Döner Kebabs

I’d like to dedicate this post to Doner. Doner or a Döner Kebab is a Turkish food that has taken over the city streets of basically every town in France and Germany. This type of kebab is made of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie. Seasoned stacked meat in the shape of a cone slowly rotates alongside a heating mechanism until the outermost layer is shaved off by an employee and thrown into a pita or to-go box. The type of meat is typically chicken or beef and ingredients such as tomato, lettuce, onions, or occasionally fries are stuffed all together to create a delicious meal.

Doner shops are typically very small storefronts packed with people looking to get some quick, cheap lunch or dinner. Fun fact, the number of Doner shops in Germany reached 16,000 in 2011 while collectively pulling in revenue of around 3.5 billion. Our group, specifically the guys, have taken full advantage of this delicious, cost effective meal. The meat is always seasoned very nice and once you combine that with fries and the famous garlic sauce, it’s a heavenly combination. Plus, Doner meals typically only set you back about 5 euros! It’s always a bit scary to travel abroad and consistently find something to cure your hunger, but our discovery of Doner has solved this issue with ease. As I write this, I’m heavily contemplating making Doner my lunch choice for today.

Recent Doner meal I enjoyed. Pita filled with meat, sauce, and various vegetables.


Leipzig is the most populous city in the German state of Saxony with about 570,000 inhabitants and is located southwest of Berlin. It sits at the crossing of two medieval trade routes. Leipzig was a walled city in the Middle Ages and the current “ring” road around the historic center of the city follows the old city walls.

The Jewish community of Leipzig was greatly affected by World War II and the Nuremberg Laws as with other European cities during the Holocaust. The Nazis took control of the city in 1937. Synagogues and businesses were set on fire and many Jews in Leipzig were deported to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. The number of Jewish people in the city went from over 11,000 in 1933 to only 2,000 in 1942. Before the war ended, most if not all of the remaining Jews in Leipzig were taken to concentration camps. 

In 1943, the British Royal Air Force dropped over 1,000 tons of explosives over Leipzig killing nearly 1,000 civilians. Since the buildings hit were so close together, a firestorm occurred. The damage was extensive. In late April of 1945, the Allied ground advance into Germany reached the city and fighting was often “house-to-house and block-to-block”.

By the end of the war, much of Leipzig was destroyed. After the war, Jewish people slowly returned to the city. 

Today, Leipzig is Germany’s fastest growing city and is an important economic center in Germany.

Some sights in Leipzig include the Leipzig Zoological Garden which is one of the most modern zoos in Europe. Also to commemorate the victorious battle against Napoleonic troops, there is the Monument to the Battle of the Nations which is one of the largest monuments in Europe. 

Interesting facts include that Johann Sebastian Bach worked in Leipzig from 1723 to 1750 conducting the St. Thomas Church Choir.

Upon arriving in Leipzig, we visited the St. Thomas Church and saw where Bach is buried.



Days 18 & 19 – Berlin, Hamburg, and Bremen

We began our day Tuesday at the Brandenburg gate. Then Holocaust Memorial and followed it with the SS museum–a moving experience. We also visited “check point Charlie” (the former gate between east and west Berlin) and a remnant of the Berlin Wall called the “east side gallery.” Then we had some free time to explore Berlin. People went to museums, landmarks, concerts, games…and of course, restaurants.

Wednesday started with a four hour drive to get to the north part of Germany. We stopped in Hamburg for lunch and a look around the downtown. Then we got a harbor tour by boat of Europe’s third largest port city.

On the bus again for an hour trip to Bremen, the hotel, and the dinner.

Elbe Tunnel

During our short visit to Hamburg, we visited the Elbe Tunnel. Our tour guide during our boat tour strongly suggested we check it out before leaving the city. With a little extra time we walked over from the boat dock to the tunnel. You walk in to a dome shaped building at normal ground level and inside are four massive elevators big enough to nearly fit 2 cars in each. The elevators lower cars and people 80 feet below the surface to where two 20 foot wide tunnels travel almost 1400 feet to the other side of the river Elbe. When we were there, we only saw one car come out of the tunnel and get lifted up and out.

