Class Trip ‘The German Hercules’: Martin Luther and Germany

Luther 2017 1.jpgBlog written by Ffion Bailey

Our intrepid historical adventurers set off from St Andrews bright and early on a fine Thursday morning for a few days of Lutheran fun, neither ‘celebrating’ the ‘jubilee’ of the beginning of the Reformation in 1517, nor embarking on a pilgrimage to buy Lutheran relics (or Playmobil figurines), but commencing an exploration of the places that were key to Luther’s Reformation.

Our journey began with a walking tour of the Wartburg, where Luther hid under the protection of Frederick the Wise after the Diet of Worms. Although disappointed by the lack of donkeys at the castle, which welcomed Luther in his day, buses were an adequate substitute for our enthusiastic bunch to reach their destination. Despite feeling rather worse for wear after tasting some German beer(s) the previous night, the brightly reconstructed nineteenth-century rooms, castle views and interesting gift shop souvenirs rallied the group. Johann Sebastian Bach’s Eisenach house offered further entertainment later in the day, where highlights included the hanging pods designed for listening to some of the composer’s greatest hits, and one class members’ debut as a pedal pusher in a musical demonstration.

Our study and research continued after hours, as the Leipzig crew sampled the local nightlife with traditional German beers and food, as well as finding a Scottish bar to remind us of home, thus successfully emulating Luther’s alcohol-laden table talks.

Luther 2017 2.jpgOur adventures brought us next to Wittenberg, a town at the heart of the Lutheran Reformation, although seriously lacking in much hustle or bustle today. Must-see sights included the brand new and well-equipped train station which welcomed us and set high hopes for our day in Luther’s university town. We also visited the famous doors of Castle Church, redesigned in the nineteenth century, where Luther allegedly nailed his 95 Theses, the beautiful Cranach the Elder Wittenberg Altarpiece, and of course Luther’s house. From receiving a stern and disapproving look from a member of staff when we held a Luther’s works story time in the Luther Room, to learning all about the animals the family kept at their home, and reading the many interesting pamphlets from Luther’s day in the printing room – hours of fun were had at the Luther House. This was undoubtedly the best part of everyone’s trip, with two members of the class particularly taking their time to soak up all the facts and learn about each display in minute detail, to everyone else’s delight…

The fun continued in Berlin, where some of us attended a number of church services to truly immerse ourselves in Lutheran theology, and others explored art galleries, set off sightseeing and getting lost around the Brandenburg Gate, and found the best place for breakfast. However, our planned itinerary later that day was cruelly cancelled due to the distraction and disruption of striking staff at all Berlin airports, which left everyone extremely disappointed to miss another museum visit. The solution of course was clear and we found a quaint bar to help drown our travel-dispute-related sorrows. Online comments stated that the barman was Mephistopheles himself, and that the basement bar was a parallel universe, although these claims can be neither confirmed nor denied.

Luther 2017 4.jpgGetting back to the UK became our next class mission. Collectively, we missed seven flights, had a further six cancelled, caught trains from Berlin to Hamburg, Vienna and Amsterdam, and even booked non-refundable hotel rooms mistakenly for seven months in advance in the Dutch capital – if anyone would like to buy these rooms from us please get in touch. With our numbers dwindling and seemingly re-enacting ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’, or perhaps Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ (minus the murder element and basically unlike the plot at all) the three remaining adventurers still stuck in Berlin desperately tried to return to St Andrews. Punished with flight delays and the Forth Road Bridge closure, we finally returned to The Bubble after twenty-eight hours of travel, where we will continue to study Luther from a safe distance. Dispersed across Europe, all members of the infamous 2017 Luther field trip could now truly understand Luther’s difficulties traveling through Germany.

Our thanks go to Dr Heal for organising the trip, showing us the sights, and most importantly getting us home. Half the class having converted to Catholicism, and all being very reluctant to leave Scotland for the foreseeable future, this was all in all a very successful trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About standrewshistory
With over forty full time members of staff researching and teaching on European, American and Asian history from the dawn of the Middle Ages to the present day, the School of History at the University of St Andrews has one of the finest faculty and diverse teaching programmes of any School of History in the English speaking world. The School boasts expertise in Mediaeval and Modern History, from S cotland to Byzantium and the Americas to the Middle East and South Asia.Thematic interests include religious history, urban history, transnationalism, historiography and nationalism. The School of History prides itself on small group teaching and tutorials allowing for in depth study and supervision tailored to secure the best from each student. Cutting edge research combined with teaching excellence offer a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment for the study of History.

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