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Bavaria is known for many things, including soaring peaks, very large mugs of beer, and “Grüß Gott!” Mountains and beer you can get in many other destinations, but “Grüß Gott” you’ll only get in the German-speaking regions that surround the Bavarian Alps. (The odd-looking “ß” is actually a double-“s”.) If you want to try greeting someone with Grüß Gott you’ll want to say it like this: GrooS GoT—landing hard on both the “S” and the “T”.
Grüß Gott is shortened from “Grüß dich Gott,” an old way of saying “God bless you” in German. The phrase is more religious than “Guten Tag” so it’s a phrase befitting Germany’s most religious and most Roman Catholic region. The closer you get to Bavaria’s majestic mountains, the more you’ll be greeted with Grüß Gott instead of Guten Tag. It’s as if those dramatic elevations naturally give rise to spiritual yearnings.
Bavaria is Germany’s largest state, covering one-fifth of the country. It may not be obvious from looking at a map, but our tour’s wide-ranging itinerary falls entirely within Bavaria (not including our dip into Salzburg, Austria). From the Castle Coburg (where Martin Luther resided during the time of the “Augsburg Confession”) to Berchtesgaden/Obersalzburg (where the Third Reich constructed its infamous mountain fortress), we’ll span a land filled with great natural beauty and complicated human history.
Still, you may wonder: What does Augsburg University—a school with deep roots in the heritage of Norwegian Lutheran immigrants—have to do with the most Roman Catholic region of Germany? Only a lot!
- Consider first our name, Augsburg University. We are called Augsburg because of a specific historical development that took place in Augsburg—today Bavaria’s third most populous city. (Our tour ends in Augsburg!)
- Second, Bavaria has many cities and sites that are important to the ongoing Reformation of the Church, including Nuremberg (the largest “printing center” of the Reformation), Flossenbürg (where the great 20th century theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was martyred), and Salzburg (yes, the “City of Mozart” but also the city that once expelled its entire Lutheran population).
- Third, Oberammergau’s Passion Play dramatizes the very events that unite all Christians, Catholic, and Protestant: the last week of the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
- Fourth, Bavaria’s topography—ranging from rolling hills to high mountains—is reminiscent of the topography those Norwegian Lutheran immigrants longed for as they settled the flat spaces of the Upper Midwest. (Okay, I know this last one is a stretch.)
I’ve been fortunate to travel in Bavaria many times over the years. I’ve exchanged Grüß Gott! with Bavaria’s über-friendly people many, many times. So I’m excited to co-lead a group of travelers through Grüß Gott territory! Interested in learning more about this one-of-a-kind travel and learning opportunity? Don’t hesitate to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Hans Wiersma, associate professor of religion at Augsburg