2001 TRIP TO GERMANY AND POLAND page 2 of 4
Monday, May 7
The weather was still misty and overcast in the mountains so we decided to drive to Passau, a city with seven thousand years of history, that lies at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers. After checking in at the visitor center we drove up to the Veste Oberhaus Fortress, a castle that was built in 1219 to control commerce across the rivers. We drove right into the center of the fortress thru a couple of arched gates before we were told we shouldn’t be there – one of the perks of not being able to read the German signs. So we retreated and found the designated parking lot. The fortress, which stands on the hill overlooking the city, provides a great view and one can see across the river into Austria and as far away as the Czech Republic.
Next we walked around the old town and visited St. Steven’s Cathedral, which has a gorgeous nave decorated with many frescos and 1000 stuccoes (paintings and statue-like figures) on the walls and ceilings. The beauty of the intricate artistic design and detail are absolutely incredible. It also has the world’s largest cathedral organ with 17,774 organ pipes.
Tuesday, May 8
Took it easy in the morning and then drove down to Bodenmais to a glass-blowing factory (Joska Crystal) to watch them at work. It was a small factory with four glass blowers, one helper, and one engraver at work. It was fascinating to see them make decorated glass balls. A large factory store next door was stocked with all kinds of beautiful glass and crystal pieces of every description and priced from ten to hundreds of Deutsch Marks. We hoped to see a much larger factory in Zwiesel but when we got there we learned that it was closed.
Wednesday, May 9
At breakfast the day before, we met a young couple from Wisconsin, Mike and Dee, who wanted to go to Prague but weren’t allowed to take their rental car into the Czech Republic. We told them we were planning to go and they were welcome to come along. The four of us left after breakfast taking Hwy E53 to Pilzen and D5/E50 to Prague arriving about noon. Mike navigated and did a great job getting us right into the city center without a hitch.
Prague has about 1.2 million residents and is the capital of the Czech Republic as well as capital of central Bohemia. Since Prague escaped the bombs of this century’s wars, its historical buildings are probably the best-preserved in Europe and offer a wealth of architectural styles and wonder. We booked a 3 ½-hour-long bus and walking tour that took us to the Prague Castle, Wenceslas Square, Jewish Quarter, and the Old Town Square, among many other sites. The Castle is huge with a wall more than a kilometer long. Czech rulers have ruled from this fortress for a thousand years and do so today. Inside its walls is the majestic and beautiful St. Vitus Cathedral whose construction began about 926 when St. Wenceslas had the rotunda built and continued thru the centuries until 1929 when it was finally completed. The beautiful neo-Gothic façade, which is flanked by twin spires, is remarkable for its ornate decoration and has an exquisite rose window. An impressive 300 ft tall bell tower stands over the side entrance. The interior is over 400 ft long, 108 ft high and nearly 200 ft wide at the transept. It has three naves divided by massive pillars with many chapels along the sides. The chapels are decorated with frescoes and paintings and are lighted by magnificent stained-glass windows. Some of these finely illustrated mosaic windows have as many as 40,000 pieces of glass. Numerous statues and busts decorate the many tombs inside. One that is particularly elaborate, the Tomb of St John Nepomuk, is an 18th century sculpture crafted from two tons (if I remember right) of silver.
We walked past the Royal Palace and the Basilica of St. George but unfortunately didn’t have time to go inside. After the tour ended we strolled across the Charles Bridge, a monumental Gothic bridge that was built in the 14th century. The bridge crosses the Vltava River and is over 1500 feet long, 30 feet wide and is supported by 16 pillars. Two tower gates stand at the ends of this pedestrian bridge and thirty statues and sculptures line its sides. It’s a popular place with tourists and offers great views of the city. We ended our day in Prague by having dinner at an outdoor restaurant near the end of Wenceslas Square. We left Prague about 9 pm and got back to the condo just after midnight.
