All posts by Juliana Baioni

In a nutshell: A flutist/soprano/birdwatcher who has little hope of ever properly performing harmony. I'd rather be on a mountains or in the woods than anywhere else. I was bitten by the travel bug early on and I have discovered there is no cure. My faith is who I am, not something I do. Most of all, I love people and hearing their stories. Feel free to share with me!

Reformation Day, A Reflection

In my previous post (which I realized was my hundredth!), I mentioned that I would share some thoughts regarding the sermon shared on the morning of Reformation Day in the Schloßkirche, the church where Luther nailed his 95 Theses. This post is that promised reflection.

The reverend preaching the morning of Reformation Day shared an interesting and concise sermon about Luther (I mean, it is the 500th anniversary, after all). His opening remarks about the relations between the Lutheran and the Catholic Churches caught my attention immediately. According to the reverend, the two are together coming to an understanding of justification by faith and not by works, in an attempt at ecumenism that will bring unity rather than the division that Luther never intended to cause. If that is true, wonderful; if not, I wonder what Luther would have to say about the conversations that have been held between the two bodies.

Another interesting aspect of the sermon for me was the idea of “releasing Luther” from the layers of tradition and misunderstanding that have developed over the centuries and to return to the roots of who this man was. Luther was then presented as a driving force in the socio-economic changes of his time and a clarion call of spreading love to those around us, to lift up the desolate as Luther did. This is the face of Luther that we need to see and share today.

With all due respect to the reverend, I do have a few challenging comments in regards to the last couple of points.

I do not doubt that over time Luther has been misunderstood and his platform for change misconstrued to serve the purposes of others who desired to use his name and cultural ties for their own gain and propaganda (for example, the 400th anniversary of the nailing of the Theses took place in the middle of World War 1 where the Germans used Luther as uniting factor to push their military agenda).

I also absolutely agree that reading authors of old for themselves and within their own context is extremely important. Too often we base our opinions on what other people have studied and not what we have studied for ourselves. Of course, not everyone has the ability to read medieval German, handwritten manuscripts, but reading a translation of Luther’s works rather than relying on the summarizing and quotation of scholars is already a great step in the right direction.

And social action is absolutely important, but from the Christian point of view it is not the whole story. To say that Luther was a social activist is fine (although he is famous for his anti-Semitic views, another reason why the German military chose to herald him during war efforts), but the reason he chose to live a life of service and education to his Christian brethren in the way he did was a result of a theological understanding. To present Luther as a social reformer alone, while much “safer” in today’s general post-modern society, does not fully depict the magnitude of Luther’s discovery. Social gospel, without the declaration of the gospel of salvation, is incomplete and cannot stand.

On a day as special as Reformation Day, wouldn’t it make more sense, instead of speaking entirely about Luther, to speak about what he had discovered from reading the Bible? Should not the focus be on the special message of Scripture that he “uncovered” that then led a revolution not only in how people understood their relationship with God, but also their relationship with each other?

I once read a fantastic scholarly paper on the study of theology. In it, the author claims that at it’s core, theology is the study of relationship. This is what the Reformers, like Luther, were seeking to understand in their study of Scripture.

The author continues by stating that if we were to simply continue promoting the work of the Reformers such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others, that we would actually be doing them a great disservice. If we want to truly honor the work of the Reformers, we would continue what they had begun; indeed, press forward with what those who had lived long before the official Reformation had started.

A continuous, personal search of Scripture and the seeking of its application to the life is the only way to truly celebrate the discoveries and honor the sacrifices of those who felt the high importance of knowing God and living for Him above all else.

While we can celebrate the works of great men and women who have had profound impacts on our planet and worldviews, often without the slightest intention of doing so, let us be careful not to venerate them as more than humans that allowed themselves to be greatly used by God.

Martin Luther wasn’t perfect—far from it. Neither are any of we. But we are all on a spiritual journey that, by the grace of God, will lead us to a deeper and greater understanding of who He is, how much He loves us, and how we can share that love to those around us.

Luther actually summarizes this thought well in the following couple of quotes:

“This life therefore is not righteousness but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be but we are growing towards it, the process is not yet finished but it is going on, this is not the end but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.”

“A Christian is never in a state of completion but always in a process of becoming.”

As we have now entered into the 500th year since the Reformation is recognized has having officially started, let us all take the time to ask of ourselves, “How can the Reformation continue in us?”

