|Mariam Cheshire and Nancy Crawford
TRIP REPORT ON SOUTHERN GERMANY
Depart Monday, 09 Sept. - return Thursday, 26 Sept. 1996
Sisters Nancy and Mariam met at the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport, grinning and happy to be on the way. This trip had been a long time in the planning. Only 17 days for this adventure and Mariam had made up a list of places to see that would take a month and 17 days. But the rule on this jaunt would be: First things first. When we are tired, we quit for the day. Enjoyment of what we would see was more important than trying to see it all.
We arrived in Frankfurt at 7:40 am next day on Tuesday, which is 12:40 am Texas time. We quickly took a luggage cart (FREE in Europe), grabbed our suitcases, went thru customs and headed for the train departures at the airport. We had to find an official to validate our train pass. It only took two wrong directions before finding the right office, which is rather good for us. (A note on the train pass: We had a second class companion pass for both of us, good for any 15 days in a 30 day period, cost of $579.00 USD total. We could use it on any DB train, Europabus, the Rhein boat trip and also was accepted as an extension of a trip on buses when traveling from a larger city. As an example of how much money this saved us, the train fare from Frankfurt to Cologne is 64 DM -- $43.71 USD per person. This is the best buy in Germany.) (A note on money: Nancy had obtained Deutsch Marks for the trip. Mariam had gotten American Express DM travelers checks at the rate of .683 to the US Dollar. Whenever possible we used credit card. When figuring the exchange from DM to dollars, we rounded off at SEVEN for easy math. For instance, if the can of soda pop was 2.5 DM, we figured times seven would be about $1.75 USD. Actual would have been $1.71, but this was close enough.)
The train from the Flughaven to Koeln (airport to Cologne) runs every hour and takes two hours. We arrived at our destination around noontime. Nice ride along the Rhein river and we could see the castles on the cliffs from the train. We might have nodded off a bit on this part of the journey (well, it was only 3 a.m.!) On the theory that we don't want to be tied into a schedule, we make advance reservations only for the first nights of our journeys. After writing letters to various hotels, we had settled on a location near the Cathedral, 400 m from the Bahnhof (train station). Suitcases are on wheels, but mine bounced as usual. The walk was longer than we would have preferred, but it took us around the Dom so we were craning our necks while hunting for street signs and following the map.
And now began Mariam's test on how much German she had learned. This hotel must have been off of the regular tourist path because the man behind the desk did not speak English. And he did not understand my German. (Since my German instructor Kay often does not understand it either, this was no big surprise.) It was back to basics. A copy of our letter, some words in baby German talk, the writing down of price and we had our room. With bath. This is an older hotel, the bathroom has been added. It was all adequate and beds were good. The price via letter had been quoted at $130 per room which includes tax and breakfast. However, to put it on charge card, a 5% surcharge would be added. We accepted this so our total for two nights was $273 DM (186.46 USD or $46.62 per person per night.) After nap (ah, those nice naps), we headed for tourist office and a bit of downtown exploring. We were surprised on one facet of the tourist offices in Germany. The personnel were usually polite and had the answer to most questions. However, nothing was volunteered. The specific information was given, but no additional was volunteered in order to give a tourist some sightseeing tips. And almost nothing was given as a handout on what to see and do. We found that city maps, for a single sheet of the town, cost from 1 mark to 4.80 marks.
We wandered around the Dom Plaza, and found Hohe Strasse, the shopping street with pedestrian traffic. It became very obvious we were not going to be making many purchases in Germany. The dollar/mark ratio puts any serious shopping out of reach. Nancy made a comment which seemed to hold true. The prices for "junk" purchases (the stuff bought on impulse and then gathers dust) are three-four times higher than the States. The prices for quality clothing is in line with what we would pay at home.
Food time! We had been checking the menus posted on the windows. Finally, in exasperation, (as much as the writer hates to admit this) we stopped at a McDonalds. The fish on a bun and glass of beer cost 6.20 marks, ($4.25 USD) We knew we would need to get into a more interesting food arrangement. We purchased a few postcards at 1.50 DM and later saw them at .50 Pfennig. Then a stop at the post office for 20 DM of stamps will get us started on mailing them. Airmail postcards take 2 dm ($1.37 USD) and we mail one to Mom every day. At that price, only a few other people get one each.
As we walk around, the twin towers of the Dom (the St. Peter and St. Mary Cathedral) dominate the scene. Travel books list the Dom as the most awesome sight in Europe and this was one of the major reasons for our visit to Cologne. The largest of Gothic churches, construction began in the 1300s. Work continued until 1880. Altho much of Cologne was destroyed during WWII, the Dom survived almost intact. Postcards of these times show bomb rubble surrounding the Cathedral. Pictures and words can not do it justice. One can say majestic, magnificent, thrilling, but when one walks inside, it is not possible to do anything but stand there and gasp. All lines are vertical, leading upward, the effect is overwhelming. Even with a guide book, there is too much to be able to appreciate all of the art works -- Early paintings from the 14th century, arcades of snow-white figures, outstanding examples of goldsmith's work, and 13th to 20th century stained glass windows which fill the Cathedral with a mysterious light. The relics of the Magi transferred here in 1164 were the reason for building this Cathedral and stand behind the altar in a magnificent 1531 woodcut of the town.
