GERMANY - 1984
Thursday, Aug. 2, 1984 - The trip we've been wanting to take for ten years finally got under way about 3:00pm when we boarded a Delta 1011 jet bound for Atlanta. I guess it really sank in that we were really going when we turned to wave goodbye to John and Barbara and the two little ones who had driven us to the airport. The trip to Atlanta took about an hour and was uneventful. We changed planes in Atlanta (after a long walk to the International Concourse) boarding another Delta 1011 bound for Frankfort, West Germany. That part of the trip took about 8 1/2 hours through the night which was shortened by the accelerating time zones. There is a six hour time difference between Tampa and Frankfort. So, we arrived in Frankfort at 9:30am Frankfort time. We cleared customs without a hitch (no inspection) and then found that we were met by Erich Jox, Bruno Meisner, Siglinde Jox, Karl Wilhelm Nachtigal and Ulricke Nachtigal. They had come in two cars. It was really a warm welcome. This was our first meeting with Erich and Karl Wilhelm. The latter spoke good English and acted as our interpreter for most of the trip. After ten years of corresponding with Erich I felt that I knew him, but that is quite different than meeting him face to face. He is a very likable man with lots of nervous energy, a broad smile and an earnest desire to please. He could not speak English when we arrived, but tried so hard to learn that he was doing quite well by the time we left. I think that he eventually did better in English than I did in German.
Friday, Aug. 3, 1984 - This is really the same day as we did not get to bed on Thursday night. From the airport in Frankfort we came north to the little village of Over-Bessingen to Erich's home. This was to be headquarters for the next week or so. Lydia was in the yard waiting for us and gave us another warm welcome. After some conversation and refreshments we went with Siggy and Bruno to the home of Siggy's parents (also in Over-Bessingen) to meet them. There we met Octo Jox and his wife Erna, and their son, Dieter, and his girl friend Betina. They have a rather large farm (about 60 acres) with 17 cows and 200 pigs. The animals stay inside all the time. The cows are there to produce milk, and the pigs are raised to sell for meat. Everything was remarkably clean and neat around the place. Then back to Erich's for a lunch of pork chops, potatoes and salad from their garden. We walked into town after lunch and saw Ober-Bessingen by foot. The houses are all very old and close together. The oldest building in town is the Lutheran church, and next is the town hall. The houses consist of a living area and a barn area. The farm animals are kept in the same building so that they don't have to go outside on the cold winter days to feed and care for them. Ober- Bessingen has about 300 residents - all very clean and neat with many flowers everywhere. Less than a mile away is the village of Rothges where great-grandfather Johannes Heinrich Jox was born. The Jox family, however, has its roots in Ober-Bessingen. We returned to the house for a tour of Lydia's garden. I was most impressed by their Kirshbaum (cherry tree) and Apfelbaum (apple tree). The cherries, fresh off the tree, were delicious. Lydia had made a cherry cake (fauerkirschkuchen) so we had cake and cookies in the garden. Behind their house is the forest which is preserved for public use - many oaks and wild cherries. Later we walked back into town to the cemetery. Here I was most impressed! The cemetery (Friedhof) was enclosed by a stone wall with heavy iron gates. Inside, the graves are covered with thousands of flowers (Blumen) and the most ornate and beautiful tombstones. Each family cares for their own graves. Erich took the water pitcher, dipped it in the rain barrel and carefully watered the flowers on six or seven graves. They have an unusual custom of abandoning a grave after about 50 years. There were no graves older than 1935. When a gravesite is needed for a new burial, the old body is removed and cremated to make room. In all the history of the village of Ober-Bessingen, the cemetery has never been enlarged. Back to Erich's for some apple wine (Apfelwein) and sparkling water in the garden. Bruno and Siggy left us about 3:00pm to return to Giessen where they had to open their restaurant. Karl-Wilhelm and Ulricke stayed to interpret. Rose Marie came in later to see us after she got off from work in Giessen. Rose Marie is Lydia's daughter by an earlier marriage. Her father was killed in the war. The conversation turned to the origin of the Jox family in Germany. It is thought that originally the Joxes came to Germany from France in the mass exodus of the Huguenots in the early 1600s. The weather was clear and cool. We retired fairly early as it had been a long day since leaving Brandon. We had been up about 32 hours.
