Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Der Blick aus meinem Hotelfenster

There's a river right below my window. It's quiet, maybe 150 feet wide, and moving just fast enough that lights from the other side are twinkling in the eddies and ripples from the current. Directly across from me is a palace, and just upstream the tall clock tower of the Rathaus (city hall) proclaims the time is neither wrong nor right. A single river boat is putting upstream, red light facing me, and other boats are moored safely on the shore below. Adding to this already restful and somehow perfect night view is the full moon, rising to my right above it all.

Berlin is gorgeous.

One thing that's struck me about being here in Germany is how historied everything is. Yesterday I was on the Wartburt castle (pronounced vart-boorg), where Martin Luther translated the New Testament - and where Johann Wolfgang von Goethe loved to visit. Richard Wagner was there and wrote a portion of the opera just for the castle, and Franz Lizst composed several pieces in the upper room there. Some of the greatest minds in history, all during different centuries in one room.

Last night we stayed in a little town called Bad Harzburg. If ever in my life there's a place I would call my pilgrimage, Bad Harzburg is it. It's a little town nestled in the Harz Mountains of northern Germany, and its principal claim to fame is that my german ancestry lived there for hundreds of years. But then who lived a few kilometers away? Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, an amazing philosopher who saw truth as beauty and spent his life following it.

Lessing wrote:
"The true value of a man is not determined by his possession, supposed or real, of Truth, but rather by his sincere exertion to get to the Truth. It is not possession of the Truth, but rather the pursuit of Truth by which he extends his powers and in which his ever-growing perfectibility is to be found."

There you have it. The profoundest words to likely ever go on this blog, and I had absolutely nothing to do with them.

People ask me every once in a while why I love Germany so much. The obvious first guess from those who know me would likely be "the Autobahn." And they're not really wrong - automobiles of teutonic excellence whizzing along gloriously beautiful roads do leave me breathless and strangely stammery. The history of the place fascinates me, too; I love finding out about the great thinkers, the enlightened and enlightening men from Germany who have bettered the world. Of course, my family comes from Germany, and heritage plays a large role.

I can't put a finger on the exact answer myself, because the likely answer is a mixture of all three (as well as a heady dose of 95%-flavorful food). "Das alles ist Deutschland, das alles sind wir. Gibt's nirgendwo anders, nur hier, nur hier." (If you didn't catch the reference, don't worry about it.)

The palace across the water has its own story: one day, a man walked in claiming he was the lord of the place. He set up shop and lived there for a while, claiming he was the owner, then made off with all the money in the house. Lessing and Goethe were good, but that's brilliance. I'm glad to be in Germany.

1 comment:

  1. You have made me long to be in Europe again. I can still remember the first time a held something older than my country, a beautiful hand made book in Latin, 400 years older than these United States. Sigh, someone fly me across the Atlantic.