First of all I’m happy to report that with the exception of five people who stayed on to do a little more traveling in Europe, the rest of our group made it safely home on Monday evening with no flight delays for anyone. Yay!

There was literally so much history everywhere we went there was no way I could summarize it all and still keep the details straight, plus I figured most people were only following this blog to see the photos anyway. But for anyone who is interested in learning more about the abbeys and the Norbertine communities we visited I wanted to provide links to their websites where you can read more on their history and what they are doing today.

The official website for Roggenburg Abbey is only in German, so the link actually takes you to a  Wikipedia page where you can read the story in English.

The site for Schlaegl Abbey in Austria is also in German language only, but I found an interesting link to a page about their brewery that includes a short video worth watching just for the beautiful scenery.

The website for Geras Abbey in Austria has both German and English, so the link should take you directly to the welcome page in English. Note that they also have a facebook page so you can “like” it and be kept up to date on your news feed!

The sisters have a beautiful web site featuring all of their communities throughout the world and it has all been translated into English. Click here to read about the convent at Vrbove, Slovakia.

On this page for the convent at Doksany in the Czech Republic you can even see a photo of all the sisters we didn’t have a chance to meet when we were there!

I’m really glad the website for Strahov Abbey in Prague is also in English because the introduction page offers a really nice history of the order there.  Also, if you click through the picture gallery links you can get a sampling of the beautiful collection of Czech and European art we saw there.

As I mentioned in my original post Magdeburg is a small dependent priory of Hamborn Abbey in Germany and unfortunately I could not find anything on the web in English. But I’m including the link to their site anyway because I know that many people know at least a little German.

I hope that everyone has enjoyed learning a little more about the history of the Norbertine order in Europe. It was my pleasure to document the 2012 Heritage Tour through photos on this blog, so thanks for following it!

Berlin City Tour (Updated)

Now that I’m (almost!) caught up on sleep and don’t have to worry about running out of internet time, I wanted to finish adding comments to these photos from our whirlwind tour of the city.

The building above is the Reichstag, which is the meeting place of the German parliament. It is in an area of Berlin called Tiergarten where all the government buildings and embassies are located.

Walking through a small park on our way to the Brandenburg Gate several people were tempted by this pretzel vendor!

The Brandenburg Gate is one of the most well-known landmarks in Berlin, as you can see from the number of tourists congregated here. The Segways were kind of cool but rather obnoxious, as the tour leader rides ahead on a bicycle ringing the bell to make all the other tourists jump out of their way.

These two images are from the Holocaust Memorial, which was designed by American architect Peter Eisenman and dedicated in 2005. As our tour guide noted, it was designed to be an interactive site, where people can wander through at their own pace and derive their own interpretation of its meaning.

The above photo is near a section of the wall that has been preserved as a memorial and contains a small museum.

Near this memorial we saw the beginning of the copper line that was to follow the old line of demarcation throughout the city, but it only went a few hundred feet before the designers realized the cost would be prohibitive. You can still follow the line all the way around, but the remainder of it is marked by a double row of cobblestones as you can see in the foreground of the photo below.

The original Checkpoint Charlie was dismantled in 1990, but has since been rebuilt as part of a museum. It is now a major tourist attraction, complete with a guy dressed up like a soldier from the old Berlin Brigade selling replica Visa stamps. I was actually here in 1985 when the wall was still standing, so I never got a view of this checkpoint like the one below looking from the former East German side. Of course it would have looked a little different then. How sad that the first thing you see now across from the “You are Entering the American Sector” sign is a huge McDonald’s.

Thanks to Bill Van Ess for taking this photo of me next to one of the more colorful pieces of the wall that are preserved and displayed around the city as memorials.

We never say goodbye, only Auf Wiedersehen!

In another one of those “small world” instances, I had the opportunity to visit with one of our former German teaching assistants this morning! Philipp Karch came to SNC 12 years ago from the University in Muenster, but he ended up settling here in Berlin after he finished his studies. In another strange twist of fate, Gary Umhoefer from SNC is arriving in Berlin tonight. He is traveling through Europe with his wife and son, and they plan to visit Philipp and his family tomorrow!

I know …… I promised to post no more food, but Philipp and his son Toni made this beautiful torte just for me so I had to take a photo of it for posterity!

Pictured here is Philipp with his wife, Birgit, son Toni, who will turn five next week, and two-year-old daughter Mona. They were all going to walk me back to the streetcar stop after our visit, but Toni got caught up in one of his favorite cartoon shows on the television and there was no peeling him away after that!

Mona was game for an outing, but she wanted nothing to do with the stroller. She went right for the “tri-rad” which is a little tricycle with a handle on it. She gets the illusion of being in control (as two-year-olds like to feel of course) but Papa can take charge when needed – or just for fun!

My fixture fixation!

By now everyone in our group knows I am absolutely obsessed with light fixtures, to the point where they will point out interesting ones they think I haven’t spotted yet! This little photo essay is just a sampling of some of my very favorites from this tour. The one above is from the convent in Vrbove, Slovakia.

This one is on the street outside the Generalate in Trnava, Slovakia.

Prague is a treasure trove! This one above is simply titled “Prague #1” in the series.

Prague #2

Prague #3

Magdeburg #1

Magdeburg #2

And this last one was taken just this afternoon near the end of our Berlin city tour.