Saturday, Aug 4th - We had a good night's sleep (schlaffen gut), breakfast with Erich and Lydia - an egg (hard boiled) with toast and jellies and sausages. They had little holders, each designed to hold one egg in the shell. You then cracked the egg and ate it out of the shell with a small spoon. I must have demonstrated an awkwardness at this, because Lydia from then on served us scrambled eggs with bacon squares mixed in (Ei mit Schrech). Karl Wilhelm and Ulricke soon arrived from their home in GrossLinden and we loaded up in two cars again for a trip to the Vogelsberg, a semi- mountainous area not far from home. The chief attraction was the Hoherotskopf, the largest volcano in Europe. No one knew when it had last erupted. Probably centuries ago. On the way to the Hoherotskopf, we stopped in the town of Schotten for lunch, where I ate Schweinelendchen am Topf (pork filets in a delicious sauce over rice). Clouds had settled in so it was not a clear day, but still the view from the top of the Hoherotskopf was beautiful. The farms that surround the villages are lush and green. We rode the Sommerrotelbaum (summer bobsled) down the mountain for a bit. ON the trip we rode through the village of Rothges and stopped at the Nitta dam where there were many windsurfers out on the lake. In Schotten there was an open air market with a German band playing the boom-pah music. The houses and other buildings in Schotten are very old. Most are the half- timbered construction that is the character of Hessen (Fachwerkhausen). The walls of these buildings are made of heavy timbers crossed and braced, with plaster in between. We got back to Ober- Bessingen about 5:00pm. Erich does not own a car. He prefers to walk or ride his bicycle (Fahrad) when at home, and to ride the bus to his work in Giessen. He works for the government in an administrative position where he deals with family problems. Much of the work that he does is done by lawyers in the U.S. In Germany, lawyers are used only when it is necessary to go into court, which I took it to mean, not very often. Most problems are handles in the administrative system. For the evening meal, the entire Jox clan was invited to a barbecue in Erich's backyard. There was Ernst and Gertrude, and Tanta Anna, and Otto and his family, about 14 people. They barbecued pork cutlets on the grill. After the meal (Abendessen) they sat around, drank beer, and sang German folk songs. I had to show off with my recital of the Lorelei in German, which became a conversation thing. "What is this guy from America doing coming here and teaching us The Lorelei?" I had to tell the story as I knew it of the Jox family in America. These are very warm and friendly people. Karl- Wilhelm was a good interpreter. All had a good sense of humor. Learned many Germany word:
fun - Spass
comfortable - bequem
great-grandfather - Urgrossvater
grandfather - Grossvater (Opa)
grandmother - Grossmutter (Oma)
going through - durchgang
service - dienst
fast service - schnell dienst
Sunday, August 5th - This was a special day. We attended services in the old church in Ober- Bessingen. The church was built in 1644. Our forefathers worshipped in this same place. It is impossible to describe the feeling of being there. The sermon was in German of course, but I could understand enough to know that the pastor was taking his message from the story of the five loaves and two fishes which fed the multitude. A faith in Christ results in His providing for us even today as much as in that time 2,000 years ago. There is a crucifix that is placed on the altar of the church each Sunday that dates to the 12th century when all the churches were Catholic. Towards the end of the service I realized that the pastor was telling the people that visitors from America were present. He then spoke a few words in English to welcome us. After the service, we walked to the old house which as far as anyone knows was the original Jox home. The family calls it the Familiestammhaus. It is about 200 years old. Onkel Ernst Jox now lives there. He is 90 years old. A portion of the house was added on and house remodeled about 140 years ago. ON the way home we had to stop and visit with Tanta Gertrude who does a lot of very beautiful embroidery. After lunch, Bruno and Siggy picked us up for a trip to Giessen and the old monastery and castle near there, called Burg- Clieberg. We visited Bruno's home village of Wieseck where a parade was underway. Much beer. We ate some icecream (Eis) there and visited an old church and tower that was once part of the town defense wall. Wieseck is 500 years older than Giessen. All stores are closed on Sunday, but we walked through the pedestrian shopping area in Giessen. It appears that there is nothing that one cannot buy there. We also walked through a botanical garden and through a museum where pictures showed the destruction of Giessen during the war. Eighty-five percent of the city was destroyed in one night of bombing in 1944. We then went to Bruno's restaurant for dinner with the Jox clan again along with Bruno's parents. Again, much beer, much sausage, ham hock, sauerkraut, etc. We rode home from Giessen with Otto and Erna.