Thursday, May 10
We had breakfast with Mike and Dee again and then said goodbye as they were checking out. They were heading to Munich and then on to Amsterdam. We needed a day with a little slower pace so we went over to the tram on Gr. Arber and took a gondola up the mountain. Paths led to still higher points and by climbing to the top of a couple of rock outcroppings one had great views in all directions. It was sunny and clear but the wind at the top was cold and brisk and we were glad we had brought some sweatshirts and jackets. After coming down we drove to Arbersee, a small mountain lake, and had a leisurely walk around the perimeter of the lake.
Friday, May 11
Even though we flew out of the Munich airport in 1999, we never got to see the city. So Friday morning we took off for a day trip to the capital of the state of Bavaria. It was a beautiful day and we were now seeing the flat farming country west of Deggendorf and the beautiful rolling countryside west of Landshut that we had missed during the rain and fog that we had encountered when we drove from Munich to the condo a week earlier. Fields of bright yellow canola interspersed among the wheat fields provided many beautiful panoramas, and ones that we would see repeated many times throughout Germany.
We drove as far as Neufahrn and took a 30-minute train ride into the city. After taking a one-hour Panorama city bus tour to see the highlights of Munich, we walked thru Marienplatz visiting three notable churches -- St. Michaels Church, a Renaissance building that was nearly destroyed in the war and was rebuilt in 1947-48; the Church of St Peter which was built in the 1300’s, and the Frauenkirche (Cathedral Church of our Lady). The beautiful, 500-year-old cathedral is easily recognized by its two tall towers topped with "onion domes". Marienplatz was teeming with pedestrians and street performers and musicians were performing here and there. Here one finds the new Rathaus (city hall), built between 1867 and 1909, and which is a most striking building with a 278 ft-high tower that houses the famous Glockenspiel.
It was getting time to eat and since we heard no trip to Munich is complete without eating at the Hofbrauhaus, we headed there next. You can eat inside the large dining hall or out in the courtyard and nearly every table was full with tourists and locals enjoying the great German beer. A 5 or 6-piece oompa band was playing inside but with all the smokers and the noise and revelry of the crowd we decided to eat in the courtyard. After we finished eating, we were astonished to run into Mike and Dee again who were also eating there.
But it was getting late and we had to catch the train back to Neufahrn to pick up our car and head back to the condo.
Saturday, May 12
We checked out of the condo at 10:15 and drove into Deggendorf where we hoped to find the post office but instead we got caught up in the Saturday morning shopping traffic jam. When we finally escaped, we headed to Regensberg where we stopped to have lunch and to see the old city. We walked over the Steinerne Bridge and visited St. Peters Cathedral. The cathedral had lots of stained glass windows but they didn’t let much light in so the church was fairly dark inside. It seems amazing how many huge cathedrals have been built throughout the country and how much money must have been spent on them.
We left Regensberg at 2:45 and arrived at the Best Western motel at the Dresdner Tor just west of Dresden on A4 at Wilsdruff. It is an American style motel alongside the highway so we didn’t have to hunt for a hotel in the city. We were very happy that they still had a room available. It also has a restaurant where we had a very good dinner. The room including breakfast ran 135 DM and dinner entrees were priced at about 15-16 DM.
Sunday, May 13
The motel had an excellent buffet breakfast too that included bacon, sausages and boiled eggs besides the usual German fare. We left the motel about 10:45 and drove from Dresden to Berlin circling the city on the ring road and then A11 to exit #9 where we took Hwys 198 and 2 thru Angermunde and Swedt arriving in Gartz about 3 pm. We checked into the Pension am Silberberg and got the same room we had in 1999. While Norma took a nap, I drove over to Hohenselchow to take pictures of the church and to check out the cemetery. I showed the printout of our Rieck ancestors to three elderly women who were sprucing up the gravesites. From what I could understand they were telling me that it would be unlikely any 19th century graves could be found. They would be in the old part of the cemetery, which was "kaput". I wondered around but didn’t see any headstones I recognized. Next I went to the church, which was locked, but I took several pictures of it and of the Gut, which was located just across the street.
