The places Martin Luther walked, wrote and taught: We began with Eisenach & Wartburg.
Our plan, following Rick Steves' recommendations (the TV and Travel guide guru also happens to be a Lutheran!) was to travel from East to West by train. When we arrived, I was impressed first with the train station. It had been newly remodeled and was ready for an influx of Luther visitors.
Germany has done their own "Marshall Plan" after the reunification of Germany and the repressed areas of former East Germany have gotten more than a new coat of paint. Eisenach is a sweet German town, with a deep history that includes Luther and others (St. Catherine in particular impressed me - more on her later) but also is not "stuck" in history. Despite the rain (there was rain every day in Germany - but it did not stop us!) the local merchants set up in the village square with fresh strawberries (which looked delicious!) and other fresh produce for sale as well as handcrafts.
There is no doubt about it, however, their Luther heritage is evident. Eisenach and the rest of the Luther sites have been busy planning and preparing and celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation which comes in 2017. But, wisely, they've been celebrating the whole decade. The good news is that the Luther sites are becoming even more accessible for non-German speakers. The bad news is that some of the sites are not yet open for viewing. (Guess I'll have to go back!)
Although I wasn't able to view the inside of the churches in town, the main attraction in Eisenach is Wartburg Castle where Luther translated the BIble. I knew Wartburg Castle was out of town. I also knew that it was a bit of a hike from the road. But I did not realize that it was all UP! It was drizzling and a bit slippery and "mucky" so people of all ages were taking the narrow path more slowly. However, while the persistent precipitation made the way a bit damp, all of the water that Germany has received over the last week or so has also made the landscape green and lush and beautiful. It would not have been a bad hiding place. The view was great!
But Luther did not go there for the view. He went there was to hide. After writing the 95 theses to reform the church, Luther went to the city of Worms where he participated in a very academic exercise debating his ideas. But the Emperor ended up declaring Luther an outlaw and when he would not recant, his works were banned and a price was put on his head. Others were not allowed to read his work or listen to him preach. But, on the way home, Luther was "kidnapped" by his protector, (the elector Frederick the Wise), and taken to Wartburg castle, He spent 10 months disguised as a bearded "Squire George." But in the meantime, he translated the New Testament from the original Greek into ordinary German. (Not a small feat!)
Other translations into German had been made before, but what made Luther's translation different was that translated from the original Greek (instead of from the Latin) AND he had the huge advantage of the printing press. Suddenly the Bible was accessible to more people.
The Bible is open to us to hear, to read, to study, to meditate upon, to hear God's Word - for us. Accessibility to the Bible was a great gift.
As I looked at the room where Luther wrote - a simple little room - I marveled at how God uses imperfect people (We would rather not remember Luther's writings against the Jews and against the peasants) to share God's word.