Homeward Bound – The Story Continues

In just over 24 hours we will be in Prague airport and a day later in Sydney, Australia. The journey finishes but the story goes on.

First though some pictures. Throughout our trip I have been taking candids of “Brides &Buskers”. The Brides started in Positano, Italy and I published that one. Since then I have seen some many brides, mostly Japanese,being photographed in incredible places. In Prague the two themes have intersected.

On the Charles Bridge, a stone bridge build in the 1400’s, crowded with pedestrians, artists, beggars, buskers and the occasional wedding party.

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Here we have concurrence, with the band in the foreground and the bride about to jump off the Bridge in the background. Perhaps it’s the music? Maybe she is tired of the photographer’s attentions? Or maybe the wedding was a mistake? Choose your own ending.

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Another Day, this time near the John Huss statue a Jazz group are really getting into it.

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A little girl gets up to join them in spontaneous dance.

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Next thing there is a bridal couple, who knows whether on their way to or from the alter, really showing some steps. Notice the little girl’s eyes! She knows when she has been upstaged.

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Now about the Blog. Thank you all my readers and especially those who have taken the time to comment, question or request. The trip might be finished but the story isn’t. I have taken many images that I haven’t even looked at and have many stories I would like to tell. At home i hope the memories will return and the stories emerge. I enjoy posting them and hope my readers will continue to follow. …. until the next trip. Please send me a message if you can.

My friends from the Italian Concerto trip. More than 5 weeks have passed. I hope to soon publish more photos of our time in Italy and make them available to you.

Do You All Work For The Same Boss?

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The interior of the magnificent Weltenburg Abbey, found on the narrowest section of the Danube River, is dedicated to Saint George. The interior of the building is magnificently decorated in Baroque style. It is wonderful art but does it help us glorify God or man?

In the past 8 years I have been fortunate to travel in Egypt, in Africa, in South America and now through Europe. Since spiritual things are interesting to me, I have been in places of worship wherever I go, including around Australia. I have seen Kenyans dressed in their Sunday best walk long distances on dusty roads to worship in tin sheds and I have stood in “Pillars of the Earth”‘ – Mosques, Synagogues and Cathedrals on four continents.

After my post on Christian Liberty in Historic Germany, Birgit asked why so many religions? Do we all work for the same Boss? This is such a good question, deserving of an answer. This is my humble attempt.

In short there is One Boss. It is a poor human term because all our bosses work within a framework bound by time. Our plans come to nothing when we die and so do our boss’s. The thing about our Creator God is that He had a plan before time and matter were formed. It is hard for us to think outside the barriers of our experience – we are materialistic and bound by time, so it hard for us to understand and easy to either deny such a possibility, or reinvent a God of our own, in own image.

Birgit said that Jews, Christians and Muslims seemed to be worshipping the same God so asked why did they not agree more? It is true that what Christians call the Old Testament is also revered by others. One thing I believe that both those groups have absolutely right from the OT is their refusal to portray God in a material form, like statues and paintings. Some Christian churches have explained away this “tradition” as just to avoid idolatry but I think is an important reflection that God is greater than His creation and infinitely greater than anything that we make – an antidote to pride.

I do not think we find God in buildings but in His Word. We do not go to church to be inspired by architecture or art but rather to increase in our knowledge and Faith through sharing the Word left for us by God.

The Old Testament revealed that in God’s plan He would send a mediator so that we could communicate with him. The Jews refused to accept Jesus Christ as this promised Messiah and crucified Him. Part of the Plan? yes! Muslims accept Jesus was a Prophet and accept some of His teachings but deny his often given authority to be God incarnate on Earth. This means that, while we are all “People of the Book”, Jews and Muslims do not have the same promise and assurance of salvation. They are still bound by the same rules and codes of the Torah and the Koran, impossible to fulfil because of our sinful, human nature, condemning them to punishment. They still have the same Boss though.

What about pagans then? Check the dictionary – the meaning I am using is those who are not Jews, Christians or Muslims. This grab bag could contain all kinds of polytheists (many Gods), pantheists (nature worshippers), agnostics (not sure if there is a God and if there is not interested in them) and atheists (absolutely sure there is no God, no Creation, it all just happened). With those simple descriptions, I am sure I have offended someone but then – they still have a Boss, they just don’t know or acknowledge Him (try that with your Boss at work!).

