churches, customs

A visit to St. Elizabeth’s Church, the Russian Orthodox Church in Wiesbaden…

Although we will have lived in Wiesbaden for four years at the end of November, there are still a lot of places in Hesse we haven’t yet seen. A big reason for that is COVID-19. Things have really only been somewhat normal since April of this year. There are a few other reasons, too… one of them being sheer laziness and feeling slack because not that many people read my travel blog anymore. Nevertheless, I still enjoy writing it and taking photos, and I know there will come a day when I’ll look back on these memories with fondness. So, with that in mind, I let Bill talk me into another excursion today.

St. Elizabeth’s Church is also known as the Greek Chapel. It was built between 1847 and 1855 by Duke Adolf of Nassau, to pay respects to the death of his 19 year old wife, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna of Russia. The couple had only been married a year when the duchess died in childbirth, as did their baby daughter. The duke was so bereaved that he decided to build the church around the duchess’s grave in her honor, using money from the duchess’s dowry. It is now the site of the largest Russian Orthodox cemetery in Europe, outside of Russia itself.

I had long been wanting to visit St. Elizabeth’s Church, a beautiful golden domed Russian Orthodox church on Neroberg, a hill overlooking one of Wiesbaden’s most tony neighborhoods with very grand homes owned by wealthy people. This church is the only Russian Orthodox church in our fair city, and besides being lovely, it offers some beautiful views of the city. There are also other things on Neroberg, to include a vineyard, a couple of restaurants, a pool, a climbing forest, and lots of walking paths. To get up to the church, one can either drive and hope to find a parking spot, or hope to find a spot at the bottom of the hill and take the Nerobergbahn, which is a funicular that goes up and down the hill. It’s also possible to walk or bike up there, but that’s definitely not for people like me. ūüėČ Especially in August!

Bill had warned me that today there would also be a large climate change protest in Wiesbaden, with many people riding bikes to rally for Earth friendly policies. Remembering last week’s Stau on A3, I was hoping we wouldn’t be hindered by the crowd. Fortunately, as you will see in the photos at the end of this post, we were leaving Wiesbaden, as they were coming in. Based on what we saw in Wiesbaden itself, there’s going to be quite a party going on. I know there was a food truck festival going on, too, but after last week’s shenanigans at the wine fest, we decided the church was a better bet today.

It took us a few passes to score a parking spot near the Nerobergbahn, and when we did find one, Bill had to parallel park. That shouldn’t have been hard in a 2020 Volvo with parking assist, but I don’t think Bill trusts it. Fortunately, he was able to park the SUV, and we made our way to the funicular, where we purchased tickets going up and down the hill. It’s important to note that the current 9 euro train passes don’t work on this funicular. You have to buy tickets, which at this writing, cost 5 euros per adult. If you just want a one way ticket, it’s 4 euros. They also have special rates for groups, families, and kindergarten groups with children. The ticket can also be combined with tickets for the climbing forest, which appears to be an adventure/tree climbing/zip line park for people more fit than I am. ūüėČ

The funicular runs until 7:00pm at this writing, and there are two wagons that continually go up and down. The car is enclosed, so face masks have to be worn. As much as I hate masks, it makes sense, since it gets kind of chummy in there. If you score a standing place on the caboose, you don’t have to wear a mask. The ride is about three minutes or so, and you don’t see much as you go up and come down. Still, it beats walking.

When we got to the top of the hill, we went to a nearby Biergarten and had a snack, since I was a bit hangry and needed a bathroom. There were lots of people there, and I heard several different languages. I felt a lot less grouchy after Bill and I shared a Flammkuechen (Alsatian pizza) and washed it down with beer. I don’t even like Flammkuechen much, but I didn’t want a Schnitzel or a piece of cake. It was just enough, and after we ate, we walked around and got photos. I really just wanted some pictures of the view of downtown Wiesbaden, and the beautiful Russian church.

I already had Russia kind of on my mind, thanks to an advice column I read yesterday in the Washington Post. A woman wrote about how she’d married someone from Eastern Europe, and his family shows love by pushing food on guests. She explained that she has a lot of food issues, and isn’t comfortable eating a lot. I noticed a lot of the comments from Americans, most of whom either have no experience with Eastern European cultures, or no appreciation for other cultures. I commented that I empathize with the letter writer, since I had been a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Armenia, which is a formerly Soviet country. Food is a big part of their culture, which is all about hospitality. One of the first phrases we learned as Peace Corps Trainees was how to say “I’m full.” in Armenian. We were also taught how to signify that we were appeased, so the host(s) didn’t feel the need to keep bringing out food. Leave a little food on the plate.