The tunnel was originally constructed in 1911 to make it easier for workers in the shipyard and docks to get to the other side of the river. The river would get very crowded during rush hour with people and vehicle trying to get across by ferry. A traditional bridge couldn’t be placed in this location because large ships needed to continue to use the river. Since 1911, the elevators have obviously been updated and modernized, but the function of the tunnel remains the same. Newer more modern bridges and tunnels have been built to lessen the load on this tunnel, but it still handles a reported 300,000 vehicles, 63,000 bicycles, and 700,000 pedestrians in 2008.

For its time in 1911, the Elbe tunnel was an engineering marvel that made life a lot easier on many workers and travelers. Even today it is an impressive operation that continues to run.

Boat Tour in Hamburg 1-23-2019

During our visit to Hamburg we took a boat tour of their harbor and river. This was very appropriate as the city is built on sea trade. Our guide, George, told us a lot of interesting information about the city of Hamburg. The city made its money by trading many goods from countries including electronics from Asia and produce from South America. In addition to trading, Hamburg was also a popular stop for immigration to the United States. Over 5 million people went through Hamburg on their way. We went through the warehouse district where many brick buildings line the river.

These buildings used to be used for storage but now have many shops and the world’s largest miniature train setup. In the picture you may also see where the water line goes up to. George said that the water rises another 2 meters during high tide. We also passed by a new concert hall that was built two years ago and has brought many tourists to the city. As shown in the picture, the architecture of the concert hall is modeled after a wave.

We then went through a lock that is not an up and down lock but just two gates that opened and closed. This was to prevent a lot of sand and mud from getting into the harbor from the ships that come in from the ocean. The city had to spend a lot money on dredging the harbor, so this was the solution to that problem. We saw all kinds of ships on our tour from tug boats and cruise ships to giant freight ships.

We learned a lot on our tour and it was the perfect way to spend our short time in Hamburg.


Here in Germany one of the major differences from America is how the Germans handle crosswalks. In America, it’s pretty common to pick a gap and just get across as quick as you can even if the light on the crosswalk says not too (oh my bad mom, I’m just talking about other people I’ve observed…. not me). The Germans however, are very different in the fact that they will wait until the crosswalk tells them it’s okay to cross. It doesn’t matter if there’s not a car on the street, most of them won’t move until the “walk” signal is flashed.

I’m not sure why this is a big thing for the people of Germany, but they even have stores across the country that sell merchandise with the “Ampelmann” logo peppered on to their various offerings. For those of you wondering what/who “Ampelmann” is, he’s the symbol that comes up on the light when it’s okay too cross a street. While this cultural difference can at times be frustrating, at the very least it’s a good reminder to us that it’s okay to slow down, take a deep breath, and appreciate the moment in busyness of our daily lives.

Finishing Strong: Devotions

Today I led a devotional tailored around the idea of finishing strong. Our trip is slowly coming to a close, and often times I find that on the final few days of trips, my brain tends to start focusing on the responsibilities I have waiting for me at home. I encouraged the group to finish the trip strong and stay focused on learning and enjoying the culture while we still can. For most of us, this will be our last time in Europe for a while, so we need to take advantage of every opportunity we have to enjoy it.

Finishing strong is a common theme in the Bible and something we must do to “run the race with endurance”. We must learn to pace ourselves when problems arise or when our brains wander. John 16:33 says, “In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” This is a gentle reminder that we follow the One who is able to do above all that we could do or ask.

We also have a great example in Paul who finishes his life as strong as one could. He writes to Timothy encouraging him, “Keep your head in all situations, endure hardships, and do the work of ministry.” Paul writes this to Timothy while he is in prison! Instead of laying down in his cell to die and giving up, Paul finishes strong and provides a strong example that still echoes in the lives of Christians. Paul demonstrates what it means to thrive in the middle of a problem.

It is important to question..where are you? How do you plan to live your next days, weeks, months to ensure you finish strong? When tempted to give up, remember Paul’s strength in the face of adversity.

I hope you all run the race with endurance and keep the faith. Finish strong in whatever you do!

Visit to Hamburg

We arrived in Hamburg after a long journey from Berlin at approximately 12:00 pm. We then had two hours of free time to explore the city and get a bite to eat. Since it was extremely cold out, we decided to try and find a restaurant inside to warm up. A shopping mall sounded like the perfect place to warm up and eat some food.

After the free time was done we hopped back onto the bus and headed to the Hamburg port. This is the third largest port in all of Europe. We had a very knowledgeable tour guide that gave us a lot of insight into how the port operates.

