Wed June 1
Today I flew to Frankfurt for the European part of my travels. I was welcomed back to the hotel where I have stayed before, which was nice.
Had a lovely sleep & went to 10 am Mass in the Dom for Ascension Day. A full church (it is a holiday here) & the usual German abbreviated Gloria & Creed! At 2.15 pm I catch the train to Brussels. I’ve never been to Brussels, & am looking forward to having the w/e there.
Nice train trip to Brussels….ICE 1st class! Checked into my hotel – a nice old hotel in art deco style, recreated in the rooms. After checking in I went for a walk thru the city centre. The town square has an amazing baroque city hall, surrounded by beautiful buildings in the same style.
Today I went for a long walk along the city canal (which is not attractive!) & finished up at the Atomium. This is the huge atom constructed for Expo 58, & is the symbol of Brussels. It is the focus of a large park containing the interesting 1958 exhibition halls. The real aim of this walk was to visit Mini-Europe. This is a park with models recreating significant buildings from all the European cities (EG: Big Ben, Sacre Coeur & the Brandeburg Gate) all built on a scale of 1/25. I spent several hours examining this wonderful creation……..& noting places I need to add to my “to visit” list 🙂
I walked back thru narrow streets & then visited a few churches – incl the amazing cathedral, which was started in the 13th cent & took 300 years to build!
Today I went to Bruges – just 1 hour by train & on a 1/2 price w/e ticket! What a marvellous town this is (despite that crazy movie with Colin Farrell). So pretty with lovely old Flemish houses, narrow lanes & clean canals. The huge town square is a treasure, with marvellous civic buildings & houses. As soon as I arrived I made for the Basilica of the Precious Blood, & was able to venerate their famous relic. The whole setting in a beautiful gothic church was reverent & spiritual. As the public veneration ceased at 12 noon I was fortunate to have done it. I then found a little cafe to have lunch, & reflect on what I had just experienced. After lunch I walked around the town & found the English Convent, where English nuns fled during the disolution of the monasteries in the 16th cent. I saw old windmills, lovely churches, & beautiful buildings – all without a map or guide-book! At 3.45 pm I caught the train back, realising that Bruges is much lovelier (& cleaner) than Brussels.
I want to the English Mass at 10 am in St Nicolas Church a lovely old baroque church. We had one of my favourite hymns, “O Bread Of Heaven” – but I was only joined by 3 or 4 others. After checking the footy scores (Port Adel lost) I went for a long walk out of the city centre, so as to avoid the tourists & their restaurants! Found a neighbourhood restaurant with outdoor seating & reasonable prices: €9.50 for 2 courses & €2.10 for a glass of wine. After that enjoyable lunch I walked to the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart. This is a huge church built in the modernism style in the 1920’s to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Belgium’s independence. The interior is both awesome & stunning – except for a free-standing altar that looks like a butcher’s block & very out-of-place.
Had nice breakfast in a cafe near the town square. Then walked up to the Royal Palace. At 2.30 pm I catch the train back to Frankfurt.
Today I flew to Barcelona. I am staying with Fr David Walker for a week. He is a retired priest whom I met when I lived in London in 1974. We caught up again in 2005, & have been in touch these past few years. He lives in Sitges & offered me his guest room, as well as showing me around the district. A chance to do some washing & get a haircut!
Fr David was waiting for me at the airport, & his “guest room” turned out to be more than I expected – it is actually a flat 5 mins walk from his place. It seems that when he was looking at retiring in Sitges a close friend advised him not to get a big place with a guest room, as he would finish up running a B & B for all his friends! Very wise advice, as Sitges is a lovely town with a climate like SD & very popular with English people. So he bought a small flat where he could put up his family & friends. It is perfect for me & I am very grateful 🙂
After unpacking I went to his place. We went out for dinner to a restaurant where he was on 1st name terms with the owners. It rained, but that didn´t dampen the enjoyment of the evening. Sitges is touristy – but it is a pretty town, & I feel quite relaxed.
