Showing posts with label EINSTEIN. Show all posts
Showing posts with label EINSTEIN. Show all posts

Bern Switzerland - Genius and Myth

As we drove towards the city of Bern, capital of Switzerland, my wife and daughter were playing with two of their favorite toys.  Pat was busy with her digital video camera.  Anna was figuring out where to go with the help of her Global Positioning System (GPS). The invention of these toys and much else was made possible by the genius of one man, Albert Einstein. It was therefore only right and proper that, upon our arrival in Bern, we first made our way to the small apartment at 49 Kramgasse where Einstein conceived and developed his Special Theory of Relativity.

Einstein when he worked as a patent clerk
He had arrived in Bern at the age of 23 in 1902 and had rented this second floor apartment from 1903 until 1905.  Meanwhile, he had supported himself by working as a clerk at the Swiss Patent Office nearby. During his time in Bern, he published 32 scientific works. Among his most important papers were those published in 1905, for which he was ultimately awarded the Nobel Prize.

Einstein's apartment in Bern

Bob with daughter Anna in front of Einstein's house
As I climbed the narrow stairs up to the apartment, it was awesome for me to realize that Einstein had climbed those very same stairs every day a century earlier, at the time when he was producing his best work and was at the peak of his powers.

Later in his life, during World War Two, Einstein was successful in persuading US President Franklin D Roosevelt to prepare atomic weapons. This led to the development of The Manhattan Project, which produced the two bombs dropped on Japan in 1945 and which must have given this noted pacifist something to think about. Today, the apartment is home to a small Einstein museum. The rooms where Einstein lived and worked have been restored to depict his exact lifestyle a century ago.

Clock tower in Bern
The street on which the house stands has covered sidewalks, to which access can be gained through an archway in front of the building. In the middle of the street stands an eye-catching zytglogge or clock tower.

The Einstein house is close to Bern Cathedral.  The city of Bern was founded in 1191 by Berthold V, Duke of Zahringen.  The duke decided to name the city after the first animal killed in a hunt that he was holding. The unfortunate creature that first met its end was a bear, which in German is “bar”, and the city was so named.  Over the centuries “bar” has been corrupted to “Bern”. The first church on the cathedral site was built at around that time.  We visited the present cathedral, which is massive.

Cathedral's ornate archway
At its entrance, over the main portal, is a spectacular carving showing the Last Judgment and containing more than 200 figures in stone and wood.  Fortunately these images were not destroyed when Switzerland became Protestant at the time of the Reformation.

Moses fountain
Yet, to compensate for that, the Moses Fountain was erected just outside the cathedral in 1545. The statue of Moses faces the cathedral and is pointing to the Second Commandment which forbids “graven images”.  However, many other graven images inside the cathedral were destroyed at the time of the Reformation, including several side chapels which were replaced by pews. A huge new church was then able accommodate a congregation many times the size of the local population, which seems rather unnecessary.

Walled city of Bern
We walked on a terrace dating back to the 14th century, which had been built just to the south of the cathedral. It gave us a panoramic view of Bern and in particular of the Aare River, which encircles Bern almost entirely.  The river flows in the shape of a horseshoe and the city lies within the horseshoe. The city is therefore protected by the river on three sides.  With a short high wall on the fourth side, the city thereby enjoyed a degree of security essential for survival in medieval times.

Bundeshaus in Bern
We also visited the Bundeshaus in Bern, which is the home of the Swiss national parliament. The Swiss Confederation is made up of 26 separate cantons and dates back to 1291.   My dear wife and daughter were outraged to learn that women have only recently been permitted to vote in Swiss parliamentary elections.  The first canton to give women the vote did so in 1959 and all cantons had done so by 1990.

William Tell monument in Altdorf, Switzerland
I was more upset by the absence of any memorial, statute or tribute outside the Bundeshaus in honor of William Tell.  Over the centuries, it has sometimes been necessary for Switzerland to fight for its independence. I had always understood that Tell was a Swiss national hero and freedom fighter, famous for driving the Austrians out of Switzerland in the 14th century.  Who can forget the legend of Tell being captured and then forced to shoot an arrow to remove an apple from each of his two sons' heads?  His first shot rang true and the older boy, Walter, lived. However, Tell's second shot to split the apple over his son Adam, went into his throat at the larynx, the area now known as the Adam's apple. It would appear the Swiss may regard William Tell as a myth.  After all, we have no statues to Robin Hood in London or to Davy Crockett in Washington DC.