Wednesday morning, 13 Sept: Downstairs to a lovely breakfast buffet. Choice of cereals, including museli, rolls (Broetchen) and sliced meats and cheeses. Nancy starts the day with hot chocolate and Mariam takes coffee. One item we miss is water. We fill a glass from the faucet in our rooms and drink it. A German would be horrified, but even though it doesn't taste that good, it was safe. Then we put on our daypacks which carry raincoat, guidebook and stuff that would usually be in pocketbook. Camera is in flight bag. Money, passport is in "fanny pack" which is protected by coat.
Supposedly the best view of the Dom is from the Cable-car which leaves near the Zoo and crosses high over the Rhine. We take the U-Bahn out there, but find it doesn't leave until 10:00 am and we are too early. After surveying the cloudy sky, we decide it is not worth the wait. We leisurely stroll along the River, along with people taking their dogs for walks and riding bicycles. We admire the vegetation, (wild roses, pyracantha, a bush with blue berries) and the next thing we know we are back in town. We pass under what we think might be the old Roman North Gate. It looked old and had a horse statue on top of it. Then back to the hotel for lunch*. (*we had brought packets of tuna salad/chicken salad and crackers, peanut butter, and gorp for easy fixing. With the addition of a soda pop and fruit, we were set for a hotel meal when we wanted to relax).
After a nap, we did some more wandering in the area. The Rathaus (townhall) was near us. This was rebuilt in 1945 based on plans from the 14th century original. Nearby can be seen the 12th century Mikwe, the Jewish ritual bath which burrows down to groundwater. And we also passed by a few of Cologne's twelve nearby ancient churches. We passed by the Roman-Germanic Museum, with 2000 years of history, but it was too close to closing time to tour the inside.
Werner, Gertrude and their 13-year old son Paul had invited us to dinner and they met us at the hotel. On the way to their car, they pointed out several sites we had missed and wouldn't have known about -- a nearly complete tile floor from Roman days shown in the window of the Museum. Also actual Roman walls inside the parking garage! Now we were in for a food treat. They took us to a restaurant on a Rhein boat. It was an adventure to watch the boats go by on the River as we enjoyed good food and even better conversation. Mariam had Herring fresh from the North Sea, fried potatoes and of course a beer. Nancy had a type of salmon, again freshly caught. We were invited to their home for a glass of *Riesling Wein* from the Mosel vineyard of Gertrude's family. (Urzig) Ah, that wein was what might be called the "nectar of the Gods." Just delicious. We met this family via email but by the time we finally left (there was so much to talk about!), we had become good friends. Truly a highlight of our trip.
Thursday, 14 Sept. We felt good about Cologne and liked the area and hadn't even begun to cover the possibilities. It is the largest city on the Rhine. the 4th largest in Germany and was settled by the Romans in 38 BC. But there were other places to explore, so we put on our raincoats and between showers rolled the luggage to the train station in time to catch the 12:11 train to Saarbruecken. It was still raining when we arrived at 3:41 pm. The girl in the tourist office handed me a brochure with hotel locations but was not interested in helping further. I walked across to the Am Bahnhof, and as it turned out, this was our favorite hotel with our favorite hotel people. The family of Pleyer had recently purchased it, made a lot of improvements and the atmosphere was a warm and friendly one. While waiting for our room, we walked to the nearby pedestrian street, checked out the shops and had a fish sandwich and good German kartoffelsalat (potato salad). Mariam's bill, with beer, totaled $7.85 DM (5.37). Not bad for German prices. After the breakfast buffet the next morning which included a soft-boiled egg cooked exactly to the correct second, we looked for a way to Hornbach, where ancestor Maus had lived in the 18th century.
Hertz had a weekend special from noon Friday to 8:55 am Monday for 99 DM. We went back to the hotel for a special made sign which we taped in the back window of our pretty yellow Opal.
ZWEI OMAS AUS AMERIKA
(Two Grandmas from America. Please have patience with us.)
It worked. The horns didn't honk behind us like they did in England. It was falling-off-a-log easy getting out of Saarbruecken. Although Mariam had made firm vows that she was not going to drive on the Autobahn, she was soon on a road that looked suspiciously like a freeway type highway and going 100 kilometers per hour. Believe me, she felt very brave. (don't anyone bother to translate kilos into miles and disillusion her.) Nancy was busy studying a good map furnished us by our Pleyer friends and we made the transition from A6 to A8 to our little road to Hornbach with -- for us -- relative ease.
