The Footsteps of Early Christianity in Germany
Upon arrival in Berlin, we are welcomed by our tour guide. We board our coach and have a short drive through the German countryside to Wittenberg, which was the main workplace of Martin Luther from 1508. We visit Luther Hall, the Augustinian monastery where Luther lived as a monk and again later in 1525 as owner with his wife and family. Luther Hall is the largest museum of Reformation history in the world. We pass the Market Square and Town Hall. Then we tour All Saints’ Church, the famous site where Luther posted his 95 Theses on the Castle Church door, sparking the beginning of the Reformation. It is here that Luther is buried alongside his fellow reformer, Philipp Melanchthon. We tour St. Mary’s Church, where Luther did the majority of his preaching. Dinner and overnight are in Wittenberg. After breakfast, we drive to Eisleben where Luther was born in 1483 and died in 1546. We visit St. Andrew’s Church, where Luther held his last four sermons, and we pass Luther’s Death House. A walk across the Market Square through the old town takes us to Luther’s Birth House and to the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, where he was baptized. Afterwards, we continue to Erfurt where we visit the Augustinian Monastery with its famous dome and stained-glass window choir. Luther, student of law, entered here in 1505 and took his vows as a monk in 1507. The city tour leads us through the cobblestoned streets to view the Fish Market, the Town Hall and Krämer Bridge. We also visit the historical section to learn about St. Severus and St. Mary’s Cathedral. Dinner and overnight are in Erfurt. After a tasty breakfast, we drive to Eisenach. As Luther said, “Almost all of my relatives live in Eisenach, and I’m known to them there and… well-respected; no other city knows me better.” The first stop takes us to the magnificent Wartburg Castle to tour the Palas (Great Hall), art exhibition, the Elisabeth Hallway and the room where Luther, disguised as “Junker Jörg” (Knight George), translated the New Testament into German. Afterwards, we explore the city on a walking tour, highlighting St. George’s Cathedral where J.S. Bach was baptized, the Luther House where Luther lived as a student with the Cotta family from 1498-1501, and where the Luther exhibition documenting his life and theology is located. We continue with a visit of the Bach House. Housed at this museum is an extensive collection of instruments from the 16th to 19th century and a permanent exhibition on the life and work of J.S. Bach. Here we enjoy a musical performance on historical instruments. Dinner and overnight are in Eisenach. This morning we depart early to Rudesheim where we take a sightseeing cruise along the Rhine River to see the picturesque stretches of this majestic waterway, the Rhine Valley and the well-known Loreley. So, settle back on the boat and enjoy. Afterwards we are picked up by our bus and continue to Mainz, the birthplace of printing. We tour the city passing all site marks and we visit the Gutenberg Museum where the evolution of printing is documented. Here Gutenberg’s first Bible and the world’s tiniest Bible are on display. Johannes Gutenberg is considered to be the most important individual-contributor of the Second Millennium. Dinner and overnight are in Mainz. Following breakfast, we have a short drive to Worms. We tour St. Peter’s Cathedral, an exquisite example of Romanesque architecture. In 1521, Martin Luther was summoned here by Emperor Charles V to recant his teachings before the Diet of Worms. We also see where Luther made his famous “Here I Stand” declaration. We visit the world’s largest memorial to the Reformation along with Europe’s oldest Jewish cemetery, the Holy Sands. Another Reformer named William Tyndale, finished his printing of the English Bible in Worms, escaping persecution in England. Next, we continue to Ulm, the birthplace of Albert Einstein. During our city tour, we see the astronomical clock at the city hall, the old Fisherman’s Quarters as well as the Ulm Minster, known as the church with the tallest steeple in the world. Dinner and overnight are in Ulm (or nearby).