Monday, August 6th - This was a work day for Erich, but he had arranged to take off to be with us. We rode into Lich, a larger town between Ober-Bessingen and Giessen, on the bus with Erich and Lydia. Bruno and Siggy and the older Meissners met us in Lich, where we saw the old town hall (Rathaus) and old church. A caretaker let us in the church - quite ornate and very old. The plan was to visit Hessenpark, an area where old houses from all over the Hessen area are being rebuilt and preserved as an open air museum. But, Hessenpark was closed on Mondays, so we went on to visit the old Roman castle at Saalburg. Many of the buildings have been restored from the old ruins that date back 2,000 years. 99 wells were discovered at the site, in which hundred of old artifacts have been discovered and recovered. These were on display in the museum. The Romans had very sophisticated ways, including a system for central heating. This location was on the northern boundary of the Roman Empire. In the museum were tools, shoes, coins, cookware, sculpture, paintings, etc. From there we west to Bad Nauheim for lunch. This is a modern city devoted to health and recuperation. There is a large hospital there which specialized in heart problems. This is where Ulricke works as a nurse. The central feature of the city is a mineral spring which is said to be very healthful to bathe in. Bad means bath. The water contains much iron, to the extent of being brown in color. People from all over the world come here to bathe in these baths. It is reputed to be very good for arthritis and rheumatism. The architecture was much different. Most buildings were apartment buildings to house the many visitors.
Tuesday, August 7th - Walked into Ober-Bessingen on my own before breakfast. Took pictures of Karl-Wilhelms's home, the Jox Familiestammhaus, the church (Kirche), the old town hall, a memorial tree that was planted in 1918 to honor the 100 years anniversary of the battle of Liepzig where Napoleon had been defeated by the Germans, and more. Stopped by the grocery store where I managed to buy some batteries and talk with the storekeeper. Herr Meinhardt. He spoke a little English and told me of his experience in the U. S. as a prisoner of war for two years. He spoke of it as a pleasant time. He was well fed and safe. He had spent time n Lincoln, Nebraska, Jackson, Mississippi, and Atlanta, Georgia. He recalled Atlanta as being the best. I met old Onkel Ernst Jox on the street. He was walking to visit his granddaughter. He told me of his problem with poor circulation in his legs., but he appeared to be in good shape for his age. His only English was "Good- Bye." Had breakfast then with Erich and Lydia when Bruno and Siggy arrived. We then left for Lahde. This was Bruno's and Siggy's day off at their restaurant and they had arranged to take us to Westphalen (in Northern Germany) for an overnight stay and visit with the Bergs of Lahde and Quetzen. We went through Marburg (large castle there), Poderbaum, and many other towns, sometimes on the famous autobahn, sometimes on the backroads. The autobahn is an experience in itself. No speed limit. At times were going 190-200 km/hr. (about 125 mph). We arrived in Lahde at 1:45pm and had no problem finding the Berg home. They were expecting us and had lunch (lMittagessen) ready. Irmgard had brought out all the finest linen, china and silver for this meal. We had pork roast, chicken soup, salad, vanilla pudding, etc., all very nice. Barbel was not there as she was at work. She is still living at home, now 24 years old. We could understand nothing of what they were saying. The different dialect also had Bruno and Siggy puzzled at times, but with their help and the Bergs' patience, we did all right with communication. They seemed genuinely pleased that we had come. We looked at old family albums, and many family heirlooms - his grandfather's beermug and schnopps flask from the first World War was a beautiful thing. One of the pictures showed Walter's grandfather smoking a pipe like the one we have from my great-grandfather Berg - about three feet long. Walter Berg of Lahde and Walter Berg of the US have the same great, great, great grandfather. We are the same age. He is an engineer in the local power plant. He likes music - plays the accordion - and does woodworking as a hobby. He has lived in Lahde all his life. He has severe burn scars from an accident in the power plant.
After visiting for a while, we went to the Lahde church. Pastor Otte, who had given me all the information from the church records had retired and the new pastor was on vacation, so could not go in to see the record books. Still, standing on that ground was an exciting experience. The church and other town buildings, including the homes, were all made of brick - very substantial looking - but all were the same color - much different than back in Hessen. Everything was very clean, and there were flowers everywhere.
Walter told us a story persists in the town about the two Berg brothers who went to America. It seems that the older one had concocted a scheme to discover a coal mine and had talked many of the townspeople into investing money in the plan. After much time and no success, he buried some coal in a hole out from town and told the people of his "find." By the time they discovered the hoax, he was on a boat to America. When the second brother came home after his time in the army and found his brother gone, he went to America also. This younger brother must have been our great grandfather. The mother of the two had married a man by the name of Bultemeier. I asked if it was possible that this man could have been part of a royal family as we had speculated, but was told that this was not possible. There are still Bultemeiers there and they are definitely not royalty. There is still the possibility that the father of the two brothers was from a family of nobility. Lahde and Quetzen are near the boundary which separates Westphalia from a territory know as Schaumberg- Lippe. Schaumberg-Lippe was a smaller "city-state" controlled by a Count and his family. No one knew anything about a connection or any way to find out.
