Reformation & Recreation in Germany: Wittenburg to Karls Strawberry Farm

Call me crazy, if you will, but I am itching to take this rental BMW down the autobahn, and since Berlin is so close I am going to drive down there for a few days. It’s about 600 km to Berlin, but I am sure that you have heard of the autobahn… know….the highways without speed limits! I am going to test this out with my nice sporty BMW. Their claim to fame is that the BMW is the ultimate driving machine, right? Well, we shall see! I think I can make it there in 5 hours… lovely friend lives in Berlin with her family so I have a really great reason to head out there.

I still don’t know how many speeding tickets I got on my way from Copenhagen to Esbjerg, since I didn’t know what the actual speed limit was on the highway. I suppose I should have done my research before taking off, but I noticed all the cars passing me on the highway, and so I just put the pedal to the metal. My friend from Berlin drove to Esbjerg to hang out with us over the last few days, and on her way over she didn’t realize that there are actual speed limits in Denmark. It will be interesting to see if she gets any tickets.

Anyway, when we leave I am following her. We drive a nice safe speed into Germany. We stop to fill up with gas at the first station in Germany. I have to tell you that I do not get a very good reception in this country. The woman at the pump ahead of me decides to go into the store without moving her car. I can’t tank until she comes back, and when she does she intentionally begins to wash her windows as slowly as possible to annoy me. After a while I take out my iPhone and start taking pictures of her. When she sees that she becomes very angry and walks over to my car, opens the door and starts yelling at me, and telling me that I should go into another lane, which was essentially not possible. Oh well, one rude person, I guess. Better not let that taint my experience in Germany.

And so it is that when we take off on the autobahn my friend who I am following is on the fast train. Holy smokes! We are reaching speeds of up to 180 km/h! Now that’s well over 100 mph! Wowza!

To pass the time while we are driving, a question is posed by one of the kids if you would rather live in the past or the future if you had to choose between the two, given that you would have the same lifespan of 80 years. My friend’s daughter and Bjorn are adamant that they would like to go to the future, since the past was so dangerous and scary. Annika and I, on the other hand, feel like we would rather go to the past because the future is too scary. Who knows what evil lurks in the days ahead, and what incurable diseases. I think that by far the future can be scarier than the past.

We do make it safely to Berlin in the end despite our neck breaking speeds, although not in record time due to a lunch break and stop to tank up. Let’s see if I can pull it off on the way back to Esbjerg, but for now we have lots to see and do.

When we arrive in Berlin I score by finding a fantastic parking spot on the street just outside my friend’s apartment. Our friends live right in the center of Berlin in a beautiful neighborhood, that reminds me of Fifth Avenue in New York City. Well, honestly I don’t know if I have ever really been at Fifth Avenue, but the shops on the next street over have names like Cartier, and Hugo Boss, and so on….I don’t think I have to be too nervous about my underinsured rental vehicle parked here, I suppose.

My friend and her husband are most welcoming. It is such an awesome feeling to feel so welcome in this place so far away from home. The apartment is on the top floor with spacious rooms and plenty of windows for natural light. It is really nice, to say the least, and is decorated in a very nice modern style. I will say, however, that the downstairs neighbor did come to complain about the sound of footsteps that woke him up at 11:30 pm. I suppose, my kids are used to walking on hard concrete floors, and definitely aren’t ballerinas, so I guess I don’t blame him.

The following morning we are on our way to the town of Wittenburg, which was made famous by Martin Luther. The last time I was here was 16 years ago when we did our motorhome tour of Europe. We had just so happened to be passing by on the freeway and saw signs for a Martin Luther festival. We figured we would go swing by, however, it was really quite disappointing. The town was full of people drinking alcohol from huge vats, and there must have been ten rock bands positioned at various places along the plaza playing American rock and roll music. It was just one ginormous raucous party!

This time there is no festival ongoing. It is a quiet day for tourism. As you may already know, Wittenburg is the town in which Luther preached and posted his 95 point thesis on the door of the Catholic Church to dispute church teachings. Now, I don’t mean any disrepect to any of my Catholic friends, but I do have to marvel at the amazing amount of influence that his works had on history, and on me personally. His translation of the bible allowed for the masses to increase their knowledge, and the Lutheran Church teachings that resulted in the reformation of the Catholic Church spread up to the Nordic countries in particular. Perhaps to some it is not a reformation, but more like a heresy, but I digress. Finland and Sweden, for instance, both have the Lutheran church as the official state religion.

