My Trip Through Bavaria

10/18/2011

What do you know about monks and nuns? Up until last week, I didn’t know anything about them. I’m still no expert, but I figure now I know more than the average person you’re likely to meet. I spent the better part of last week staying at the Templar Convent in Munich, Germany.

The Abbot over the place is Father Archangel. What a name, right? He’s a very interesting fellow. You rarely see him without his priestly garb. It’s so different from anything I can relate to that for the most part, I never knew what to say. When I first met him and he found this was my first time to Germany, and I had never seen the churches in the area, he immediately decided he would take me to see them. I ran back to my cramped room armed with two rather large awkwardly placed pianos and grabbed my camera. We set out right after breakfast.

I quickly found that Archangel isn’t the best driver. I’m pretty sure we got a ticket from his excessive speeding, and at one point, I’m pretty sure we almost took out an old lady. It looked like we barely missed her as we rounded a rather sharp corner. He didn’t seem bothered by either incident. I just kept praying under my breath. I’ve learned to do that a lot over here when I’m in the car.

As we began to tour the churches scattered around Bavaria, they all began to blend together. I found they all look a lot a like. Every time I stepped inside one of the churches, it set me back for a second. Archangel enjoyed watching my expressions. I couldn’t help but think that if man can do something like this what it must look like in Heaven.

My favorite part was always the organ pipes in the back of the church, but all of it was pretty amazing. There’s so much detail in every square inch it’d take days to really take it all in. I only had minutes, so for the most part, I just remained in a state of awe. Although, I did grow tired of the endless portrayals of Jesus as a limp-handshake kind of guy who is never seen without his mother and is always surrounded by endless amounts of flying naked babies. I mean, come on… He’s the King of Kings!

But I digress. I learned some really interesting things along the way as well. I learned what the Templars are all about. They’re an interesting bunch. They are not Catholics, and they’re quick to tell you so. There’s a lot I could say, but the thing I found most important is they love God, and they are not afraid of work. They’d put most people to shame. They are constantly looking to serve, and they do it with all they have. There’s much to be admired.

I was also surprised to find monks and nuns are real people. That may sound a bit odd, but I always had it in my head that they were a strange hybrid destined to live in solitude with no personality. I was wrong. One of the monks there is named Augustine. He is hilarious, and I found every single one of them are normal people for the most part just like you and me. They have hopes and dreams, fears and concerns. They love, they live, and they’re happy. They’re the real deal. We don’t agree on some things, but I believe there’s respect due to someone who gives up everything in order to devote their lives to serve God whether or not you agree on how they go about it.

There were a lot of funny things that happened along the way, but it would take a long time to tell all the stories. Archangel is a ridiculous driver. Add a phone call and heavy rain to the mix on mountain roads, and things get real interesting real quick. I saw a church that was built in the 6th century. Billy never can remember Augustine’s name. Most days, he referred to him as Argentina. At first, this seemed to throw people off, but as time passed, we all knew what he meant. I’ve never seen more crucifixes or statues of Mary in my life. I told some friends the only thing I can liken it to is walking into a gas station bathroom in Mexico. How’s that for a classy comparison?

All in all, if you want an accurate portrayal of the Templars and the churches in Bavaria, I’m probably not your best source. All I can tell you is it’s really something. I’ll carry the memories of Bavaria with me always.

All the best from Austria.

AR

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Interrogated by the Terminator

10/19/2011

In a distant drone, my ears began to open from a deep sleep. I forced my eyes open and quickly got to my feet. In a half daze, I crossed the dark room and blindly felt for my phone that blared it’s alarm, “Girl Named Tennessee.” The music stopped, and I looked at the time — 5:45am. With a sigh, I rubbed my eyes and muttered, “Here we go..”

We were heading back to Munich for the day to get the truck inspected. The place opened at ten, so we had to be on the road by six. We got down to the truck and as Billy played with the GPS, I fumbled with the heater. I can’t figure the thing out when I can see, so in the dark, it’s mostly a hopeless cause. I finally got some amount of heat out of the dashboard, and I settled back into my seat for the long haul back up through Bavaria.