I had a good sleep & went to David´s at 9.30 am. We celebrated Mass in his living room with another Anglican who lives here. John provides a congregation for David to say Mass on Sundays & holy days. How nice to be retired & have someone to attend Mass for you! After breakfast David then took me for a walk around the town & along the seafront, finishing up at a beautiful little church containing a shrine of “Our Lady of the Vineyard”. The rain had gone & the sun came out. We eventually stopped at another restaurant where David knew the owners & had a tapas lunch. Tonight David provided dinner at his place.
Today David drove me to Montserrat, a huge jagged mountain 90 mins away. In the 9th cent a chapel to the Virgin of Montserrat was erected & a monastery built in the 11th cent. After the French destroyed it in the 19th cent it was rebuilt in 1844, & is now a Benedictine Abbey with 80 monks. It has always been a centre for Catalan culture & patriotism, esp during Franco´s time, when the Catalan language was banned. At the centre is a stunning basilica containing the Black Virgin of Montserrat (so called because the figure is black wood). There is also a famous choir school & every day at 1pm they sing a Salve Regina in the baslica. We got there at 12.45 pm & the basilica was full – over 300 people. A choir of 50 boys sang a stunning Salve Regina, followed by a Catalan patriotic hymn. The music was beautiful & so was the setting. The Black Virgin is in a shrine way up above the High Altar, & there was a long line to visit it. After we had a bite to each the line had shortened (as David predicted). So we made our way to it, climbed up the stairs, said our prayers & lit candles. It was the loveliest shrine of Our Lady I have visited, I think. Not as intimate as Walsingham, but beautiful because of the gr8 basilica. It is also an amazing location, on top of the mountain, with wonderful views below.
It rained most of today, so I relaxed indoors, reading. Sunny at lunch-time, so went out & got something to eat. In the evening I took David & John out to dinner, as a “thank you”.
David celebrated Mass at 9.30 am for St Barnabas´Day. Breakfast followed. Caught the train to Barcelona (45 mins) where I will spend 2 nights at same hotel I stayed in last Feb. Got special booking: 2 nights for price of 1 🙂
Sun 12 Pentecost
After a good night´s sleep I walked to the cathedral for 10.30 am Solemn Mass. It was a nice Mass, with excellent music sung by a choir of 12 young men & women. As I came out of the cathedral the traditional Catalan folk-dance, Sardanas, was being performed in front of the cathedral. This is a simple dance where people hold hands & do little steps. The music is also traditional – provided by a 9-piece band of brass & winds. I watched with interest, remembering that I experienced Sunday Mass & the Sardanas here in 1974! I then went for a leisurely walk around the city, calling in at various churches where Mass was either being celebrated or finishing…..the Spanish like to have Mass late, like their meals! Finished up at Gaudi´s basilica & admired its architecture once again. Had nice lunch “of the day” in an outdoor cafe, & reflected that it is now 3 months since I “retired” & 2 months since I began my travels. What blessings I have received! The things I like about travel are (1) meeting locals – & attempting to communicate with them (2) discovering cities & their architecture (3) enjoying the local cuisine.
At 12 noon I caught the plane to Munich. Whitmonday is a holiday in Germany, with special Masses. After checking into my hotel I walked around the city, eventually finding a 5pm Mass at St Michael’s church. This was a really special Whitmonday Mass – to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the death of King Ludwig II. The huge church was packed (750+) & included 24 men in Bavarian costume holding banners. Some of them looked like they were soldiers from King Ludwig’s time! The Mass was celebrated by a cardinal, with a choir & orchestra presenting Haydn’s TheresienMesse (sp). We also had Mozart for the entry & recessional. The Mass was presented beautifully, & I saw something I had never seen before: 4 thurifers, who swung their thuribles enthusiastically at various points in the Mass – incl, oddly, the Kyries & postcommunion.
Caught the 1.30 pm train to Oberammergau. When I was here last year for the Passion Play I decided that I would like to return when it is off-season. The beautiful countryside reminded me why. I am staying at the same hotel, & Erika was pleased to welcome me back. I went for a long walk around the town & look forward to enjoying a quiet 3 days here exploring the district.
