Posts Tagged ‘Cathedral’

Big to Just a Little Bit Smaller

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

We left the big city of Rome and realized we should probably find showers. That’s right, I (Matt) had taken Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, the world’s largest church, after traipsing, sweating through Rome and living out of a car for six days without a shower. Thankfully, Jesus accepts me despite the smell. That afternoon, a couple hours north of Rome, we stopped at a rest stop and took real showers for a 2 Euro donation. We walked down to the station’s showers and the woman in charge went off in Italian, something about the cold water. She was quieted by our small token of appreciation and smirked at our condition. The water wasn’t hot but it was comfortable, especially since it cleaned.

Around seven that night we arrived in Florence. We quickly stood at a lookout and looked . . . out, over the city, alongside hoards of tourists. We fled down into the city, crossing the river and winding through the streets to its Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, the fourth largest church of Europe. After St. Peter’s, we were more impressed with the dome and the building’s ornamentation than its size. It’s exterior is covered with engraved marble in shades of green and pink, bordered by white. It’s dome, the largest brick dome ever constructed, was engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi after the Pantheon. After the Romans, the formula for concrete was “forgotten” and Brunelleschi was forced to build the dome out of bricks. Brunelleschi, a smart guy, built the octagonal, double-walled dome on a separate drum and not on the roof itself, do that it could be built without using scaffolding. It was the first dome built this way and weighs only 37,000 tons with over 4 million bricks. Barely smaller.

Unfortunately, the museum housing Michelangelo’s David statue was closed for the evening and was closed on Mondays, the next day. Instead, we saw a replica of David and concluded we hadn’t missed much. You’ve seen one naked guy, you’ve seen them all. We camped for the night just outside Florence and drove east to cook lunch on a bridge in San Marino.

We figured we prepared the only spaghetti and popcorn ever cooked on a bridge in San Marino, the world’s smallest republic and Europe’s third smallest country after only Vatican City and Monaco. More interesting facts: San Marino is the smallest member of the Council of Europe and is part of the United Nations though not the European Union. It’s is the oldest sovereign state in the world. The Constitution of San Marino, enacted in 1600, is the world’s oldest constitution still in effect. A stonecutter, Marinus of Rab, Croatia, founded the nation on the third of September, 301 A.D. As the legend goes, Marinus left Rab, then a Roman colony, in 257 under the future emperor Diocletian’s religious persecution.

Shenk, Ziegler, and I only briefly considered these things as we scaled a cliff to the impressive wall above the republic’s capital, appropriately named the City of San Marino (Città di San Marino). Wisely, David opted to remain below to protect his ankle and watch tennis on clay courts. The Dans and I walked the wall a bit but soon returned to the car before splurging on Gelato for a few Euro. Back in the car, we drove and slept between the small republic and Milan. Around noon Tuesday (July 7), we stopped at a rest area outside the city to begin transitioning to the next phase of the trip. Slightly smaller.

Disappointment and Esperar from Granada to Madrid

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Warning: The following post involves various forms of disappointment. Reader discretion is advised.

First, the night of June twenty-fifth we headed north from Granada to Córdoba to see their famous Mezquita, a mosque with apparently really impressive columns dating back to the Roman period, its construction begun in 784 A.D. Christians converted it into a Cathedral after the Reconquista. Disappointingly, the building was already closed by the time we arrived. Ziegler and I (Matt) halfheartedly continued our quest for the cool pants we had seen in Granada, the really loose, comfortable, gypsy-looking pants. No luck. Disappointed, we continued to Seville. There we walked through the old town and saw the its cathedral, one of the largest of the Gothic style. It was closed so we missed the interior, the longest nave in Spain. Disappointing. We left and and arrived at Vila do Bispo, the southwestern tip of Portugal by the next morning. Along the way, we passed Huelva, Spain, where Christopher Columbus departed when he crossed the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic is much prettier on its European shore, and in Portugal we played an intense game of Ultimate Frisbee before a refreshing dip. We passed through Lisbon, found disappointingly little to occupy our interest, and pressed into the continent.

