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Cullman, Alabama, about fifty miles north of here, was founded by Germans. A brief history: 

Cullman was founded by Col. Johann Gottfried Cullmann, a German refugee from Frankweiler (which was then Bavaria) who came to America in 1866. While working at a bookstore in Cincinnati, Ohio, he began formulating ideas of a special colony of working people – specifically a place for immigrants from countries such as his native Germany. He read about the vast unsettled lands in the South, and bought passage on a boat to Florence, Alabama. There he met with Governor Patton and presented his idea. The Governor furnished men and horses for him to explore available lands in North Alabama.

He finally met with Lewis Fink, the land agent for the great South-North Railroad (later the L&N), which had just built a line through the wilderness from Decatur to Montgomery, After a careful survey, he contracted with the railroad for 349,000 acres with the stipulation that Col. Cullmann would pay for all advertising of the land and other expenses incurred in bringing the desired immigrants to the area. Col. Cullmann found the area to be perfect for his dream colony.

Cullmann then went back north and began to advertise for colonists. In April of 1873, the first five families came by train to the spot where Cullman now stands. Each was allotted a plot of ground. The colony quickly grew, with American citizens and German immigrants moving to the area.

Not long after, German Benedictines came and founded an abbey – St. Bernard’s. I’ve mentioned the famed “Ave Maria Grotto”several times – if you’ve traveled on I-65, you’ve seen the billboards. Trust me – it’s not a cheesy roadside attraction – it’s well worth your time!

The history of Saint Bernard Abbey is a rich one. In the 1840s monks from Metten Abbey in Germany, a monastery founded c. 700 A.D., came to America to plant the Benedictine monastic life in the United States and to minister to the growing German-speaking immigrant population. St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, became the first foundation, and in the 1870s monks from St. Vincent were sent to Alabama to serve the needs of German Catholics here. In 1891 those monks gathered to establish St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama. One year later, 1892, a school was opened at the new abbey.

The town continues to celebrate its German heritage, although for most of its history, the county was bone-dry. I think the county still is, but a few years ago, the city of Cullman voted to allow alcohol sales, which meant for the first time in its history, the town’s Oktoberfest could serve…beer. 

There are other dry counties in Alabama (some with “wet” towns in them, making them “moist”), but I always wondered if the persistence of Cullman county’s anti-alcohol laws was rooted in anti-German/immigrant/Catholic/Lutheran sentiments….

Anyway.

As part of the town’s Christmas celebration this year, they brought in some Germans from Germany to construct an enormous Christmas pyramid! We dashed up there to see it on Saturday, and here are some images – note, if you can, the different themes for each level. It’s lovely! More (in German) on the construction here. 

Here’s the website of the company that constructed it – and makes them on a smaller scale!

And if you head to my Instagram page, you can see video. 

(Our humble not-really-a-pyramid from Germany presented for contrast)

 

 

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Every year I take a few minutes and collect links to some of the parishes around the world who are celebrating Bambinelli Sunday. This is just a quick survey, and it’s so very gratifying to see this traditional continue to grow in popularity. All kudos to Ann Engelhart for seeing the possibilities!

More on the book.

The group in Rome that sponsors the St. Peter’s event…has gone Lego this year. Ah, well:

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From B16 in 2008:

God, our Father
you so loved humankind
that you sent us your only Son Jesus,
born of the Virgin Mary,
to save us and lead us back to you.

We pray that with your Blessing
these images of Jesus,
who is about to come among us,
may be a sign of your presence and
love in our homes.

Good Father,
give your Blessing to us too,
to our parents, to our families and
to our friends.

Open our hearts,
so that we may be able to
receive Jesus in joy,
always do what he asks
and see him in all those
who are in need of our love.

We ask you this in the name of Jesus,
your beloved Son
who comes to give the world peace.

He lives and reigns forever and ever.
Amen.

