Cologne, Germany: The Shrine of the 3 Kings

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The story of the Magi brings memories of childhood.  It fills us with awe as we spend a moment contemplating the journey the Magi’s or Three Kings traveled to pay homage to the new King.  There is not much we know if the journey or exactly who the 3 Magi’s, Wiseman, and or Kings actually were.  We only know that they heard the call to go and they responded.  I often contemplate my own life and pray that I also am able to respond in the way the 3 Kings answered.  I hope that I too can daily move to the response of Christ and to answer the call.  In a world filled with noise hopefully I can move beyond and go and encounter the King.

I had a chance while cruising the Rhine on Viking to visit Cologne Germany.  One of the tours was the Cathedral where I experienced an opportunity to visit the Shrine of the 3 Kings The Grand Reliquary of the Magi.  The Shrine contains the bones of 3 man different ages.  They are told to be the 3 Wiseman of the bible.   The story of the Magi is revisited every Christmas throughout the world.  So during a Christmas River Cruise who wouldn’t want to visit the 3 Kings?

Historic records has the bones discovered and brought back by Constantine’s mother Helena like many other of the relics acquired during that time period.  The history is that she brought them to Constantinople.  Helena often traveled to various Holy sites to procure the relics.   Similar to other Relics throughout history these were moved from there original resisting place and brought to Constantinople by Helena.  Taking great care Helena placed them in the Reliquary the bones of the 3 Kings are found in today.  In the 6th century the Reliquary was removed from Hagia Sophia and sent to Milan and remained there until the 12th century.

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During this period of time the Reliquary as moved to Cologne after a the rebellion of Milan against the Roman Empire.   The Empire appealed the Arch Bishop of Cologne and was assisted with winning back Milan and the Emperor so grateful transferred the Reliquary to Cologne in gratitude.

Where it remains today.

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Photo by F4Bi 

For this trip I had not planned a pilgrimage.   To be presented with an opportunity for a moment of prayer in a Holy place is always looked as a gift for me.  I took the moment filled with awe at the beauty of the Cathedral itself.  I always remain in awe to view the art that seems to transcend time and place.   There is always a moment I come to when I reflect how many countless pilgrims have made the journey before me.

I often touch on the lost art of the pilgrimage in my writings because I feel that in our busyness we have often overlooked it’s beauty.  In our attempt to see we often lose the experience.  To step into a Cathedral and be presented with the opportunity to pray in the presence of the bones of what we believe to be the 3 Kings who centuries before had also made their own journey.   A journey towards a King born in a stable who would save the world.

Shrine of the 3 kings

As I gazed upon the beauty of the Reliquary I prayed and brought my intentions to our Lord. It seems that as I make my pilgrimages I always seem to come back to a feeling of Hope, and Gratefulness. I am often filled with a sense of wonder and a childlike feeling of being presented with a gift. Yet I also bring my own gifts to Jesus when I make a pilgrimage. I bring him my prayers, my thoughts, my own intentions and those of others who travel with me in prayer. I bring my obedience to stop and take a moment to try and listen to what he is asking of me for my life.

I can’t help but view my experiences in making a pilgrimage in the light of loss. I am not sure that without the experience of losing my child that I would feel such hope. It is only through my loss that I understand what others may never touch or see. That with a loss of that magnitude the one thing you are presented with as a Catholic is HOPE. The HOPE in the promises of Christ.

A Guide to River Cruising Christmas Markets in Europe

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Photo by Julius Silver

One of the most amazing experiences you can have is visiting Europe in the winter.   If you can make it over and around the Holidays it becomes a magical setting filled with the sites and sounds of the holiday.   During to holidays Christmas Markets throughout Europe begin to pop up and one of the favorite destinations is along the Rhine.  My top recommendation to see them is a River Cruise which is a wonderful way to travel.  So I created this simple guide to help you navigate by enjoying a River Cruise to Europe’s Christmas Markets.