Someone else commented that they had also been an Peace Corps Armenia Volunteer, years after I was there, and was going to write the very same thing! And I had also mentioned that Armenians would always comment when I lost or gained weight, too. That was another aspect of that culture I remember with somewhat less fondness. Sigh…

Anyway, I thought of that exchange as we decided to visit the inside of the Russian Orthodox Church. It’s two euros per adult to go inside. One thing I had forgotten was that Orthodox churches don’t allow people to go inside with bare legs. Bill and I were both wearing shorts, so the lady behind the counter apologized and asked us both to put on wrap around skirts. It was a little embarrassing, but then I remembered the Armenians (and Greeks, now that I think about it) were the same. We had to cover our legs to enter the churches and not wear revealing clothes. I also told Bill to be careful not to cross his legs. That was another caveat we got in Armenia, lest some little old lady chastise us for being disrespectful. I smiled at Bill and said, “It’s taboo.” And now that I have looked it up, I see that my memory serves me correctly. Of course, it didn’t come up anyway, since the church doesn’t really have anywhere to sit. I mean, there aren’t any pews or anything. Maybe a couple of chairs.

Photography isn’t really allowed inside, but I snuck a few photos anyway, since I had to wear a skirt. No one noticed. I did appreciate the smell of incense and the beautiful Russian choral music. St. Elizabeth’s Church really is a very lovely church and well worth a visit. I’m glad we finally made the trip to see it.

After our visit to the church, we walked back up the hill to the overlook, where we saw a World War I memorial and gazes at Wiesbaden from the vantage point of the hill, in view of the vineyards. It was very beautiful. I might have liked a few fewer clouds, but given how dry it’s been here this summer, I’d say the clouds were probably Heaven sent.

Here are today’s photos…

Well, that about does it for today’s post. I’m glad we went out today and got to know our city better. It sure is POSH.

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aquariums

Lisbon’s Oceanarium…

Located near our hotel was Lisbon’s fabulous Oceanarium. ¬†It’s an outstanding facility and as I am a fan of aquariums, I figured we should take the time to visit. ¬†I’m so glad we did. ¬†I learned a lot from the few hours we spent there, along with a couple of school groups. ¬†There’s a permanent exhibit there as well as a temporary sea turtle exhibit. ¬†To see both, which I highly recommend, you pay 16 euros. ¬†To just see the permanent exhibit, it’s 13 euros.

The Oceanarium on the horizon…

We visited the turtle exhibit first, since it was on the way to the permanent exhibit. ¬†Having spent three years in South Carolina, I had heard a lot about loggerhead turtles and how they are becoming somewhat endangered due to man’s encroachment on the turtles’ habitat. ¬†The oceanarium had a few loggerhead exhibits. ¬†They also had sea turtles, which they were rehabilitating and planned to release back into the wild. ¬†These turtles were mostly caught by accident and injured in the process.

 

This explains more about how the turtles came to the exhibit.  As you can see, quite a few have already been released.

The exhibit had a plexiglass floor that we had to walk over.  One elderly Portuguese woman seemed afraid she would fall through the glass.

Growing up near the water in Virginia, I have seen plenty of these…

A turtle swims with the fishes!

Ready for a close up!

It was fun to observe the turtles.

We moved on to the permanent exhibit, which was surprisingly large and took a lot of time to fully appreciate.

The big central tank.

You could watch this for hours and not see the same thing twice.

A ray swims among schools of fish…

Puffin exhibit.

A puffin gives me a great action shot…

These three penguins seemed to be posing!

The next exhibit was the sea otters. ¬†There were two of them; they were both female and delightfully cute. ¬†I could tell they were a popular attraction, though they didn’t seem especially interested in putting on a show.

Information about the sea otters.

Penguins!  I had no idea how fast they can move!

The rest of these photos are from the many exhibits throughout the oceanarium. ¬†There were great displays featuring everything from frogs, newts, and other amphibians, to sharks, barracudas, and eels. ¬†There were also interactive displays and a kids’ area which offered hands on exhibits for little ones.

As you can see, there’s a lot to look at. ¬†Fortunately, photography is allowed, though you’re not supposed to use your flash. ¬†I didn’t, but still came away with some amazing pictures. ¬†The oceanarium offers a film about what goes on there and they types of research they’re doing. ¬†There are subtitles and I highly recommend watching the film, since it’s not very long and is very interesting. ¬†They show how sea animals are cared for at the facility and even explain how surgeons can sew up injuries when the creatures are hurt. ¬†If you ever get to Lisbon and like aquariums, I highly recommend the Oceanarium. ¬†It’s reasonably priced and you will learn a lot from a three hour visit.

As we left the facility, we had to walk through the gift shop. ¬†There is also a cafe. ¬†I bought a few things at the shop and we were stopped by a young guy doing a survey for the Oceanarium. ¬†We answered his questions, then moved on to our next fun activity, the funicular. ¬†It’s located very close to the Oceanarium and is very reasonably priced. ¬†A round trip ticket for both of us was twelve euros.

I got a kick out of the rules…

Up, up, and away!

Bill enjoys the view…

I think “no smokers” has a very different meaning than “no smoking” does.

A shot of the Oceanarium as we passed.

The huge bridge leading out of Lisbon.

Oriente skyline…

The Portuguese flag…

After our funicular ride, we had lunch at an Irish pub, where we enjoyed Irish beers.  The meal was decent, but unremarkable… except for the Irish whiskey chocolate mousse at the end…  I did like the signs, though.

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