 

 

St. Robert Bellarmine, Bayside, NY

St. Benedict, Covington, LA

Divine Mercy, Hamden, CT

St. Aidan Cathedral, Ireland

Holy Family, Belfast

Incarnation, Bethlehem, PA

Elizabeth Ann Seton, Shrub Oak, NY

St. Leo’s, Elmwood Park, NJ

St. Mary Newhouse

Holy Redeemer Ellwood City, PA

Sacred Heart, Eldon, MO

St. Teresa of Calcutta, Mahanoy City, PA

Suggested by the Archdiocese of New Orleans (headline has an error – refers Lent, not Advent)

Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, Ankeny, IA

St. Francis of Assisi, St. Louis

St. Pius X, Loudonville, NY

St. Sebastian, Greenbrae, CA

Assumption, St. Louis

St. Thomas Aquinas, Zanesville, OH

St. John Bosco, Hatboro, PA

St. Bridget, Framingham, MA

Transfiguration, Marietta, GA

All Saints, Milville, NJ

St. Jude, Atlanta

Mentioned in “Equipping Catholic Families.”

St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catharines, ON, CA

Holy Ghost, Bethlehem, PA

Church of the Holy Family, Dunblane

St. Edith, Livonia, MI

Basilica of St. Mary, Alexandria, VA

St. Michael and All Angels, Diocese of Portsmouth, England

St. Michael’s Blackrock, Cork

St. Ignatius Loyola, NY, NY

St. Mark, Shoreham, NY

St. Thomas More, Somerset, MA

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Well, we’re back, and already super busy, so a quick wrap-up.

Saturday morning, we all (including my daughter) took the train up to Munich.  We’d be flying out on Sunday morning, she’d go back to her home in the south at the same time.

We arrived in Munich about 10:30, found our hotel, checked our bags, and set out into the very cold Munich morning. That day was the coldest we’d experienced – including our time on the Zugspitze, it felt at times. I didn’t have big plans for the day, which is good, since it was so cold, our program  quickly evolved into: Walk in one direction, duck into a warm place, venture out again, walk…find warmth. Now. 

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What did we see?  The lovely architecture of the very clean city of Munich. Mobs of people.  By early evening, the streets were more crowded and challenging to navigate than Times Square.

The New Town Hall – with the glockenspiel wedding feast revolving at noon, and then carolers at 5:30.

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Christkindl markets everywhere. More sausages, schnitzel and gluhwein.

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The Medieval Market:

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We eventually found our way to the Alte Pinkothek Museum, much of which was under renovation, but the open sections of which had some wonderful works of late Medieval and Renaissance art. It was warm, too.

The major task after that was to find Mass.  We would be leaving too early in the morning to go on Sunday, and I really didn’t want to wait until Birmingham at 6pm to go. I had attempted to find Saturday evening Masses in Munich before we left, but without real conviction, since I didn’t know the city and didn’t know where we’d be in the early evening.  I just rested my hopes on the fact that there are lots of Catholic churches in Munich, and the odds are that we’d be near one or two of them around 5 or 6 o’clock.

And we were – St. Peter’s Church, the oldest parish in Munich. 

Mass celebrated ad orientem, Communion at the altar rail – some received kneeling, others standing.  The music was marvelous.  A male schola sang, mostly a cappella. There was little chant and no Latin, but the music was solid, substantive German liturgical music. It just shows, I supposed, what “inculturation” can mean when there’s, you know, an actual culture to build on.

We got some pizza for the boys, and then headed back to the hotel.  My daughter and I would eat at the Thai restaurant I said I’d seen across the street from the hotel. What? No German food? Well….I’d been eating German food all week.  My daughter lives in Germany. I figured she’d appreciate a change, and she agreed.

Trouble was….it wasn’t a Thai restaurant I’d seen.  It was a Thai grocery.  

So now, at 8:40 pm, we are faced with the task of finding an open restaurant outside the city center. Not as easy as it sounds in Munich.  We walked down one street, then another, found a couple of Italian restaurants which didn’t interest us, passed another small Christkindl market, saw a McDonald’s in the distance, shuddered, and then, in the nick of time, found a tiny little Turkish restaurant called TuDoRa…and it was great. 