Oberammergau and the Passion Play
This morning we drive to Augsburg, one of Germany’s oldest towns, founded 15 B.C. It was here in 1518 at St. Anne’s Church that Luther met the papal legate, Cardinal Cajetan, who demanded that Luther submit to the pope. Augsburg was also the site of another Imperial Diet (in 1530) at which Protestants presented their confession, which up to that time was the foremost doctrinal statement of the Lutheran church. We pass the site where the Augsburg Confession was signed in 1530. In the town hall, the Peace of Augsburg was signed in 1555, ending for a time the religious wars in Germany between the Catholics and the Protestants. Then we continue our drive to the Dachau Concentration Camp. Here we visit the museum with its reconstructed barracks and crematorium where the Holocaust is documented. From here we make our way to the Oberammergau area for dinner and overnight. Have a look at the information about the Passion Play which you will find in your room. Oberammergau is not only known for its Passion Play, but also for its woodcarving craft and for its colorful and attractive frescos known as Lüftlmalereien. In the morning you can explore the lovely village, the museum, the parish church and visit a woodcarving workshop. Lunch will be served in a local restaurant (included). Then it is time to take your seat at the Passion Play Theater. The play starts at 2:30 pm. It is performed only by locals. All the actors, musicians, and singers as well as the backstage staff are inhabitants of Oberammergau. Between the different scenes of the life of Jesus Christ you can admire “living pictures” – scenes from the bible are presented as still life by actual people. After 2.5 hours it is time for a break. Dinner is waiting for you in a restaurant. After dinner you have the opportunity to stroll around the village and to do some shopping. At 8:00 pm the second part of the play starts. It will last until approximately 11:00 pm. We will return to our hotel in the Oberammergau area after the play.
Visit Picturesque Castles
After breakfast, we drive through picture book scenery of the Allgäu, moving on to Germany’s most visited castle: Neuschwanstein, perched high up on a mountain in the Alps. The shimmering white towers of the castle almost touching the clouds are instantly recognizable to many. Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle was inspired by Neuschwanstein. To visit it is to step inside a fairy tale. “Mad” King Ludwig II realized this architectural dream and it became world famous. The majestic facade conceals an unbelievable splendor inside: very exquisite furniture, luxurious decors and masterly artistry. In the early afternoon, we cross the mountains at the German Swiss border and drive to Zurich. Dinner and overnight are in Zurich. In the morning, we tour the city. Zurich is definitely a combination of the old and the new. It is divided (as are many European cities) into the modern cosmopolitan district and the Altstadt (old city). Most of the time will be spent seeing the sights connected with Ulrich Zwingli. It was in Zurich where the Reformed branch of the Reformation got its start under his leadership beginning in 1520. We see his monument, the church where he was pastor (the Grossmunster), and the Guild Hall and Museum where we find artifacts and works of art associated with the Reformation. Zurich is also the origin of the Swiss Brethren Anabaptist Movement. It had its start in the home of Felix Manz in 1525, only a few blocks from Zwingli’s church, when Manz and others were rebaptized as adults by Conrad Grebel. The Anabaptists (re-baptizers), then became a target of Protestants and the Catholics for persecution and martyrdom, with over 3,000 dying in a “mini-holocaust” over the next decades. In the afternoon, we depart Zurich for the Emmental Valley. The Emmental Valley, the homeland of the famous and oft-imitated “Swiss cheese” as Emmental is often called. The region and its famous cheese are named after the Emme River. Next, we visit Trachselwald Castle which was built in the 12th and 13th century and used in the 16th and 17th centuries as a prison and torture chamber for many Anabaptists before their trial in Bern. We continue to Lucerne with its beautiful location on the shores of Lake Lucerne within sight of the mountains Pilatus and Rigi in the Swiss Alps. Dinner and overnight are in Lucerne. This morning, we enjoy a city tour of Lucerne. We visit the town’s landmark, the Chapel Bridge along with the water tower. The tower was built in 1300 as part of the city wall and used as an archive, treasury, prison and torture chamber. We see the Dying Lion of Lucerne-monument, which was carved out of natural rock in memory of the deaths of Swiss mercenaries at the Tuileries in 1792. Afterwards, we continue our tour to Engelberg where we start our Swiss Alps experience up to the Titlis mountain. Do not forget to bring warm clothes as temperatures will be around freezing temperatures. A gondola brings us all the way to the top and we are rewarded with a breathtaking panorama at more than 3,000 meters with eternal snow and ice. We get the chance to visit a glacier cave and the brave ones can test their limits at the Titlis Cliff Walk – Europe’s highest suspension footbridge. After this exciting experience, we will make our way back to Lucerne for dinner and overnight.