1999 TRIP TO GERMANY AND POLAND page 4 of 4
Sunday, June 6
Sunday was another traveling day. We left Gartz about 10:30 am and headed south on Highway 2 through Schwedt on the way towards Berlin. As we approached Angermunde, we were encountered a field of red poppies in the middle of the dark green landscape. It was a beautiful sight and we stopped to take a picture. It was the largest patch of poppies we had seen. Gerd had told us that they were much more prevalent in Germany before herbicides came along.
After bypassing Berlin on the A10 beltway, we continued south on A13 to Dresden. We had a hotel reserved there but since it was early and we wanted to get farther south that day we cancelled it and headed southwest on the autobahns A4, A72, and A9 arriving in Nurenberg about 8:15 pm. We spent the night at another Best Western, the Arvena Park hotel. A bit more expensive at 180 DM per day, but it was very nice and we always found enough food at the breakfast buffets to make a nice sandwich for lunch too. Fruit, cheese, cold cuts and a variety of delicious rolls were served at breakfast everywhere we went.
Monday, June 7
We left Nurenberg about 11:00 am and took the autobahn to Heilbronn, the closest big city to Neipperg where the Meidinger family orginally came from. A few miles west of Heilbronn, we headed south through Schwaigern to Neipperg. The land was hilly and rolling with fields of grain, corn, and sunflowers and wine grapes were growing on the steeper slopes. Neipperg is a small village nestled in a narrow valley among the surrounding hills. Like most German villages, the church steeple is the most prominent feature of the village. On one of the hills overlooking the village is a castle which belonged to the Dukes of Neipperg. From the scaffolding around parts of it, I assume it was undergoing renovation at the present time. We were told that the current owner lives in Schwaigern. On the hills surrounding the castle were vineyards probably much like those that the Meidingers worked in as serfs three centuries ago. In the book entitled, "1985 - Our People One Century after the arrival of Friedrich and Katharina Meidinger", Jon Ammon provides some additional interesting information about Neipperg and our Meidinger ancestors. In 1976, Jon, who was originally from Wishek, ND, researched the Meidinger lineage back to about 1627. The Meidingers supposedly came from Switzerland after the 30-year war (1618-1648) and lived in Neipperg until 1831 when they emigrated to Kassel, Russia. For more information on the Germans who emigrated to Russia, see Harold Ehrman’s web page at (http://www.ehrman.net/).
I was interested in finding and photographing the house of the Leonhard Meidinger (born in 1789) that supposedly was still standing at Brackenheim Strasse #8. We checked first at the church hoping to find Pfarrer (Pastor) Häcker who provided access to the church records for Jon. However, the church was locked and no one was around. There was no identification anywhere on the church but Pfarrer Häcker told us later that it was the Katharina Ev. Church and was built in 1476. Behind the church, on a plaque honoring the war dead, was the name of Eugen Meidinger, 1902-1945. I wondered if he was a relative and if he died fighting the Americans. The cemetery behind the church was immaculate. Every grave was an individual flower box with blooming petunias, begonias, New Guinea vinca, geraniums, daisies, carnations, alysum, and other non-flowering plants, shrubs, and bushes.
Seeing a young woman next door, I inquired about Pfarrer Häcker’s whereabouts and the location of the Meidinger house. Her name was Beck Evans and she spoke very good English. She said he had retired and was living in Brackenheim, a village nearby. She had been in Neipperg only three years so didn’t know where the Meidinger house was but offered to accompany me next door to the home of an elderly couple who probably would know. After a good deal of discussion back and forth in German, Beck said she would lead us to the house on her bicycle. It turned out that she was taking us to Gansberg #6 where a Meidinger once lived but this wasn’t the house we were looking for. The current occupant said the house was built since 1900.
With only a street name, Heilbronner Strasse, and no house number, we set off for Brackenheim to find Pfarrer Häcker. After getting directions at a Shell service station, and then asking someone living on his street, we soon found his house. He graciously invited us in. He remembered Jon Ammon well and was more than willing to help us. His English was limited and communication was halting but we managed OK. Soon after arriving, his wife served us a variety of pastries and fresh strawberries. They decided that the Meidinger house was located at Marsanestr. 8. When I mentioned Brackenheim Str. 8, he said yes that would be correct, since the street had been renamed. We finished our dessert and Pfarrer Häcker said he would accompany us back to Neipperg to find the house if we would bring him back.
When we saw the house, I questioned whether this could be the original Meidinger house that Jon mentioned in the book. It was fairly large and appeared newer than a house from the 1700’s. Pfarrer Häcker said it was most unlikely that they would have had a house this size at that time because the people were very poor then. He suspected that the house had been rebuilt or added to substantially since the World War II. I took some pictures but I’m sure they don’t represent the house our ancestors lived in.
When we returned to Pfarrer Häcker’s home he asked us to wait a minute and he would get us a bottle of wine from Neipperg. He also told us that if we wanted to see the church registers, he would get them for us because they were stored in yet another village. I said maybe next year and he said that we should plan to stay at their house. Fortunately, we had taken some extra music CD’s along as gifts and we were able to respond to their incredible hospitality.
Once again it was getting late in the day and we had a couple of hours driving ahead of us to reach our motel in Hollendau, which is in the hop growing area about 30 miles north of Munich. Hops are a tall twining vine that produces flower cones that are used in flavoring beer. Clearly, Germany needs a lot of barley and hops.
Tuesday, June 8
One day left before our flight back to the States. The weather had finally turned against us with rain and low clouds, but we decided to drive to Salzburg, Austria anyway. It reminded me of when we were driving along the Southern Alps in New Zealand, it was a rainy day too and we couldn’t see the mountains right next to us. I thought, oh no, now we aren’t going to see the Alps here either.
The rain let up when we reached Salzburg and we stopped at the one of the hotels to book a city sight-seeing tour. Our timing was perfect – it was 2:00 pm and the tour was just starting. Salzburg has many impressive historical buildings and sites including a huge castle on a hill overlooking the city. One could spend several days there visiting these sites but this would have to wait for another trip to Austria. Included in the tour was a ticket to the Mozart house and museum, which was very interesting and a good way to spend our time on dreary day.
On the way back to Munich, the clouds lifted and we finally got to see the mountains. We were surprised to see snow on them at this time of year. When we reached the motel we checked our odometer -- we had driven 3000 km (1800 miles) since leaving Duren.
Wednesday, June 9
Time for the dreaded trip back home. The airport was north of Munich, only about 20 miles from our motel and our flight was at 10:30 am so getting to the airport and returning the rental car was easy. After an unscheduled overnight stop in Minneapolis, we finally arrived home at 1:00 am Friday morning, tired but very pleased with a very successful and rewarding trip.
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