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Timeframe-The best timing in my personal opinion is right after Thanksgiving when the markets are just beginning and the weather is still amazing.  They are coming into full fall season and not quite into winter weather just yet.   If you book early on some of the lines you can get up to free air from certain select cities.  Keep in mind water levels change all the times and at periods your itinerary may need to be altered but you will still experience the most amazing destinations.

Christmas on the Rhine
Travel with T

River Selection-The best markets during the time are often along the Rhine but the Danube is not to be missed either.  The Rhine is perfectly traveled along during a river cruise and the Christmas Markets you visit are perfectly crafted into your itinerary.  From visiting enchanting places like Strasbourg to sipping Gluewhine in Cologne the Rhine is filled with sites and sounds to please every discerning traveler.

Christmas Markets
Travel with T

Booking– When booking a river cruise the best time is definitely up to a year in advance.  Sometimes if you are lucky you can get in on a cancellation last minute.  Overall the best pricing and cabin selection is only available the year prior to when you would like to go. Always book with a travel advisor who can help you match your request with the perfect river cruise line.  There is a cruise line to suit every style of traveler.

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Photo by Pixabay

Pricing-Your best pricing again comes in a year in advance or more and often when some of the lines are offering their best pricing to include airfare to your destination.  Planning is the way to go on a river cruise.  Viking ships are booked sometimes up to two years in advance.

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Photo by Lisa Fotios

Cruiseline-Each cruise line offers something a little different and geared towards certain travelers.  For instance Uniworld U offers river cruising for a younger demographic with itineraries and excursions that appeal to a younger demographic.  Ama offers a slightly more upscale travel style.  Guest are pampered along the way.  Some itineraries throughout the year offer a hosted wine tasting with a special vintner who is on board.  A travel advisor will help you choose a line that is perfect for your own style.

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Photo by Kaique Rocha

So as you can see my short but sweet guides offers you some of the considerations and questions you might have on scheduling your River Cruise.   I would love to help you turn your questions into traveling and assist you in booking your River Cruise.  Please contact me to book your Christmas Vacation perhaps next year.  Experience the Christmas Markets of Europe as you cruise though the Rhine stopping in lovely medieval villages along the way.  There is really no better way to experience Europe’s Christmas Markets.

Please do not hesitate to contact me Teresa@travelwithgraceandstyle.com 

River Cruising on the Danube 4 days of bliss

We were headed to Europe for April  and while we were going to be close we chose to take two river cruises along the Danube River.   The first portion was one of a really short duration of 4 days 3 nights.  It was on Avalon Waterways.   They give the option of doing a cruise tour type vacation but for this we chose only the cruise portion.   Meaning we opted not to do the on site stay at the hotel portion.   The Danube is Europe’s second largest river and is definitely a river cruise to take if only for the picturesque beauty of the region.

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Photo by Travel with T

The Danube Flows through Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania Ukraine, Serbia there are very many choices for cruises and lengths along the river.  Our Choice was the Vienna, Budapest, Dürnstein and Passau portion.  This one fit our schedule and we wanted to make sure we hit Melk Abby and Budapest so it was a perfect fit for us.

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Photo by Felix Mittermeier

 By the time we arrived for our cruise we had already been in Belgium, Czech Republic, and Germany so I have to say we were a little tired.   Because we knew we were going to see a couple of places twice we opted for a more relaxed style.   Hitting one of the tours one day and then touring the city the next day on our own.  This worked out well for us.

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Photo by Pixabay

The Danube is filled with many not to miss sites Budapest and Vienna being two of them.  In Budapest we chose an on and off bus stopping at the places we wanted to tour and just driving by hearing the oration of the places we did not have a desire to see.  The castle is a definite must do as it is filled with museums that you can tour and a walking area that over looks Budapest.

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Photo by Julius Silver

My favorite was St. Mattias which is in the city area or portion of the castle area of Budapest.  The history is fascinating on it’s own.   The church and the area had been sacked by the Turks.  It was built in 1255 and it the 1500’s when Buda was captured by the Turks it was turned into a mosque and when Hungary regained control in the 1600’s it was again a Catholic church.