Marvelous server. Other customers who greeted each other warmly with hugs and great shouts of joy. A fellow who picked the lute on display off the wall and started to play.

The menu was in Turkish, so I asked the waitress to recommend something.  She asked me if I preferred meat or vegetables, and I said the latter,so she brought me a lovely plate of grilled and wrapped things, brought my daughter falafel,and it was all quite wonderful – one of the best meals I had in Germany.

…..

We got ourselves up the next morning, arrived at the airport in plenty of time, took off at 9:45 am (Munich time), and were in Atlanta by 2 (Eastern) where we watched a drug dog at the Atlanta baggage claim dig into a wrapped-up box owned by a man who looked like a cross between Owen Wilson and Dolph Lungren and who told the agent that the box contained what everyone brings from Munich – herbal tea bags and whole chili peppers.

And then back in Alabama by 4, where we were driven home by a taxi driver with an 18-inch monitor propped up in the front passenger seat, on which he was watching the NFL.  While driving.

Welcome home!

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Today was Innsbruck day.  My daughter was working, and she’s already been once, so it was good day for us to go.

We originally thought we’d take the bus.  Daughter said it was cheap, faster than the train and there was free wi-fi.  But when I finally got around to looking up tickets, the soonest we could leave was noon.  It turned out that the train, while a little longer (about 80 minutes) was just a euro more expensive total, round trip for us.

So, after returning the rental car…

(what preceded returning said rental car? Well….getting car out of the overnight parking lot under a grocery store down the street, taking daughter to her workplace/residence, remembering…”OH! GAS!”…finding a gas station, figuring out the pump and what kind of gas, filling up, returning the car, walking back to the apartment, grabbing breakfast pastries….all by 9 am)

….we walked to the train station, bought tickets, found our train at the platform, and settled in.

So what to do in Innsbruck?

Yes, there are a few things to do – there are historic sites, nice churches, Olympics things (although the ski jump is closed for the season…not that we’d jump, but I guess you can go see it and maybe there’s a museum) and an Old Town section…the first thing on our docket was…

…the zoo.

I’d read about it last night, but not mentally committed to it until we pulled into Innsbruck.  I’d not mentioned it to anyone, either, until someone finally asked, “Hey.  What are we going to do in Innsbruck, anyway?”

So yes, there’s the difference between traveling with kids and without.  I just felt, at that moment, for that afternoon, the leg-stretching and freedom afforded by a zoo visit was important.

It’s the Alpenzoo, and it’s fairly interesting, the population being composed only of Alpine animals.  Plus, it’s built on the side of a mountain, lending not only authenticity, but…exercise.

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The views were spectacular.

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The structure to the left-center – the large cobra-like thing? The Olympic ski jump (1964 & 1976)

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You can get there any number of ways. It’s not far from the city, so you can certainly walk it, especially in this part of the world where people out for an evening stroll do so with walking sticks in hand. You can take the bus, but you can also take the funicular – so we did.

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The funicular station as seen from the zoo entrance.

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The funicular descending.

(The funicular continues up to the top of this mountain, and we considered doing that, but by the time we finished at the zoo, it was 3pm, we’d already done the Zugspitze anyway, so…nah.)

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(Not shown: a lynx up in a tree, wolves, a bear, beavers, bison, otters, various other mountain goat creatures and lots of birds, newts, salamanders and such. Marmosets were hibernating.)

For the rest of our time, we strolled around the Christkindl Markets – Innsbruck has several, spread through the Old Town. The boys ate schnitzel, I had a cup of guhlwein, we walked.

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I was intrigued by the juxtaposition of imagery…the Blessed Virgin , a steak house and Geox…

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Part of the town was decorated with these rather odd, sometimes creepy and crudely-made fairy and folk-tale reliefs.  Along with light projections.

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It’s a great atmosphere, although about 99% secular. I also learned that my expectations of finding unique hand-made items at a Christmas market were, at least in this case…way off.

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But if I was looking for a cannoli-like thing almost as big as my head…they had me covered.

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