Quetzen is not far from Lahde - about two miles. We drove to Quetzen where Wilhelm Berg has his home. Wilhelm was Walter's brother. He was a cabinetmaker and millworker and had some very sophisticated machinery in the garage of his home. He lived there with his wife Marga and four children: Pieter, Martin, Erica and Helmut. So there is another Martin Berg in Germany also. Marga had prepared cakes and refreshments for the visit. They all talked excitedly, but we could not understand. Without Bruno and Siggy there with us we would have been lost.
After refreshments we walked through the village - with everybody joining. Quetzen is the ancestral home of the Bergs. It is a very small village with about 100 residents. The streets are paved but very narrow. The yards are large and all well kept. The people are obviously prosperous - now. There were many flowers - especially in window boxes. Many of the residents had heard of our visit and were straining to see the Americans. One man insisted that we all come into his house to see a certain book which contained his family tree. This was the Bleeke family with connections back a always with the Bergs. One entry showed Hannah Berg with her parents.
We saw the old Berg home place, or at least the land upon which it stood. It was at No. 52, consisting of a rather large farm. The farm was no longer in the Berg family. The old house had burned. The new house was relatively new. The barn was old, apparently old enough to date back to when the Bergs were there. It was a special feeling to walk on ground that my ancestors walked on in an earlier era.
Back at Wilhelm's home we were served more refreshments then walked with the families to a restaurant where we had a delicious meal of pork, beef, mushrooms, peas, salad, etc. Then we walked back to Quetzen. Since there were four of us, no one had room to put us up for the night so we went to a Rasthaus (small hotel) nearby for the night.
I forgot to mention that we also visited the cemetery in Lahde. Again there were no old graves. In the cemetery there were many graves of people who had died in a concentration camp nearby during the war years. The Bergs expressed shame over that. The town had erected a monument to the unknown dead. Walter explained that these were gypsies who were forced into labor camps, then annihilated. We also visited a working windmill in Lahde and climbed to the top.
Wednesday, August 8th - Arose early and went back to the Walter Bergs for breakfast. Home made liverwurst, sausage and rolls. Looked at more picture albums showing the family and two old family bibles. Walter had workmen employed to put on a new roof on his house. The house was fifty years old, and this was the first time it had needed repairs. He was hoping the new one would last fifty more years. They seemed genuinely disappointed that we could not stay longer. Bruno and Siggy had to get back to Giessen in time to open their restaurant for the evening. They let us off in Giessen to shop for a couple of hours and then catch the bus home to Ober-Bessingen. When we went to the bus stop, there was Erich standing there. He had just gotten off work and was taking the bus home, so we rode together. The shopping was interesting. There were very few of the store clerks who spoke English, but we managed. They had a pedestrian shopping area which was very nice. When we arrived home, Lydia had prepared sauerbraten and kortoffelklase, and was it good! That was the highlight of the day. The dumplings were a bit smaller than Mom's, and they had no bread crumbs rolled up in them, but they were good. These folks did their very best to please us. They heard me speak of sauerbraten and kortoffelklase and were not to be outdone.
After dinner we walked into town again. We stopped for a short visit with Anna and Ferdinand Jox, then stopped at the Nachtigal home where Karl-Wilhelm borrowed a slide projector. We then went home to watch Rose Marie's slides from her trip to the U.S. when we were first met her and Ulricke. We were in many of the pictures.
Thursday, August 9th - This was another workday, but Erich, Karl-Wilhelm and Ulricke had all arranged for a day off so they could take us to the Rhine River and see the Lorelei rock, the subject of "The Song." We took two cars. Those little cars in Germany cannot hold six people. No one has a large car. Gasoline is too expensive. I think their price converted to about $1.70 per gallon, or even higher with the exchange rate.
We drove first through the Wispertal (Whisper Valley), then to the city of Lorch on the Rhine. We had lunch at Lorch, then drove up the Rhine road to Rutersheim, every crowded tourist spot. This was the first time we had run into American tour buses. I'm glad that we were able to see the real Germany, not just the places beckoning to tourists. We then drove back through Lorch to Kalb where we boarded a cruise boat and rode to the Lorelei rock. The cruise lasted about an hour. The Rhine River was very busy. There are railroad tracks and highways on both sides of the river, and the river itself is heavily travelled with barges and all types of craft.