St Matthius Buda

st Matthius

On the 3rd day on this Cruise you will visit Melk Abby and it’s incredible Austrian history.  It one of the most ornate churches we have visited on this trip and although beautiful is almost too ornate.  The history of it’s Austrian heritage and influence of the Hapsburg Dynasty is apparent as you tour the area.   We saw the library the only real part of the Abby that looks historic from the inside.  The rest of the tour is basically through a museum.  The museum itself is interesting but very different in style and almost too modern.   Perhaps it appeals to others but I did not find it very appealing.

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Travel with Grace and Style

Passau
Beautiful Passau

On our fourth and final day we cruised into Passau it’s a beautiful and very picturesque town on the confluence of Inn, Ilz, and Danube rivers.  We walked through the narrow streets in the town.  We decided to use our time here to hike the trail up to Veste Oberhaus and experience some living history with the 800 year old fortress.  It’s one of Europe’s largest preserved Castle complex.  The hike itself is not for the faint of heart but what a great view as you make your way up to the Castle.

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Photo by Markus Spiske

This wonderful cruise with Avalon takes you through some of Europe’s most picturesque regions and is a true delight.   The Danube is a piece of beauty that should not be missed.  I would love to help you discover Europe on this wonderful cruise.  Please contact me with any questions or to schedule your own journey into river cruising.   If you happened to have scheduled a trip and are looking for things to do each of my links take you to the destination and towards items that await you.  Each time you use it to book your excursion I receive credit and it helps to pay for my blogging.  So please book away.

Remember travel is the only thing that truly makes you richer.

 

Abschied

Teresa

A Journey of Grace through dryness cont,..2

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The door is always open for us

As par for course I have been distracted and my journey is more zigged than zagged and I can never seem to be consistent enough to actually finish something.  It is always like that for me it appears.  The world enters and I have lost sight of the my journey and goal.  So here I find myself months after I opened Mathew Kelly’s book starting over or continuing on day 5 and where I should have been months and months ago.  I truly understand God can make everything anew including me I just pray he helps me on my journey to again begin anew.

church of St Therese Mount Merrion Dublin
My journey through loss remembering my child with prayers

So I find as I reflect on the paralytic Jesus told to rise I am in the company of those whose only thought was the paralytic physical needs.  Like the crowd perhaps I have only been concerned with my own physical needs as I let my own spiritual needs languish.

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Sienna

My reflection continues to the Sabbath and how it would be at the center of the Jewish life.  I often find I myself go to Mass and it is truly the highlight of my week only to find by Wednesday my center is now fading into the background of my daily life.

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Ghent Belgium Castle Chapel 

As I continue my reflection for day 5 and the story of the raising of Lazarus from death,  I understand I am blessed.   It is here in this story I find hope.  It is here Jesus raises us all out of the depths of despair, loss, sin, and indifference and offers us all redemption.   My challenge today is what is holding me back from Christ?  What are the obstacles in my own path?

Blessings in Christ,

Teresa

The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb Alter Piece Pilgrimage Ghent Belgium

In Spring we had a chance to visit some long time friends in Belgium.  We were going to be there a few days and I had done the research on pilgrimage sites prior to visiting Belgium.  As I travel I search out Catholic sites that I might make a pilgrimage too.  I take with me all the prayers of my family, friends, and my own prayers as I go to make the journey.   For me the journey is a journey of prayer and it often brings me closer to Christ.  I touched on the making a pilgrimage in my blog post “What is meaningful travel”   As I make my pilgrimage I go as others have before me searching for healing, faith, and hope.  I make a point to light a candle in all of my pilgrimage places for my daughter whom I lost to suicide.  The pilgrimage is always a journey as much for her as it is for me.  So this time it was the Ghent in Belgium to see “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb Altarpiece.”

Ghent is located in the Flemish region of Belgium.  It is the capital and the largest city in the East Flanders province.  Started as a city at the confluence of rivers in the late middle ages.  It’s a beautiful city where you can enjoy a cup of caffe or perhaps a pint while sitting on the banks of the river.

