Both Kerstin Uchtdorf and Chris Wehrheim enjoy walking through the downtown area of Munich, Germany. No wonder! The city is alive with medieval and Renaissance buildings, heritage, and traditions.
Both young women live in the suburbs, where 13-year-old Kerstin is a student in Realschule and Chris, who is 18, attends the Gymnasium. * But they love to hop on the ultra-modern subway that whisks them to the scenic sections of the old part of town, where rococo and baroque styling dominate the architecture, and where sightseeing and windowshopping go hand in hand.
Munich is the capital of the state of Bavaria and is located just 30 miles from the Alps. The Isar River flows through the middle of town. Germans know Munich by the name of München, which means “the home of the monks.” The early history of the city begins with the establishment of a monastery, but it was in 1157, when a duke of Saxony allowed a market to be held, that the city took root.
Markets still play an important role in the life of the city. Munich is a center of the fruit and vegetable market of southeast Europe, and street stalls display an appropriate abundance. The large white radishes famous in the area are the size of sugar beets. Bright red and yellow nectarines and scarlet cherries glisten on the stall shelves. Chris and Kerstin often take a break at a fruit stand, relaxing under the shade of trees.
Sometimes, though, they will snack on Pommes frites (french fries) at a fast-food wagon in the Marienplatz, Munich’s main square, and spend some time strolling in the Fussgängerzone, a pedestrian-only area in the heart of the city.
Both Chris and Kerstin are active members of the Munich Third Ward, Munich Germany Stake. “The Church really unites us as friends,” Kerstin, who enjoys her calling as Junior Sunday School pianist, says. “Not only do we do things together at school, but we also have the blessing of sharing the gospel with each other. The Church is the most important thing in my life, and Chris feels the same way. It’s nice to have that kind of support from a friend.”
Chris agrees that “the chapel is a happy place for me. I teach some of the Primary children, and I love them with all my heart. Just to think about them makes me smile. And I feel the same way about other members—whenever we meet there’s a smile and a warm hello.
“Perhaps that’s not so unusual in a city known for its hospitality, and yet there’s a fraternity and fellowship in the Church that you don’t find in other places,” Chris says. “Here in the Church you find the true Spirit of God. It’s a place of smiles within a city of smiles.”
Chris is also excited about the seminary program. “It adds an extra dimension to my life,” she says. “It’s one more way of strengthening myself and building my testimony. It helps me to know and love the standard works of the Church.” Sometimes on a Super Saturday, the Munich seminary students will visit one of the famous landmarks of the city, like the National Opera House, the Theatinerkirche, the Feldherrnhalle at Odeonsplatz, or the Frauenkirche. Or perhaps the group will meet in front of the tower of the New Town Hall’s huge carillon, which features five-foot tall moving figures parading before a king and queen as the Glockenspiel chimes a merry tune. Sometimes, Kerstin and Chris will visit one—or several—of the sites on their own.
“I’m glad that I have years of seminary ahead of me,” Kerstin says. “The personal study will be a good habit to form while I’m young, and the friends I make will be friends throughout eternity.”
Kerstin also likes to visit her sister Petra, who works in a pastry and candy shop across town. “My family is important to me, especially because I know I can spend eternity with them,” Kerstin says. “I try to do whatever I can to let them know I love them.”
“Munich is a happy place, even though it has suffered wars and many difficulties,” Chris says. “People enjoy life in Bavaria (the beautiful southern part of Germany). But even though they are content with the weather and the scenery, many know they are missing something. We know they need the light of the gospel in their lives. As members of the Church, it is our duty to both set a good example for them and find ways to share the gospel with them. If they knew that God loved them, that the Church has been restored, that there is a living prophet—if they knew it and truly understood it, it would put a smile on their faces forever.”
“I’m glad Chris and I know each other,” Kerstin says. “I’m glad we can have fun just walking around town with each other like we did today. Our ages aren’t the same, but that doesn’t really matter. We appreciate each other and know that we are sisters in the gospel.”
The conversation shifts to a discussion of a fireside held last Sunday at the stake patriarch’s apartment. The two friends pick up their sack of groceries, walk down the steps to the subway, and get on the train for home.