Travel: Chocolate

It was time for me to leave my friend behind and move on to my next destination, backtracking to Koln. I will leave some closing thoughts about Hamburg, as stated by the famous John Lennon. 

“I might have been born in Liverpool – but I grew up in Hamburg”.

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When I arrived in Cologne, I was precariously short on sugar, so I started off in the Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum. I learned about the origins of chocolate as discovered by conquistadors when they encountered the natives in South America. This history then progressed through the evolution of chocolate from a dark, bitter, drink for tribal nobles, to a sweet sugar-filled bite. It even included the methodology behind the harvesting and processing of chocolate, as well as the cult icons and products that have developed from this rich candy.

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One of my favorite parts included the tropicarium, a carefully designed and maintained ‘greenhouse’ of sorts that can support the life cycle of the cacao tree.

It was definitely a sweet moment!

 

 

 

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Travel: Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima

As a result of Saturday night, I woke up late and was unable to maintain our former schedule of events for the day. I spent the afternoon celebrating my friend’s grandfather’s birthday, and enjoyed a wide medley of traditional Portuguese food. This included cod, cauliflower and greens with piglet, rice with duck, and cake (of course). There was also lasagna, although clearly this is not of Portuguese origins :P.

It was delicious, and it was enjoyable to partake in a family celebration while listening to the conversations around me. I was able to pick up bits and pieces due to my background in Spanish. Some of her cousins did speak English and were kind enough to provide tidbits of information so that I could stay involved.

After, one of her cousins was headed to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima, and was nice enough to let me tag along. Fatima is known for being the site where the Virgin Mary appeared to three Shepherd children in 1917. It is said that Mary predicted 3 events would come to pass, and only 2 have occurred to date.

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Franciso Marto

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Jacinto Marto and Sister Lucia

She patiently explained the history behind each aspect of the square, and accompanied me as I took in the sites of such a holy place. We entered the main cathedral, and paid our respects to the tombs of the three children.

 

 

After we exited, we went to light candles in prayer. Some individuals’ purchase was body parts or full wax figures; these are lit and melted by the church. Many see this as sacrificing part of yourself when you are praying for help from God.

On the ground along the square, is a long raised path that is paved in marble. Patrons of the sanctuary will sometimes walk, crawl, kneel, or lie down as they advance this tremendous distance to the chapel, which lies directly beside the tree where the apparition appeared. It is a painful process, and is seen as the deepest way in which to show reparation, devotion, and respect.

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 It is difficult to describe the emotions that I felt. Let me preface this by saying, while I believe in a higher power, circumstances of life have made it difficult for me to be a true believer of any singular religion. I was raised as a Catholic, and spent years as a child attending church in addition to attending a private catholic school. However, my dad is currently a practitioner of Buddhism and I have also attained some of those values as well.

In witnessing the devout attendees of the sanctuary, an overwhelming sense of sadness hit me. I was jealous. In their faces, it was clear that they believed without doubt in the power of God, Jesus, and the mercy of Mary. They were willing to experience pain, and sacrifice symbolic wax figures, in hopes of answers for their prayers. I truly wish that I could also feel this, believe this, and accept this higher power without question. Even when my travel companions went to confession, I refused, having not been in confession for more than a decade. I wanted to attend, but I didn’t know how I could start when it’s been so long since I have had faith.

Is there a religion that you believe in? What keeps your faith strong and persevering?