The Rhine flows from the Swiss Alps in the south all the way through Germany to The Netherlands and the North Sea. The Lorelei rock is a very prominent mountain that the river has to bend around. In the old days there were many rapids in the river at this point that have since been blasted clear. The early sailors on the Rhine had to careful to get through. The legend is that there was a beautiful maiden on the rock that attracted the attention of the sailors and lured them into the rocks. That is what the song is all about. After the boat docked, we drove to the top of the Lorelei for a beautiful view of the Rhine valley - both ways. The Rhine at that point is winding its way through mountains covered with vineyards, many of which were started by the Romans over 2,000 years ago. It is remarkable that grapes can be harvested on those steep hillsides. There were many quaint old towns and villages along the Rhine, and many old castles dating back to medieval times. In the short trip we made there must have been fifteen to twenty castles. These were all built in the Middle Ages when each King or Count controlled his own territory. There was no central government of Germany until 1872. Most of the castles are not in ruins, but some have been restored and converted into hotels. The Rhine flows north and very fast. It was almost dark before we got back to Ober- Bessingen.
Friday, August 10th - Today is the wedding day for Bruno and Siggy. We learned that they set the date at this time so that we could be there. The ceremony took place in the court house in Giessen. Whether or not there is a church ceremony, this court house ceremony has to take place first. The couple sat in chairs in front of the court official's desk. The best man and maid of honor sat in chairs behind them. The family in attendance sat in chairs around the room. The ceremony lasted about twenty minutes as the court official read from a book. We could not understand the language, but there were occasional "Ja's" from the bride and groom. Then they had to each sign the official documents - and it was done. From there, Bruno's friends had chartered a two horse team and carriage to take the couple to the restaurant for the marriage feast. This was a six course meal. Bruno and Siggy, their attendants, and Ann and I were at the feast which lasted two and a half hours. Afterwards, we took a taxi home to Ober-Bessingen, but returned to Giessen later with the family for what they called their Poltergeist. This was at a club house that Bruno had rented. It was attended by about 300 people - all friends of the bride and groom. The highlight of the evening was the breaking of dishes outside on the concrete driveway. At the prescribed hour, everyone went outside and smashed dishes to the tune of fireworks, balloons, and other assorted noises. What a mess! Then the bridegroom had to clean it all up. Back inside, we ate all kinds of sausage and other things. Beer flowed like water. The party lasted into the morning, but we left fairly early, riding back to Ober-Bessingen with Otto and Erna. The next evening, there was more celebration and more partying. This was primarily for family and special friends - only about 100 people.
Saturday, August 11th - It was raining too hard this day to go anywhere. During one of the slack periods, we walked into the village to the church. Erich had arranged to get a key so I could go inside to take pictures. Then we stopped by Meinhardt's store on the way home to buy the ingredients for sauerkirschkuchen (cherry cake). Erich's sister, Marieschen, and her husband came to visit from Wiesbaden. The family does not seem to care too much for them. Carl-Wilhelm's words were that they had forgotten how to be humble since moving to the big city. We watched the Olympics on TV for a while. At 6:00pm Rose Marie came and took us with her to her apartment in Giessen where we waited until time to go back to the clubhouse for the rest of the wedding celebration. The meal was a bit more formal than the night before. Again, there was much beer. Beer drinking is a German tradition. They grow up on it, and really believe that it is good for them. We saw no hard liquor served anywhere on the trip, but the amount of beer they drink is astronomical.
We rode home in the "Ober-Bessingen Bus," a Volkswagen which seated eight people. The farmers around Ober-Bessingen had purchased the bus for special meeting times. Otto had the use of it since it was kept at his farm. Betina was the designated driver because she had abstained from any drinking.
Sunday, August 12th - At 10:00am, Dieter and Betina picked us up and took us to Hessenpark. As mentioned before, this was an open air museum where they had assembled some old Hessian houses - "fachworkhausen" (half-timbered) and farm buildings. There were bakeries, blacksmith shops, a miller, and others. Moving some these old buildings required tremendous effort. They had to be dismantled timber by timber, then reassembled on the new site. All of the timbers were put together with wooden pegs. Inside, they were equipped with old utensils, old furniture - as nearly authentic to the old style as possible - depicting life 200 hundred years ago. It was very interesting, and we appreciated the young people taking their day off to spend with us. Dieter and Betina are both 25 years old. We had lunch at a nice restaurant on the way home called Walk-Muelle near Usingen.
