Another Gill wrote this blog on her experiences on Day Three.
An early start for the pilgrimage this morning as we left at 8:30am for our visit to Eisenach, the western-most town in the former East Germany. Bill Clinton came here in 1998 as the first US President ever to visit East Germany and spoke of freedom and opportunity to the enraptured mass crowd. We learnt that the 1989 revolution when the border wall came down was actually spearheaded by Lutheran pastors – a wall built as an “anti-fascist protection mechanism” for East Germany. En route we passed Marburg, the place where Luther and Zwingli met to try and form one reformation movement, but without success. Their differences over the interpretation of the Eucharist (Christ’s actual presence in the bread and wine as opposed to the symbolic nature of bread and wine) proved unresolvable.
Soon we were crossing into the former East Germany and glimpsed the light tower and watch tower at the former border. Many of us felt a frisson of unreality as we passed into an area that had for so long remained inaccessible to so many.
After a speedy lunch we made our way to Wartburg Castle, begun in 1067 and located 660ft above Eisenach. Some of us clambered up the steep stairs and paths to the top; others, perhaps more sensibly, arrived by minibus and less out of breath! The views across the Thüringen landscape were stunning, albeit shrouded in cloud with occasional ferocious downpours.
Luther hid in Wartburg Castle after being declared an outlaw (literally outside the law) at the Diet of Worms. It was here that he translated the New Testament into German from the Greek – a task he completed in just 11 weeks. A remarkable achievement for a man who knew little Greek when he started. He took a further 12 years for him to translate the whole Bible into German. Today, 60% of Luther’s translation still feature in the German Luther Bible.
From Wartburg we returned to Eisenach, the place of Bach’s birth in 1685, his Baptism and where he lived for the first ten years of his life in the “Bach haus”, one of the oldest residential buildings in the town. Next door, the Bach Museum provides a wonderful opportunity to listen to his music and understand more of his life story. We were treated to a short recital of his music played on 200-300 year old instruments including organs, clavichord and harpsichord.
To conclude our day we enjoyed a short service in St George’s Church where, rather wonderfully, we came across a group of Norwegian Pastors and friends travelling on their own Luther tour!
Our band of weary but enthusiastic pilgrims then made their way to Erfurt to be greeted at the hotel by Rosemary Nutt from McCabe Pilgrimages – wonderful to see her.