The one problem that we encounter is that the castle church where Luther posted his thesis is closed due to renovations. Apparently in 2017 they will be celebrating the 500th year since this reformation occurred. Unfortunately we don’t get to go inside this church. They have been renovating this town in preparation for the 500 year celebration for a couple years already, and it seems like maybe they are taking away some of the charm of the old buildings.

Ice cream break…..only one euro each in a tourist place….

We venture off the main drag a bit and end up in this print shop with an old printing press. Bjorn asks the man in the shop to explain how the press works. The man looks at him, shakes his head and says that since we are not speaking German he will not tell us. Then he goes this way and that, hums a little tune, goes this way and that, laughs a bit to himself…..hums again….shuffles some papers….. ¬†We just look at each other. This guy is very strange. Just as we are about to leave he starts to explain to us about how Luther used the printing press to print pamphlets with picture drawings depicting bible stories along with the text translated into German. Since the people often knew some of the texts off by heart they were able to learn how to read when they associated the pictures with the text written below.

Then he gives each of the kids a chance to make an ink impression on a piece of paper for free. The kids loved this hands on printing press! But boy is this guy strange… I am leaving I tell him that I can speak German…..ich liebe dich (I love you), which I immediately regret, because this guy is truly super strange…..oh well…..maybe he thinks I am strange.

After this we venture over to the Melanchton House. This museum is interesting especially for Annika, because in each room there is a display that is presented from the viewpoint of his young daughter. In the first room they have a big chest with an outfit that he would have worn in the day. Annika tries it on. It has so many layers!

We visit the college where so many scholars have made a difference on the course of the history.

This is St. Mary’s church in the background where Luther preached.

Lastly we visit the Luther House, which is where he lived and trained many students.

It is actually pretty incredible to think about how many books are housed here. The literary treasures are amazing, including the original translation of the bible.

To finish out our visit to Wittenburg we stop at a kebab shop. For 7 euros I order two huge kebab sandwiches, which we split four ways. What a deal, and it is delicious!

My hostess notifies me that our next destination is closing in 2 hours, and the trip there takes 1 hour. Thank goodness for the autobahn! We make it there with enough time to enjoy this hilarious place, which I will call a strawberry farm. That is essentially what it is. They actually do sell strawberries here. I know, because I bought some. But they also sell all things strawberry, such as jams and jellies and baked goods and juice and nectar and pies……and all kinds of gidgets and gadgets with images of strawberries on them, or of a strawberry theme of one sort or another. They also have a restaurant and bakery and a hamburger joint……but the best of all?

Oh my gosh! This is a kids paradise and it’s all free! There’s pedal tractors, and huge swings, and trains, and crazy slides, and petting zoos, and trampolines, and bubble machines, and discombobulated bikes, and sand boxes complete with toys, and mazes……yep…’s all free! And everything is so unbelievably cute! I find myself wondering if this would work in the U.S. Or would there be too much of a problem with liability? Who knows! Some of these slides are really super steep. One of them even has a counter that tells you how many seconds it takes you to get down, and the record for the day is posted. Apparently the person who wins the record of the day can claim a prize of some sort! Which reminds me of one Finnish friend of ours……one time he had been at a water park and wanted to go down a slide really fast, so he went into the bathroom and rubbed soap on himself to make himself more slippery…..yeah, there was suds everywhere…..

I really mean it. How could you not have fun here? Every aged kid can have a blast! And parents can relive their childhood dreams. You know how it was for us…..we never had these kinds of fancy places. We just played with a piece of string that we wrapped around our fingers, or played marbles, or jump rope, or drank water from a garden hose, or made a long rope out of elastic bands……gulp, I guess I am dating myself here a bit! Seriously, though, check this out!

Bummer, the place is closing. We head back into Berlin. My hostess and I make our way over to the grocery store. I am absolutely amazed! Look at the haul she made with just 50 euros! Seriously! There’s milk and yogurt and cheese and butter and ham and toilet paper and bread and juice and cream cheese and……compare that to what I got in Denmark for the same amount of money…….and in the U.S. you would probably spend way more, too. I am impressed.

Tonight we tell the kids to tiptoe about like ballerinas as not to wake up the downstairs neighbor. Ashlee texts me from Esbjerg. She just heard back from a middle school teacher. The teacher has agreed to allow the kids to come spend a day in her classroom. That means we will have just one more day in Berlin, so tomorrow is going to be super busy…..I better get some shut eye! Last night my friend and I had chit chatted until 3 a.m. Sleep comes easy tonight.