Archive for England

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

From Prof. Moldenhauer…

Our final day in London was designated as free time for the veteran travelers and trustworthy group of Wisconsin Lutheran College students. They could choose their spots among many museums, a Thames River boat ride, Olympic sites, and even shopping.

With one lesson on Best of Britain left, we agreed to meet at the Globe for our final play, Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” performed in the exact replica of Shakespeare’s thatched theatre: wooden benches, groundlings, open roof, and all. To a person, we enjoyed the actual performance just as the Londoners of 1600 would have done.

One last walk over the Millennium Bridge, a late night train ride home to Catford, and our trip to England is almost over. Tomorrow we pack up early and head to Heathrow Airport for our eight-hour journey back to America.

Students in front of The Shard, which will be the tallest building in Western Europe

To all parents and friends of these eight students, I would proclaim my admiration and appreciation for them all. Cooperation and civility were obvious, and they each participated in their own style and manner, making this a fine and successful conclusion of “Best of Britain.” God blessed us with wonderful experiences and safe travel.

This is Dr. Moldenhauer signing off for Best of Britain. Cheers!

Jane Austen and Bath

From Prof. Moldenhauer…

How about a tour of a World Heritage City? Today we hopped on our usual train from Catford to London, then took a couple of tube (subway) rides through the underground transportation system of London to Paddington Station, then rode a high speed train toward the western England city of Bath.

For a change, our weather was bright and sunny and wonderful. We toured a 2,000-year-old Roman spa (natural hot water springs), and walked the very steps and ducked under the very arches that Julius Caesar’s contemporaries visited.

Next was a two-hour walking tour (free!) while a knowledgeable Bath resident gave us details on the history and famous residents of that city. Of course, we chose Bath for the Jane Austen books and places that inspired her, so that was an added feature of the day. Three of us chose to walk 207 steps to the top of the Abbey church tower and view the city from up above it all. I am sure that we all agreed, Bath is a great place to visit!

Touring London

From Prof. Moldenhauer…

Today was a day of London touring and enjoying. We started our day with a visit to the British Museum, one of the best in the world for ancient history. We saw the actual Rosetta stone, numerous Egyptian mummies, and the original Parthenon friezes and statues. These items were stripped from their Athens site by England’s Lord Elgin in the early 1800s and brought to London. I stood transfixed as I was looking at the very same stone carvings that St. Paul saw when he visited Athens and remarked, “I see that you have many gods,” and then proceeded to preach to the Greeks about the true and triune God.

In the evening some of us attended West End theatres for world famous (Broadway type) productions. Some of us saw “The Phantom of the Opera,” or “Les Miserables,” and a couple chose “Love Never Dies.”

London's Bobbies, with Prof. Moldenhauer

Studying Carroll and Lewis in Oxford

From Prof. Moldenhauer…

Today was Pentecost Sunday, and we did not overlook the opportunity to have a worship service in our small apartment this morning. Together with Christians all over the world, we rejoice for the gift of the Holy Spirit. After our “church time” we had a couple of student presentations on the authors we were about to seek out in Oxford.

Then it was off to Oxford by train, the oldest and most prestigious university in this country. Our main purpose was to scout out things and places that pertained to two authors: Lewis Carroll and C.S. Lewis. Although it rained all day, we were prepared with raincoats and umbrellas, so we were not prevented from our walking, even through a drizzle. (Have I mentioned that we are averaging about 8-10 miles of walking each day?)

Besides those two authors, Christ Church College has also schooled William Penn, John Wesley, John Updike, and Albert Einstein, along with many others. It was fascinating to see this city, home to the 39 colleges that make up Oxford University. Our wet, rainy day was full of learning.

Tomorrow, we will tour the famous British Museum, home to the Rosetta Stone. In the evening, some of us are going to attend a West End play of our choice, located in the London district that is most alike to our Broadway. It should be another good day.

The overall mood of these students is good. They are cooperative, eager to learn, and very compatible. We are having a great time, and even though we have been here for almost two weeks, our list of “must see” items is still quite long. We will do our best to pack more things into the next several days before we return to America on Thursday.

“God save the Queen,” as every Brit would utter it and mean it.

Canterbury, London, and the royal family

From Prof. Moldenhauer…

On Friday the 10th, we traveled by train to Canterbury, about 60 miles east of London. There we toured one of the largest cathedrals in England and learned about Chaucer’s pilgrims who made that same journey over six hundred years ago, telling tales as they went. The day was rainy, but we all enjoyed seeing the walled city of Canterbury.