It was really cool to see the cargo ships up close. The tour guide told us that an average cargo ship was around 360 meters long. This can really be put into perspective when driving by one in a 20 meter long boat.

After the tour we were able to see a car elevator that was right next to the river. This elevator was connected to a tunnel that led underneath the river. This might not seem to impressive with today’s technology but this was built in the early 1900’s! It was a great to experience Hamburg and the very important shipping industry that is there.

I miss the Netherlands

I miss the netherlands. This is not something that I expected to think on this trip. Don’t get me wrong, it not like I wasn’t excited to go there. I was eager to visit holland because my grandfather lived there until he was ten, and so visiting there provided a unique insight into hus life. Its just that when I signed up for this trip, I most looked forwards to seeing fsmouse monuments like the Eiffel Tower, the Berlin wall, and Notre Dame, along with famouse cities such as Munich, Berlin, Paris and Prague. I thought the Netherlands lack of fame would make it the least memorable or enjoyable place to be.

Looking back now, the Netherlands has serveral things that make it stand out from the rest of Europe. First of all, it by far has had the best churches. Now this may be because they were alos the first churches we went to in europe, but I think that the cathedrals we saw there had the most interesting design of any I’ve seen. If I compare the church we went to in delft to Notre Dame, notre dame wasnt even close. The Dutch church looked better, felt bigger and had a way cooler and cheaper tower climb thab Notre Dame. In Paris you got to the top of the bell tower and were surrounded by fencing, which obstructed your view. In delft, you walked out of the tower snd could see the entire city perfectly. Another perk of Holland was the prevalence of English. Aside from brugse, I don’t think that there is another place I felt more confident I could walk up to anyone on the street, ask them something in English, and they would be able to answer me. The Dutch have also had the most interssting looking cities. Germany and France both have historic looking cities, but the Dutch have the most interesting looking historic cities. They’re also the ones with the best made cobble stone streets, and each city has a unique windmill, some of which still work.

And last but certainly not least, the Netherlands has the most stuff I want to go back and see. I felt like we missed out on so many interesting museums in Amsterdam that I would love to get the chance to come back. I still didn’t get the chance to head into the inland part of the country and see my grandfathers home town. There alot left there to see.

All of this is not to say that Holland has been my favorite place to visit, but after two and a half weeks of travel it’s begun to feel more appealing than ever, and I can’t wait to get back there soon

My thoughts on our European Church Services

We have had the opportunity to attend three church services, one at The English Reformed Church in Amsterdam, another in Reims Cathedral in Reims, and the final in the Church of our Lady in Dresden. Each service was a unique experience, but there were a few recurring themes that surprised me, because they differed from my experience of churches back home.

If I had to pick one word to describe all three churches, it would be the word: formal. The English Reformed Church in Amsterdam was slightly less so because a lady greeted us at the entrance and communion was served to the congregation. In other words, we stayed in our seats and passed the bread and wine around. It was a new experience for me to have wine instead of grape juice. That simple replacement from grape juice to wine made the service seem formal to me. As for the Reims Cathedral and the Church of our Lady, we were not greeted at all, and the congregation stood up and walked to partake in communion, adding further formality for me.

The Reims service was in French and the Dresden in Germany, so I didn’t understand the majority of either service. However, I still noticed that, out of the three services, not one used a projector screen. I am not used to looking at the bulletin or the hymn book for lyrics, but it was also nice to not have to pause for technology issues, which sometimes happens in my church. Furthermore, an organ was played at each service. I love the sound of an organ and have missed it being played since my church’s organ player left, but it adds a formality to the service that’s not there when a piano or a guitar with drums is played. Sometimes between songs, the pastor would sing and the congregation would sing back, creating a back and forth for a few lines. I didn’t understand what was sang, but the interactiveness was nice. I’m still confused as to how the congregation knew which tune to sing to. Then again, especially in the Church of our Lady, people were singing quietly, so maybe they didn’t. Finally, each congregation waited for the pastor and clergy to leave before standing. That’s simar to my church, except we stand while they exit.

Each of these services was a great experience, they were just more formal than I’m used to. It makes sense, though, that there is a formal feel, considering the massive, yet beautiful and intricately designed cathedrals they worship in.