Monday, August 13th - Dieter drove us to Giessen early to rent a car which Bruno had arranged for. It was a Volkswagen (not a beetle) with automatic drive. Most cars over there are not automatic because they are all so conscious of the high price of gasoline. This was our first experience at being on our own. Bruno had pointed out many things on a map for us to try to see. We drove south on the autobahn through Frankfort, then to Heidelberg, where we stopped to see and tour the famous Heidelberg Castle, then to Freiberg and to Titisee, where we stopped for the night. Titisee is a beautiful spot in the black forest (schartzwald) up in the mountains on a crystal clear mountain lake. We went shopping, took a cruise on the lake in a boat, ate dinner, and retired for the night. The lake was dotted with small boats, but no noisy engines. All the boats were either said boats or paddleboats. It was very quiet and peaceful. We ate dinner at the Bergsee Restaurant. The black forest region is really the most beautiful part of Germany in my opinion - even prettier than the Bavarian Alps. The trees are all evergreens - apparently a variety of spruce - a very dark green color. This is where the name black forest comes from. I can imagine that in the winter with snow on the ground, that these trees appear to be black in contrast.
Tuesday, August 14th - It was very foggy until about 10:00am. We were told that this is always the case in the black forest. When the fog lifted it was a beautiful sunny day. We shopped for awhile, then left for Switzerland. We crossed the border into Switzerland at a place called Waldshut. We were met at the border checkpoint by armed guards who very meticulously checked our passports and examined the car. We couldn't understand their questions, but I guess they decided we were all right and let us in. There were exchange banks at the border, but we didn't realize the significance of that until later when we tried to buy something. The Swiss would not take German or U.S. money - only Swiss francs - and we had none. That is a helpless feeling, being in a foreign country, unable to understand the language, and with no spendable money. Fortunately, we had enough gas to get to Lucerne where we found a bank open that exchanged our money.
Lucerne is a very old an crowded city, located on the edge of the Alps and on a lake. There was an interesting old covered walkway across the lake lined with geraniums in flower boxes along the handrails. Swans were swimming in the water. There were many sidewalk cafes. The air was smoggy though, and we could not see the mountains that were close by. We were glad to leave there and head north again. After the beauty of Germany and the Schwartzwald, Switzerland was rather dull. Driving through the countryside, we saw some interesting old farmhouses. The Swiss building style was quite different. Wide overhangs at the roof edges, etc. We saw very few people around the farmyards. They must have been inside for siesta. There were many little towns and villages with names such as Gisihon, Sins, Zug, Wadenswil, Rapperswil, Pfaffiken, Winterhur, Frauenfeld. We eventually arrived at Konstanz, our destination for the night.
Konstanz is right on the border of Switzerland and Germany at the beginning of the Rhine River - where it flows out of a large, clear lake called the Bodensee. We stayed in the Insel Hotel, a converted monastery dating back to the 13th century. The hotel, in operation since 1875, was on an island right at the beginning of the river. After dinner we walked across the old bridge across the Rhine and along the north shore of the Bodensee. Old ornate buildings along the shore are wall to wall. There was an old watchtower at the foot of the bridge which must be 600 to 700 years old, but amazingly well preserved. Everything in the city seemed to have a religious connotation.
Wednesday, August 15th - We had breakfast in the hotel, then checked out and walked around the city while we had a place to park the car still at the hotel. We then drove to the island of Mainau, which Bruno had said was a must to see. There is an old castle on the island that dates back to feudal times, and the island has been converted to a garden paradise. The warm air currents off the Bodensee help keep it very tropical. Besides the thousands of flowers, there were palm trees and citrus trees. The hotel and Mainau were in Germany.
Our route then took us back into Switzerland and along the southern coast of the Bodensee for several miles, and then into Austria and the Austrian Alps. Austria is not so snobbish about their money and were willing to accept German marks. By then we just had Swiss francs, so went to a bank to exchange them into Austrian shillings. It was very confusing with all these different kinds of money and different exchange rates. One US dollar equalled 2.86 German marks, 2.5 Swill francs, or 20 Austrian shillings.
We stopped early at a little hotel called The Berghof in the village of Nesselwangel (back in Germany) located high in the Bavarian Alps. From the hotel we could see several ski lifts. The mountains were pretty but rather bare. There was no snow. After dinner, and just before dusk, we took a walk up a mountain path. A little way up we heard a large number of bells ringing, and soon were met by a long string of cows walking toward us on the path. No one was leading them. As they came into the village they all knew exactly where to go. Two or three would stop at this house, then two or three at the next, and so on until all were at home. The farmers were at the gate to meet them and lead them to the barn where they were milked and bedded down for the night. The next morning we awoke to the sound of bells, this time the cows were being let out to go back up the mountain to graze for the day, again without any help from their owners. Each cow had a bell on its neck, so that if one didn't come in when it was supposed to the farmer could find it easier when he went out to look.