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We made a day trip to Ghent to see the sights and sounds of the lovely city.  Not too big and not too small it’s filled with the medieval castles, and interesting little bars it is definitely and interesting place to travel.

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My main goal was to enjoy time with long time friends and enjoy a visit to the masterpiece known as “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” located in St. Bavo’s Cathedral.  Built in 1895 to replace St Josephs that was too small.  St Bavo’s stands on the site of a 10th century church and a 12th century Romanesque style church in the heart of Ghent.

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St Bavo’s Cathedral

The altarpiece has quite a unique history in that part of it’s notoriety is it’s one of the most stolen piece of artwork of all time.   It’s known to have been stolen by Napoleon, it was nearly burned by Calvinist, desperately sought by the Nazis, and a part of it has been missing for 80 years, foraged, stolen, dismembered make up the fascinating history of this piece of art work.

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Yet, my interest was the actual work itself depicting from the annunciation to the symbolic sacrifice of Christ shown with the “mystic lamb” on the alter surrounded by a heavenly field all in adoration and the lamb bleeding into the holy grail.  Unfortunately most of my pictures were blurry.  So this is really  the only one I have but you can see the light reflection on it.

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The Mystic Lamb photo credit Travel with Grace and Style

I was not to be dissapointed as when I reached the Alter Piece it was indeed incredible.   It’s was a little amusing to view very few actually taking a moment of time to see the piece.  I am sure many were there just to visit the church and as they were making there own stop in Ghent.   As I was standing at that painting I was aware of just how large my faith is.  The faith of centuries depicted throughout history in various works of art and I was in Ghent standing in front of one.

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The Panels when closed photo credit pinterest

The Alter Piece itself is almost a story of Christianity as it contains Adam and Eve as well as the “Mystical Lamb” in the center.  Proudly displaying the lamb which signifies Christ sacrifice being poured out for the many.   The chalice displayed in what I can only imagine for Catholics to represent indeed the one cup available to all.   The significance is powerful.  As I look around I am not sure many saw that are were aware of the historical significance of the painting at all.

Ghent Alter piece
God Almighty Credit WGAHU

As I travel throughout these pilgrimage sites I wonder if in a hurry to check things off we are actually missing these beautiful moments.  Times we can step back in time and just awe at the majesty of God depicted in art.  The great art of our faith it seems is almost lost in the time we live in not unlike the pilgrimage.

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The beauty of faith

It has not been lost on me and I continue to travel throughout he world to view the beauty of the church as displayed in various cultures.   I hope to be able to continue to find awe in a 1500 century painting or special place the pilgrims felt the touch of God.  I pray that I never lose the wonder that is God.   That I am able to always feel so small in these amazing places.

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The only picture I took that was not blurry

Perhaps my encounters come from my overwhelming acceptance in understanding that even with the loss of my child I can still bloom.  Because of my trust in God and my faith I can even through loss find such beauty in the world.  It’s it the classic Catholic thought to accept suffering is a gift of God and in suffering we have come so close to Christ on the Cross that we can feel the breath of a kiss.  Who would not find joy in the kiss of Christ?

“Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus – a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.”

― Mother Teresa

My time in Ghent was just a day as I returned to spend the rest of my visit with a friend I had not seen in 20 plus years.  Sometimes in your life you are lucky enough to meet people who will be woven into a tapestry of your life.  These people you are blessed to find and you may not see them for years but when you renew the old friendship you discover the same love that existed from your youth.  That joy of discovering a lost treasure is renewed as you share a meal and drink.

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Nothing like sharing a beer with good friends

In Belgium I found good friends, beautiful art reflecting my faith, and the good laughter that comes from relaxing and enjoying a beer sharing the stories that make us who we are.

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Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

I hope to go back if only to again enjoy a pint and share a moment of time with the gift known as friends.

If you haven’t been to Belgium and need help planning your trip to visit the Alter piece of the Mystical Lamb do not hesitate to call me and I would love to help you.

If you are looking for things to do consider using my link and I get credit for you as you make your travel plans to Ghent, Belgium.

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Blessings in Christ Friends