Ah Hornbach, here we are. Grandpa Maus, where are you? I had written to Stadt Hornbach (population 1637) twice and asked if anyone would have information on our ancestors who lived in house numbers E82, H148 and H140 in the last of the 1600s. They kindly sent me a map of the area, but we had no further information. Now comes the neat part! We walked into the Apothecary on the main street and explained that we were looking for the Rathaus and showed the letter we had written to the Buergermesister. This was done in baby German as were most of our conversations in small towns. The lady in the Apothecary had an amazed look on her face when she finally realized why we were there. Her maiden name was Maus and no doubt we are cousins. She made a copy of the Maus chart that we had with us and I am sure there was conversation in Hornbach that evening about the two crazy ladies in town. After a few wrong turns, back and forth, up and down some hills, we found the office of the Burgermeister. Only three conversations later, one in English, we were put in touch with Frauke Portscheller. She told us that it was unusual for her to be at home on Friday afternoon. (Grandpa Daniel Maus, who immigrated to America in 1743 was watching out for us.) While she finished her lunch we went to a nearby cafe and had a coke and a roll with meat and cheese for 9 DM. Frauke Portscheller had married an American, lived in Detroit, was widowed, returned to Germany and married a man who lived in Hornbach. She is the tour guide for the town and had maps and histories.
Hornbach has more history than we knew about. We purchased two small volumes in German, "1250 Jahre Kloster Hornbach," which we will get translated someday. Hornbach was awarded the status of a Town, even though it had a very small population, due to the fact that a famous person was buried there (St. Fabian?). She showed us where the burial place was in 865 and where people came to ask for miracles. She had a map of the town from the 1700s. The church is up a hill and there is a wall which holds the hill in place. We walked to the wall, stepped to the top of it, and Frau Portscheller, looking at her map, pointed to a house across the street, and said, "That is where the Maus family lived." There would not have been a street in the 1700s. As a child, Daniel Maus played on these grounds; his father Joh. Ludwig Mauss and his grandfather Joh. Georg Mauss would have stood on these same stones. We walked around the buildings that would have been old when the Mauss family attended Church here. We even went into an underground dugout used by the Romans. We had driven 144 kilometers (89 miles) and felt as though we had been back over 300 years in time.
Sat., 14 Sept. Although we had the car for three days, instead of driving, we decided to take the train to Trier. Trier is considered the oldest town in Germany, legend tracing it back to 2,000 B.C. It was the capital of ancient Gaul, in 313 was the equal of Rome. We boarded the train at 11:15 am, arrived 12:18 noon. We had jackets and head gear on, and rain coats in day pack. No sun that day. It is a bit of a walk, mostly along a pleasant path and flowers in bloom, from the Bahnhof to the Porta Nigra, (the Black Gate) the Roman city gate from the 4th century. There is so much in the way of Roman ruins and structures from the Middle Ages. The guidebooks tell about the special pass ticket for all the museums and another special pass ticket for all the monuments. It is a bit overwhelming, so we decided to get some food and figure out how much we have the time or energy to see.
The first step was to ride the yellow train, the "Roemer-Express" for about a 45 minute tour around the area. (10 DM). After this, it is obvious we can't begin to cover all the museums and monuments. So we rambled around the Old City, following the narrow streets wherever they led us. We found the Hauptmarkt with the Market Cross (958) and St. Peter's Fountain (1595). We found the Dom from the 4th century, and the Church of Our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche), dating from early 1200s. We did enter one of the Churches to find beautiful paintings and statues, but we had to limit our museum time. We walked as far as the Kaiserthermen, ruins of a Roman bath from the 4th century. These were once the third largest public baths in the Roman Empire. When the Romans pulled out, the baths were turned into a fortress.
There are a lot of tour buses here, with lots of tourists. The only way to do justice to this area would be to stay a few days and explore in early morning or evening. It was too crowded, too busy, to get the feel of the old Roman days or the Medieval days. If went back, Mariam would take a Wine Tour and Nancy would take the Mosel River Tour. Shame to miss those.
Sunday, Sept. 15. We walk over to Hertz where we had parked the car. Our hunt today would be for three small towns which are now part of larger towns instead of having separate identity of their own. We were surprised at the lack of traffic on Sunday. There are few cars and no people. Nothing is open. It might rain so it is understandable that people might not be out having picnics, but we drive through the small towns and see no one.
The first town on our list was Schoenberg-Kuebelberg. (population 4738) We followed A6 and changed to B423 with no problem. We parked in a churchyard, next to a restaurant type place with the sign of Alt Kuebelberg. But there is no one at church, no indication that anyone is at the restaurant. The church looks old, the water fountain could be from Roman days, we stand on a wall overlooking a Valley and ask, "Grandpa, is this where you lived?" No, we didn't get an answer, but this is a nice little village and Grandpa Kueblinger would have belonged to a place like this.
On the map it looks like an easy route to Diedelkopf which is now part of Kusel (population 5447). After about half an hour of driving we were completely lost, not even sure which direction we were going. We are hungry, need the toilet, rain clouds are ominous and we wonder if there is anyone at all in this Kreis to ask where we are. "O.K. Grandpa Klaus Seibert (who lived here in 1500s), if you want us to find your home, which way shall we go?"