We slept just outside Madrid Saturday night (June 27), completely unaware that the next day would hold the greatest disappointments of the trip thus far. Actually, it was early Sunday morning when we stopped, the Dans having tag-teamed driving into the night. Sunday morning David drove us into Madrid to the Mennonite church. There we enjoyed lively and encouraging worship and a timely message. Bruce Bundy reminded us that the Spanish word for to wait, “esperar,” also means to hope. Timely for 4 guys traveling together; we were able to apply its lesson that very night. Merly Bundy translated this for us to supplement my completely rudimentary understanding of Spanish. After the service we got to know the Bundys, Bruce originally from Zimbabwe and Merly from Cuba before meeting in Pennslyvania and working in Madrid, and their two boys. We joined the lovely family for a delicious meal and interesting conversation about the state of the Spanish church. After years of rigorous Catholicism, the backlash has unfortunately led to many rejecting all faith. Instead, Spaniards value family and friendships, a path the Bundys hope to pursue with their church plant and Mennonite Your Way involvement.

After heartfelt thanks, we set off with content stomachs into Madrid to its main park, Parque del Retiro. The park was created as a royal park of the palace built in 1632 by King Philips IV as a retreat for the Royal family. It was quite the lovely retreat. The park was full of Spaniards enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon lounging about on the forested lawn, rowing around the central pond, or simply enjoying some drums in a small amphitheater-like structure. A group of young men were performing a carefully choreographed African drum session. Meanwhile, Bohemian locals created their own rhythms on numerous drums around the semicircle. Around the crowded lake, numerous other musical performers entertained alongside dancers, magicians, and even a Minnie Mouse with definitely manly hands. We left the park and wandered around before finding a pub by 8:30, ironically an Irish pub in Madrid, to watch the Champions League final. It was the pinnacle of the year’s international soccer (fútbol) season between Brazil and the US. At the beginning of the match, we held reserved excitement that only grew over the first half as the Americans built a two goal lead. Then the disappointments began. The Brazilians began to play as I had expected them to play and won 3-2. Utterly disappointing. We worked on our esperar. On the bright side, we hope the match will continue to raise awareness in the States of the value of soccer, the international sport. We returned to the Bundy’s, keenly disappointed but doing our best to wait and hope.

The next morning, our disappointment continued when we found the El Prado Museum, Madrid’s largest art museum, was closed on Mondays and entrance to the Palace was way out of our price range. Instead, we visited the Hagia Sophia, a modern art museum. Among others, we saw numerous, fascinating works by Pablo Picasso. We also saw numerous, disturbing works by Salvador Dalí. The contrast between the two modern Spanish artists was significant. We left the two, took the subway back to the Bundy’s, filled our water jugs, and drove out of the city. Our disappointments were short-lived, however…

Fun Facts about Estonia

Monday, June 8th, 2009

May 29th, we disembarked, drove around Tallinn, Estonia, and found a place to park the Passat near the old city. [Fun fact #1: Tallinn was made the capital of independent Estonia in 1919 and again in 1991.] Ziegler stayed with the car, both to catch up on sleep (see the previous post) and to prevent parking tickets (apparently you can pay for parking by mobile phone but why?). David and I set out toward the old city, high atop an outcrop in the center of the city. On the way, we passed fields hosting several intense soccer games played by high-school-aged youth and encouraged by peers with obnoxiously loud horns. Go team. [Fun fact #2: The town of Tallinn was first mentioned in 1154 A.D.] We picked our way up the cliff above the fields and found several impressive cathedrals, one Baroque styled and the other Soviet styled. The contrast was profound, especially when the crosses above the latter seemed to include communism’s hammer and sickle. Maybe they used the first church as their model. Both churches were open to the public and we stuck our heads in to appreciate the ornate decor. [Fun fact #3: Tallinn became a member of Hanseatic League in 1285.]

