Saxony: A divine break in the St. Marienthal monastery

Whe comes here for the first time in the romantic valley of the Neisse in the border triangle Germany-Poland-Czech Republic, rubs his eyes in amazement. On the German side of the river, close to the border with Poland, there seems to be a fairytale castle. With domes, towers and decor in the Bohemian Baroque style.

And yet St. Marienthal is nothing less than that. Behind the magnificent facades, simplicity, obedience and renunciation prevail. Women who have dedicated their lives to God and their community live here.


Lullabies: So that the crying child in your heart is finally silent

EApart from the arrival and departure of three monarchs from the Orient, not much has been passed down from the first days of the later Savior. But that it was completely quiet in the hut at Bethlehem after the angels had packed their trumpets and the shepherds finished their hymn of praise is not to be expected.

God became a little man at Christmas. And little people like to scream extensively. For a variety of reasons. And even if little people actually screamed themselves tired, experience has shown that they are often reluctant to fall asleep.

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Cantor of the Christian Church in Hamburg-Ottensen: Igor Zeller

Since Mary and Joseph – even if they could have read – hardly any advice literature was available (“Every child can sleep”), they will have resorted to the oldest and most natural means of calming small people: they will be Jesus in their arms or in the manger have rocked softly. And they will have sung too.

Songs in a calm rhythm. Slowly. Constructed from regularly repeating motifs. Songs in which meaningless phrases form refrains like “Lalelu” or “Lulei” or “Eia”. Christmas is not the time of triumphant song, Christmas is the time of lullabies.

In any case, as the counseling literature now knows, Mary and Joseph could not have done anything better than singing. “Quiet, quiet, quiet, because the child wants to sleep” or – the oldest of all traditional Christian Christmas lullabies – “Joseph, dear Joseph mein”, which is based on “Resonet in laudibus”, a song whose original eight-verse version is set in neumes from the middle of the 14th century in the cantionary of the Styrian monastery Seckau.

Clinical studies have shown that singing in the crib, cradle and bed leads, and if it’s only ten minutes, to a calmer pulse in children, less anxiety and less pain. The calm, even movement, the soft, warm tone create a feeling of security, a feeling of security, evoke memories of the time in the womb in the child, promote the parent-child bond.

The classic lullaby does not only serve as a minimally invasive, over-the-counter sleep aid, but also as a sedative for parents. You always sing lullabies for yourself. They are – almost all lyrics are about it – songs against the fear of the world, against forlornness, against the injustice that awaits us out there during the day (and before us saved the child of Bethlehem).

If God willing, you will be awakened again

They ask God for protection from this and for redemption, conjure up the darkness once again and as a kind of musical defense magic at the same time give consolation to parents who in earlier times must have been on the verge of nervous breakdown in the first few months. Lead you into a realm between day and dream, from which you and your children will be woken up again the next morning.

Lullabies exist in all cultures. The story of the traditional Christian lullaby began where one would normally not expect infants and the need to sing them to sleep. In the monasteries. That is when the baby cradle was invented. A liturgical Christmas play, which was first mentioned in 1162 in “De investigatione Antichristi”, a writing by Gerhoh, the cheer of the Upper Austrian Augustinian canons of Reichersberg am Inn.

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Under the direction of Kreuzkantor, Roderich Kreile, the Dresdner Kruzianer (Dresdner Kreuzchor) rehearse together with the Dresden Philharmonic for the Christmas Oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach in the Kreuzkirche in Dresden.  Photo: Arno Burgi [ Rechtehinweis: (c) dpa ]

As a preliminary stage to today’s nativity play, the infant cradle spread across the whole of southern Germany. Tales of the children’s dances around a figure of the Christ Child placed on the altar and his handing around in the congregation during the service have come down to us. Ornate children’s cradles, which were pulled with long silk ribbons during the service, still bear witness to this Christmas ritual like “Resonet in laudibus”.

The second (musical) career of the lullaby began at a time that was apparently particularly in need of consolation and reassurance, a time of reassurance, of retreating into one’s inner self. So many lullabies have survived from no epoch, and no other lulling piece of music was written as in the 19th century.

“Des Knaben Wunderhorn” handed down the texts of traditional children’s songs – “so that the crying child in your heart is finally silent” (Clemens Brentano). There is hardly a romantic composer who – like Brahms (“Guten Abend, gut ‘Nacht”) or Humperdinck (“In the evening I want to go to sleep”) – does not furnish a lullaby with a melody in the “folk tone” that sometimes it still does not known for what they actually are – art songs.