Strictly coincidence of course, but shortly we came across a sign which pointed to Kusel. We asked at a service station for Diedelkopf and the man pointed, "ein kilometer und rechts." We went aways and turned right, but no small village. Tried again. And once more. Mariam was ready to give up, but Nancy said, "One more time." And there it was. All that is left of Diedelkopf now is a soccer field and club house. There had been a game that morning and the coaches and boosters were yaking in the club house, hot dogs (or similar) cooking. We explained our mission (in baby German). And they proudly told us that this was the number one soccer team for teenagers and showed off all the trophies that had been accumulated for the last 20-30 years. Grandpa would have been proud of his town.
The next destination was Eitzweiler which is now part of Friesen. The Seiberts lived here in the 1600sm departing for America in 1738. This village no longer shows on the map. We found a sign, a short stretch of road with old houses. Then another sign and we were out.
Monday, Sept. 16. The train left at 9:48 am, arrived in Stuttgart at 11:56 am. When we reached Stuttgart, Mariam went through the station, downstairs, under the street and found the Information Center. A nice young man offered us several (what we thought were) nearby hotels. He made the reservation at 130 DM per night including bath and breakfast. He drew out on the map and showed the route past the Castle, through the Garten (Park), to Charlotten and to Olga Str. Well, pulling bags that far didn't sound too much like our kind of fun. Mariam was trying to figure out the bus system, found a cute young policeman and he advised (in PERFECT English) that we should take the U6, 5 or 15 to Olgaeck and we would be right there. So began our association with the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, and R-Bahn. This cost us 2.70 marks the first day. Then the next day we got a 3-Tage-Ticket which covered the whole area for 18 DM.
The Hotel Espenlaub was family run and a very pregnant young woman spoke considerable English. Our room was adequate, the beds were good and breakfast was the usual very filling buffet. With the lift we had no problems getting bags to the 4th floor. Then we took an exploration walk. Ah ha, a wonderful grocery store, Nancy, on the corner with a beautiful deli and a mouth-watering bakery. We split a Maultaschen dish (6 DM) and potato salad (3 DM) and a goody from the bakery (2.50 DM). Mariam's beer was 1.50 DM. Then after a nap, we were happy. Rested, a roof over our heads, and no longer hungry. We walked the route back to the Bahnhof for train schedules. We went by the Altes Schloss (Old Castle), built in 1320 and rebuilt after the War. We went by here very quickly. The people that hung out around the Castle looked dirty, rough and were obviously drinking. Then past the Schlossplatz (Castle Square) with lots of park and statues. We had no urge to linger or explore the area. It was a dangerous looking "hippieville." We were surprised that this was allowed.
Stuttgart might be the car lovers dream. There is a Daimler-Benz Museum and a Porsche Museum. And this is a production center for electrical, photographic and optical equipment. We bought some more postcards and of course stopped at a few shops. So far we had been very good about NOT buying souvenirs, the prices were ridiculous. However, we wandered downstairs at the Kaufhof department store and found a few items on sale. So we added some dolls and glassware that were worth the price to our luggage.
Tuesday, Sept. 17. We are getting this big city transportation down pat. We took the U-Bahn to the station in time to catch the 8:30 am train to Alpirsbach (population 6555) in the Black Forest. We changed at Herrenberg at 9:07 am and then took a one-car train up into the Forest, arriving at our destination at 10:19. Grandpa Alexander Wolfhardt was prelate and abbot here in the early 1600s. His father-in-law, Heinrich Renz, was prelate and abbot at nearby St. Georgen in late 1500s, but this Monastary was destroyed in the 30-year War. First stop, as usual, was at the Information office. They were busy, not interested in our ancestor, but did sell us Ein Heimatbuch (history book) for 20 Marks. Grandpa is listed in the back and hopefully we will get the 1600s part translated so we can know more about his times. We went to the Kloster Alpirsbach, paid 4 Marks for admission and 5 Marks for another book on the Church. This lady was interested and delighted that we had come to see where Grandpa had worked. The Monastery was founded in 1095 as a Benedictine abbey. The church was consecrated in 1099 and the west tower is still in use today. In 1556 it was established as a Protestant monastery. Much of this church would have been old when Alexander Wolfhardt was Abbott. The main apse has 13th century frescoes. We could not sit on the 12th century wooden bench, but did put our hands on it and imagined the family in this spot over 350 years ago. There were renovations in the 1870s and again in the 1950s. These blend in with the original and it is a joy to walk through here and feel the history. The park-like gardens have well-tended colorful flowers. Quite a peaceful, relaxing sort of place where one could spend restful hours.
Our lunch was an the Bella Roma and we split one of the best pizzas we have ever had. This was 9 marks and my Alpirsbach Beer, which is rated as one of the best, was 2.50 marks. We did pick up a few souvenirs, elves from the Black Forest, but nothing of any value. We had hoped to find wood carvings but that does not seem to be a product of this town. There is a babbling brook that runs through the town; the eating places have dining outdoors; everyone was cheerful and helpful. Altogether our kind of town. This would be a nice place to stay for a week or so.
