Day 6 – Wittenberg (30/4/23)

Good night’s kip in a comfortable bed and awoke – glory be! – to glorious sunshine, but a chilly wind.

The included excursion was a walking tour around the attractive town of Wittenberg, renowned for the teachings of Martin Luther and the Reformation.

In our case, this was led by a very knowledgeable lady named Christina.

Luther was born in 1483, the son of the owner of a copper mine. He had no particular religious leanings to start with, but he was caught in a bad electrical storm and prayed that he would be saved. This had a profound effect on him, and he decided to become a monk, much to his father’s dismay.

He moved to the monastery in Wittenberg in 1511, but began to become disillusioned with the many ways in which the Church was misleading and exploiting the people, taking advantage of their illiteracy and credulousness.

The system of “indulgences” angered him most. By making certain sacrifices, one could reduce your time in purgatory. He denounced this, quite rightly of course, as complete rubbish, and started to draft his own form of Christianity – Protestantism. He went through hell and back again, particularly with the Pope in Rome, but his ideas took hold remarkably quickly. He died in 1546, having seen the Reformation take place.

A few pictures of Wittenberg before we started the tour proper:

Wittenberg monastery, where Luther started his “career” as a monk
And again
Monastery courtyard

Christina took us on a tour of the Luther museum in the monastery.

The man himself
Fancy lectern
Pictures of the Ten Commandments, painted by a school of art that supported Lutheran views

The above picture is Katharina von Bora, Luther’s wife. One of Luther’s fundamental changes was to allow, even encourage, monks and nuns to marry. However, he himself didn’t follow his own guidance, until such time as everybody else had been married off and he and Katharina (who was a nun) were the only ones left. He wasn’t keen, but she persuaded him that it would be a great idea to get hitched. He reluctantly agreed, and after a period of some regret on his part, he grew to love her dearly. She was 15 years younger than he was, and they had four children. She must have been a real force of nature. A truly remarkable woman.

This part of the tour was very detailed, interesting but hard work at times. It was a relief to get outside and wander round this very pretty town of around 50,000 people, with Christina pointing out buildings of interest.

Original monastery door frame, with Christina struggling to do up her coat!
This was once a wood market, and this fountain has been here for five centuries
For all his fine ideas, Luther was violently antisemitic. This was the scene of a plaque apologising for the persecution of the Jews over the ages
Dome of the castle church
Renovated old courtyard
1990 picture showing how run down the courtyard had become under the East German regime
Closer view of the castle church
This is a replica of the church door to which Luther nailed his 95 theses in 1521, so starting the Reformation.

All fascinating stuff, but exhausting. It was nice to get back on the bus and have some lunch on the ship, which had moved further upstream.

After we were all on board, the ship sailed further upstream to Torgau. During this time, the captain of the ship gave a very entertaining presentation in broken English about himself, the basic engineering specialities of the ship (no propeller, but uses water jets just like a jetski to keep the ship’s draught small for a shallow river), how the ship was constructed, the nature of his job, what communication systems he used, information about the river (over 1,000 km long, rising in the Czech Republic and emptying into the North Sea near Hamburg) and various anecdotes to keep the audience amused. Good value.

Our irrepressible programme director, Alan Custovic (39, two kids, from Dubrovnik) took us on a really lovely walk around Torgau.

This is the place where World War 2 was officially declared over. The Russians and the other Allies had actually shaken hands at a small village about 3 km away, but the ceremony was held at Torgau three days later.

Trabant car
Very simple engine. Apparently you may have had to wait over 12 years to get hold of one back in East Germany!
The good ship Astrild
End of war memorial
Impressive staircase
Bear pit. Me neither.
This is the house where Katharina, Luther’s wife, died 6 years after him in 1552

Back to the ship for dinner, where we met Dorothy and Rodney from Southampton together with Larry and Jenny from Salem, Oregon. An entertaining and wide-ranging conversation ensued, assisted by vast quantities of wine.

Alan then hosted a music quiz up in the lounge. Extra points were on offer if one got up and sang, danced, etc. I needed no further invitation!

Huge fun, and we came second (I think). Anyway, we got a bottle of red wine out of it. I’ll take that any day of the week.

And so to bed. Tomorrow gets off to a leisurely start, thank God, and we dock in Meissen at around 12.30 p.m. Join us to see how that went.

5 responses to “Day 6 – Wittenberg (30/4/23)”

  1. Steve Walker avatar
    Steve Walker

    I see the Trabant was in its traditional position – stationary and with its bonnet up 😉

    1. Yep. No steam coming out, though! 🤣

  2. Fantastic journey. Look forward to more.

    1. Guaranteed, Angela. Thanks for your interest.

  3. What a nice way to end your fascinating day trip with vast quantities of wine sounds like the perfect day to me

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