We had went through one stau after another all the way through Salzburg when we first came to Austria, and we had thought it was because of road construction, so Billy decided to go another way in hopes that we’d make better time. We settled on a route through Wels, Austria. That was a bad idea.

We had been on the road for some time, and the heater was just beginning to really get the truck to a comfortable temperature. The dawn was gently breaking over the horizon. Mountains loomed on all sides, but they were mostly out of sight because of a heavy fog that danced all about the road.

We were hoping to find the autobahn any minute. We had been driving small roads the entire time and were not making the greatest time. We had reached a small town that’s name eludes me as the TomTom called out in his predictable British jive, “Left on the roundabout. Second exit.” We had every intention of obeying Tom’s command, but we were rudely stopped by a man with a hat that read “Polizei” and armed with an orange baton that beat against the side of the truck in quick bursts of triplets.

Billy seemed a bit befuddled by the cop’s belligerence. He turned to me and asked, “What’s he want?” I thought that was a strange question. It seemed a bit obvious as the man continued to signal aggressively for us to pull over. I could tell this didn’t look good, and Billy looked rattled. I was too tired and cold to be overly concerned, so I just sat there waiting as the man approached Billy’s window.

Billy cranked his window down, and I watched as the cold morning air swallowed the warm air I so patiently had cultivated in the last hour and a half. The morning air had a nasty bite. Texans are not made for such temperatures. I began to shake in my coat as I listened to the following conversation unfold.

He stood in a defiant manner just outside the window. He stood eye-to-eye with Billy. No words were exchanged as he emitted what can only be described as a death stare. Billy appeared to be searching for words, but none came. Finally, Billy asked, “What’s the problem?” The man in a deep, menacing, tone sounded his demand, “Passports.”

My heart sank. I knew this was bad. Billy quickly began to sound desperate and quite exasperated as he began to explain, “Sir, we don’t have our passports with us. We left them back at the hotel.” The man did not blink. He did not waver. He only seemed to stare deeper with a hate that raged black. He sounded his demand once more, “Passports.” Billy now sounded slightly irritated — never a good thing when dealing with the law. He replied, “They are back at the hotel.”

The man looked back towards the police car. His eyes met with the other officer. He then looked back at Billy. Billy began to squirm and quickly added, “But we have our drivers license from Texas.” Billy quickly grabbed both of our licenses and held them out the window for the man to examine. He took them and gave them the once over. He seemed irritated and replied, “I’ll be back.” It was like a scene from “The Terminator.” Then he walked back towards his parked car.

Billy turned to me looking a bit pale and said, “I suggest you start praying because this could be real bad.” I thought that sure was a fine howdy-do. I can think of better ways to start the day. I muttered a plea that said it all, “God, please, help us.”

The disgruntled official slowly made his way back to Billy’s window and said, “These are no good. I need passports.” Billy for the third time pleaded, “I understand, but they are back at the hotel.” The man asked, “Where is hotel?” Billy racked his brain for the name of the town and finally sounded out, “Gmunder.” The man looked like he was trying to decipher the strange-sounding word and finally asked, “Gmunden?” Billy quickly added, “Yeah, that’s it.”

The man paused for a moment and then with his baton reached inside the truck and pulled on Billy’s unfastened seat belt. Billy seemed confused. The man demanded with menacing eyes, “Why this undone?” Billy tried to explain it away that he had unfastened it after we had stopped. The man then coolly said, “Registration papers.” Billy asked me to pull it out of the glove compartment. I searched inside, but it was not in there. I gave Billy the bad news, and then he remembered the registration papers had been taken out when the truck had been in the shop last week.

As Billy  attempted to explain yet again. The man interrupted, “No registration papers?” Billy quickly tried to soften it by saying, “We have the papers. They’re just not with us. They’re back at the hotel.” The man then asked, “What are you doing here?” Billy quickly replied, “We’re heading to Munich for the day to see some friends.” The man said nothing. He only glared at Billy. After a long pause, he boomed a word that I cannot repeat, but it was obvious he did not believe us.