Why would God leave them ignorant of himself? Why not just dazzle everyone with miracles until they have to believe?

Jesus taught his disciples in Luke 8 after they observed that many listeners did not understand his Parable of the sowers, when they saw it’s meaning.
Luke 8:10 “And He said, “ To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand”

In God’s plan He chose a people, not because they were better, but because they were His (just like we choose our kids, hey!)

Unfortunately, lots of people think Christian’s are arrogant because they know the Boss, because He knows them. Instead of being resentful, maybe they should consider whether the Boss knows them too?

If you have read this far – congratulations! Please feel free to give me some feedback or ask questions. As a bonus (to myself an indulgence) another picture and caption.

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Dohány Street Synagogue pictured here is the second largest in the world. It is a beautiful building and the young man who showed it to us was passionate to explain how it was used in the worship of God. It holds 3000 people but there are now only 200 families attending. Before WW2 there were more than a million Jews living in Hungary, mostly in Budapest. SIx hundred thousand were killed, executed or starved during the conflict because they were Jewish. There are 3,500 bodies buried in mass graves in the garden outside, executed as the Red Army approached to liberate the city from the Germans

Sometimes loving the Boss doesn’t make you popular.

Christian Liberty in Historic Germany

The interruption to our cruise caused by flood damaged Locks required a ship change involving a couple of hours on a coach so we were offered a tour of the preserved, walled mediaeval city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber as a bonus.
It is an amazing city. We agreed we would love to stay a couple of days just looking around. It remains fully walled, 500 years after the introduction of explosives and artillery caused most cities to demolish such fortifications. Shops proudly identify that they were established in the 12th Century!

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A high, hilltop position, thick high walls, towers and positions to fire down on your attackers, helped keep towns safe before the arrival of the artillery

It was visiting the Lutheran Church of St James that made me think about what Christian Liberty means … And costs.

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The Church of St James (Jakob) is more than 700 years old. For 200 years it was Roman Catholic. For 500 years it has been Lutheran. Why the change?

When Martin Luther published his theses against the sale of indulgences in 1517 and refused to backdown to the Popes authority at the Diet at Wirms in 1521 he was proclaiming his liberty as a Christian to interpret God’s Word. What followed was The Thirty Year War. This outcome cannot be blamed on Luther. There were similar social, political factors at work here that later produced revolutions in France, England and America without the religious overtones. Nonetheless, Luther’s stand for liberty against religious corruption and abuse of power was the trigger that resulted in enormous bloodshed and social division in the waring Princedoms that made up what we now call Germany. After 30 years, war, disease and forcible migration had reduced the population by 30 to 60%.

A suitable solution was found With Germanic efficiency in “religious freedom” – but not in the individual sense that Luther saw it.

The Peace of Westaphalia, signed between May and October 1648, ,, involved the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III, of the House of Habsburg, the Kingdom of Spain, the Kingdom of France, the Swedish Empire, the Dutch Republic, the Princes of the Holy Roman Empire, and sovereigns of the free imperial cities. Rottenburg was one of these.

These treaties initiated a new system of political order in central Europe, later called Westphalian sovereignty, based upon the concept of a sovereign state governed by a sovereign and establishing a prejudice in international affairs against interference in another nation’s domestic business. The treaty not only signaled the end of the perennial, destructive wars that had ravaged Europe, it also represented the triumph of sovereignty over empire, of national rule over the personal writ of the Habsburgs. The treaties’ regulations became integral to the constitutional law of the Holy Roman Empire, and stood as a precursor to later large international treaties and thereby the development of international law in general.

The main outcomes affecting religion were:
All parties would recognize the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, in which each prince would have the right to determine the religion of his own state, the options being Catholicism, Lutheranism, and now Calvinism.
Christians living in principalities where their denomination was not the established church were guaranteed the right to practice their faith in public during allotted hours and in private at their will.

Nuremberg – The Beginning of International Justice

Ask any student of Modern History about Nuremburg and they will say “WW2 War Crimes Trials”. They would be right, but why Nuremburg? What was the significance of the trials that mean they are still remembered as important?