Wed., Sept. 17. This would be a day that we tried to cram too much in. It was unintentional, we preferred to miss a destination rather than rush around. But it looked easy. It took 30 minutes to ride the train to Marbach, (population 12716) home of Schiller. But we didn't go to see the Museum or the monument or to find traces of the famous writer. We wanted to walk on the streets that the families of Hunn and Demmler and Marklin had walked on in the 1400 and 1500s. Michael Hunn was Mayor in 1539. Michael Demmler was Ratsherr (councilman?) in 1498, helped to save the town in the Bauernkrieg (Farmers War) and was Vogt from 1522-1531. Even without the attraction of Schiller, this would be a neat town to visit. The houses still have the charm of the bygone days.
As usual, we wandered and commented, "O.K. Grandpa, show us where to go." And as usual a Grandpa -- or maybe it was a Grandma - would help out. The street we were on was almost deserted, the tourists were in another area. The buildings appeared old and we were taking a few pictures when a gentleman came along the street. We gave our customary "guten Morgen" and he stopped in curiosity. In our few words of Deutsch, we showed him the letter in German which explained our ancestry. He seemed to be quite pleased with this and explained it to a lady who was peering out an upstairs window above us. Then he showed us the markings on a building which indicated it had been built in 1600. Our immediate ancestors would not have lived in this building, but this was a roadway at that time and they would have walked right HERE. The gentleman also pointed out the OLD church. We had been heading in the direction of the new one, probably built in the 1800s. The old one was back over that way.
We trekked over there to find the Alexanderkirche deserted. The little booklet (2 DM) has the Church history with dates of 12th century and 1400s scattered throughout it. When we have this translated, we will be able to have a better picture of the life of our grandpas and grandmas in this time.
Leaving at 1:20 pm, it took us an hour to get to Tuebingen. (population 77,357). The University was founded in 1477. Three generations of the RENZ family studied and received degrees here in the 1500s. Two generations of the WOLFHARDT family attended and received degrees in 1500-1600s. Johann Wolfhardt received a scholarship and (as we have read) any of his descendants are now eligible to attend the University. During the time of their attendance, the treaty of Tuebingen was written which for the first time in Continental Europe lists basic human rights and is the "Magna Carta" of the time. By 1547 Tuebingen has worldwide scholarly renown. At the information office we purchased a small pamphlet for 4.95 marks and a brochure for 50 pfennings. Postcards were 60 pfennings. The information office was jam-pack full and it was difficult to even look at what they had to sell, much less find out about anything. We had written to the University some months ago, requesting info on where our ancestors might have lived and studied, but we received no answer. So, O.K. grandpas, let's go hunting.
We walked along the Neckar river, a grey cloudy day. We find the old
city wall which dates back to the 13th century. The next place on the map
is the Hoelderlin Tower. Since the poet Hoelderlin, b. 1774, is a distant
cousin of ours, we waved as we passed.
Thursday, Sept. 18. Nancy decided to take the day off and relax with a good book. Mariam continued on to Weinsberg. (Population 9258) When I got off of the train, I could see two churches ahead and considered that the nearer one would be the oldest. My goal was to find the tomb of Ulrich Renz II who died in 1585 and his wife Anna Euphrosine Moegenhardt. This is reportedly in the church in the choir room. In 1525, during the Peasants' War, Weinsberg had been captured and burned. Duke Ulrich helped to reconquer the land and establish municipal law. I walked up the incline to the nearest church, but it was locked and there was no one around. After trying a couple of nearby offices, in my schlecht (BAD) German, with no results, I was ready to give up. I walked back across the bridge, took a few pictures and thought, "Grandpa, it looks as though you don't want me to find your Church." Taking one last glance back at the church, I saw a car there. The church had been opened. It is now a Museum and the Curator (?) was watering plants. His English was a few words better than my German, and he proudly showed me collections from mostly the 1800s. After the tour, he drove me up the steep hill to the church from the 1400s, the Johanneskirche. He pointed out the Rathaus and the Latin School. The church was open, no one around. There are ancient grave stones in the church yard and also inside in a room behind the pulpit. It is not possible to read them. I said, "Grandpa, head me in the right direction," and took some pictures. But they are no more readable from the slides than they were in the church. After leaving money in the coin box for the book on the church, some postcards, and a special miracle, I went to a nearby restaurant for lunch. The special meal for the day was a salat, meat and mushroom dish and Spaetzle, plus a beer, for total of 13.30 marks. Very good.
When the Rathaus opened, I explained my search to a most helpful lady. She was quite excited that we had traveled all this way to find our ancestors and went out of her way to look for additional information, even searching further on the second floor. But alas, we could not find where the tomb of Ulrich would be. They had a neat model of the Castle which had been destroyed several times and has not been reconstructed. She reminded me of a story that Mark Twain wrote about. During the Peasant War, the women pleaded to not burn the city, they would lose everything. The conquerors told them they could take out as much as they could carry. And the women carried out their husbands on their shoulders. I purchased a book on the Peasants War in 1525 (10 DM) and am hoping to find the story of our ancestor.