When we do, and then ask God to do His good work in our lives, true change will take place in our lives and perhaps even in our communities.

Who knows? There may even be another Luther among us; perhaps it could be you.

Regardless of our wider role in the history of the world, we can all be assured of this: God loves you and wants a relationship with you. He has done everything that is needed to show you how much He loves you and wants you. He desires to save you by grace, through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ—all you have to do is accept Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf.

May we, like Luther, choose to stand firm in the Word of God and the love of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

May we choose to say, “I am Yours, save me.”

And may the coming days be filled with a true revival and reformation that will bring each of us into an ever closer relationship with our God.

To God be the glory. Amen.

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Mini-Reformation Tour, part 5

Reformation Day!

To be in Wittenberg for the celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the nailing of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses was truly a dream come true.

In order to make spend this special day to the fullest, we left our AirBnb early in the morning. An English service was being held at Schloßkirche at 8am and since Stephanie hadn’t yet seen the church, we decided to attend.

We arrived shortly after 7:30am and things were already PACKED. High security measures were being taken because of the large gathering as well as the anticipated attendance of political figures such as Chancellor Merkel for the afternoon services.

Schloßkirche seemed at capacity when we arrived, but the ushers actually led us all the way to the front to sit in the choir chairs. Actually, we got to sit in the ancient chairs of the knights and ruling lords who would attend services there. It was super cool!




Our advantageous seats allowed us to have perfect views of everything going on.


The service was very different from what I’m used to. For one, there was considerably more congregational participation. A stalwart aspect of Luther’s ideology in how worship services should be conducted, it was definitely highlighted in the program through readings, written prayers, and songs. I had never heard a chanted Psalm before, so that was pretty special.

The sermon was quite thought provoking. I’ll share my opinions about it in a future post.

To end the service, everyone joined together to sing (what else?) Ein Feste Burg. What a special moment to be singing this powerful hymn on this special day in the church that “started it all.”

Once the service had finished, we were encouraged to leave quickly in order for the staff to prepare for the 10am German-language service. This time we did get to walk through the Theses Door, which was very cool.


After leaving the church, we made our way to the other side of the village for breakfast and then to a special 360-degree panorama art installation by Yadegar Asisi. The work is enclosed in an enormous cylindrical building attached to a smaller building with an introductory exhibit that leads to the installation.


The panorama was at least two stories tall, and featured the village of Wittenberg as Luther would have known it. It looked like a combination of painting, photoshop, and some other medium I can’t quite name.

Lights and sounds were used to enhance the experience and make the viewer almost feel as if they were there in the early 1500s.

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We then returned to the Lutherhaus so Stephanie could enjoy all the wonderful artifacts and history that we saw on Sunday.

Right next door is the Melanchthonhaus, where Luther’s friend and colleague, Philipp Melanchthon used to live. This house wasn’t as crowded and seemed to have a better flow of foot traffic than Lutherhaus. The entire exhibit was more engaging, interactive, and appeared to be geared towards children.

Mommy, who had always liked to read and learn about Melanchthon, was surprised to discover that he was only 1.5 meters tall–just about her height!


Afterwards, we popped into Stadtkirche, or St. Marien’s Church. The sanctuary is enormous! Much larger than Schloßkirche, though not necessarily as detailed. This was the church that Luther worked, preached, and was married in. So much history everywhere!


There were other museums and lectures that we could have attended, but by the time we left Stadtkirche, we were all rather hungry.

We decided to dine at the Wittenberger Kartoffelhaus and enjoy as traditional of a German meal one can have being vegetarian. Fried potatoes and eggs, yes!

The rest of the evening was spent wandering around the festival. Theater performances, booths, and music were everywhere! Many people were dressed in period costumes, which made me wish I had something special to wear. Should have gone to the Maryland Renaissance Festival this year… oh well…

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Overall, the day was special, festive, and thought provoking.

I’m so glad that Mommy, Stephanie, and I were able to be in Wittenberg on this high day of celebration. I’m incredibly thankful for our AirBnb hosts that made it possible for us to visit this wonderful place and who were so kind and accommodating to us.


I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our adventures and enjoy the pictures. I recorded several portions of our trip that I hope to put together in a short video. Be on the lookout for it!

Until the next adventure–Auf Wiedersehen!

–Wandering Minstrelette

Mini-Reformation Tour, part 4

Today was a true history lesson!