As lullabies without words, Chopin’s Berceuses (French for lullaby) did their part to relax the Biedermeier-romantic nerves. Traditional lullabies can also be found in Chopin’s B minor Scherzo and Tchaikovsky’s B minor Piano Concerto.

Since Heino Gaze’s “Lalelu”, the tradition of the lullaby has fallen asleep a bit – well – at least in Germany. You don’t necessarily want to sing “Lullaby” by The Cure while you are child, you just get bad dreams of it yourself. Max Raabe’s lullaby about the penguin sitting on his glacier at the South Pole and watching “whether his glacier thaws” is a real classic.

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WS Kultur Beethoven 5. Symphonie No. 5 ++ Teodor Currentzis © Julia Wesely ++ Info/Quelle: It was taken during the recording of the Fifth Symphony in Vienna. And it is almost exclusive. This image was used only ones – in one Japanese magazine. Oksana Gekk ,

As a modern cradle, parenting guides recommend repurposed love songs. Children can be put to sleep – in their arms and in motion – but also dancing with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony (self-awareness). And with “Down by the River”, “Cortez the Killer” and heavy feedback – at least Navid Kermani tells in “Book of those killed by Neil Young” – one of the most beautiful major essays ever about rock music in general, Neil Young in particular and about Written by Children.

So far it has not been possible to establish that a renaissance of the lullaby is looming in the supposedly fearful present, which should actually arm itself to the teeth with consolation with musical defensive charms and lulling songs. But maybe someone is currently working on new songs for us sleeping sheep.


Saxony-Anhalt: monasteries and castles with fantastic gardens

Dampf rises from the wet meadows, thick drops fall from the trees. The rain has detached the petals from the roses, forming a white carpet on the floor. The thunderstorm has just passed, but the first bumblebees are buzzing again through the herb garden of Michaelstein Monastery. It smells of lavender and curry herb, thyme and oregano.

Glass herb and pimpinelle, elephant and lantern flowers grow in front of the field stone wall that surrounds the garden. Fern sprouts from an old well, ripe medlars lie in the grass. Herb beds are lined up: on the right dye plants for ink and fabrics, next to them aromatic herbs such as sweet umbels or savory. And aromatic herbs are grouped in the middle.

“Almost only historically documented plants grow here,” says Sabine Volk. The gardener from Michaelstein Monastery made the planning of monastery gardens the subject of her diploma thesis as an engineer for land maintenance. Twenty years ago she laid out a vegetable garden with everything that was common on the medieval monk’s table. “I drew the time limit in 1492,” says Volk. So there are no potatoes, no tomatoes, no peppers in the garden.

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The 50-year-old relied on the Sankt Gallen monastery plan, an ideal garden layout from the 9th century with a Kreuzhof, herb, vegetable and orchard as well as precise information on the selection of plants. At that time, Charlemagne also laid down in the crown property ordinance “Capitulare de villis” which plants were to be grown in the Carolingian region.

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“Only the topic of magic herbs really has no place in a monastery – but they are also part of the Harz Mountains,” says the gardener. In the Middle Ages people believed in herbs and their smoking as a remedy against witchcraft and the devil. “Valerian, dost and dill – the hex can’t do what it wants,” was a popular saying. “For visitors, the symbolic, the downside, is always very exciting,” says Volk.

Examples of horticulture in Saxony-Anhalt

The gardens at Michaelstein Monastery are part of the “Garden Dreams” network that Saxony-Anhalt set up 20 years ago. Its 50 selected garden monuments are exemplary of the horticultural art of the state: baroque, palace and monastery gardens, extensive landscape parks. Many anniversary events were canceled due to Corona, but new ideas emerged: Sabine Volk became a YouTuber with garden videos from Michaelstein.

The Roseburg in Quedlinburg was built in 1907 based on a medieval castle

The Roseburg in Quedlinburg was built in 1907 based on a medieval castle

Quelle: picture alliance/dpa

There are 14 of these garden dreams in the Harz Mountains alone – and most of them are mainly women. For example in the Roseburg in Quedlinburg, where a gardener regularly leads through the sometimes wildly romantic, Italian-style garden. At Wernigerode Castle, a young custodian is responsible for the terrace gardens, from which the view extends to the Brocken.

The palace gardens, which had been sleeping since the 1920s, were renovated with funding after the fall of the Wall, as was the baroque pleasure garden in Wernigerode. “During the GDR era, film screenings and workers’ games took place here, but a large part of the park remained overgrown,” says Lydia Seiler, who leads through the extensive grounds in a flowery summer dress and a straw hat. In addition to an orangery, it has baroque terraces and Germany’s northernmost chestnut grove.