Descending into the old city, quite popular with the tourists, we intentionally walked quickly down the narrow streets on a quest for bread. I asked a friendly-looking local for help and she smiled when I emphasized our intentions to find cheap bread. [Fun fact #4: Tallinn's size is 158 square kilometers.] We followed her directions to a mall and its grocery store where we bought three small loaves for around $1.50 and six, grapefruit-sized apples. [Fun fact #5: Tallinn's currency is the Kroon.] After returning to the car, Ziegler did some exploring of his own while we wrote journal entries and organized photos. David then turned us southeast to the coast of Peipsi Jarv (a.k.a. Lake Pepsi), which separates Estonia and Russia. Unlike Sarah Palin, we couldn’t see Russia. Along the coast, we stopped for a break at a playground and Ziegler and I tried out an Estonian swing-set. We discovered David’s camera does not have a “jumping-out-of-a-swing” mode (although it has one for almost everything else). We moved along after some young teens arrived; apparently, playgrounds are hang-out spots for Estonian youth. [Fun fact #6: Estonia's national Independence Day is February 24.] We continued another half hour alongside the lake, accompanied by John Piper and humble wooden homes. Also, the Estonian church is an independent orthodox church that has three unique crossbars on its cross. [Fun fact #7: We have no idea why the crosses look like that.]

Looking for a stop, we stumbled upon camping trail that lead directly to Lake Pepsi’s edge, complete with a fire pit and several large logs, the ideal camping spot. We had parked and just started to set up the cook stove when a pickup drove up, the park rangers. Two rangers got out, a pleasant older gentleman and a beaming younger man, and they just stood there.

“Do you speak English?” Ziegler asked.
The younger man beamed, “Yes, a little.”
“May we camp here?”
“Oh yes!”
“May we build a fire?”
“Yes, yes!” he beamed.
“May we swim?”
He beamed, “Sure. You planning to fish?”
“No. Can we?”
“Sure. You can fish with a net but you need a license.”
“Can we fish with a pole?” David joined in.
“Oh yes, you can fish. You just need a license to fish with a net.”

They both continued standing and looking at us, the older man looking pleasant and the younger man still beaming. We briefly exchanged small talk, and realized they were more curious than protective and that we were pretty much free to do anything we wanted but fish with nets. Good to know. They soon hopped back in their truck and left with a wave. They had just wanted to make sure we looked like guys who wouldn’t throw a crazied, drugged-out beach party, or worse, fish with nets. Maybe another time. Instead, we cooked a delicious meal of pasta and fried canned pork over a fire. It was quite manly. Fire-cooked food on the lakeshore in the Estonian wild. The next morning we completed the experience by getting naked in the lake. I woke early and read for over an hour on a sun-drenched rock overlooking the lake until the guys awoke. We proceeded to scrub ourselves in some breathtakingly cold water. [Fun fact #8: All very manly things to do.] Cleaner, we toweled off and cooked some Scot’s Porridge with apples and raisins. The guys even strung a clothesline to let their clothing (still a little wet from the ferry) dry while I washed the dishes. We left the campsite, satisfied with our Lake Pepsi experience.

Still feeling manly, I began the day refusing to ask Estonians or their maps for directions. I relented when we tried to find the country’s highest point. I have related that endeavor earlier but it also led to us to hike at two sites sponsored by the European Union. [Fun fact #9: The EU has money.] One maintained some natural springs and the other maintained the supposed (though disputed) highest point in Estonia. Having seen these, we continued south, leaving Estonia and all its fun facts. [Fun fact #10: Estonia's national paid holiday is June 24th, Midsummer Day and that truly is fun.]

Matt

Norway and Early Mornings

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

We left Sunday evening (05/24) just around midnight and headed north along the coast. The sunlight glimmered in the sky until almost 0030 and by 0230 it was starting to get light. By the time we stopped at about 0330, it was almost full light. We slept at a nice little rest stop alongside the road and woke up the next morning sorted through all our stuff getting Dan S’s things packed and all the stuff the rest of us were sending back to our families and friends via his mail service.

We set off north again a few hours later and made it to Norway soon, passing the border with no problem and then began looking for the nearest train station so that we could get the schedule worked out for Dan’s train trip to Frankfurt connecting through Copenhagen. Pulling off the highway, Matt talked to the first group of people we saw. About 7 or 8 older men sitting around a round table enjoying a lunch and it just so happened that one of the men lived right near the train station and was leaving just then, so he offered to lead us there. We followed him into Halden and and found the station. Chalk up another friendly European.