Mom, Stephanie (who was finally able to join us after being stuck in Berlin from the wind storm), and I made the trip from Wittenberg to Eisenach today to go visit the famous Wartburg Castle.

What none of us realized was that Wartburg is has significance far beyond it’s association with Martin Luther. 

Getting to castle is quite the hike. It lies on a large hill on the other side of Eisenach from the Hauptbahnhof. Along the path are signs with several important events of Luther’s life leading to the foot of the hill. Once you get there, it’s another good 30 minutes of uphill treking before reaching the entrance to the castle. 


The traditional way to visit the castle was by donkey, and the donkeys were actually there! Unfortunately, it was voted against actually paying to ride them, so I had to settle for taking a picture of their cute little faces. 


The castle is quite striking as it comes into view and looms ever larger the closer you get. 


The courtyard of the castle was bustling with visitors of all ages, and had some special attractions itself. A nice touch for those like us who had hiked the whole way up. 



The best one involved steps (hooray…): the south tower gave an amazing view of Eisenach and the surrounding hill country. It was definitely worth the Euro and the adding walking.



To go inside the castle, you had to purchase a ticket. The price included entrance to some special exhibits that were curated for the Reformation festivities as well as the regular rooms of the tour. 

Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside the castle. But what we saw was simply amazing. 

The castle was built around the year 1200, and had become well known not long after for the Hungarian princess, Elisabeth, who married the ruler of the castle and chose to use her status for the benefit of the common people. She was canonized after her death for her short 24 years of life in service. 

The next major event at Wartburg was the reason most people were there: Martin Luther’s “kidnapping” and safekeeping after his refusal to recant at the Diet of Worms. At one point in the tour, you get to see the room where Luther worked tirelessly on a German translation of the New Testsment. 

Fun fact: several German versions of the Bible already existed before Luther’s, but most were quickly confiscated and also not of great quality. Luther’s not only had popularity and clout, but was well researched from the original manuscripts and actually informed much of the development of the modern German language. 

Wartburg Castle continued to hold significance throughout the centuries. It played a central role in the call to a united Germany after the Naploeanic Wars. It was seen as an important an valuable symbol during both World Wars. 

In short, Wartburg has become a stalwart of German history and identity. It was a blessing to come and learn not only about Luther’s time there, but all that it has meant through the history of Germany. 

We spent so much time at the castle that we didn’t get a chance to see anything else of Eisenach. But that’s ok, it just means we have to return. 🙂

Tomorrow is the big day! Look forward to some great pictures and stories! 

-Wandering Minstrelette

Mini-Reformation Tour, part 3

First, I would like to say that my mother and I are safe. The wind storms that have been blowing through Northern Europe and Berlin has announced a state of emergency. Here in Wittenberg, we had rain and strong winds, but nothing too extreme. 

Secondly, WE’RE IN WITTENBERG.

Schloßkirche, or Castle Church

I have wanted to visit this historic site for years, and the fact that I was able to come at such a high time is amazing. 

Our AirBnb hosts, Michael and Gudrun, have been wonderful to us. Not only did they pick up up last night, but Gudrun dropped us off early this morning in the middle of town to explore. 

And I’m so glad! It allowed us to visit Schloßkirche (Castle Church) before the crowds began to arrive. Let me tell you, standing before the Theses Doors, where Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on October 31, 1517, has me a little “star-struck.” 

The original doors are no longer there, unfortunately, but the new ones fully depict the Theses and caused me to pause and imagine the moment that a rebellious, truth-seeking monk acted out a thought that would change the world forever. 


There’s a lot more I could share, but I think I’ll save that for the end of the trip. 😉

After visiting the visitor’s center, we discovered that the church was holding a service, so we decided to join. The inside of Schloßkirche is very beautiful, and it seems to have had a lot of work done on it since Luther’s time. 



Both Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon are buried there, and an original printed copy of the Theses and a few other documents are on display under the magnificently carved pulpit. 

Luther’s Theses printed by Jakob Thanner in Leipzig in 1517; only 87 are on this page. I believe the others are on the reverse.

Mommy and I would have had a chance to go through the Theses Doors if we (meaning I) hadn’t spent so much time looking at things. But we ended up discovering a visitor’s center/museum attached to the church filled with amazing images and information. 

You know, as a child I never enjoyed history. Now, I can’t seem to get enough of it. Somewhere along the way, I made the connection of how the past affected my present, and it’s relevance suddenly helped me not only find it interesting but enjoyable to study. 