When I returned to the hotel, Nancy was rested and ready for adventure. So we went down to the Bahn area and Koenigstrasse, the open pedestrian shopping streets. We found Marche, a huge cafeteria-like restaurant. Each section had a specialty - meats, or veggies, or salads, etc. There were three different size plates. I chose the middle-sized salad plate for 6.80 marks, then could pile it high with anything in the salad area. Nancy had a salad plate, but she also chose a small 3.80 vegetable plate and added potatoes to her meal. We wished we had found this place sooner. The stores were open and we wandered, Nancy finding a Christmas present for her husband and Mariam finding a 2 mark dragon to keep.
Friday, Sept. 19. We have not seen much of Stuttgart. And there were several small towns in the area that we would have liked to visit -- Bad Canstatt, Waiblingen, Nuertingen. Ulm and Blaubeuren had been high on the list. But it was time to move on. Although the suitcases were beginning to fill up, we managed them on the U-Bahn to the train. We left at 10:11 am, arrived Heidelberg at 10:52. Our preference for a town location would have been Sinsheim, but the days we requested at the Hotel Diana were full due to a Messe (Fair). As it turned out, we were better off in Heidelberg since the train connections were so much easier. First stop the Tourist office. Look at the map, what is the closest hotel? Hmmmm, too much. Next hotel. That one is full. Next hotel. That would be the Hotel Schmidt, 130.00 marks per night, with bathroom and buffet Fruehstueck. We took a taxi, cost rounded up to 10 marks, and settled in for the remainder of our stay in Germany. There was some good and some bad here. We were on the ground floor, no stairs to climb. (We saved our energy for the miles we walked). We were in walking distance of the Bahnhof and Nancy's shortcut got us there in 15 minutes which eliminated bus money. The bed was lousy. It slanted on the sides with a ridge in the middle. Since these were two beds put together with separate covers (dubet - sp?), we each found our own comfortable space. Mariam slept with her head at the bottom of the bed and Nancy claimed she only had a foot in her face once. However, the good outweighed the bad and we didn't look for another room.
We returned to the Bahnhof to find out about daily bus tickets for sightseeing. The information office didn't seem to have information and pointed us to the bus office. This guy made no points for Heidelberg. He told us he didn't have any schedules, he didn't know the schedules and offered no information on special fares. After our nap, we got out the raincoats and headed for the downtown area of Heidelberg. It is much further than it looks on the map. We finally found the Hauptstrasse, the pedestrian street, the longest shopping street in Germany (didn't get as far as the castle) and practically EVERYTHING was closed. Where are people? Rain began coming down fairly steady so we ducked into the first open eating place. Of all things, their specialty was Mexican food. Here it was Friday night and I was having Mexican food in Heidelberg instead of Phoenix. It was good -- sort of a combination burrito/pita shaped tamale and filled with beef, tomatoes, lettuce and sauce. This cost 7 marks and a very small cup of coffee cost 2.50 marks. We had been told that this evening was the event of the year. The Schloss in Flames. The castle is spotlighted and fireworks light up the sky. One little problem. This began at 9:30 p.m., it was a walk across the bridge to get the view, we had already walked miles, we were wet and tired. We went back to our room and went to bed.
Saturday, Sept. 21. Breakfast is our usual buffet except no cereal. We eat far more with this arrangement than we do at home but then hopefully we work most of it off. For the first time on our trip we are running into Americans. And we have some NATO people in the breakfast room from England and Scotland. We read that there is a weekend special bus fare for Saturday and Sunday for two persons for 9 marks. Since one way to anyplace is (think it was) 3.10, this sounded like a bargain. So we trotted back over to the Bahnhof and luckily found someone who would sell us this ticket. However, still no routing or schedule maps or help on same. We take a bus to the Old Town. We are ready for sightseeing in the Altstadt, to see the historic gabled buildings and romantic cobblestone streets and maybe even some of the student drinking spots. We stop at the Kornmarkt, one of the oldest of squares in Heidelberg. The Rathaus, dating from 1701, is also around here.
It is still an overcast rainy type of day, but we are going up to see the Castle. We take the funicular to the summit, Koenigstuhl, (1860 feet) cost 7 marks. After some lousy pictures of the town and the Alte Bruecke (Old Bridge, last built in 1786), we head back down to explore the Castle. Entrance to courtyard and the Heidelberger Fass* is 2 marks. If we want to see certain other exhibits, it is additional marks and then there is a special exhibition for a lot more. We decide that we will have enough action for the first price. *The Fass is an enormous wine barrell, and will hold 49,000 gallons. The castle was already in ruins when Germany's 19th century romantics fell under Heidelberg's spell. Mark Twain wrote a book, and Sigmund Romberg the operetta 'The Student Prince.' (we were too late in the year for this performance) The oldest parts of the castle date from the 15th century. Most of the great complex was built in the 16th and 17th centuries, when the castle was the power base of the Palatinate electors. This is a colorful town, but we know our photos will turn out dull.