Royal guard with WLC students

On Saturday the 11th, we rose early and took a train to Charing Cross station at Trafalgar Square, the exact center of London. We then walked toward Buckingham Palace and secured a spot in the front row of the parade route for The Trooping of the Colours, the official celebration of the Queen’s birthday. After two hours of waiting, we were able to observe the parade, consisting of hundreds of marching guards, dozens of horses, several marching bands, and, of course, the official carriages that carried the royalty of England. Yes, we saw the Queen herself, along with Prince William and his new bride, and many other members of the royal family.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip

You can see that we were 35 feet from Her Majesty, snapping pictures of this country’s beloved monarch. It was thrilling! Later in the day we split into several groups and journeyed to the tourist spots of Harrod’s, Kensington Palace, Piccadilly Circus, and the Tate Modern Art Museum. Tired by nightfall, we enjoyed the day.

At the Trooping of the Colours

Keats and the Wesleys

From Prof. Moldenhauer…

Today is Thursday, June 9, 2011. We are well situated in our familiar lodging place in SE London called Glenthurston. We obtain a “good deal” on this nice place because it is located about 10 miles from downtown London, and we take the train each morning and evening.

Today we conducted a “classroom” lesson on John and Charles Wesley, followed by some Keats information. Then we took the train and tube to north London to visit the Wesley chapel and graves. Our tour guide at the chapel and museum was extremely friendly and well-informed, giving us so much to ponder about the great preacher (John) and hymn writer (Charles). From there we moved further north to the upscale neighborhood of Hampstead where the famous Romantic poet John Keats lived in the early 1800s. His house tour was informative and interesting, giving us a good flavor for still another “Best of Britain” author.

Students at John Keats' house

To finish off the day we stopped at St. Paul’s Cathedral, the second largest domed church in the world, and observed the Anglican evensong service.

Tired tonight, we will head off to Canterbury in the morning to see that cathedral and learn about Chaucer.

The students are great, so cooperative and prompt. I couldn’t ask for better companions.

Cheers now.

At Stratford-upon-Avon

From Wisconsin Lutheran College student Matthew Gasper…

Yesterday we arrived at Stratford-upon-Avon and spent the day learning about William Shakespeare. We were able to see his birthplace, the church he attended as a child, and the site where his home once stood near the end of his life. That night we saw a presentation of The Merchant of Venice performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. We were taken a bit off guard by the play’s setting in modern Las Vegas but were pleasantly surprised to find that Sir Patrick Stewart played the character of Shylock.

The home of Shakespeare's sister-in-law

This morning we ate a traditional English breakfast and soon packed our bags to leave for London. After a short train ride and a quick trip through the London tube system, we found ourselves in Catford, just outside of downtown London, where we will be staying for the remainder of our trip. A group of us ventured out to take a quick look at the city as we passed by the Globe Theater, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Millennium Bridge before a nice meal of fish and chips. The trip has been going great so far and we’re all excited for spending the next week in London.

Beatrix Potter

From Prof. Moldenhauer…

Today was dedicated to Beatrix Potter, the creator of the Peter Rabbit and other delightful animal tales. She lived very near this place, and her role in creating this lovely Lake District preservation was crucial.

I may not have mentioned this before, so I will now compliment Matt Gasper who was our William Wordsworth expert on Friday while we walked to Grasmere and back. Each student is responsible for one author to research, write, and tell about. He did a fine job of talking about the former Poet Laureate of England, the creator of Romanticism.

Birthplace of Romanticism

We are gradually getting over our jet lag, so we ate our simple breakfast (cereal and toast), and then headed down to Windermere (the largest lake in the district) and hopped onto a small cruise boat for a five mile trip to Bowness. There we rode as pedestrians on a ferry ship across the lake. Next, we walked two miles (uphill) to the Hilltop Farm where Miss Potter lived and wrote and sketched. One of our eight students (Hannah Stellick) had done the research on the author/illustrator so we were fully informed by our WLC student, as well as the polite guides.

After spending time at the original farm of Beatrix Potter, we journeyed back to Bowness, the harbor town on the lake. Some of us walked and some of us rode a small shuttle bus for a nominal cost. I try to provide options to our travelers whenever possible. These students are quite independent and able to manage for themselves, although our rule is to never travel alone anywhere. I always make sure that they are together with others from our group. The students have been very cooperative and polite, even gathering compliments from the locals. This makes me happy, and it should be recognized as a compliment to their parents who raised them.

