Leseprobe Rubrik: Culture

The Freedom of a Christian

When Luther changed the world

Reformation Day was first celebrated in the former electorate of Saxony on 31 October 1617, marking the one-hundredth anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle Church. Although it is doubtful whether this event really occurred, the theses heralded the start of the Reformation.
When Reformation Day is commemorated again in Germany on 31 October 2017, it will be an official national holiday for the first time. Its celebration throughout Germany is not only a reminder of the historic significance of the Reformation far beyond the country’s borders, but also of its profound impact on society, which is still evident today.

The Protestant Church has been preparing for the anniversary with a “Reformation decade” that started in 2008. But what are the celebrations really about? The Reformation refers to an ecclesial revival movement between 1517 and 1648, which finally led to Western European Christendom splitting into different denominations.
The Reformation has its roots in the electorate of Saxony, the second-largest state of the German Empire at the time. Saxony’s former territory is today divided between the federal states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Brandenburg. Smaller regions belong to present-day Bavaria, the Czech Republic and Poland. Even the first Reformation Day was a political statement: The Reformation not only reflected the era, it was also exploited by some rulers in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, as the German non-national state was then called, to weaken the power of the emperor and the church.

The schism was not planned: Whatever their political objectives, the protagonists of this movement intended to call for a return to Christian values and the message of the Bible – the Latin term “reformatio” means “restoration”. But Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk and theology professor, could never have imagined when he wrote his 95 theses criticizing the church’s practice of selling indulgences in 1517 that, rather than bringing the Catholic Church back to its roots as he had hoped, he would create a new religious denomination. He first sent the theses to members of the clergy and the nobility for discussion. On 31 October 1517, he also allegedly nailed them to the door of Wittenberg Castle Church with loud strokes of a hammer. Although experts disagree as to whether this actually happened, many sources since suggest that he did indeed post his theses. It was not an act of protest, but complied with the statutes of the University of Wittenberg, which required students to publish their theses, or more specifically pin them to a Wittenberg church door, as a basis for defending them.

In his theses, Luther attacked the practices of the Catholic Church, in particular the selling of indulgences: People who had committed a sin could shorten their time spent in purgatory by purchasing what were known as “letters of indulgence”. While the peddling of indulgences was strictly regulated up to the 15th century, and only certain sins could be atoned for with money, this had changed by Luther’s day.

Under Pope Leo X, indulgences took on a far more important role, as he used them to collect money for building St. Peter’s Cathedral. German cardinals, who had purchased and accumulated church offices and had to buy the Pope’s favour, also upheld the system. The indulgence preacher Johann Tetzel from Pirna in Saxony became one of the best-known figures in connection with this practice. He was a Dominican friar from Leipzig, who travelled throughout the country promising deliverance from all sins with slogans like “As soon as coin in the coffer rings, the
soul from purgatory springs!”

As a preacher in Wittenberg, Luther found that ever fewer people were coming to confession and, instead of repenting, preferred to rely on letters of indulgence, which they bought in neighbouring towns. But Luther was convinced that God would only forgive people’s sins if they showed repentance. He believed that man depended solely on the grace of God for salvation, which he could only receive through faith. Shortly after being nailed to the church door, Luther’s theses were translated into German and spread like wildfire thanks to the printing press with movable type, which had recently been invented. Six months later, Luther defended his theses at the “Heidelberg Disputation”, an academic debate at Heidelberg University.(excerpt)

Dr. Susanne Kailitz, Wolfgang Gärtner

Photo: (c) Wolfgang Gärtner

Leseprobe Rubrik: Travel

A Holiday Unlike any Other

Microcosm in a village

Some 50 kilometres southeast of Dresden is Schmilka, the perfect place for a relaxing holiday. A river, a village with
brightly coloured, half-timbered buildings against a backdrop of trees, unusual rock formations… and silence, interrupted only by the rattling of a passing train. Precisely how a holiday should be.