So going through this center was like being in a candy shop for me. Not only was there a lot of information about Luther, but other lesser known Reformers that had just as significant of a role in spreading the new found truths of Scripture to the world. Not everyone got the limelight, but that does not in any way diminish their work or accomplishments. 

Many of these, such as Jonas Justus, Johannesburg Bugenhagen, Lucas Cranach, Johannesburg von Staupitz, and others were remarkable educators, supporters, and believers of Martin Luther and the mission God had endowed him. 

It’s important to remember that the Reformation was not a one man show, but a movement that began long before Luther and is continuing long after. Being here in Wittenberg, where Luther worked and lived, has helped me understand this more than ever before. 



The afternoon was spent walking around the city, enjoying the other historic attractions and watching people prepare the medieval market place that tomorrow will be filled much celebration. I’m going on Tuesday, so no worries–there will be pictures. 





We also visited Lutherhaus, on the opposite side of Wittenberg from Schloßkirche. A museum made of and built around Luther’s home, it was filled with artifacts of his life, told his story, and shared his legacy. 

A very fancy pulpit
A copy of Luther’s German New Testament with woodcut images. This is depicting a scene from Revelation.
An original copy of Luther’s “Table Talk,” written conversations that Luther and his friends had around a table discussing theological ideas.


The remains of what used to be Luther’s study room.

When I saw one of the letters written in Luther’s own hand, I will admit I teared up. Not necessarily because the document of great historical or theological significance, but the fact that it was something Luther had touched… It made me wonder about the person he was, the thoughts he had, the emotions he felt, the trials he went through…

It was not unlike the feel I had standing before the Ishtar Gates when I was in Berlin two years ago. 

I felt I was before some sort of timecapsule, and it was incredibly humbling. 

A letter to Kaiser Karl V from Martin Luther explaining why he chose not to recant at the Diet of Worms.

Have you ever had a moment like that? 
So, we had a day full of Luther today and will likely have it so again tomorrow. 

Barring any train cancellations, we hope to be in Eisenach to gain some more insight and for some new adventures. 

Until tomorrow!

-Wandering Minstrelette 

Mini-Reformation Tour, part 2

I was blessed to attend New Life SDA Church this morning once again after two years. There were many faces I was so excited to see. I made several new acquaintances as well. 

New Life SDA welcoming visitors

I had the honoring of singing for the church service and was blessed to be used to touch the congregation.

Stephanie got the memo about the dresses… 😉
 

New friends Lynda and Ogechi

Anjie, who accompanied me during the service. It was a blessing to see her again!
From left: Claudette, Glenda, and Amy. One old and two new friends.

Helen, my sweet and wonderful host who took great care of me two years ago and welcomed my mother and I back with open arms for this short stay in Berlin.

The service and the potluck afterwards was filled with joy and fellowship. I was sorry to leave this community again so soon. 

But the adventure must continue!

Mom and I had a train to catch in the evening, but we thought we could squeeze one more sightseeing adventure before leaving Berlin. 

We tried the Pergamon Museum, the Berliner Dom…but it was not meant to be. The lines were long and the time was short. The weather wasn’t helping either (finally had a chance to use my new rain jacket from REI!), so we took a few pictures and went on to the Hauptbanhof. 

Mom and Stephanie posing in front of the Berliner Dom.


One question to those who live or have visited Germany, have you found it hard to find free water or am I just not looking in the right places? 

I haven’t found a place to fill my water bottle since the airport in Baltimore and for someone who’s gotten used to drinking at least 40oz a day… I’m a bit desperate, haha. 

It just seems silly to have buy a bottle of water to then put it in my bottle but… that might be what I have to do. If anyone has any tips or advice, let me know!

Anyways, mom and I caught a train to Wittenberg and are excited to be “officially” beginning our mini-Reformation tour tomorrow. 🙂 


I look forward to sharing our adventure with you!

-Wandering Minstrelette

You can follow me on Instagram (@wanderingminstrelette) for more photos from my travels!

Mini-Reformation Tour, part 1

Hello everyone!

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written… There were a couple of trips that I’ve been on since my last blog post, but I’ll hold writing on them for a later date. 

I am currently in Germany, and wow, it’s good to be back. My German skills seem to have diminished some, but my memory of the city of Berlin was surprisingly intact. 

Why am I in Germany?

