Sunday, November 24, 2013

European Adventure- Part 3


In the map to the left, the green colored area is the state in which Erfweiler is located. In the map above, you can see where Erfweiler is in relation to Frankfurt and Stuttgart.

Inmy last post, we were in the Schell ancestral village of Erfweiler in Germany. We had enjoyed a great meal at a local eatery called the Jägerhof. The next morning, we were invited to Gerhard and Bärbel Zwick’s home for a typical German breakfast consisting of a variety of cheeses, thin-sliced meats, rolls, and coffee. After breakfast, Gerhard and Friedbert took us on a walking tour of Erfweiler. They pointed out some of the buildings and homes that would have been around when our ancestors plied the streets of Erfweiler back in the 18th and 19th centuries. They showed us the old school that Johann Schehl would have attended and the site of the old Catholic church that the family would have attended. We also got a little insight into Erfweiler during WWII. Since the town is very close to the French border, the Nazis ordered all villagers to evacuate for seven months after the war began in September of 1939. Near the end of the war when the Americans occupied the area, all the villagers in the upper old town had to evacuate so the Americans could set up camp there. Gerhard had a relative in Erfweiler who was killed after the villagers moved back in. He, unfortunately, came into contact with a grenade that had been left behind. Gerhard also had a relative who was killed during the D-Day invasion and another who was killed when German paratroopers tried to invade the island of Crete. We visited a town
Honoring town's war dead- there were two more plaques
cemetery with little hope of finding any tombstones of my ancestors. They do it a “little” differently in Germany. You lease a plot for between 15-25 years. After the lease is up and if no family member renews the lease, the plot can be re-used! What happens to the remains that were there, you say? Well, there are not many remains as they do not place coffins inside a liner. But if there are remains, they are just buried deeper! The headstone is removed and a new one is put in place. They even recycle the headstones. So, there are no headstones remaining for the dearly departed from long ago! We did find a Schehl gravesite but it was from a different line.

After the tour, it was time to return to Gerhard’s home for lunch. They had said the night before that we were going to have a “special” lunch on Sunday and then they started chuckling. That was of some concern to me; why the chuckling without explanation? Well, we got to the lunch after our tour. There was a large platter of sausages and brats, bread and rolls, a large bowl of sauerkraut (which was of special concern to me), and then a large sausage-like piece of meat on a large plate. It was probably about 4-5 inches round and maybe about a foot long. They said it was somewhat unique to this Pfälz region of Germany and it was called saumagen, which didn’t mean much to me. So, they sliced it and gave each of us a piece. I dug in and it was quite delicious. It was only after that that they explained that saumagen meant “sow’s stomach”! It seems that they stuff a sow’s stomach with a mixture of pork, potatoes, and seasonings; it resembles a meatloaf. The sow’s stomach is merely the casing for this large sausage. It really was quite good, but I don’t think that’s one thing I will soon try to make at home for (what should be) obvious reasons. After lunch, Gerhard and Bärbel took
Climbing around Alt Dahn ruins
From highest tower of Alt Dahn
to us to the neighboring town of Dahn. High on a hill overlooking the entire valley is an old castle called Alt Dahn. It is now a state park. It’s a pretty good hike up to the remains of the old castle from the parking lot. It was kind of misty that afternoon but you could see for a long way up there. After returning to Erfweiler, it was time to head back to Stuttgart with Friedbert and Gudrun. They dropped us off at our hotel and said they would come by in the morning and take us to the main train station downtown.

The next morning, we said our goodbyes and left for Amsterdam for our last German rail experience. Everything went well, except we had not made reservations so we wound up standing (with others) for part of the trip until many disembarked along the way. In Köln (Cologne) I had another encounter with German culture that I’m not used to. We had a little time to wait in Köln while waiting for our connection. I went downstairs to use the restroom. I was not expecting a couple of older women to be in there cleaning urinals while the area was being used! So, I just pretended to be German and went about my business “seemingly” unperplexed! Our connection to Amsterdam soon arrived and we were off to our final European destination before heading home. The next post will cover our last couple of days in Amsterdam and our unexpected confusion at Chicago’s O”Hare!

Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving!

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