Monday, May 14,
On Monday morning we drove to Gross Pinnow to meet with Thomas Lüdcke at his house. We were greeted by Thomas and his mother who made tea and cream cheese rolls for us. We had met Thomas in 1999 and became friends as he drove us to the villages of our Maass and Koehler ancestors in Hinter Pommern. After we had returned home in 1999, Thomas discovered that the house on Krugstrasse 12 – the one in which my Grandmother Hermine (Rieck) Maas was born – was occupied by descendants of my great great grandparents, August and Henrietta Schulz. Their family name was Richter and Thomas had arranged for us to meet them at their house later that morning. Waiting for us when we arrived was Franz Richter, his son & daughter, Eitel & Isolde, and Eitel’s son, Dominik. What a thrill to see the house and meet relatives we had lost contact with over 40 years ago. Dominik spoke pretty good English and served as our translator. Franz’s wife, Anni, who died in 1998, had kept some of the pictures sent by Grandma Hermine to Anni’s mother & grandmother, Anna (Jahnke) Staatz & Pauline (Schulz) Jahnke, respectively. Unfortunately, Anni Richter who they said was the most knowledgeable about the family, was only 65 when she died of cancer. But Franz and his family were quite interested in the pictures and descendant list I had brought and discussed relationships in the family with each other in German. Isolde Lazar said her daughter, Eileen, who was working, had the family tree in the computer and would bring us a copy when she returned from work after 5:30.
After an interesting time getting acquainted – I told Eitel and Isolde that we were 3rd cousins – they took us out into the yard where they showed us the grave marker from Pauline’s grave which they had mounted on the outside wall of one of their buildings. Graves are recycled about every 25 years (unless you can afford to pay for a longer time) so when her granddaughter Anni died, Pauline’s grave became Anni’s grave and they removed Pauline’s grave marker. Also in the back yard were the remains of the stone wheat grinder that the Schulz family – most likely great grandmother Marie Schulz – used to grind wheat into flour. The barn, now empty, was used at one time to dry tobacco. Tobacco is not a big crop anymore but Franz was growing tobacco seedlings in covered hot boxes (about 4 ft x 30 ft) to be transplanted later. We also stopped to take pictures of each other in front of the gate in the same location where the 1920’s photo of the Schulz house was taken.
Then they walked with us to the cemetery, which was only about a block north of the house. The path took us thru a small wheat field where the wheat was about a foot tall. We saw the two family plots for Anna and for Anni, both very nicely kept up. I took pictures of both. Next we walked to the church, which is only a block west of the house, and were able to go inside where we saw a memorial plaque for soldiers who died in WWI. Both Schulz and Sarow names appeared but the Richters did not know if we were related to them. Another memorial plaque on the opposite wall commemorated Carl von Schulz who died of a bullet wound to the chest. With "von" in the name, he may have been a member of an aristocratic family. I videotaped some of the inside of the church. A metal flag at the top of the steeple indicated that the church was built in 1762. We were told this time that the steeple was destroyed in the war, not by lightning.
After returning to the house, I explained that I was anxious to see the church books for Pinnow and Hohenselchow. Dominik said he would accompany us to find the pastor and translate for us since the pastor didn’t speak English. Unfortunately, he was unable to show us the church books at that time but we made an appointment to see them on Saturday after we returned from Poland. When we took Dominik back to his house, he asked us if we would return for tea at 4:00 p.m. and of course we agreed. After having lunch and resting at the Pension in Gartz, we returned again to Gross Pinnow. This time we got to meet Bärbel Richter, Eitel’s wife who had returned from work as a clerk in a clothing store, and their teenage daughter, Carolin. Bärbel served us tea, coffee, donuts and other pastries in the garden in back of the house.
That evening after we returned to the Pension, Eileen came by with a printout of her family’s names and dates and some photocopies of photographs. Her English was very good and it was fun getting acquainted and learning more about her family.
While I had hopes of meeting some distant cousins, the thrill of finally making contact after so many years is hard to describe. The hospitality and warm reception we got from our new-found relatives was wonderful.
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