For the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, of course!

My family, friends, and co-workers who have heard me rave about this since October of last year are probably tired of hearing about it. But I cannot explain how excited I am to be “in the room where it happens,” per-say, when it comes to this historic mark of events that changed the world. 

Over the next few days I’ll be writing about my adventures and discoveries in three towns where Martin Luther, one of the spiritual giants of the Protestant Reformation, lived and worked. 

I hope you will choose to come along for the ride. 🙂

Before the mini-tour begins, however, I am happy to say that I was able to spend a day and a half in Berlin to visit dear friends and show my mom, who’s joined me on this adventure, the sights of her very first continental European city. 

Enjoy some of our photos from today excursions (after about 10 hours of traveling. I’ll write more about my experience with WOW Airlines later…). 



Mommy standing on the line where the Berlin Wall once crosses the city.


I would love to get comments from you. Let me know things I should see while here. What are some of your favorite quotes from Luther or other reformers? 

Thanks for being a part of the community of this blog!

A Life Well Lived: Bernard Silver

Two weeks ago today my uncle, whom I called Dad and viewed as a grandfather, passed away. With the flurry of events that have taken place since then, I have not yet had the chance to express myself in a way that I felt was right and honorable.

This post is my attempt to recognize the man who meant so much to me and my family.

Bernard Silver (August 10, 1923-January 11, 2017)

Son of Louis and Jeannie Silver, Bernard came to the world on the same day as the funeral for former President Warren G. Harding. Louis had to travel far and wide across Brooklyn, New York to find the necessary supplies for Bernard’s home delivery as the majority of businesses were closed for the national day of mourning declared by newly appointed President Calvin Coolidge.

Later, the family grew again when Bernard’s sister Vera was born. A few years later, the Silvers moved to Washington, DCjust in time for the Great Depression.

Bernard great up knowing want and learned very early to be frugal, yet still found ways to enjoy life. The week was often spent doing chores to earn enough money to splurge on the weekends on penny candy and a nickel for a movie. Times were not easy, but Bernard always spoke how he and his family had it pretty well-off in comparison to other families.

On September 1, 1939 the Second World War began. Bernard was just 16 years old.

Like most young men, Bernard had a great desire to serve his country. Directly after graduating high school in 1943, he enlisted and was placed in the United States Army Air Corps. After completing his training, Bernard became a Staff Sergeant of the 328th Squadron in the 93rd Bombardment Group (H) A.A.F. Serving as a tail gunner on a B-24 Liberator, Bernard and his nine other crew members completed 35 bombing missions over  Belgium and Germany. Several of Bernard’s favorite plane, the P-51 Mustang, accompanied them on every mission and as he would often say, “They kept us alive.”

Bernard was honorably discharged  on September 29, 1945 and returned to the life of a civilian. Several years later, Bernard began to work for a food company based in Washington, DC named Sol Salins.

In the mid 1970s, Bernard met and fell in love with Bonnie da Silva, a Brazilian immigrant to the United States. They were married in 1978 and Bernard treated Bonnie’s sons, Joseph, Edward, and Robert as his own. Bernard and Bonnie never had children together.

The newly formed family moved to and lived in Olney, Maryland. In 1986, they welcomed Bonnie’s younger sister, Vania, into their home.

Sadly, Bernard and Bonnie divorced in the 90’s and Bonnie would return to Brazil permanently. Bernard would eventually move in Vania, her husband Luis, and two daughters, Juliana and Vanessa. They affectionately called him “Dad,” and for the girls, Bernard was like a grandfather figure.

In 2013, Bernard moved to the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, DC, only a couple of blocks from where he had grown up. There, he received all the care he deserved as a veteran of the United States, and even had the opportunity to meet President Barak Obama and his family.

On January 9th, Bernard fell and was admitted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he succumbed to an infection that affected his heart, lungs, and kidneys. He died peacefully in the morning of Wednesday the 11th, with his caring sister-in-law Vania by his side.

Bernard is survived by his three nephews, Bonnie’s sons, his sister-in-law Vania and her family.

Bernard’s was a full life, one that has seen many changes in society, technology, and government. Those who knew Dad loved him and will miss his kind spirit and wonderful stories.

His was a life well-lived. Rest now in deserved peace.


Please remember to always tell those you care for how much you love them. And whenever you see a service member, especially a veteran from WWII, be sure to thank them for their service.