Magdeburg Cathedral

We started our day in Magdeburg yesterday with a guided tour of the cathedral. Like many of the others we have visited it has changed hands many times in the last several hundred years and has been renovated time and again. It is now home to an Evangelical Lutheran parish, but was originally part of the Catholic diocese during the time Norbert was Bishop of Madgeburg. As you can see in the photo above the main entrance and one of the towers is undergoing renovation once again, but the scale model below shows what it will look like when it is finished.

This baptismal font was part of the original cathedral and would have been used during Norbert’s time.

Our tour was led by a woman with a very British accent who teaches English in the city, and she was a walking encyclopedia of the history of this part of Europe. I can’t even begin to summarize it, so I’ll just leave you with a few more photos of the interior of the cathedral.

I just had to take a photo of this lovely lady who was minding the information desk and gift shop area!

Knock, and the door shall be opened to you.

We were the very first group from SNC to ever visit this Norbertine priory in Magdeburg, so we were not exactly sure where it was and we were all a bit skeptical when Hans said the GPS led us to this modest house on a residential street. But as Fr. Jay and Fr. Sal went to knock on the door we all saw the fleur de lis pattern on the fence and what looked like a small church behind the house. Sure enough, they soon came back to tell us we were in the right place!

Fr. Clemens welcomed us to Magdeburg and explained that since the house is so small they had arranged a cookout for us in the garden behind the chapel. Magdeburg is a priory of Hamborn Abbey, and there are currently only three priests living and working there. Fr. Oliver was accompanying a group of local Boy Scouts on an outing, so we only met Fr. Clemens and Fr. Andreas. The three of them are responsible for the church behind their house, which has about 600 parishioners, along with the St. Peter’s Church at the Catholic University in Magdeburg and another parish church in a neighboring village.

Little did we know what a treat we were in for! Fr. Andreas told me that Fr. Clemens is renowned in this region as a great cook, and the apron he is wearing here came from his guest appearance on a cooking show called “Bruzzeln mit Bobzin” hosted by celebrity chef Rene Bobzin. (NOTE: Bruzzeln means “to sizzle” so we know this must be a hot show!)

While Fr. Clemens minded the grill, Fr. Andreas gave us a tour of their small church that was built in the early 1950s to accommodate all the Catholics who came to Magdeburg from the Eastern European countries. There wasn’t much money in those times, so it is very sparse compared to the Romanesque and Gothic churches we have seen in other places. But as Fr. Andreas said, it truly is simple but beautiful.

These door handles representing the bread and the wine were handmade by a local artisan and donated to the church a few years ago.

Ok, I promise after this I won’t torture you with any more food photos!

Mass at St. Peter’s Church

Fr. Clemens had a wedding and Fr. Andreas had another obligation on Saturday evening, so they arranged for Fr. Jay to say Mass at St. Peter’s Church. Fr. Andreas led us there through the city in his trusty bug-splattered VW and made sure everything was ready. We were also lucky that one of the organists was available so she generously came to treat us to some beautiful sacred music.

Eleanor Dockry, one of the Norbertine Associates from St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere, is pictured above doing the second reading.

This small side chapel is where the Norbertines sing Vespers when they are together at this church.

Strahov Abbey in Prague

I visited this abbey in 2007 and I have to admit at that time I really had no idea just how large the entire complex was. Since that time the Norbertines at Strahov have created an entire gallery of art and artifacts that is now open to the public for tours, and it includes this wonderful scale model of the abbey, the church and the buildings surrounding it.

This side chapel is dedicated to St. Norbert and the sarcophagus containing his remains is here above the altar.

One of the novices who speaks some English gave us a tour of the beautiful libraries and gardens, but I will have to double check the spelling of his name and edit this post when I know I have it right!

The tour concluded with lunch at the St. Norbert Brewery Restaurant on the abbey grounds. At one time the beer was actually brewed at the abbey. That is no longer in operation but the beer is still brewed in the area and sold at this restaurant.

This last photo is for Mark, my dear husband who stayed behind to take care of our house and pets while I’m off on this adventure with my SNC colleagues. He told me that one of his favorite parts of this blog is the food, so I had to include one of the duck we had for lunch today!

The Sisters at Doksany

Fr. Xavier and Fr. Sal are all smiles as they are greeted by Sister Augustina and learn that she is also coming to DePere to represent Doksany at the General Chapter in July!

Once again we were warmly welcomed with coffee and cake in the dining room of the convent, where Sister Augustina gave us an overview of the history of her congregation. It was a real lesson in the history of this area of the world as well, and how politics and war affected the status of religion and the orders during the communist regime and the years following.

In the background of the above photo you see Fr. Adrian from Strahov Abbey in Prague. He is the chaplain for the sisters at Doksany. There are only seven sisters there at this time, and most of the them live a cloistered life. They earn their income from sewing and embroidering beautiful liturgical garments, along with selling various products from their herb gardens. Other than Sister Augustina and one other younger nun who helped serve coffee when we arrived we didn’t see any of the other sisters.

The church adjacent to the convent survived intact because it was used as a parish church throughout that period, but the convent itself was neglected and deteriorated so the sisters are working to restore it as their finances allow.

Thanks to Ellen Mommaerts who figured out how to use the timer on her camera, we also got another great group photo including Sr. Augustina, Fr. Adrian and even our bus driver, Hans! We are pictured here beneath a gingko tree that has been growing on this site for more than 400 years already. It’s impossible to describe what this place looks like in just a few words so I made another gallery of snapshots. I hope it gives everyone a glimpse of just how old this community is and how wonderful it is to see it rebuilding today.