Trips to Amsterdam – Part One and Part Two

“I eventually got all the way to the top. It was slow going. Not because of me. You have to wait as you go up towards the top because people are tired and the stairs get narrow. However finally... what a rush. You're on the top. It's spiritual. It's a once in a lifetime experience. Everyone is quiet and reverent. I let the experience hold me for a while and then I saw him. A man. There was a man sitting on a chair, the only chair. He was obviously an “employee” of the church. But what was he doing up here? If indeed he was an employee, why? I had to ask him. When I approached I found he had good English and claimed to know many other languages. His job was to dissuade people from jumping off the tower. It had become quite a problem, he said. This in spite of an ugly tall net fence that surrounds the space where we were right in the centre of the large stone cross. He would not speculate on why suicidal individuals would want to select this particular way to die. We chatted for a while. He had quite a philosophical outlook on life sitting there all by himself. I hated to leave him and clamber down.”

I asked Ellen why the church would want to build such tall towers. And she answered:

“Dad. When Christianity began the believers felt small and insignificant. They were a minority group. It occurred to them that if they built church towers with a cross on top higher than any other they would be worshiping nearer to God than the competition. This alone gave them reassurance to exist in a competitive world.”

“Interesting,” I said. “Never thought about it in this way. However you may remember in Athens, Georgia, where we lived, there was a Baptist church that totally rebuilt their building so as to have a steeple with a cross higher than any other in Athens.”

Ulm Minster is the tallest church in the world 768 steps high. They lead to the top of the minster's spire 530 feet in the air. The final stairwell to the top is a tall spiraling staircase that has barely enough room for one person. The church and the tower survived WWII whereas a major part of the city, Ulm, was severely hit. The first stone was laid in 1377... from Wikipedia.

Now it was our turn. Ellen invited us to come visit Amsterdam. I read somewhere driving inside Amsterdam is not recommended. This is because the streets in the old city Amsterdam are very old and follow the semi-circular pattern of the canals which themselves are centuries old. But I wanted to try. Ellen and James gave us lots of direction as to how to find their house, actually half a house as like a duplex in Canada. But as directions always look different from the inside out we missed our left turn and had to figure it out ourselves. The only problem we had on the Autobahn was mine, the driver tends to forget how fast he is going at 120 to 140 kmph for hours when signs caution him to slow down if there is a warning about fog banks approaching the city. Yes, there were a couple of fog banks approaching Amsterdam.

MORE pages to follow: click the page numbers below!
author
Ed Janzen is the editor and publisher of CANADIAN STORIES, a literary folk magazine that publishes short stories and poems from Canadian writers of every province of Canada. Story Quilt is an electronic magazine similar in content. Ed has written four memoirs. He also writes for the old car hobby and has a column in OLD AUTOS - a biweekly newspaper featuring mostly Canadians events and automotive history.
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