The weather was cool and pleasant. No one at the hotel spoke English, but we did all right. Our room was clean, and the food was good. "Haben sie ein zimmer frei?" came in handy.
Thursday, August 16th - The weather deteriorated during the night. It was overcast and raining as we left Nesserwangel. We crossed over into Austria again and then back into Germany. We did a little shopping in Garmisch. The stores all close between noon and 2:00pm. We had planned to stay in this area for the night, but there was nothing to do in the rain so we just drove on. There was no Zimmer Frei (available room) anywhere in the beautiful area of alpine lakes, so we drove on to the outskirts of Munich and stopped at a hotel in Sauerlach. The special on the menu was sauerbraten, so we had a good dinner. We met a couple from Australia who lived in Germany. They gave us some good information about how to find our way around in Munich.
Friday, August 17th - Our friend from Giessen were coming to Munich by chartered bus for a raft trip down the Isar river. Bruno had reserved 2 rooms in the Prasident Hotel for his guests for this event. They were to arrive about 3:00pm. Our first move upon arrival in Munich was to turn our car in to Hertz. We found the Hertz place with little trouble, then took a taxi back to the hotel. We left our luggage in the hotel lobby since we could not check in until later. We then left on foot to go to the Marienplatz where the world famous Glockenspiel performs.
We had not proceeded a block before we were in trouble. There was no way to cross the street to get to the subway station. Of course, had we been able to read the signs it would have been easier. Finally, we discovered an underground walkway that crossed under the busy street. Now the problem was to learn which of the subways to take to Marienplatz. All were operating without operators, and there was no one to ask. We studied the maps on the wall and decided on which train to take. Luckily, as it turned out, we were correct, but it was sheer luck. As it turned out, we could have walked, the ride was so short. We learned later that we were supposed to pay for the ride, but no one asked for money or for a ticket, so we rode free. Anyway, we arrived at the Marienplatz a little before 11:00am.
The Glockenspiel plays twice a day - at 11:00am and at 5:00pm. This is a very old clock in the City Hall building in which dancing figures go round and round. The are around the city hall filled with thousands of people for each performance. The show lasted about 10 minutes. Then we strolled around town shopping and peering in the windows of the stores, killing about three hours before taking the subway back to the hotel. This time we paid our way.
Shortly after we checked in, the bus from Giessen arrived, and we were joined by our friends. I think they were a bit surprised that we had managed for four days without guidance. About 1:30pm everybody piled into the bus and went to Bruno's favorite beergarden in a suburb out from Munich. This was an outdoor affair with many tables. Booths were set up around the perimeter - each serving something different. There were sausages, rolled beef, and rolled pork. There were pastries and much beer. The beer was served in liter mugs (a little over a quart), and I saw several people before the night was over drink fiver or six of these. Yet, no one was drunk. They are so used to the beer that it doesn't seem to affect them. Pretzels were served that were a good 10 inches in diameter. A Bavarian band was playing Dixieland music. When I asked about this, I was told that traditional Bavarian music was only for tourists.
I had an interesting conversation with a student/teacher by the name of Hans Jager, who was a language and history buff. He spoke good English. He told an interesting account of the many migrations of Germans to America, beginning with the Hessian troops who were conscripted to fight for the British in the U.S. Revolutionary War. In 1778, the Count of Casse (in Hessen), who was a cousin to the King of England, sold thousands of Hessian men to the British to fight in the American war. There was an overpopulation of men in Hessen at the time. So, the opportunity to make money and to solve a political problem coincided. In that period the common German people were owned by the royal families and could be sold like slaves. Many of the Hessians upon arriving in America switched sides and stayed on after the war. Records exist at the University of Marburg as to the identities of these men. The regimes of the Counts and Dukes who held their people in such bondage began to crumble in the early 1800s, but not without much grief to the people. This caused a wave of emigration in the 1806 - 1810 period to America were it was thought that a freer and better life could be had. Then in the period 1845 - 1860, the Counts and Dukes tried to reassert their authority, and life again became tough for the common people. When crops failed and work was difficult to find, many again chose to leave for America. So, it was politics and crop failure, rather than religion, that motivated most of the people to leave. This latter migration was the period in which my ancestors came to America.