From the gardens of Wernigerode Castle, the view extends to the Brocken

From the terrace gardens of Wernigerode Castle, the view goes as far as the Brocken

Source: Schloß Wernigerode GmbH

The renovation was a project close to the heart of the landscape architect. It was only with the help of a photo with Seiler as a toddler on it that the most beautiful viewpoint over the city was found in the thicket. Gardens have long been Seiler’s theme of life: In the Wernigeroder Bürgerpark, the now 70-year-old planned ten themed gardens – from terraced houses to villas and metal gardens. She also takes care of growing her own vegetables.

Drübeck Abbey has one of the oldest gardens in the Harz Mountains

Only a few minutes’ drive from the Lustgarten is one of the oldest places where women worked in gardens in the Harz: Drübeck Abbey. Founded in the 10th century, it served as a Benedictine monastery and Protestant women’s monastery over the ages.

Around 1737 only five noble canons and an abbess lived here – each with their own garden that they could cultivate. “Drübeck Monastery is a millennia-old spiritual place. A lot can be felt here that cannot be learned from books, ”says Margrit Hottenrott.

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The architect lives on the monastery grounds herself and undertakes meditative garden walks with her guests – on the trail of mysticism with her focus on holism. “All people experience primal experiences in nature and in places of power,” she says. “That is not esoteric, but based on experience.”

Walnuts as a symbol of fertility

The symbolism already begins in the walnut avenue at the entrance: Here walnuts welcome visitors – as a symbol of fertility. In the abbess’s garden, gnarled yews have formed a meter-high dome.

The yew was already considered an ancestral tree by primitive peoples. “The plant species were chosen very deliberately,” explains Hottenrott. For example the mullein, which stands for the scepter of Christ. Lilies and roses create a connection with Mary.

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The garden guide repeatedly advises immersing himself in details of the gardens intuitively and with gut instinct: “Every time something appeals to us – a place, a tree, a plant – we should take the time to listen to the message. Some people grew up and can do it, others suddenly discover it. And many have a longing for it – especially in the last few months. “

The tour ends in the heart of the monastery, where a linden tree is more than 300 years old. Wrinkles and cracks, scars and holes cover its trunk, two of its large branches rest like tentacles on the ground.

“Our relationship with trees is very special. What he ‘exhales’, we breathe in. Its strength lies in the invisible roots, similar to that of humans, ”says the garden guide. Then she leaves her guests behind, some pensive, others in a spirit of optimism – for the journey to the next dream garden.

The Germans are saving themselves from Corona in allotment gardens

As a result of the corona pandemic, there is a rush for allotment gardens in Germany. The free parcels are limited. Anyone who can still get hold of a plot of land around metropolitan areas can consider themselves lucky.

Source: WELT / Matthias Herreiner

Tips and information

Getting there: The gardens in the northern Harz between Ilsenburg, Wernigerode and Quedlinburg can be reached via the A36, from the south via the B244 and B27.

Spend the night in the garden: You can enjoy a lot of peace and quiet and direct access to the garden in the “Abbess House”, the “Domain Barn” or in the “House of Silence” in Drübeck Monastery, a double room with breakfast costs from 88 euros ( The comfortable “Schlosshotel Blankenburg” is located in a barracks from 1848. Double rooms with breakfast from 97 euros ( A holiday apartment on three levels in a fortified tower in the Blankenburger Berggarten has a particular charm, the double room costs from 125 euros (

Events: There are regular tours, concerts, workshops and markets, such as the meditative garden tour in Drübeck Abbey (September 27 and October 25) and a “garden workshop” in Michaelstein on October 10 (

Information desk:

Source: WORLD infographic

Participation in the trip was supported by the Investment and Marketing Company Saxony-Anhalt. You can find our standards of transparency and journalistic independence at


Thailand: Escape to a monastery from smartphone addiction

DTo be able to travel and work on the go is a dream come true for me. But even this dream is not perfect in reality. After a good eight months, what I feared before starting my trip around the world occurred: mental exhaustion.

It was a gradual process. It was only when I realized that I was constantly tired, often had headaches and couldn’t sleep well that I knew something was wrong. But what is so exhausting about my life as a digital nomad?

I didn’t want to admit it to myself, but I’ve developed a certain addiction to smartphones. I recently opened the analysis app on my mobile phone for the first time and was shocked to discover that in the past few weeks I have spent an average of eight hours a day on the smartphone.

It’s my navigation device, translator and notepad, camera and search engine for accommodations, restaurants and attractions, and my entertainment device. And much more.

However, according to the analysis, I mainly use it for communicating. I received about 2,000 messages in three weeks via social networks alone, not counting emails. Since I try to answer all messages quickly, I should also have sent around 2000 in the same period.