After we worked out the details, we happened to notice a pretty neat castle/fort nearby called Fredriksten and went and explored it for free. It was huge, and pretty neat. Apparently the castle had been there for centuries protecting the town and port of Halden. We had lunch outside the fort and then kept pressing north. Just before we entered Oslo, we found a large sign with lots of writing on it that described a toll to be paid, but there were no toll booths! Apparently, after about 10 minutes of trying to figure out the sign we decided that there were 3 ways to pay: You could have a special transmitter with your billing information (which we didn’t have) or you could go to a special place and pay (which we didn’t want to do) or you could wait and they would mail the bill to you. So, we went for the last one. I expect to receive a bill from Oslo, but to tell you the truth I’m not sure what to do with it.

Anyway, we drove into the city without much traffic our trouble and parked near a gigantic stone wall. We had no idea what it was but after walking for several kilometers we eventually came to a small gate and walked inside. Apparently it was the fort built to protect the harbor of Oslo and is now a museum and park. After exploring it for a bit we went into the city center itself passing the harbor (well-protected by the fort) on the way along with significant amounts of electric car parking–complete with electric cars parked.

Oslo did not impress us much with its architecture or its sculptures–we decided that there must have been a period in Oslo’s history where no one wore clothes and that was when all the statues had been made–but it did impress us with its weather. Everyone was outside sunbathing and it was the warmest day we had experienced on our trip, despite being the farthest north we had been on our trip so far. Dan, David, and Matt went and saw the city cathedral and the palace which were nice, but we’ve become a bit jaded by palaces and cathedrals. Really kind of a disappointing thing, but in in Europe it seems that every city has a cathedral and every other city has a palace so it’s hard to not feel like you’ve seen them all once you’ve seen the first 100.

I saw the city hall which was nice and wandered the streets a bit enjoying the nice weather and checking out the cool Nordic sweaters, the cheapest of which cost the equivalent of $300. A short time later we met back at the car and, after snacking on some apples, headed back south. We got into Gothenburg–where we had enjoyed the internet and a wharf the day before–that evening and Dan and I went to purchase his train tickets.

The information center closed 5 minutes early and we were there 3 minutes before the time it was supposed to close, so we were sorely disappointed and on our own to try to buy his ticket from a little Swedish kiosk. We did succeed, however, the entire time being offered advice by Johan, a Swedish welder who had apparently enjoyed a few powerful beverages earlier in the evening. He offered us advice on everything from where to stay–”You can stay in my garage! It’s free!”–where we should be visiting–”You gotta stay down south, man. It’s ******* **** up here. You gotta go to Amsterdam. That place is ******* awesome”–and how we should be entertaining ourselves–Ladies and Drink. We turned him down on all of his information, but he didn’t really pose a threat and was quite a nice fellow. He smiled and waved rather tipsily as Dan and I (tickets in hand) left the station entreating him to be careful on his way home.

Meanwhile, Matt had gone to check out the local U21 football game where the locals beat the opponents soundly. After the game, the crowds flowed raucously out of the stadium carrying Matt with them in their joy. Dan, David, and I waited for Matt and eventually he arrived having enjoyed the experience greatly.

We went out of town that evening and slept in a forest near the airport; Dan and I in the car and David and Matt in the tent. The next morning at about 0430 Dan and I left for the train station and I successfully dropped him off about an hour later. He cut quite the striking figure in his lumberjack jacket, shaggy head, and with a large Viking sword slung across his back in a duct-tape scabbard. I returned to the campsite and a few hours later was woken to some delicious Scott’s porridge Matt and David had prepared.

Daniel Z

London: Accomplishments

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

I’ve been in London before for a few days with Rosedale Bible College’s Celtic Christianity & CS Lewis tour back in 2006. That was a rather quick trip to London, however, so I was glad to return. Cities aren’t my favorite places to hang out, but London isn’t bad as cities go. It has a river (the Thames), lots of history, and generally friendly people.