When we took the cable car back to ground level, we turned into the first restaurant - and it happened to be a Greek restaurant. We had looked forward to German food and we have had Gyros, Mexican, Pizza and now Greek. The Bean Soup and Baklava were delicious. Mariam's bill with a small cup of coffee was 10.60.
We took the bus to Bismark Platz, intending to check out the local Woolworths and surrounding malls. What do you know! Closed. It seems as though all stores close at 2 pm on Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday. And also bus service slows down. Rather than waiting for the next bus we trudged home on weary feet. We stopped at the nearby little market and got an orange, banana and the biggest grapes you ever saw for 2.09 marks. Then we had fruit salad along with our tuna fish and crackers. And of course a goodie.
Sunday, 22 Sept. Since the rain continues, we might as well see the countryside from a bus, particularly since it wasn't supposed to cost us anything. Rothenburg was our destination. This is a "gemlike medieval town . . . with gingerbread architecture galore and a wealth of fountains and flowers against a backdrop of towers and turrets." We made arrangements for a quick breakfast before the usual 7:30 am time, then made tracks to the Europabus meeting place. This bus is included in our train pass, so it was a surprise when the young lady, a tour guide, (?) collected another 7 DM for "registration." We were on the "Castle Road Tour." She explained that there was usually a tape to tell about the sights, but the tape was broken.
Our first top was at Heilbronn for 45 minutes. This was Sunday, nothing open, too grey a day for pictures. Nancy and Mariam found a Konditorei and splurged on a bakery goody apiece. (We usually split one.) Cost was 2.60 DM plus Mariam's small cup of coffee at 2.60 DM.
Next stop Schwaebisch Hall for 20 minutes. Then Langenburg for 45 minutes. Beautiful flowers here, but didn't even try for photos. We did pass an Auto Museum and bought a couple of Volkswagon posters.
The bus arrived in Rothenburg at 1:15, would return at 4:15 pm. The bus is parked some distance from the town; many of the streets are pedestrian only. Tourist information office closed on Sunday despite the fact that there were a lot of tourists there. The Rodertor (Tower Gate) is from the 14th century. We went up the stairs to the City Wall, more than a mile around the town, but didn't have time to take this walk. After arriving at the center of town, we found a restaurant which had red cabbage on the menu. Mariam had checked a lot of menus without finding this item, so we decided to treat ourselves to a good dinner. Mariam's choice was Schweinebroten, dumplings, red cabbage and beer for 20.40 DM.
Then we went around to the 30 Year War Museum, housed in the Rathaus, built in 1240 and 1572. Here were historical scenes and wax museum figures for the exhibits. The story goes that a conquering general could not drink a great tankard of wine in one gulp. He would spare the town if anyone could. The mayor succeeded and the tankard, which holds six pints, is on display. 3 DM. We enjoyed this.
Monday, Sept. 23. Today the destination would be Sinsheim. Our grandpoppa Johann Wolfhardt, the Wandering Pastor who ministered to his flock in surrounding towns during the 30 year War, lived in this walled town. Still rainy. We left Heidelberg at 10:14 am, arrived at 10:51. There did not seem to be an Information office, but the DB man, who did not speak English, explained how to get to the Rathaus. We walked through the town and passed the Museum which had a sign that it was open on Wednesday. This did not appear that it was going to be a good day. At the Town Hall, the second person we talked to did us a favor. She called Herr Friedrich at the Museum and he gave permission for us to come over right then. He and his wife were quite nice people and wanted to be of help, but it was obvious they were in a hurry so we purchased a book for 3 DM and left without getting further information. They kindly gave us a poster of Sinsheim which shows a drawing of the old tower from the 1100s. Back to Heidelberg at 2:01 pm, and nap. We have missed so much of Heidelberg - Grandpa Graeter graduated here in 1520, but we did not even get over to the Old University, founded in 1386. Part of the reason was the weather -- it is difficult to add a few more stopping spots when wearing the rain gear.
Tuesday, Sept. 24. Rain or shine, we were going to see the castles on the Rhein. This is included in the German Rail pass. We left early to catch the 7:54 am train to Koblenz, and when we arrived at the train station we had time for coffee at McDonalds (1.80). Mariam got a McMuffin (2.95) and Nancy got two Croissants (2.??) which were much better than the McMuffin.
Our train arrived in Koblenz at 8:35 so we had time to walk from the Bahnhof through the Old Town pedestrian mall to the dock. Huddled in our raincoats, we did not try to identify the statues or the ancient churches. Boat departs at 11:00 am. Obviously we are not going to sit out on the open deck in the chill, so we head for the dining tables and pick a spot next to a window. Tablecloths, nice menu. Mariam ordered a beer (4 DM), Nancy ordered coke. Later on we would get potato soup. (6.50 DM) Nancy had purchased a book on the castles we would pass and also announcements were made. And even though we knew we would probably throw them away, we took pictures of the castles.
