Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Monastery holidays

More than 60% of Germans officially are Christians. Even though many are not the strictest believers and might only see the inside of a church for Christmas (and maybe Easter) there is also a wide array of monasteries with practicing orders of various kinds. Most of them occupy the most idyllic locations and in their houses and halls you can breathe the air of ages long past. 

Schwarzach Germany Roman-Monastery
Many orders do live self-sufficient, growing their own food and have limited contacts to the outside world apart from maybe a little shop selling produce. Some are more involved in the communities of the surrounding villages and towns, detaching teachers or social workers. But some orders actually go the reverse way and open up their doors and even their lives to the people. They allow strangers (including non-believers and those of other confessions) to live in the monastery for a while and take part in the order’s everyday life. For us this was one of the best experiences ever. 

Getting up at 5am in the morning, after a night in a bare chamber, and spending the day on a mix of prayers, work and mediation is a schedule which might at first not seem too appealing but let me tell you, it is more invigorating to spend a week like this than it is to go to a beach resort for twice that time. There are several types of stays. At some orders the guests are expected to follow the exact same principles and chores as the nuns or monks do. In others guests will be granted free time or voluntary activities. 


Maulbronn Monastery
What’s a bit problematic is that usually there are either men’s orders or women’s orders, which only accept guests of the according sex. So vacationing in a monastery as a couple is rarely available (there are guesthouses attached to some monasteries though where it will be possible). Another thing to heed is that most convents, following their religious duty, mustn’t charge travelers staying with them. This should though only be taken advantage of by those who made a vow of poverty such as travelling clerics and not by well-situated travelers who can well afford a donation.

Written by Anna-Barbara Schmidt

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