This post will be later updated with photos of Bernard throughout the years of his life. Thank you for reading.

-Wandering Minstrelette

 

 

Final Adventures of Impromptu London

A bittersweet day. 

Today was my last full day in London and while I will miss this amazing city, I am looking forward to being back with my family, friends, and co-workers (yes, I do actually miss my co-workers). 

Despite wanting to catch some last minute sights before leaving tomorrow, I still had a bit of a late start to my day. But once I got going, I didn’t stop until now to write this blog. 

The Barbican Centre was established in 1982 by HM Queen Elizabeth to support and promote the arts of all mediums and also provide a space for conferences and meetings. 


The entire building feels very eclectic, from public art works in large spaces to a hidden conservatory (like a greenhouse) in the center of the complex. I spent over an hour going from floor to floor, exploring all this building had to offer. 


There were a lot of students in the cafe and lounge areas, because the Barbican works closely with (it seems) the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. I didn’t get to explore the school, but it seems that this is yet another of the top performing arts schools in London. 


This city is so wonderful for the arts!

For a change of pace, I hopped onto the tube and headed to one of the most famous addresses in history–221B Baker Street. 

The Sherlock Holmes Museum is an interesting combination of fascinating and disturbing. 


Even though Holmes was never a real person, one could be made to believe that he did exist from the way this many leveled house was set up. Period appropriate decorations and doodads that were mentioned in the books of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle such as Sherlock’s violin, Watson’s writing table, and, of course, the hats. There were some people in period costume as well who helped encourage the atmosphere of the home/museum.


What made it disturbing, at least for me, were all the life-size figures of  Holmes, Watson, Moriarty, and several other characters from various books. 



I don’t like dolls, or anything that resembles humans too closely but aren’t actually alive. Something about them creeps me out, and being in a house full of them was rather challenging. However, I was able to set my “fear” aside and still enjoy being in the “very place where Sherlock Holmes lived.”

Speaking of, is anyone out there a fan of the BBC rendition with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman? I missed seeing the first episode of the fourth season on New Year’s Day, so please don’t tell me anything. I’m looking forward to seeing that soon. 

After inspecting the home of the sleuth, I hopped on the tube once again to head to the Tate Britain Museum, a museum that features British artists from across time. A new acquaitance I had made during my visit here suggested that I go to see a painting called Hope by George Frederic Watts because of how emotional and touching it was. 


It truly was an amazing painting to behold. The blindfolded figure clinging to a lyre that only has one single golden strand remaining. It is dark and sad, yet does inspire hope-there is still another chance.  Very inspirational. 


I loved it so much a bought a postcard with it. 

There were many other wonderful and famous paintings in the museum which I will show below. 


Finally, as my last wish for my stay in London, I actually treated my AirBnb host, Pandora, to dinner. 

She has been such an amazing host. Lovely, through and through. We didn’t always get a chance to talk because our schedules didn’t always match, but it was so nice to get to just sit and chat with her tonight about all sorts of things. I hope that from my time staying here, she can consider me more than just a guest, but now a new friend. 


I have made so many new friends and acquatainces during my time here in London. People met through current connections and others just via happenstance, I truly believe God was at work and will continue to work in my life. 

Coming to London had been impromptu, but it turned out to be an amazing blessing. 

Thanks, London, for being so wonderful. Here’s to the next time we shall meet. 

-Wandering Minstrelette

A Day for Arts and Culture

For those of you have been following my blog, you know that over the last couple of summers I have traveled for internships to fulfill the requirements of my Masters in Arts Management from George Mason University in Virginia. 

My focus during my time at Mason was on international arts management, as I hope to one day move out of the United States and work in the arts or cultural realm abroad. England is a good place to start, I think, for someone who is interested in arts policy and fundraising because, despite still being quite different from the US, the UK has the closest related system that wouldn’t be such a stretch to learn and adapt to. 

That being said, I had hoped to visit several performing arts organizations during this trip and have a chat with some of the administration just to get a feel for what it might be like to work in the UK, and in London specifically. As you know from my previous posts, it didn’t really happen. 

But today I was able to visits several different arts and cultural organizations that have solidified even more my desire to someday move to and work in Europe. 

The first stop today was at the Royal Academy of the Dramatic Arts. It’s been a dream of mine to visit this amazing school that had produced some of the finest actors Britain had ever known, as well as top-level theatre technicians and set/costume designers.