After breakfast I walked to Ettal (5 km). It was a super day & the scenery stunning as I walked along the river, with the mountains looming behind, then thru a forest. Ettal is a small village with a famous abbey, established in the 14th cent & subsequently rebuilt in the German baroque style in the 17th cent. The church is a gr8 example of Bavarian roccoco. I spent some time in the church, then walked around the village, then walked a mile to Ettaler Mühle, which is really just a few houses around a water-wheel….& a beer garden, of course! I had würst & bier sitting next to the water-wheel….which hasn’t worked for years.
Suitably refreshed, I then walked 12 km to Linderhof palace. Walking thru German fields is a gr8 pleasure. I passed horses, cows, crucifixes & shrines of the Virgin. I also came across a small chapel in the middle of no-where, erected by the monks of Ettal in the 19th cent. Arriving at Linderhof, it started to rain, but just for 5 mins. The palace is one of the castles erected by Ludwig II, but much smaller than Neuschwanstein & Nymphenburg. The grounds are excellent & I spent an hour wandering around them. I then caught the bus back to Oberammergau….thankful there was a bus!
The forecast was for occasional showers. Fortunately we had 2 hours of sunshine in the morning, so I caught the cable car up to Laber. This is a mountain peak 1683 m high – & the view as we went up was wunderbar! By the time we got to the top we were above the clouds. Beautiful mountaims all around & valleys below. I sat there, taking in this wonderful view. Returning to the ground, I then set out for a 12 km walk, umbrella in hand. This was on the other side of the river, & different to yesterday. The path went up the side of the mountains & thru forests. At one stage I didn’t realise how high I had walked! Some rain came, but I was mainly sheltered by trees. Then it was down thru farms. The only anxious moment came when a herd of cows, bells clanging were coming towards me. I gave them the usual look I give foreigners…I belong here so watch out! I was a bit intimidated by the black bull at the end, but passed by without a worry! At 3 pm a heavy thunderstorm poured down….so I caught the bus back. At 7 pm I went to the usual Thurs night Mass in the parish church. 30+ in the congregation, 5 acolytes & an organist, who played a marvellous postlude. I had supper in the beer garden opposite, then took a leisurely walk around the village back to my hotel.
At breakfast I was joined by an Aussie, who is staying in the hotel. Christina is from Sale……..& is a Collingwood member, of course! We had lots to chat about – footy, travel, footy, Bavaria, footy……. At 11.20 am I catch the train back to Munich for the night, & tomorrow catch the train to Vienna
Sun 19 Trinity Sunday
Attended 11 am Solemn Mass in St Augustine’s. I have attended here on previous visits – you have to get there 15 mins early for a seat…..& it holds 500! Wonderful music with their choir & orchestra: Mozart’s Spatzenmesse, 3 Mozart anthems during the Mass & magnificent postlude, Toccata by Reuchsel (whoever he is!). In the a/noon I wandered around the city – & by chance I came across a street fair where a group in folk dress was singing. These were croatians – descendants of people who moved from Croatia 500 years ago & live in the west of Austria. I was fascinated by their enthusiastic singing. Unfortunately it started to rain, so I returned to my hotel.
Had a seat on the 12.36 train to Nürnberg. Got to the station with plenty of time…..but, alas, I had left my wallet at the hote! Caught taxi back & retrieved it – but too late to get back for my train. Rebooked on 2.36 pm train – the misadventures of travel! Arrived in Nürnberg at 7.45 pm & walked along old city wall to my hotel. Loking forward to exploring this mediaeval city tomorrow.
Nürnberg is an amazing city. Altho heavily bombed in WW2, it still has its mediaeval city walls. All of the churches have been restored, & are stunning. Other important old buildings have also been restored, often standing next to tasteful contemporary buildings. In the morning I walked around the city & explored several of the churches. There is a beautiful old fountain in the town square, where also stands the Frauenkirche. This church was consecrated in 1358 & designed to hold the crown jewels of the Holy Roman Emperor. When I entered an organist was just finishing playing Rhosymedre – which, as every organist I’ve work with knows, is my favourite piece! He then played a variation of Liebster Jesu. l just sat & enjoyed it. At 12 noon I joined all the tourists who were waiting for the church glockenspiel to chime. It features a parade of the 7 Electors paying homage to Karl IV!
