatric nurse, Jan who studies sociology in Bielefeld, and David who is completing studies in product design and exhibition design in Münster.
We met the Hellgermanns this year not in Münster, but in Bielefeld where Andreas' father celebrated his 84th birthday.  There was a lot of food, a lot of beer, and lots of memories of the region around the former Breslau (now Wroclaw) in the former Silesia where the elder Hellgermann was born and raised.  Unlike most Germans, the elder Hellgermann got along with the Poles arriving in the area.  He understood that they too were deportees, from those eastern regions of Poland seized by Stalin for Belorus and Ukraine.  The elder Hellgermann left for the DDR and then escaped to the west in 1959.  He settled in Bielefeld where he still lives in the house that he built for himself (he is a retired carpenter).

Myself between the Hellgermann boys feeling a little old.

David Hellgerman with Andrea at Schloss Nordkirchen

Andreas guiding me through the woods just outside Westbevern

Andreas in Münster Cathedral with Saint Christopher.
Andreas is a very left wing Catholic, an enthusiastic reader of Liberation Theology with an icon of Karl Marx in his dining room.  And here it is:

Che Guevara's picture presides in three other rooms in the house.  Interesting because while Andreas deeply respects Marx, he's not really a Marxist in the old sense;  he's not interested in the Dictatorship of the Proletariat or any kind of command economy.  He mostly admires Marx for his understanding and insight into the workings of capitalist economies and societies.  Andreas also admires immensely Hannah Arendt, and also Michel Foucault, which seems to me a bit strange, but perhaps I need to read some Foucault.
Until recently, Andreas considered himself estranged from the Roman Catholic Church; still a member but an alienated member.  He stopped going to Mass years ago.  He's attending church again now thanks in part to the current Pope and also to meeting a sympathetic priest with a congregation in the nearby town of Telgte.
His wife Andrea is a Lutheran and shares Andreas' political views enthusiastically, speaking at protest rallies.  His sons also have very left sympathies with Occupy experiences, but a little more environmental consciousness.  Andreas' youngest son Jan identifies as an atheist and David calls himself agnostic.  Not too different from many families in Germany, the USA, and most of the West.

The other curious detail about them is that they are all excellent cooks, and none of them are the least bit vegetarian.  David can cook a heavenly spare rib.

The Hellgermanns together after visiting a local Schloss.


JCF said...

Hey Doug: I'm late getting to your travel blog! ;-/

Just curious (if this isn't too personal/betraying any confidences): I notice a number of your European Christian friends here are described as having "partner" "longtime companion" (all opposite-sex, as far as I can tell). Is this something specific---that they're NOT married/don't describe themselves as married/having a spouse? Or just the term they use for what we Yanks might call a spouse? Or???

[I would think for a U.S. Lutheran pastor to not be married to his significant other (esp when opposite-sex!) would still raise a few eyebrows (esp w/ the bishop). I attended an ELCA ordination in the mid-90s, and the ordinand, who was re-married, had to publically CONFESS his first broken marriage IN the ordination service! :-0 That's rougher than TEC does...]

Counterlight said...

Two of the couples in the post are unmarried heterosexual couples who have been together for many years, something that is now very common in Europe across the demographic spectrum of class and age (and becoming more common in the USA). One of them is indeed an ordained Lutheran pastor. The two doctors and the Liberation Theology Catholic and his wife are officially married.