Go to the monastery for a digital detox in Thailand

Obviously, it’s the constant networking that exhausts me the most. Since the beginning of the year I have more than 60 new people in my life with whom I have shared unique experiences and know many of their personal life stories. We are in contact and write to each other. And then there are friends, family and work contacts in Germany. I would like to take care of all of this, but it has become too much.

When I found out, I was in the Thai border town of Mae Sot after finishing my story about the Burmese Muay Thai fighter “Little Tiger”. Again met countless people, some taken to the heart, tragic family stories heard. My head was full, I couldn’t take in anything and only wanted one thing: rest. So I went to the monastery for a self-prescribed digital detox.

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From Mae Sot, a dream road leads north through the mountains, always along the Burmese border. After a good 460 kilometers I reach the longed-for resting place: Wat Pa Tam Wua. The Buddhist monastery welcomes people willing to meditate like me for one to ten days 365 days a year – free of charge. A donation afterwards is of course appropriate.

A shield protects against contact with others

Idyllically located in a valley with rice fields, the site is known nationwide for its beauty. The monastery is now allowed to receive visitors again under strict Corona hygiene requirements. Daily temperature measurements, wearing masks near the monks and frequent hand disinfection are mandatory.

When I registered, I was surprised to find that I don’t have to hand in my smartphone. Conversations are also allowed outside of the meditation sessions. It’s a shame because I had hoped for a complete deprivation of communication, as I had experienced during the Vipassana meditation in India.

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In addition, some of the guests see the monastery as an opportunity to socialize – a horror for me. Only after several days do I notice that you can put on a label that says “Silent”. This protects against contact. After all, all visitors get an unpretentious white costume to wear, which protects against optical stimuli.

You sleep in a common room or in individual mini bungalows on a thin mattress over wood. So I inevitably wake up every time I change position, if any bone has to rearrange itself with the wooden floor.

After a week of meditation back on the smartphone

At 6.30 a.m., we give the monks a breakfast ritual of plain rice to eat, which they collect in a container. “Pretty monotonous breakfast,” I think to myself. But no, the rice is brought together again and serves as the basis for our strictly vegan food.

Time out: Meditation in the Wat Pa Tam Wua monastery in Thailand

Time out: Meditation in the Wat Pa Tam Wua monastery in Thailand

Quelle: Martin Lewicki

During the lunch ritual, which already takes place at 10.30 a.m., the monks keep the food that we serve them. We can eat the rest. That is the second and last meal of the day.

Meditation takes place several times a day: walking, sitting and lying down, each about half an hour. It takes me three days to arrive mentally and three more days to enjoy the meditation. Only after a week do I feel ready to switch on my smartphone again and return to the everyday life of a digital nomad.

Now I have to be more conscious about how things are handled and prioritize my contacts more strongly. And as one monk put it so beautifully: The art lies in applying what you have learned in the monastery in everyday life. I’ll try it.

Read more parts of the world tour series “One Way Ticket” here. The column appears every two weeks.

Baby monk falls asleep during meditation

The little monk Nongkorn is only two years old. No wonder he just can’t keep his eyes open while meditating in a Thai temple. And that looks very cute.


Thessaly: The monks reached their monasteries via rope ladders

Die Region Thessalien

Mith around 30 million tourists annually, Greece is one of the 15 most popular travel destinations in the world – that was true before the outbreak of the corona pandemic and will certainly not be any different afterwards. It is all the more astonishing that there are still such untouristic regions in the country as the Agrafa massif, which is traded as an insider tip among outdoor activists. After all, 15 peaks are over 2000 meters high here, the highest, the Tymfristos, reaches 2312 meters.

Agrafa is located in western Thessaly and is the largest of the nine Greek regions in terms of area. Enclosed by high mountains, there are two wide, fertile plains with Tríkala and Lárissa as urban centers – Thessaly is also Greece’s granary. It is not boring for tourists here: Even the ancient Greeks were diligent in agriculture and animal breeding – which makes Thessaly a treasure trove for educated citizens on the trail of antiquity and its mythology.

Another advantage of visiting the area is that it is, with the Metéora monasteries, Mount Olympus and “Mamma Mia!”, A world cultural heritage site, seat of gods and the location of a cult film. And from Volos, the largest Thessalonian port, it is only a stone’s throw over to the Pelion Peninsula, a hiking paradise with shady oak forests and picturesque bays – without any tourist crowds.

Source: WORLD infographic

Monks built monasteries on pinnacles

For almost 400 years they were fortresses of the Christian faith in the Islamic Ottoman Empire – the Metéora monasteries in Thessaly, enthroned on pinnacles. Around a hundred stone solitaires, remnants of a sandstone mountain, rise up to 600 meters near Kalambaka.

