Sunday, February 7, 2016

Embracing "Lost-ness" and Riddagshausen Abbey

I have learned a ton over the past three and a half months in Germany.  In that time, I have especially learned a lot about myself, my strengths, weaknesses, fears, and perhaps most of all, my resilience.  While traveling to new and different places, I have been on the verge of lost-ness several times.  And one thing I have learned is that the fear of being or getting lost is far more troublesome than actually not knowing where you are.  I find that this most often happens in unfamiliar places when I have to switch to a new or unfamiliar bus route.   An example of this scenario happened last weekend, which is when I decided I should write a blog about it.

Riddagshausen Abbey

Exhibit A: Going to Riddagshausen Abbey near Braunschweig via Unfamiliar Bus Route

I decided to go visit an old Cistercian monastery church called Riddagshausen [rid-DOGS-HOW-zen] which is located in the country-side just outside of Braunschweig.  I have been to Braunschweig several times.  It is the next town over from Wolfenbüttel, and easily accessible via train or bus. So I went to the bus stop in Wolfenbüttel that takes the 420 bus to Braunschweig-- I know which one it is now and how often it departs because I have done it many times.

Bus stops often have generic names based on the streets or monuments they are near, so I exited the 420 bus at the Rathaus stop in Braunschweig.  The problem with this naming system for bus stops is that they are often not helpful in discerning exactly where the stop is located.  For example, the Rathaus in Braunschweig is enormous, surrounded on all sides by major roads and multiple bus stops.   Bus stops, unlike train stations for example, are not usually included in maps, nor are they easily google-able.  So I exited the 420 bus at the Rathaus, and was supposed to catch the 315 bus from the Rathaus to Riddagshausen.  But the 315 bus didn't leave from the same stop I exited-- so I started walking around the Rathaus, reading the bus stop signs, looking for the 315.  I found one 315 bus stop, but it was for the bus running the opposite direction on that route.  Lo and behold, I walked all the way around the Rathaus and never found the bus stop I needed to take the bus I wanted.  Back to the drawing board.

PAUSE: This does not sound like a profound problem, or even something worth panicking over.  The problem is that when you have about four minutes between buses, you have this sense of urgency that you must find the stop fast or else you get left behind.  This fear of missing the bus you intended to catch, the fear that you will be left behind and not make it to your destination, and the fear that you are in an area that you are not familiar with can be overwhelming.  That is the fear of lost-ness.

During this moment of lost-ness, I always have a moment of panic where I think, "I should just go home now, before I get any more lost."  That is the little red flag that usually signals to me that it is time to SLOW DOWN.  In that moment, I often find a place to order a cup of coffee.  This is when I embrace lost-ness.  I concede that I did not make it to the bus I intended to take, but with a level head I look for the next opportunity.  I ask someone in the cafe or I look it up on my phone, or I find a different bus from a different stop that I am more familiar with.

So after missing my 315 bus from the Rathaus, I noticed the 315 bus also runs from a stop outside a department store that is much less overwhelming.  So I went to that bus stop, confirmed with the driver that this was, in fact, the bus I wanted to take to get to Riddagshausen Abbey, and I hopped on board!  Often the relief of finally being on the right bus is euphoric.  "Ahhh.  I made it.  I'm going the right way now.  Relax."  I find few things more satisfying than being on the brink of lost-ness (or even flat out totally lost), and then finding your way.  So as my hard-found bus arrived at Riddagshausen, I was ready to soak the place in, and explore the location I had gotten so lost trying to find.

The Rewards of Conquering the Fear of Lost-ness:

The view of Riddagshausen Abbey from the bus stop

I often find that if I arrive at a destination after battling the fear of lost-ness, it is even more profound.  It was an icky, rainy, windy, cold day, but Riddagshausen was radiant.  The Abbey was built from 1216-1275 as a Cistercian monastery, and much of the medieval architecture still stands.  Riddagshausen has been a Lutheran church since 1568 after the Reformation.

Various building phases are evident when looking at the outside of the church

A rare glimpse at a red, furry-eared, German squirrel!

Beautiful wooden screen separating the high altar space

Moses supporting the pulpit, by Zacharias Koenig, 1622

Baptismal font in the foreground and the high altar visible over the screen in the background

View of the high altar through the screen

Fuzzy little algae on the stone wall around the abbey

After my long, adventurous day, I returned home to Wolfenbüttel (not missing any of my buses this time) and was thankful for the little things.  Like dry socks, warm blankets, and knowing where you are.


  1. YOU are Super Woman! I am so proud of you-and so grateful you are sharing your experiences and posting lovely photos for the rest of us to enjoy. Love you!

  2. YOU are Super Woman! I am so proud of you-and so grateful you are sharing your experiences and posting lovely photos for the rest of us to enjoy. Love you!