Kehl, Germany – visit to Strasbourg, France
The Tower of Babel, the Parting of the Red Sea, The Last Supper, Pentecost – these are a few important markers in the history of Christianity and today we were reminded of them, among others – surprisingly, in a public space. Not in a chapel or church or cathedral, but in a small garden tucked into a 60 hectare park, a joint effort made in 2004 between two cities; Kehl in Germany and across the Rhein, Strasbourg in France. Large sweeping lawns on either side of the river are ribboned with pedestrian and bicycle paths, which pass sculptures, art work, waterfalls, climbing structures and formal gardens, one of which was a Biblical Garden. Each “station” of the garden had a sculpture with inscription in German and French, which was surrounded by appropriate plants – grapevines and wheat for the Last Supper, more grapes, an olive tree and beehive for The Promised Land. It was a beautiful and thoughtful display / memorial / historical story and made me think of God’s people retelling the stories over and over, declaring His faithfulness to their children and each successive generation so that none would forget. We talked our way through the garden, linking ourselves with this living story.
Later in the day we would see Strasbourg Cathedral, a mighty monument of grandeur. Intricate carvings completely decorating the exterior declare work-done-as-worship, devotion to something, Someone, greater than the artists themselves. The sheer amount of time construction took (from the 12th century to 1439, when it became the world’s tallest building) is testament to people having a view of life that was larger than their own individual temporal one.
Around the cathedral are many old and beautiful buildings, and again we connected with our faith story as we contemplated Martin Bucer (who brought Martin Luther’s teachings to the city) and Erasmus and John Calvin walking these very cobbled streets. Did they ever look up at this building?
Or these ones?
In a nearby square in the middle of town is another statue, another declaration of past milestones.
(Perhaps more importantly to our little girls, right next to it is a 109 year old carousel – although something tells me the motorbike on it is a more recent addition).
Anyway, the statue….from Confucius to Mozart, Wilberforce to Washington, Goethe to Gutenberg, their contributions to society are celebrated. Yes, Strasbourg is the birthplace of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press, an invention that has significantly impacted history in general and our book-loving family in particular. Six hundred years later we are privileged to live with the blessing of the printed word, to live in a literate society. As the reality of a year largely without books is sinking in (somewhat painfully even for our lad who would once have preferred a ball over a book), we give thanks for Gutenberg and remember our Lao friends with next to no reading material at all – and they don’t have the hope of books when they “get home”. We connect with the past and wonder how we can contribute to a more blessed future for someone else.
Faith in action.
By the way, there was a seriously cool sweets shop too. It smelt divine. But at NZ$80 a kilo for chocolates, we contented ourselves with the complimentary bikkie. They tasted as good as they smelt!
Distance WALKED: 14km
plus a tram and bus ride “home” again