Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Gifts of Freedom - Day 2

Where to begin? 

Eisenach survived WWII and because of its historical significance, survived the East German/Soviet period, as a tourist town.  The architecture is stunning and ranges from the 11th-century (Wartburg Castle) to the present (Opel/GM Motors and Bosch).  The residential and city squares with the remaining Nicolaitor and Nicolas Church along with the Luther Haus, St. George's Church, old town castle and Rathaus enchanted us.  A visit to the Luther Haus (legend has it, he lived there for 3 school years) allowed us to imagine the home of a wealthy burger during late 15th century.  Frederick the Wise served as Luther's protector when he returned to Eisenach some years later and translated the New Testament into German.

Now - this is a big deal.  It has so much to do with the literacy of the German people.  From this text, standardization of German language can be traced.  It became the book from which the German people (men, women and children) learned to read/recognize certain words.  Further, it provided the moral code for families and communities;  and it provided a common tool in the establishment of schools.  Luther established the first public schools!  Of course, we are talking about five centuries of a habit of literacy - longer than the United States has been a country.  It is interesting that the despair over the end of printed newspapers is not a source of discussion here.  Plenty of small town, national and international newspapers exist with multiple newspaper/tobacco stores in every town.  Newspapers are still posted on walls and in cases near the Rathaus and people still stand in front and read.  The same is true in coffee houses - which provide newspapers for customers to read while there.  It is a culture of rampant literacy.

Reading is fundamental to freedom.
Peter inviting me into the Luther Haus.  Notice the beautiful round glass in the windows on the first floor.
St. Georg's Kirche - note the neo-Romanesque ceiling, the tiered galleries.  Luther preached here. Johanne Sebastian Bach was baptized here and, along with multiple family members, served as an organist here. 
Eisenach architecture

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