Nürnberg also has many sites associated with the nazis & WW2. I found many of these, incl a nazi eagle over the entrance to the former Reichs Bahn office. I finished up at the national railway museum, which has chilling displays from the nazi era. I could not get away from the significant part Nürnberg played in the 1930’s.
This morning I walked to the Palace of Justice. This where the Nuremberg trials were held. I was able to visit the actual courtroom, as well as an excellent historical display. At 2 pm I caught the train to Munich. Tomorrow is Corpus Christi here, & this seemed an excellent way to conclude my European travels.
Thurs 23 Corpus Christi
I was up at 6.30 am so I could be at Marienplatz in plenty of time for the 8 am Pontifical High Mass celebrated by the Cardinal Archbishop. Altho it was overcast, rain never came. There was a gr8 atmosphere, with parish groups & Munich guilds in costume, & some ethnic groups – incl Chaldeans. The set-up & organisation was like the Walsingham National – a dignified altar & sanctuary in front of the column with the statute of Mary on it, an organ (under a canopy) & choir, priests in alb & stole & seminarians there to assist. Only invited guests were allowed in the seated area. However, there were plenty of spare seats, & I talked my way in (“Ich bin ein priest von Amerika“!). The Mass was nice & I was able to join in the singing – we sang German versions of well-known hymns, incl Lobe den Herrn & Adore Te. Mass was followed by Procession of the Sacrament thru the streets of the city. This took over an hour, & I left it to take some pics.
After it was all over I used the last day of my Eurailpass to go to Jettingen. This is a small village which was the home of Count Claus von Stauffenberg – the leader of the attempted assasination of Hitler, played by Tom Cruise in the movie, Valkyrie. I walked thru a new part of the village & found a street named after him, & ended up at St Martin’s church, where he & his family would have attended. I noted evidence of the Corpus Christi celebrations earlier – canopy, flowers, pendants, banners & an outdoor altar for Benediction. By chance the PP came by! I introduced myself in German, told him I was interested in Count von Staffenberg, & asked if his home was still there. He directed me to the castle nearby, & I was thrilled to find it. I thought of his wife & children waiting for news that the plot had been successful, & then realising they would never see their husband & father again. After 2 interesting hours I caught the train to Ulm & spent 90 mins exploring this city, which has many medieaval buildings.
At 8 am I went to St Peter’s church (where I like attending Mass) for their Corpus Christi celebration. This is a wonderful baroque church that celebrates the liturgy beautifully & properly…..no free-standing card-table altar or hymn screens! The church was packed for a Latin High Mass, with a high proportion of men & young people. I sat next to 2 pretty young women in Bavarian dress. A small choir sang Dritte Messe in Es by Anton E Faist, accompanied by 7 brass. There were 5 priests, 2 deacons & an army of acolytes – & it took just 1 hour (no sermon). Then the procession set off, led by 20 nuns, 24 men in Bavarian costume carrying 10 ft high poles with candles on top, then the brass & choir, 12 flower-girls, the acolytes & priests, followed by the celebrant carrying the monstrance under a canopy. The congregation followed, mixed in with guilds, banners & a silver statue of Our Lady, carried by 4 women. The procession went to 4 other churches. On our way to each we recited litanies, sang a hymn & had brass procession music…..all very Bavarian! In each church prayer was offered & the choir sang an anthem. After an hour we returned to St Peter’s for Benediction. It was a perfect way to finish my Europoean travels 🙂
In the a/noon I fly to London, staying overnight there, before flying onto the USA tomorrow. I am already thinking about what awaits me in Melbourne!
June pictures: (click picture to see it bigger)
Also see my March-June retirement page for more pictures.