Instead of a the usual walking tour of the city, a bus load of us took the opportunity of a morning visiting the sites of the famous Nazi Party mass gathering, the Document Centre( built into the Nazi Congress Hall) and the site of the trials.

After WW1, Germany and it’s Allies were held responsible, their Ruling Families lost their thrones and economically crippling reparation payments were required. In some ways, the severity of the armistice conditions laid the foundations for the birth of the Nazi party under Adolph Hitler and a second “War to end all Wars” within 21 years.

However after WW1, individual responsibility for War Crimes was left to each participant nation and they generally paid lip service to it. In Germany punishments were minor in relation to the offences – people, understandably, just wanted to get back to normal life.

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The Zeppelin Grandstand and the Zeppelin Field were built on the Zeppelin meadow between 1934 and 1937. It features in propaganda films showing Adolph Hitler accepting the shouted Zieg Heil salute from more than 100,000 Germans. The photographs show how the review stand looks now, unsafe to stand on, compared with how the field looked in 1937, filled with Germans responding to the Führer Myth.

The Zeppelin Field was altered. In 1945, the US Army blew up the swastika on top of the Zeppelin Grandstand. The rows of columns along the main grandstand, which were in a poor state of repair, were blown up in 1967. The entire reviews stands are crumbling and unsafe to enter. However, the area is heritage listed – there are some things about human nature we should not forget.

Nuremburg’s choice for the trial venue followed discussion between England, France, Russia and the USA. There were difference between such ideological strange bed fellows. While both Churchill and Stalin at one stage suggested summary executions without Trial, Josef Stalin meant 50,000 to 100,000 serving German Staff Officers. Winston Churchill’s response was to “in that case I would prefer you to take me to the courtyard and shoot me now!”. Franklin Rooseveldt, trying to defuse the situation with humour said ,”Maybe Mr Stalin could settle for 49,000?”

There were two compelling reasons to choose Nuremburg for the trials. it’s Palace of Justice was spacious and largely undamaged (one of the few buildings that had remained largely intact through extensive Allied bombing of Germany), and a large prison was also part of the complex. Nuremberg was also the ceremonial birthplace of the Nazi Party, having hosted annual propaganda rallies. It was thus considered a fitting place to mark its symbolic demise.

It’s first trial was of 24 major war criminals. After a trial lasting from January to July 1946, 19 were found guilty, 3 were acquitted and 2 suicided before the end of proceedings. Twelve were executed by hanging, the others given prison sentences ranging from 10 years to Life. Later trials were carried out on Doctors, lawyers and others complicit in carrying out War Crimes under the Nazi regime.

The primary aspect of the Nuremberg Rallies was to strengthen the personality cult of Adolf Hitler, portraying him as Germany’s saviour, chosen by providence. The gathered masses listened to the Führer’s speeches, swore loyalty and marched before him. Representing the Volksgemeinschaft as a whole, the rallies served to demonstrate the might of the German people. The visitors of the rallies by their own free will were subordinate to the discipline and order in which they should be reborn as a new people.

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The final images show the room in which these trials were held, still in use as a courtroom today and a photo, taken at the time of trial showing Judges, defendants, prosecutors and defence lawyers.

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Unlocking River Power

Someone asked on my post about Amsterdam’s bicycles whether I would comment on the River Locks to Budapest. What a good idea!
In Roman times the rivers of Europe were unsuitable for transport, too shallow with strong currents and dangerous rocks. The Romans built good roads on the banks to allow quick movement of troops and commerce and used the rivers as boundaries between their Empire and the Germanic barbarians.
Four things changed this: Explosives to clear the rocky shoals, powered ships to overcome the currents and the development of Locks and Canals to join the European rivers into a complex continent wide network of river roads. The last only occurred within the past 20 years.
While the luxurious River Cruisers like we have travelled from Amsterdam to Nuremberg get a lot of attention, and bring in the Euros, it is the commercial traffic that dominate the rivers and Locks. Barges 135 metres by 11.5 loaded down with building materials, food, petroleum products, coal, rubbish what ever go streaming past endlessly. In Australia these are often transported by road.
This movement pattern is controlled by Locks – think of elevators for those giants vessels, that allow us to navigate gradually from sea level to 406 metres and back again. They also are a flood migration aid.
On the Rhine and the Amsterdam Rhine Canal, with its greater commercial traffic these locks were paired allowing one for each direction, double width and double length, allowing 4 maximum sized vessels to move in each direction. On the Main River and it’s Canal, the locks are one way, single width and shorter meaning that a vessels often has to wait for Lock space before moving on.
There are doors at both end of the Lock which close, water either floods in from a holding pond alongside or floods out down the river, depending on whether you are going up or down. This is one case where a picture sequence shows more clearly than words.
The greatest height our boat will be moved is yet to come – 24.7 metres or 81 feet vertical movement will be just after Nuremberg, on our next sailing day. Imagine lifting boats and cargoes the size of these to the height of an 8 story building just with the power of water and gravity, using technology which has hardly changed in a century.