He passed a look that spelled hate and walked back to his car and returned after a few moments with a small paper. He handed it to Billy and in a different tone reminiscent of a predator that has grown tired of playing with his prey said, “Keep your passports with you all the time because all else is worthless.” He reached in the car and grabbed Billy’s seat belt again and said, “Here is ticket for no belt. Pay thirty-five euros, and you can go.” Billy looked confused but rummaged through his wallet and excavated thirty-five euros and handed it to the man. The man quickly made sure the full amount was there, and then he looked back at Billy and said, “Get out of here.”

Billy quickly turned the engine over and put it in gear. We were out of there as quick as possible. As Billy began to drive away and roll his window back up, he let out a long sigh. He looked over at me and said, “That was a close one right there. He could’ve kept us there all day if he wanted.” I nodded. He continued, “I don’t know if you caught that or not, but that boy just made himself thirty-five euros.”

On we went towards Munich. The rest is far-less interesting. We arrived a few minutes late due to the delay with the polizei. It ended up a wasted trip because it turns out they wouldn’t let us get the truck inspected without the registration papers. Oh well, live and learn, I suppose.

There’s the story of my first encounter with the German polizei. They’re a pretty ruthless bunch. However, I can’t blame the guy. I kept thinking I sure wish Billy was more organized. All I can say is from now on, I’m keeping my passport with me. I’d really prefer to not go through another interrogation. It was like watching excerpts from a World War II movie. Honestly, our prayers are the only thing that got us through.

“I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.” Psalm 108:3-5

AR

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Wine is supposed to be sophisticated.

In 2011, I was a missionary in Europe. I wrote about my experiences on a blog I had at the time. Considering most of you have not read those stories, I’d like to post them here from time to time. Here is one from Bad Münder, Germany, on October 19, 2011. Enjoy.

I had my first glass of wine the other day. I was at the pastor’s house in Bad Muender, and we were eating lunch. He asked if I’d like a glass of his favorite wine with my soup. Billy quickly interjected with the agreed upon response, “He’s too young to drink.” The pastor, however, was not deterred. He continued to look me in the eye eagerly awaiting my response. I stirred uneasily in my chair and muttered, “I don’t know.” He quickly added, “It’s very good. I’d like to know what you think.” Feeling a bit pressured, I replied, “Alright.”

He quickly poured the contents of the bottle into the dainty glass. I looked at it placed on the table in front of me just looking like a sin. Everyone grabbed their glasses and partook in a timeless toast of raised clanging glasses. I largely was oblivious to what was going on, so I just began clanging my glass on all surfaces and in all directions as its burned amber liquid rolled about like a slithering something. I was somewhat nervous and on the verge of perspiration. There was no turning back.

Wine is a funny thing. It seems to bring sophistication out of even the simplest of folk. You know what I’m talking about. You get a guy named Bob that can barely pronounce sophisticated and give him a glass of wine and his vernacular suddenly changes. He begins to spout out strange descriptive ramblings that lead to nowhere.

“What a robust flavor; yet with a gentle subtly that is really quite nice. I like the nutty taste in the end as well. A very nice full-bodied wine, indeed. Rather austere wouldn’t you say?” Everyone around really has no idea what he’s talking about, but in unison, they all nod their heads in agreement as they take an equally absurd stab at describing the concoction that’s kicking about amongst their innards.

Then there’s me. I took a sip and thought, “What the heck is that?” The pastor looked on with anxious eyes for a response. Sadly, the first thing in my head came out my mouth, “That was weird.” He grinned – thankfully, despite the fact I somewhat insulted his favorite wine.

The thing I didn’t say was, “I can’t believe people make this stuff and think it’s good!” It tasted like a mixed brew of gasoline and pecans. Needless to say, I didn’t finish the glass. Perhaps, that somewhat takes away from the story, but honesty is important.

AR

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