Two friendly people, Erlis and Gesine Miller are related to David and live in Walthamstowe, a residential area of the city, and they invited us to stay at their house. David had met them a few times, but hadn’t seem them in quite a while. We got an email from them the day before we were supposed to arrive giving us directions and the location of a hidden key and inviting us to make ourselves at home. So, we did.

After enjoying the Millers’ hospitality that evening, we got to bed a bit late after having a great conversation with both of them. They have each had so many experiences from working in the Middle East to camping in an Italian vineyard. They kept us entertained with amazing stories and interesting conversation through our entire stay.

The next day after a full, delicious breakfast with yogurt, muesli, toast, and all the fixings we took the tube downtown to get our applications for Kazakh visas sorted out—we’re planning on visiting Kazakhstan around the beginning of August. Since the consulate doesn’t accept visas on Wednesday so we just filled out all our paperwork and got everything in order. Then we went down to the river and ate lunch at Whitehall park just off the river. What happened then was the highlight of my London experience. We were walking past Westminster Palace (home of the Houses of Parlaiment) where we noticed people walking off the street into the palace. I have always had an interest in parliamentary procedure (a nerdy confession: once in a while while at home I watch The Ohio Channel by Ohio Public broadcasting which broadcasts sessions of Ohio’s congress). Anyway, all that to say that I was thrilled to discover that anyone—even foreigners—can observe parliament while it is in session. Which it was!

Dan and David weren’t thrilled about the idea but Matt was interested in getting some pictures from the inside of the palace, so we decided to see what we could see. Past the expected security check, the palace was exceedingly impressive. The welcome hall was the former hall of St. Steven’s Chapel (although pretty much everything was lost back in 1834 in a fire, still pretty old) and was surrounded by the newer parliamentary buildings.

Matt and I visited the house of Commons—decorated in green—where the elected ministers of parliament (MPs) were discussing the rather dry topic of possibly implementing price limit (defined quarterly or bi-yearly) on crude oil imports. After a bit of discussion, the matter was decided by division. The ministers file into two rooms at either corner of the hall where they are counted for the votes, one room being Nay and the other Aye. The oil proposal was rejected as was the next proposal: that gasoline tax rates be set lower for rural areas of the country.

Matt went off to explore the rest of the city, but I went on to the House of Lords—decorated all in red and with a huge golden throne and dais at one end where the queen sits when she attends (rarely). The Lords (some landed, some not) were discussing the possibility of financing an airport on the island of St. Helena, a remote island off the coast of Africa, where it takes 4 days on a boat to access the mainland. Unfortunately, I had to leave before the issue was decided so that I could get back and help make supper (delicious hamburgers). We spent the evening talking to Erlis and Gesine again about our experiences that day and their work.

Thursday I woke up around 7:15 and headed downtown to the Kazakh consulate to put in the applications for David, Matt, and my visas. I spent the morning waiting in line then, after succeeding in my task, headed to the river to meet up with the other guys for lunch (sandwiches) in Whitehall park again. After the sandwiches, Matt and I headed to the Apple store he had found earlier so that I could see about getting my computer fixed (I had been having some trouble with the MagSafe powerport, quite annoying). That took most of the afternoon, but they took it and told me they would fix it for free! Hooray!

I walked about town a bit after that then headed back to the Millers’ house where we enjoyed having a house and getting our clothes washed and things in order. That evening was another delectable meal with the Millers and we stayed up late into the evening talking. The next day, breakfast was again delicious and, fully satiated, we all set out together to walk the Golden Triangle (after picking up our Kazakh visas (Approved!) and visiting Hyde park, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Albert Memorial). Buckingham palace, the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square, and Westminster Abby were quite impressive and well worth seeing, but better described in pictures.

That afternoon I got some cables for my camera and went back to the Millers’ a bit early to make some calls back home and send some emails about our final insurance paperwork for the UK (It all worked out quite well and we were pleased to discover that if we were to pull a semi trailer behind our Passat it too would be covered by our insurance… I’m tempted to try).