This piece, written by Bob, was originally posted on our website on January 22, 2011.

Ulm Germany- Home Of The Tallest Church In The World

Washington monument
Cologne Cathedral
Some months ago, I wrote on this website of our journey on the Eurostar train, which passes through the tunnel under the English Channel on its way to London. I mentioned that this train journey took us past Cologne Cathedral, which was the tallest building in the world from 1880 to 1884, when it was overtaken in height by the Washington Monument. Cologne Cathedral rises to a height of only 516 feet. The Washington Monument is 555 feet tall. The disappointment felt in Cologne in 1884 must have been considerable.

Ulm Minster
Meanwhile, down in the southern German city of Ulm, the city fathers were working to disappoint Cologne even further. In 1890, Ulm Minster was completed at a height of 530 feet. After that, Cologne Cathedral was not even the tallest church in the world, much less the tallest building. And Ulm Minster is not even a cathedral, because it has never had its own bishop. It is simply a Lutheran church, because the people of Ulm converted to Protestantism during the Reformation. Ulm Minster continues to this day to be the tallest church in the world. Before pews were introduced, it could accommodate over 20,000 worshipers and the very distant Alps can be seen from the top of its spire.

Late in November 2010, we visited the ancient city of Ulm, which lies on the border between the German states of Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg and which stands on the River Danube. We stayed in a little hotel sitting in the very shadow of the great church spire – or at least that’s where it would have sat had there been any sun during our visit. The hotel is owned by a Spanish family, who settled in Ulm over a century ago. We sampled some of their Spanish red wine called Sangre de Toro, which in Spanish means “blood of the bull”.

Celeste Wine
Perhaps a little embarrassed by our enthusiastic praise for this cheap plonk, our hosts then invited us to enjoy what they described as the best Spanish red wine. And what made it the best, we asked? The answer given to us was that every grape used in the making of Celeste 2006, which was the name of the wine in question, had been picked at night. The grapes thus gathered were cool and at exactly the right sugar level to produce the finest wine. The bottle was labeled “Crianza”, which means that its contents had been aged for at least two years, a significant part of which had to have been in an oak cask. Celeste 2006 is a product of the Ribera del Duero wine growing region on the northern plateau in the Castile and Leon province of Spain. It is delicious.

Johannes Kepler
House of Kepler's publishers

The house in which this little hotel is located was used by the publishers of Johannes Kepler to publish some of his most important work. Kepler lived in a nearby house during last years of his life. He died in 1630 and his house was destroyed by World War Two air raids. Indeed, most of Ulm was destroyed at the same time. The church and the publishers’ house were fortunate to survive without damage. Johannes Kepler was a German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer. His fame springs from Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion, which describe the elliptical orbits of planets around the sun. These laws formed the basis for Sir Isaac Newton’s law of gravity a century later. Kepler’s thinking was revolutionary for his time, but he was not Ulm’s only genius.

Albert Einstein when working as Patent clerk
Albert Einstein was born in Ulm in 1879 and his birthplace is memorialized, even though he had moved away at the age of three, when his father decided to start a new business in Munich.

Close to the great church on the Munsterplatz is another memorial. It is to the brother and sister, Hans and Sophie Scholl. At the University of Munich in 1942, Hans, Sophie and friend Christoph Probst organized a group to resist Nazism and it was known as The White Rose. His sister Sophie, who became active within the group, taught kindergarten in Ulm and later worked in an Ulm metallurgical plant as part of her compulsory war service. The group wrote and distributed anti-Nazi pamphlets and also distributed copies of the sermons of Cardinal Graf von Galen, the Lion of Munster.

(Left) Hans Scholl, (Center) Sophie Scholl, (Right) Christoph Probst

Ulm memorial to Hans and Sophie Scholl
Cardinal Graf von Galen
In an earlier item on this website (Muensters Own Miracle) about the city of Munster in northern Germany, we mention the courage of von Galen in light of the fact that opposition to the regime at that time led to certain death. We described the survival of von Galen as a miracle. The truth of this is well demonstrated by the fate of Sophie Scholl. Simply for distributing this anti-Nazi material, she and Hans were tried, sentenced to death and executed. She was 22 when she was killed.

This piece, written by Bob was originally posted on our website on January 24, 2011.