Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How we change but retain something from the past

This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
The Dominican priory in Düsseldorf is right in the heart of the old city. On one side of the building are two Irish pubs and in front is the 17th century church of St Andrew, which is the property of the State of North Rhine Westphalia. The church is managed by the German Dominicans.

Originally a Jesuit church, it is one of the most interesting buildings of late German Renaissance and early Baroque architecture. It was built at the suggestion of the Jesuits who were called to Düsseldorf in 1619.

The Dominicans have been running the church since 1972.
Düsseldorf is the capital of the State of North Rhine Westphalia with the great river Rhine flowing through it.

I was there last week visiting a number of people. It was my first time back in the city for a long time. It meant that I could remember nothing of the place. It's so strange how we forget things over time.

Among those I was visiting was a couple I had last seen 30 years ago. I first met Norbert and Dorthe Ernst 31 years ago in Berlin. Back then they had two young children.

Norbert and I arranged to meet at the information centre at Essen rail station at 5pm. As I was walking down the stairs at the station I saw this man with a beard. I hesitatingly pointed my finger at him, he looked at me for a second or so. Yes, I had my man. Imagine I recognised him from 3O years ago. I'm not sure he recognised me as quickly. Does that mean I have changed more than he? He certainly had not put on an ounce of weight. And back then too he had a beard.

Later in the evening when his wife came home from work I immediately recognised her. But of course that was made much easier because of the context.

They are now grandparents with an adorable five-year-old little boy. Their two daughters had vague memories of the Berlin days and remember some of the fun we had.

It's interesting how we change over the years and still retain so much from the past. A mix of old and new.

Back then there was no mobile phone, no email but there was the Wall right in the heart of Berlin.

It's interesting comparing notes with another people. Just walking down a street observing people and things, you can always spot some of the differences. 

I get the impression the Germans, at least out on the streets, are not tied to their mobile phones as we are in Ireland. I made that point to the Ernst family and they felt it's non-stop phone activity in Germany. I'm not too sure.

It's so funny to notice the words the Germans take from English and then Germanise them. They call the mobile phone a 'handy' but with more and more smart phones in use they are using the word 'smart phone'. They use email but write it 'E-Mail'. 

St John's Protestant church at Martin Luther Square, also in the old city district of Düsseldorf, was opened in 1881, badly damaged in World War II, reopened in 1953 and renovated in 2008.

It has an interesting feature. In the foyer of the church is a coffee shop with newspapers available to read for free. Great to see people sitting about, reading and talking. 

Inside the church I spotted a large print on a wall and in English too: "God is a woman and she knows how to dance".

It caught my eye, and big time too.

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