Monday, 25 May 2009

Rome comes to Trier

Sunday the 24th of May

The faithful gather for outside the Roman Cathedral, dating from the fourth century, in Trier.

(c) Anli Serfontein, 2009

Bishop Stephan Ackermann, Germany's newest and youngest bishop, exists his official residence to go to the Cathedral for the official ceremony.

(c) Anli Serfontein, 2009

Looking for a shady place to sit down in Trier on a hot Sunday, the church bells started peeling at full volume from all directions. Trier has more churches on a square kilometre than any place I know, but today was different: The new bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann was being inducted.

And that is when we ran into a procession of Roman Catholic priests and bishops.

In the hot-humid early summer air ancient traditions mixed with modern times. The procession was headed by a priest carrying a huge old Bible. All the great religions of the world are based on scriptures and this symbolised 2,000 years of Christian tradition. We are just small cogs in the wheel of time.

Trier is not only Germany's oldest town founded in 17 BC by the Romans, but it is also Germany's oldest Catholic Diocese. Emperor Constantine allowed Christianity in Trier in about the fourth century and started to build the Cathedral that still today towers over the square. All the bishops of Trier are buried here.

As the procession came to a halt in front of the official residence of the bishop of Trier, across from the Kesselstatt wine café, Ackermann emerged to be greeted by dignatories. They then descended the steps so that Germany's youngest bishop could join his fellow German bishops and proceed to the Cathedral for the official ceremony.

He briefly hugged his predecessor the charismatic Reinhold Marx, now Archbishop of Munich and Freissing who looked quite jolly in the heat, laughing and joking while everyone else looked pretty solemn.

Rome has come to Trier once more, like it has done for nearly 16 centuries. The procession proceeded to the Cathedral.

A short while later sitting in the shade of those old trees at Kesselstatt, finally drinking a colddrink against the sweltering heat, Trier's tousseld-hair troubadour, Wolthär or better known as Walter Liederschmitt emerged and came to a halt under the trees across from the bishop's residence. An old hippie in the classical sense, he had some people in tow with concertina's and they started to belt out protest chansons.

A Sunday in Trier!

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Hiking Into a Stupor

„Basteln, Wandern and Putzen” is the name of the second edition of my book in Germany. The name comes from a chapter in my book listing the things I negatively associate with living in Germany.

"She pokes fun at her own inability to spotlessly clean her house, make anything with her hands or go on compulsory but torturous hikes - all prerequisites to living in the country", the publicity blurb said.

With some wonderfully warm days here in Trier, the wandern (hiking) season is truly upon us. With May and June full of public holidays, the season is traditionally opened on May 1, when families go on loooong hiking outings with friends. It is definitely a group activity, which involves a picnic or a meal somewhere. As I wrote in my book I am completely allergic to this type of activity.

As I sat on my stoep with my laptop last Friday, Labour Day, trying to overcome my writer’s block and write in some wonderful spring weather: group after hiking group went past our gate as the afternoon dragged on. Our problem is that just beyond our house is a wine farm, vineyards and some woods with wonderful hiking paths - and on public holidays the traffic increase considerably.

If these groups, by late afternoon already fairly pickled, would just have gone past quietly, I could maybe have worked in peace. But no - they were fairly noisy and not only that, many felt they had to comment on me sitting there trying to write.

"Mommy why is that lady sitting outside at her laptop”, Mommy would stop and try and peer through our shrubs, to get a better view of me, so she could answer her brat’s question. While staring she would come up with some stupid answer, totally distracting me.

Or people would stop and comment on my wonderful spring garden of tulips and daffodils which because of the sudden heat have now dried and died. “One should cut these dead flowers, otherwise they do not bloom next year,” one know-it-all told her group. By now I felt like storming to the gate, wagging my finger at them and saying: “No, they bloom every year and more beautiful than the year before, and guess what: I do nothing, but just let nature take its course!!!”

Worst of all are still the male chauvinists already VERY, very pickled from all the schnapps supplies in their rucksacks, laughing out loud at someone so stupid: Just imagine writing on what should be one’s day off!!

Sadly for me this was just a practise run for Ascension Day, also Father’s Day in Germany. It involves men-only hiking groups, who by late afternoon would walk past our gate, pissed out of their minds and commenting rudely on whatever takes their fancy.

Luckily modern fathers, who increasingly do take care of their off-springs, do not participate in such folly – Father's Day male-only hikes are strictly an activity for male dinosaurs.