Nestled against the great River Elbe, Schmilka is so small and unimposing that you could easily miss it. And many people do: Most residents of Dresden consider the village with just 80 inhabitants directly on the German-Czech border to be a provincial backwater. At most, they pass through it on their way to the Czech Republic or stop there for a break on a hike. A commuter train stops once an hour at the small, almost abandoned railway station with two platforms to bring day trippers back to the Saxon state capital in just 50 minutes.

Few people are aware that over the past two decades, Schmilka has experienced a minor miracle. Without drawing much attention to itself, it has been transformed from a dreary border village into a unique eco-tourism resort. And the metamorphosis is ongoing. If the village were an artist, you would probably say it was having an unbelievable comeback.

The man who has made all this possible cannot go anywhere in Schmilka on this sunny day in late summer without being recognised. Every few metres, Sven-Erik Hitzer stops for a quick chat with someone, asks how they are and tells them the latest news. Hitzer has made Schmilka his cause; the changes the village has undergone in recent years are the product of his efforts. Without him, the village would not be what it is today – a fact that is considered irrefutable here.
Shortly after the political turnaround of 1989/90 that culminated in the collapse of the German Democratic Republic and led to German Reunification, Hitzer bought an old mill and a dormitory belonging to a former holiday company in Schmilka, and turned them into a guesthouse. Even as a boy, he had been fascinated by Saxon Switzerland, the name given to the Elbe Sandstone Mountains on the German side, extending on both sides of the river Elbe southeast of Dresden as far as the Czech Republic. In this unique landscape with its bizarre rock formations and striking sandstone pillars, he felt free, the 53-year-old remembers today. “I came here by train from Cottbus to go climbing on weekends and holidays.”
Now, some 30 years later, the entrepreneur owns most of the village, which has changed beyond recognition: With a hotel, numerous smaller inns and guesthouses, a brewery and a traditional bakery, Schmilka today is a resort that Hitzer refers to and markets as an “Eco and National Park Retreat”.

Hitzer is fulfilling a dream of a lifetime for himself and for his guests, giving them the chance to enjoy a truly sustainable holiday. “I had enough of hotels with cheap plywood furniture reeking of formaldehyde and restaurants that served boring dishes full of flavour enhancers and e-numbers,” he recalls. “As I gradually tested other providers, I discovered I was dealing with a completely different kind of proprietor. I would never claim that people who value organic produce and sustainable production are more educated than those who do not. But I feel more at ease with folk who are interested in where their food comes from and how their furniture and the houses in which they live have been made.”
In the late 1990s, Hitzer consequently decided to go completely organic, even though everyone thought he was mad. His greatest concern was with his employees, as he recalls. “If they had seen this new approach as just one of the boss’s follies and hadn’t supported it, then it wouldn’t have been credible.” But the staff came around to their employer’s crazy idea. Today, when renovating the buildings, Hitzer makes sure everything is done according to ecological principles. And of course, “All the food and beverages for sale in the village, even the spices and liquor from the hotel’s cocktail bar, are 100 percent certified organic.”
The rooms in the hotels have walls with clay plaster and radiant wall heating, sandstone table tops, floors of soaped natural wood and metal-free beds with natural latex mattresses – ideal for people with allergies and those who attach importance to an environment free of harmful substances. Hitzer has invested a great deal in installing special shielded cabling and mains decouplers to ensure that all rooms are completely free of electrosmog. Many guests only realise what that means the next morning, says Hitzer with a grin, “When they notice that the entire electrical circuit in the room has been disabled via the mains decoupler, so they can’t recharge their phones overnight, or only in the bathroom.” It goes without saying that his hotels do not have Wi-Fi either.
But despite all this, Hitzer is not a missionary. Yes, he wants to know what is in his food, but he also wants to enjoy it, and that includes meat and other animal products. “I want to know where they come from and how they have been made.” He cannot say for sure whether he sleeps better in the electrosmog-free rooms, he says, “but we have many guests who come to us for exactly that reason.” (excerpt)