So back to Bowness. Our time there was spent being tourists, with lots of little shops and ice cream places and boats and ducks and swans to see and buy and eat. (You can figure out which was which in that previous sentence).

We took the boat back to Ambleside in the later afternoon, relaxed with various activities, and went to be fairly early. Some students did clothes washing, others played some board games, and a few spent computer time.

On Sunday, we will repack our suitcases, have a Sunday gathering with psalms, hymns, and a devotional message. I prepared these devotions with the help of my wife, and we continue to be thankful that we are a Christian group, confession our faith in England or Scotland or any place that we travel.

After leaving this wonderful area of lakes and fells and waterfalls, we will travel by train to Edinburgh, Scotland, arriving there about 2 p.m. on June 5. Our authors for Scotland are Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson.

God be with you.

From the Lake District

Good morning to you, readers. This is Dr. Martin Moldenhauer, the Wisconsin Lutheran College English professor who is teaching eight students over here in the United Kingdom. Although you are just going to sleep on Friday evening, I am up early (4:40 am) on Saturday, unable to sleep any longer so I may as well write a blog entry.

Let me attempt to describe the region called The Lake District. It’s a magnificent collection of fells (small mountains) and meres (clear lakes), completely unfettered by commercialism, hotels, billboards, 4-lane highways, and shopping malls. In fact, no train tracks exist anywhere in this area. Most of the buildings are hundreds of years old, made out of local stone and shale quarries. As we hike on and around these fells, we are much more likely to pass sheep and goats than people.

Lake District

Our Backpackers Inn hostel has clean beds and hot showers, coupled with a modest offering of breakfast cereal, toast, and tea. Looking out of my window in the early dawn light, I can clearly see Loughrigg Fell, the peak we climbed upon our first day arrival in Ambleside. By the way, darkness doesn’t last long here in the north of England, perhaps five hours from 11 pm to 4 am.

Yesterday our selected author was William Wordsworth, the originator of Romantic poetry. For those of you who are non-English majors, Romanticism does not mean love songs, but rather nature-loving poems about daffodils, waterfalls, clouds, flowers, and lakes. We hiked from one of his houses to another, contrasting his modest little Dove cottage home in Grasmere to as this more stately mansion in Rydal Mount. We also visited his grave, walked past his winter skating pond, and hiked along his favorite lake. It was easy to teach Romantic poetry when we are walking among the very places which inspired him. By the end of the day we had hiked over nine miles in warm and steady sunshine, and I heard not a single complaint. These students are so cooperative and agreeable. I bought them all ice cream cones at the end of our journey, and we sat on a little stone wall alongside a creek to enjoy them.

Today, we plan to take a six mile boat ride on Windermere (if I were to say Lake Windermere it would be redundant) to a ferry that crosses the lake. Then we’ll hike to Hilltop farm, the home of Beatrix Potter. She was the author of the Peter Rabbit tales, and the most generous benefactor of land in The Lake District. Upon her death she donated 14 farms to the British National Trust agency, thereby assuring that this area would remain free from commercialism, preserving its pristine beauty for the ages. One of my students will give a presentation about Miss Potter, and we will tour her home.

Although our muscles are sore, we are doing quite well, and I know that these students can appreciate Romantic poetry in a new way.

Tomorrow, after a little church service in our hostel living room, we will ride a bus, board a train, and travel to Edinburgh, Scotland.

Student perspective

I’m Matt Gasper from Dr. Moldenhauer’s “Best of Britain” English study tour. I volunteered to blog for this class to help keep everyone back home updated on how things are going out here.

Lake District

Yesterday was our first full day out and about in the UK. After hours of plane, tube, and train travel to the beautiful town of Ambleside in the Lake District we needed a bit of a relaxing day to get over the jet lag that many of us were feeling. A day long guided tour throughout the Lake District was just the thing our group needed before we start the actual class portion of the trip. This van tour took us to many scenic outlooks throughout the fells and lakes in the area and Chris, our tour guide, was very knowledgeable about everything from the slate rock walls, to the history of Lake District authors and poets, to the sheep that were grazing throughout the countryside.

After this tour we came back to Ambleside Backpacker’s Inn to talk about the schedule for the next couple days which includes visiting the homes and areas of inspiration for William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. Finally we split up to walk around Ambleside to grab some dinner and a few of us visited a waterfall only about a twenty minute walk away from our hostel.