The evening was spent out on the town seeing the lights of the city over the river. Westminster Palace, the Tower of London, and the Tower Bridge were well worth the time. We slept well that night and, after enjoying a hearty breakfast, fetching my computer, and devouring a great lunch, we left London on our way to Dover.

Daniel Z

Edinburgh, Jewel of the North

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Morning dawned cloudy after our unexpected nocturnal adventures (ie losing ourselves in the wonders of Edinburgh during construction season). It has been raining off and on for almost a week now and to tell the truth we’re all getting a bit tired of it. Another thing we’re getting a bit tired of is having Harvest Morn bars for breakfast each morning. Although these are delicious and highly nutritious, a full week of them begins grate on the senses. That’s why we decided to enjoy a full breakfast of free-range eggs, thick-cut toast, and real scottish bacon. It was spectacular. A breakfast which will stand out in legend for ages to come.

After fully enjoying the cooking and eating of our spectacular morning meal, we set off for a full day of exploration in the capital of the Scottish world, Edinburgh. A sprawling city built between several hills near the end of the Firth of Forth, Edinburgh has become a mecca for anyone seeking the “Scottish Experience.” Lining the steeply downhill Golden Mile from the ancient and stately Edinburgh Castle to the impressive and glamorous Holyrood Palace is a plethora of shops and tourist traps. The Scottish Whiskey Experience, Thistle Do Nicely, and The Edinburgh Woolen Mill share the road with two magnificent cathedrals and dozens of 18th and 19th century buildings.

Throughout the entire city, history meshes with kitsch in an amalgam of historic beauty and garish modernity. The finest example of this dichotomy was seen near the bottom end of the Golden Mile where ancient Holyrood Palace shares an intersection with the new Scottish parliament building. Built within the past decade to house the Scottish Parliament–a body devolved from the UK Parliament in 1997–the parliament building on the outside is made of shaped steel, wood and glass in a way which calls to mind an image of a bamboo forest. In any modern city (eg Chicago, Columbus, even Belfast) it would have been quite an interesting and beautiful building, but as the seat of power for the leadership of the rugged, rocky and natural nation of Scotland and when contrasted with the ancient stone cathedrals, palaces and castles surrounding it, it ends up looking simply tacky. But enough about architecture and back to exploration.

I’m not sure exactly what David, Dan and Matt did during the afternoon, but I made my way out of town in the car with our clothes only about half of which had dried overnight and used one of the first dry days since our arrival in Scotland to hang our clothes out to finish drying. I drove about 20 minutes out of Edinburgh and pulled off the highway doing a bit of exploring until I found a driveway leading to the entryway of a field. There tied up a line from the car to a fencepost and strung our laundry up to dry. It took about 2 hours even in the bright sun and constant wind, but I managed to get some reading done–I’ve been reading Frank Herbert’s Dune after finishing Starship Titanic earlier in the trip–and took a nap. It was a very nice day and no one bothered me until just as I was taking the laundry down a fellow drove up and asked if I needed any help and when I said no he asked if I had been dumping trash there–apparently a problem in the area–I told him I had just been drying my laundry and he said “Right. No problem. Cheers!” and drove off. We’ve been quite amazed by the friendliness of pretty much every single person we’ve encountered here (except for one rather curt waitress in Galway).

After my leisurely afternoon, I rejoined the guys at our appointed meeting spot in Edinburgh (the Burger King with free WiFi). Soon we were on our way (after a dash to get back to the parking lot before our time expired and we got charged €4.50). We drove steadily northwest toward Loch Ness and the Lake District of Scotland–not to be confused with the Lake District of England–and one of my ancestral homelands.

We spent the night by a stream just a few miles outside of Inverness at the tip of Loch Ness and were not attacked by monsters of any sort.

Daniel Z

Religion and The West

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Our first Sunday in Ireland dawned predicatively cloudy. The night had been a bit hard, having spent a tense and hectic half hour in the in the driving rain and gathering dark staking down our tarps to keep our belongings dry. It was with smiling, if tired faces, then, that we greeted the calls of “It’s dry!” that morning. It was about 9 in the morning and the sun was up, although low in the sky and a dry wind was blowing. We laid out the tent and tent fly that hadn’t quite dried from the night before.(leaving at 8 before the sun came out and the dew dried meant we hadn’t had time to air them out.). We also laid out the precious tarps which had so successfully kept the rain off of our bags the night before.