Dr. Susanne Kailitz

Photo: (c)
Bio und Nationalpark Refugium Schmilka


Leseprobe Rubrik: Health

A Symphony of Wellbeing

Royal compositions of pleasure

Hidden behind a curtain of densely wooded mountains in the verdant southern Vogtland district, at the heart of a European region between Bavaria, Bohemia and Saxony known for its health spas, is the resort town of Bad Elster. Not until you enter the town proper does the White Elster River valley open up and the lush greenery give way to views of the historic Royal Saxon State Spa of Bad Elster. But this charming resort does not divulge all of its secrets at once; it leaves some to be discovered.

The countless mineral and mud springs in and around Bad Elster have been known for their health benefits since the 17th century, though for many years they only served the local population. In 1848, King Frederick Augustus II of Saxony (1836-1854) granted the town the status of a Royal Saxon State Spa and established a mud spa, one of Germany’s first. Elster thrived in the founding years of the German Empire under the regency of King Albert of Saxony (1873-1902). In 1875, it was designated a spa town and renamed Bad Elster.

With ten mineral springs, beneficial natural mud reserves and the recently opened salt water spa, Bad Elster is a popular health resort that boasts a wealth of medical expertise in the field of spa therapy. Visitors can enjoy a wide range of health treatments at Albert Baths – a state-of-the-art therapy and spa centre – and Bad Elster Salt Water Hot Spring and Sauna World, which opened in September 2015. Here, visitors can enjoy the experience of floating in the water with its high salt content and relax throughout the two-storey spa complex. The spa is fed from its own salt water spring in the Elstertal Valley. Drilling operations in 2009 unearthed this natural resource, which had slumbered below the surface for millions of years, shielded from all environmental influences. Located 1,200 metres underground, the mineralised water has an unusually high percentage of sodium sulphate and chloride, making it unique in both its composition and concentration. In scientific terms it is referred to as a highly saturated sodium sulphate spring. With its salt content of 22 percent, the spring water is extracted at a temperature of 42 degrees Celsius and fed in diluted form to three pools, each of which has a different salinity. The high percentage of salt gives the water a higher density, meaning that guests do not sink, but literally float. This relaxing experience has a stabilising and harmonious effect on the vegetative nervous system, loosens the muscles and relieves the joints.

The royal grounds in Bad Elster, formerly the king’s summer residence, were a gathering place for high society in Europe in the early 20th century. The elegant, cosmopolitan flair of the architecture from this period is still very much alive today in the ensemble of buildings that have been skilfully restored, and in the romantic parks with their charming pathways. Standing – one could even say “residing” – at the heart of town are the Albert Baths, constructed in 1908 in the art nouveau style, and the famous King Albert Theatre from 1913/14, one of the most magnificent German court theatres ever built. Around them, the Saxon Baths Museum and KunstWandelhalle art museum with the Moritzquelle mineral spring are arranged along the festival mile. Marienquelle, a natural wellspring housed in a beautiful templelike structure, is particularly striking. The palatial Royal Convalescence House built in 1888-1890 in the neo-Renaissance style and three music pavilions are also nearby. The historic spa park, which recently celebrated its 140th anniversary, has lost none of its charm. It is known far and wide for its colourful blaze of rhododendrons that blossom in early summer from May to June. The park with its pathways generously incorporates this architecturally impressive ensemble of royal buildings. Guests can enjoy a leisurely stroll from historic Albert Park through the spa park to Paul-Schindel Park. One popular destination is Louisa Pond, where rowing boats can be hired. Bad Elster’s Nature Theatre, built in 1911 and the oldest of its kind in Saxony, can be found in Waldpark, a particularly refreshing place in summer. Between May and September, the theatre offers a broad programme of events, including opera, operetta, concerts, cinema and folklore. (excerpt)

Carsten Schulz-Nötzold, decorum Kommunikation

Photo: (c) Sächsische Staatsbäder GmbH/Igor Pastierovic

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