Our ancestors went down the Rhein (from their villages to Rotterdam) in the 1700s. They would have seen many of these castles, in fact they would have paid toll at many of these castles. We were going up the Rhein, in the opposite direction, but many of the villages and the terraced vineyards behind them would have been the same. This trip would have been so much nicer with sunshine, but even without it, the history part was enjoyable. The boat got into Bingen at 4:50 pm, and we caught a train to Mainz at 5:02. We had about 40 minutes at Mainz and of course bought a goody (2.65)to eat which Nancy claims is the best one yet.
Wednesday, Sept. 25. Last day. And it is planned for maximum worth.
We left Heidelberg at 8:15, to Sinsheim at 8:52 am, walked next door to the bus station, left Sinsheim at 9:05, arrived Weiler at 9:10 am. When we asked about the bus fare, the driver asked "von Heidelberg?", we answered "Ja," and he waved us away. Apparently the fare is included in the larger city ticket. So we didn't pay any bus fares for the rest of the day.
When we got off at Weiler, we could see it up on the hill. There it was! Steinsberg Castle where Grandpoppa Johann Wolfhardt took his family during the 30 year War while he traveled around to take care of the religious needs of the surrounding villages. We climbed up past the vineyards and walked through the arches in the gates. It has been refurbished, but the walls are from the 15th century. Gates are wide open and no one is around. We go into the courtyard. There is obvious use, people have gatherings here. Flowers are blooming and it is well tended. The door to the tower is open and away we go - 141 steps. The light is poor, the steps are narrow and ricketdy. Along the way are openings to let in light or fire at invaders. At the top we see the whole Valley spread out around us. It is the perfect spot to ward off the enemy. The brochure says that the poet Spervogel lived here in the 12th century and that sometimes one can hear his love songs. In a way it would have been helpful to have a guide here to tell us about the castle and be able to look around the inside rooms with their history. But perhaps the solitude was better. We imagined it in the 1600s with the men keeping watch and the women cooking and gossiping and the kids sneaking up these stairs. The sun was showing its face and we said, "Thank you, Grandpa."
We took the bus to Duehren leaving at 1:05, arriving 1:21. Lots of school kids on this bus and they made fun of my pronunciation of Burgermeister, but the bus driver understood and let us off in the right place and pointed in the direction. We could see the church. Mariam had a letter from the pastor at the church, Pfarrer Coors, and he had told us of two days he would be there at 2:00 pm of which this was one. We also had a letter from the town manager, Herr Keil. We had a difficult time finding Herr Keil's office, but when we did it was also closed until 2:00 pm.
We went back to the Church and took some pictures and waited until after 2:00, but no one came. There is a monument in front of the Church with names inscribed of those who were killed in World War I. And a Wolfhardt cousin is on it. In the cemetery in back were some people tending the flowers and we asked them where we might find Pfarrer Coor. One lady took us over to his house nearby. The young lady (the secretary) who came to the door gave a big smile and exclaimed, "from America." She called the preacher who seemed happy to see us. He spoke English and took us to the Church, and on our way, pointed out several houses from the earlier days. Johann Wolfhardt was pastor here in 1637 and his name is on the framed inscription on the wall along with all of the preachers from 1494. Nancy purchased a book (20 marks) on 500 years of Church history in Duehren and added it to Mariam's collection to be translated. We intended to return to Herr Keil's office who had said he would introduce us to a cousin, a descendant of Johann Wolfhardt. But it was late, we were very tired, and our feet and smiles were about to give out. So it was with regret that we left Duehren, unable to spend more time there.
Thurs., 9/26. Time to leave. Up early and finished packing, asked hotel people to call a taxi for us and took a sandwich for our breakfast. We knew we would need to change trains once to get to the Airport, so decided on Mainz since we had been there previously instead of Frankfurt. We gave ourselves lots of time all the way around. Although it was a nuisance to lug the suitcases, which somehow had gotten heavier, we didn't have any pressure to hurry. Nancy had a refund coming for VAT tax. And this is probably the most inefficient system in all of Germany. She was told to go here and go there and downstairs and into that area. Finally one girl took pity on her and helped her get the form stamped and refunded the money in USD. It was a long process. The plane took off at 1:30 pm. More nap time. 11 boring hours. Back in Dallas and we see water fountains again. We probably missed water as much as anything else.
We wished we could have had:
Some music along the way - we never did see an opportunity to go to a theatre or show. This might have been due to the fact that so little information is given out on what is going on. And it could have been because we had run out of energy in the evening and didn't make the effort to find something.
More sunshine. The temperature was agreeable. But 15 rolls of bad pictures is somewhat of a disappointment.
Other than that: We enjoyed what we saw and what we experienced.
If Mariam could spend more time, she would chose a week in the Black Forest,
more time in the Sinsheim area and another week in Cologne.