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Amsterdam

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Amsterdam is dominated by bicycles – they are everywhere! On the roads, the footpaths, and In their hundreds on the cycle paths. They are chained onto very possible position in untidy heaps, often making it hard for pedestrians to get through.
When I mentioned to Julie that in this post I was going to claim that the population of bikes in Amsterdam exceeded that of people, she warned me that exaggeration would affect my credibility. Our guide then confirmed that there are indeed 600,000 people and over a million bicycles. there are no new bikes, however. Why? Because 60,000 bikes are stolen every year. A popular saying is “Bikes are public property, locks just a challenge!” So most of the bikes are not only old and rusty, the sorts that would long be on the tip at home, but secured with two locks, worth more than the bike itself. That’s because, as well as stealing bikes, another popular pastime is for drunks to throw,them in the canal as they walk home late at night. When they dredge the canals they often are a metre deep on the bottom.
Following is a Gallery of bike photos. I Missed so many others – particularly the no hands texting cyclists, the pinstriped businessman cyclist with the furled red umbrella and his short min skirted lady companion. My Tumbarumba brother in law used to say “the things you see when you don’t have a gun” This certainly applies for cameras

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Chasing a Wild Goose to Harrods

The phrase “Wild Goose Chase” is first found in William Shakespeare’s in Romeo and Juliette, where it doesn’t end well!

My boxing partner at the gym is Birgit, the only woman with a licence to beat me up. We have a mutually violent relationship.
When she heard I would be in London, she said how she would love to go to Harrods- she would love one of their shopping bags and would pay me if I could pick one up for her. Birgit loves to shop. I knew that the idea that she could traipse around Mirada Fair (our big Shopping Mall for strangers) with a bag from Harrods had a lot of appeal for her, so I had full intention of making the effort.
The problem was Julie, does not love to shop so Harrods was not on our joint itinerary. When in Rome, Florence, Paris, London and Edinburgh our tour guides have warned all the males to keep close tabs on our wives, as we have passed the expensive shopping districts. I have no worries – Julie is not much interested.
The only opportunity appeared on our last day in London when Julie was determined to get some washing done at the laundromat. Everything was set up and there was an hour window from 8.30 until washing and drying would be complete. I power walked the 3 km across Hyde Park, past the Albert Memorial I had seen on our first day in London towards Harrods.

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Prince Albert, known to many as”Albert the Good” was the 19th century equivalent of Prince Phillip, Consort to a very long lived English Queen and an interesting man in his own way. Victoria so mourned him when he died at 42, leaving 9 children to be raised, she had this massive monument placed on the site of the Great Exhibition he had organised in 1851. Prince Phillip is currently in Hospital, but he turned 92 yesterday! Get well Phil the Greek!
All sweaty I arrived at the massive Harrods store at 9am – surely it can’t be hard to find a shopping bag.
Locked up tight! No one in sight! Surely not a public holiday? it’s not Sunday?
Gold lettering on the door OPENING HOURS 10 AM to 8 PM. The English spending classes obviously sleep late!
No way I can wait. Powerwalk back, taking shortcuts and getting lost, so half hour late with nothing gained but sore feet. I guess I should have checked the Harrods website. Ah – they sell Harrods carry bags online on eBay, probably fake but Birgit will never know, unless someone tells her.
Woops!