Sadly, my friend Jeniffer and I were not allowed to visit any classrooms, but we did get a chance to speak to a woman who works at the cafe which is open to the public. She was able to tell us a lot about how the school functions and what it takes to be a student at RADA. We would have loved to see a performance, but the school had just opened again from winter break, so there was no chance of that happening. Guess I’ll just have to come back sometime. 



We then returned to the British Museum. The forty-five minutes there the other day was simply not enough to fully grasp the amazing amount of knowledge and artifacts available in these halls. 

Jeniffer and I walked through ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, ancient Rome, medieval Europe, and the empire of the Mayans. There were some famous pieces like the Rosetta Stone, the Lewis Chess Pieces, and the double-headed turquoise serpent. Tons of lesser known, but no less important, pieces grabbed our attention and filled us with wonder and interest. 




We could have easily spent another couples of hours than we did in the British Museum because we didn’t see anything from the Middle East, Asia, or Africa. Such an amazing museum!

Once we left the British Museum, we headed across town by Tube for the Victoria and Albert Museum. This is a world-famous museum, yet none of the exhibits really caught my fancy. That is to say, except one in the history of underwear. It was a special exhibit, however, requiring a tickets and I was already spending so much money today that I thought it would be best not to go. 

There were some pretty things-mostly clothing and instruments from the 19th century. But soon we decided to move on to something a little more interesting. 


That something happened to be right nearby. 

Royal Albert Hall is a fantastic performance venue that presents all sorts of acts. The big show they are currently advertising is an act from Cirque du Solei called Ama Luna. 

We didn’t get to go inside and explore, but it was cool to be able to see the venue again and be reminded of good memories from the NEYE 2009 tour. 


One thing I don’t remember doing the last time I was here was walking around the back of the Hall and seeing the monument to Queen Elizabeth as well as the Royal College of Music. 



While we still were not able to explore classrooms and the like, Jeniffer and I were able to see a lot more of the building than we did at RADA. There was gorgeous marble everywhere and mosaic-tiled floors. No performances were taking place, but it sounded like a rehearsal of an opera or something was taking place in the hall. 

As if all that wasn’t enough, the final touch was to see a performance of Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. 

Wow. Just wow. 

I was completely blown away by the sets, the costumes, the lights, the orchestra, the actors, and of course, the music. No spoiler warnings, but I will say that it definitely helps to be familiar with the Wizard of Oz story, either from the original book or the 1939 film, in order to catch or understand all the references in this phenomenal musical. 

It was a treat for me (so much cheaper to see it here than on Broadway), but it was an extra special treat for Jeniffer because she had never been to a musical before. What a show to give a first impression of the wonderful world of musical theatre!


It truly has been a wonderful day, my second to last in London. I have yet to see what my final day will be filled with, but I’ll be sure to share tomorrow. 

-Wandering Minstrelette

PS – I hope you’ve been enjoying the pictures I’ve been sharing. They were all taken from my iPhone 7. 

Golden Tours Excursion

Today I had the great privilege of participating on one of Golden Tour UK’s day trips to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. 

It sounds like a lot, and it was, but what an enjoyable and amazing day!

I had to meet the tour bus on Buckingham Palace Road by 8:30am, meaning I had to leave my AirBnb before the sunrise to make it in time. Yes, it was early, but I finally had the chance to see my London sunrise.


There were so many people interested in this particular trip, that we were actually divided into two groups. I ended up on the bus with Alton, the bus driver, and Eddie, the guide. They both proved to be absolutely wonderful people and made our day trip everything we could have asked it to be. 

Our first stop for the day was in Windsor Castle. It wasn’t until we arrived at the foot of the castle that I remembered that I had actually been here before with the New England Youth Ensemble when I was in college. Memories flooded back, but I also had the chance to experience tons of things for the first time. 


Sadly, as was the case with the Parliament building and Westminster Abbey, pictures were not allowed to be taken in many parts of the castle. But while I cannot show them to you, what I can saw is that this one of five homes of the current queen is utterly exquisite and ornate. Nothing was left unthought of when it came to materials used and decorations displayed. 

Enormous paintings covered the ceilings of several rooms, featuring individuals who had lived in the castle among the gods. The armory was breath-taking and the hall where royal dinners are often held was quite long. Apparently they have a single table that stretches across the whole expanse!