Saturday, August 18th - This was the big day for the rafters. We rode with the bus to the launch site - about 20 kilometers from Munich. We were invited to join them, but elected instead to just watch the launching and then go back with the bus to Munich and take a guided tour of the city. The raft was made up of ten pine logs about 80 feet long. A makeshift platform across the middle of the raft held benches for seating. There were sixty of Bruno's friends plus a small band. This was an annual affair that Bruno sponsored for his customers and friends. Each paid his or her own share of the cost, and I think Bruno netted a profit out of the deal. Each year more and more people wanted to go. They were on the raft for five hours, and during that time consumed five barrels of beer. They all said that it was a great time. Maybe we should have gone along. Instead we watched them depart and returned to Munich.
It was not hard to find a tour bus. We chose one that included a tour of the site of the Olympic Games of 1972. We visited an old church, heard the Golckenspiel again, visited an art museum, saw Hitler's Munich headquarters, then went out to the Olympic site. This has now been turned into a very nice recreation park. Upon our return to Munich three hours later, we walked back to our hotel to find that all the rafters were back and sacked out. Then, about 7:30pm, we all walked back into the Marienplatz for dinner on the sidewalk at a very nice cafe. Bruno was an excellent guide, very knowledgeable about all facilities. We had sauerbraten again - very good. Many of the group went to a disco later, but we returned to the hotel and fell into bed - exhausted.
Sunday, August 19th - After breakfast at the hotel, we again walked to the Marienplatz for another viewing of the Glockenspiel. By this time we were experts on the old clock. We then visited the famous Hofbrauhaus. Bruno refused to go in. He says they water down their beer for the tourists. We had lunch again in a sidewalk cafe, then headed back to the hotel. Bruno and Siggy and three American friends (two from Minnesota and one from Los Angeles) left for a few days in the Bavarian Alps and a tour of Greece for their vacation. These Americans met Bruno while serving in the US AirForce in Giessen. Bruno at the time was on the police force.
We returned to Giessen with the bus - a long six hour trip. Scenery along the way was beautiful. Karl-Wilhelm, Ulricke, and RoseMarie then took us back to Ober-Bessingen for a last dinner with Erich and Lydia. Then it was "good-bye" and "aufwiedersehen" and thanks for a wonderful time. We will never forget the exceptional hospitality of these friends.
Monday, August 20th - We learned upon awaking this day that Dieter had volunteered to take us to Frankfort and the airport. Erich took another day off work so he could ride with us. I don't know how we'd have managed without their help at that point. Saying good-bye to them was difficult. They had all been so kind.
We boarded our flight, and for the next ten hours were confined to the relatively small space on the airplane. The highlight of the flight came about halfway, when the pilot interrupted the movie to announce that we were flying over the southern coast of Greenland. Looking out the window we could see hundreds of icebergs in the water. We could also see the snow covered mountains on the mainland. The air was so clear that even from seven miles up, everything was exceptionally clear.
Actually, it was a surprise that we were so far north. Our flight path took us over Scotland, Greenland, northeastern Canada, the Great Lakes, Detroit, Knoxville, and into Atlanta. One unforgettable comment came when everyone was boarding the plane in Frankfort - "where's the ice water?" Tap water in Germany is not used for drinking. If you want water, they bring a bottle of sparkling water, and nowhere do they have or use ice. If you ask for ice, you get ice cream, for the Germany word for ice cream is Eis.
It was a smooth flight home, but long. It took another hour to get from Atlanta to Tampa where we were met by John and family. Jet lag is a very real phenomenon. There is six hours difference in the time between Germany and Florida. Even three days later as I write this, my inner alarm is still going off at 2:00am.
Summary - The trip to Germany was an unforgettable experience It was especially so because of the manner in which we made it. We saw the people in their real life situations. The warm welcome given us by everyone in the Jox family in Ober-Bessingen was overwhelming. We will remember them all for the rest of our lives - particularly Erich and Lydia. We were received warmly by the Berg families in Lahde and Quetzen, but were unable to spend as much time with them.
As for the countryside, Germany is very beautiful - clean, and prosperous. The black forest area was the most beautiful, with the Bavarian Alps next. Those quaint old villages, Ober-Bessingen included, were especially significant. The people there do not appreciate the appeal of those very old buildings because they have grown up with them, but seeing a 200 year old house, or standing in a 400 year old church is something like being transported back in time to another era. I think that the high point of the trip to me was attending church in the same old church that Great Grandfather Jox must have been in before he left Germany. I am very thankful for being able finally to make the trip, and hope that I've been able to share a bit of it with whoever might be reading this. There is no substitute for actually being there though. Ann and I both recommend the trip to anyone who can do it. We now have to get back into the routine of the real world here at home.
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