Thessaly in Greece: Roussanou Monastery used to be reached via a rope ladder, today there are steps up

In the past, Roussanou monastery was reached via a rope ladder; today there are steps up

Quelle: Getty Images

In Byzantine times, a few hermits from the monastic republic of Athos built airy outbuildings here, but after the Turkish invasion in the 15th century, every third rock was occupied by monks – and only accessible via rope ladders.

Six monasteries are still inhabited today, they now have stair access and can be visited. The remaining “rock nests” were gradually abandoned after the liberation of Thessaly in 1881; ruins are clearly visible on two dozen sandstone towers.

Monasteries in Thessaly (Greece): Around a hundred stone solitaires rise up to 600 meters near Kalambaka

Above the clouds: around a hundred stone solitaires tower up to 600 meters near Kalambaka


Beaches and bays as a film set

Thessaly not only includes miles of beaches along the Olympic Riviera, but also cinematic bays. The blockbuster “Mamma Mia!” Was filmed there in 2007, on the Northern Sporades, part of Thessaly.

According to the script, the Abba musical is set on a fictional Greek island, and the camera team chose Skopelos as the location for the beach scenes: with its 80 percent forested hinterland, the Sporades isle is considered the greenest island in the Aegean – and with its 66 kilometers of turquoise coast The sea is also a bathing paradise. If a tree-lined bay comes into the picture in the film, it should be Kastani Beach.

Greece: The 2007 blockbuster hit the Northern Sporades, which belong to Thessaly "Mamma Mia!" turned

In 2007 the blockbuster “Mamma Mia!” Was released on the Northern Sporades, which belong to Thessaly. turned

Quelle: mauritius images / Collection Christophel

Hiking in the Agrafa Mountains

It is considered the most remote mountain range in Greece – Agrafa in western Thessaly. Not even the Ottoman tax collectors penetrated the difficult-to-access area, which saved many residents from taxes. The landscape is still archaic today. If you want to experience it: The European long-distance hiking trail E4 touches 14 ancient mountain villages.

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Music in honor of the gods

Zeus on Mount Olympus, Apollon in the Témbi Valley, the Centaurs in the Pelion Mountains: what had rank and name in the ancient world of gods cavorted in Thessaly. The gods loved music, and in their honor it was played at every opportunity.

Water-powered organs, called hydraulis, which are among the oldest keyboard instruments in the world, were also used. In 1992 a specimen was found at the foot of Mount Olympus.

Hydraulis: Water-powered organs are among the oldest keyboard instruments in the world

Water-powered organs are among the oldest keyboard instruments in the world

Source: WORLD infographic

A mountain railway in “Switzerland of Greece”

The Greeks praise the Pelion peninsula in the south of Thessaly as “Switzerland of Greece”. The fact that a narrow-gauge railway from 1895 trundles through the rugged mountains, passing two tunnels and nine viaducts, fits in well with the Swiss cliché.

The Pelion Railway takes 90 minutes for the 15 kilometers from Ano Lechonia on the Pagasitic Gulf to the mountain village of Milies. Before it goes back three hours later, the locomotive is turned manually on a disk; Travelers are allowed to help.

Greece: The Pelion narrow-gauge railway passes a viaduct

The Pelion narrow-gauge railway passes a viaduct

Those: De Agostini via Getty Images

The marathon leads over the summit massif of Olympus

The Faethon marathon participants have to conquer 3200 meters of altitude. The 43.4-kilometer circuit leads from Kokkinopilos in Thessaly over the Olympus summit (2918 meters) back to 1250 meters. Ten hours are set for the route.

Alongside the Olympus Mythical Trail, the Olympus Ultra and the Almira-X Triathlon, the Faethon Marathon is the most demanding of eleven running events that have been established on Olympus since 2004.

The quote

“I have a horse like you’ve never seen it before”

Philonikos, a 4th century B.C. Horse breeder living in Thessaly, rightly praised his animal: under the name Bucephalus it would later write world history, because it carried Alexander the great through all battles.

Thessaly’s warhorses had already proven themselves against the Persians. Alexander even founded a city in honor of his horse, Alexandreia Bukephalus, now Jhelam in Pakistan. There are no longer any purebred Thessalians, but the tough Pindos pony can probably be traced back to them.

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Holidaymaker in Lindos on the island of Rhodes (Greece)

Quirky, record-breaking, typical: You can find more parts of our regional geography series here.

This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We are happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.

WELT AM SONNTAG from August 30, 2020