After a half hour or so, we left our little spot in the field for the second time and headed to Dublin.
In Dublin, we parked about a block from St Patrick’s Cathedral and walked to church, feeling a bit bedraggled without a shower, but in our best clothes.

The cathedral is magnificent. During the week the main chapel is home to a gift shop and costs several euro to enter (I always think of Jesus ejecting the moneychangers and others profiting from God’s temple when I see gift shops and admission fees at these cathedrals). On Sundays, however, mass is held at 8:30 and Eucharist sung at 11:15 and admission is free. We didn’t feel like waking up early and wet two days in a row (plus most of us aren’t big fans of waking up early in the morning) so we aimed for the 11:15 service.

A group called the City of London Chamber Choir were the guest choir and sang beautifully, although, as in most cathedrals, the words were lost in the nooks and crannies of the decorated ceilings and walls. The cathedral is Anglican now, although I’m not sure it has been always. St. Patrick is, of course, the patron saint of Ireland and his name and face are widespread throughout the country. Schools, streets, villages, restaurants, hotels, tour companies, breweries and almost every other possible variety of institution bear his name. There are a lot of people who get a lot of acclaim who don’t really deserve it, but Patrick is one who almost certainly does. There are a lot of legends about his life–many of them probably true, for example his origins in Roman Britain or his relationship with the church, which is fairly well documented. Other stories are less documented. For example, he is said to have banished all snakes from Ireland by praying on a mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. It is certainly possible that a man in tune with God’s will could ask for God to perform a miracle as spectacular as banishing snakes from an entire nation.

Back in the church, the service celebrated the 4th Sunday of Easter and was filled with some beautiful spring music and a sermon exhorting the members of the congregation to be shepherds of our brothers and sisters and not sit back and assume that the pastor (shepherd) of the congregation will pick up your slack. The congregation was made up of a number of people who seemed as though they might be Dublin-area regulars and probably about 30 or 40 people who looked like tourists. All in all, attendance was probably at about 150. Not bad for secular Europe, although Ireland is one of the most religious nation in Europe.
It was a sombre service, but seemed filled with a groundswell of celebration of Christ’s resurrection. One of the morning’s hymns, written by John Crum and sung to a traditional French melody, seemed to fit well.

Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again,
Like wheat that springeth green.

I left in a good mood, feeling reminded of what a great, international God we serve.
That afternoon we headed to The West, straight across the country. It only took about 3 and ½ hours to cross the entire nation! Along the way, we were thrilled at the the sights of the Irish countryside, damp as they were. Matt also took his first turn driving once we were outside of Dublin, and did quite well. One of the phrases we’ve taken to using here is “Driving like a European” since it seems that in the two European nations we’ve visited on this trip so far, driving in a crazy manner seems rather mundane over here. Matt learned to drive like a European.
Eventually we made it safe and sound to Limerick in The West and headed up the coast. That evening we spent at the beautiful Cliffs of Moher, one of the 7 Wonders of the Natural World (As a sidebar, who comes up with these wonders? I mean… can I just declare myself one of the 7 Wonders of the Human World? Not that I want to. Just asking.)

Pictures will do a better job of describing the cliffs, but they rise several hundred feet from the frigid and tumultuous North Atlantic below. We were all awed by how dramatic a form Creation can take, more wonderful than the most spectacular of man’s buildings. In other words, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water is nothing compared with God’s Cliffs of Moher (just to clarify, I’m not dissing Wright, I really like his work!)
We left the cliffs a bit late–we had tried to see the sunset, but in typical Irish fashion, it was cloudy–and drove north through Doolin and Galway. Tomorrow we’re going to see the Giant’s Causeway built by the infamous giant, Finn MacCool himself. We’ll finish the day in Belfast where we’ll catch the 3:20 ferry to Stranrear, Scotland.

Daniel Z