There was a special exhibit to honor the Queen’s 90th birthday that featured her outfits from across the decades. Riding costumes to theatrical garb to estate dinner gowns. Everything was so beautiful, but one thing I noticed was the height. The Queen does not seem to be, by the looks of her clothes, very tall at all. To me, that makes her all the more charming. 

I exited the exhibit just in time to catch some of the changing of the guard ceremony. Not quite as elaborate as that at Buckingham, and certainly not as crowded, but still quite fun to watch. The musicians accompanying the ceremony were a fife and drum corp, and the fife players were struggling a bit with playing in tune. It was entertaining, but I also felt I could sympathize with them since I play piccolo and know that the cold weather makes it difficult to stay in tune. 

Let’s be honest, the piccolo is just hard to keep in tune regardless. 



Just before we had to leave, I ducked into St. George’s Chapel, one of the oldest parts of the castle. It was ornate to the highest degree and also a fully functioning church. I wonder if it is open to the public every weekend and what exactly happens when the Queen is residing there. 

Our second stop was to something that had been on my list for a long time now – Stonehenge!


These ancient rocks, despite all the archaeology and study that has been done on them, still maintain an air of mystery and wonder. 

Visitors are dropped off in the parking lots and then must go through the visitor center before taking the mini-bus up to the path that leads to the rocks. There was also an option to walk a trail to the rocks. It was only a little over a mile, and I would have done it, but the cold was just too nippy. 


The mini-bus leaves visitors just within view of the stones, but as you walk closer, you can feel the whole aura of this ancient place. 

In fact, I made myself stop for just a moment. No pictures, bracing the cold, and took in the atmosphere. Sometimes I’m too “trigger happy” with my camera and forget to be present in the moment. Let me tell you, this was a moment to be present in. 

There are varying theories as to what the stones represent and how they were brought to the Salisbury plains. What is known is that the structure could be as old 5,000 years and that on the summer and winter solsitices, the structure is perfectly aligned with the early morning sun. It is believed that the Beaker people, named for the unique type of pottery they used and the builders of Stonehenge, could also use the formation to predict eclipses. 



Around Stonehenge were various ditches and mounds. The ditches helped outline the perimeter of the ancient memorial, placed there by ancient peoples for purposes not entirely clear today. The mounds are actually burial grounds, where the wealthy and influential Beakers were buried and prepared for the after life. 

There were also lots of birds that inhabited the rocks and the plain surrounding. Jackdaws and rooks were abundant and some of the rooks even were brave enough to land on a couple of the memorial’s wardens. I tried to convince one to come sit on my hand with peanuts, with the consent of the warden, but no luck. 



Our final destination of the tour was city of Bath, once an opulent city when Britain had a powerful Roman presence that fell into disarray when the empire crumbled. However, the rediscovery of the Roman baths in the 19th century brought people back to the city. Jane Austen, British author of the late 1700s/early 1800s, mentioned Bath in a couple of her novels. Her finally novel, Persuasian, took place entirely in Bath. 

It would have been nice to see more of this ancient city, but we were there to see what had started and revived the city-the Roman Baths. 


Wandering through the museum portion of the site and then standing by the large green pool was truly a memorable experience. Once again, I felt as if I had been placed in a time capsule. To think, hundreds of years ago, this was a place where the wealthiest came to worship and relax. 




What famous people must have entered these waters? What amount of people have these walls seen? 

There were pieces of the ancient altars and parts of statues that were revered, including a bust (more just a head, really) of Minerva, the Roman god of wisdom, to whom the baths were built in honor of. (I believe her Greek counterpart was Athena.)


After a quick glance through the gift shop (there always seems to be a gift shop, huh?), we were back in the bus for a two hour ride back to central London. 

I have been on several tours, day trips and otherwise, and I can honestly say that this is one of the best I have been on. The timing of our visits and the travel in between were perfectly calculated to allow us to see all we could want, have us leave wanting more, and still never feel rushed. Eddie, our tour guide, was pleasant, funny, and approachable, making our time together enjoyable. 

If I had the time, I would book another tour that they have down to Kent and Dover, but I believe I will have to wait until I return to the British Isles for that trip. 

I highly recommend Golden Tours for your visit to London, and no, I was not asked or paid to say this. I really just liked it that much. 🙂

Hard to believe I only have two days left before I return home! I’ll be sure to press in as much as possible within the next two days–and then share all about it! Look out for my next blog post. 

-Wandering Minstrelette