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Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Markets in Munich




After leaving Rothenburg on Saturday morning, we drove a few hours to Munich. By the time we got there, it was late evening, so we checked into our hotel, the Four Points by Sheraton near the Oktoberfest fairgrounds. There was a big cultural showcase going on there, so we walked around, and got some gluwein. It was really crowded, so we didn’t stay long that night. We walked to the Augustiner Keller for dinner. This is generally one of my favorite beer gardens. That night, however, the service left a lot to be desired. Definitely a disappointment, though the food was really good. On the way home, we stopped in the Munich train station to buy dad a diet coke and a bottle of wine for mom and me.

The next morning, we got up and walked to Karlsplatz where we had breakfast at McDonald's, then walked down to Marienplatz, enjoying the pedestrian walkway and Christmas markets along the way. We saw several beautiful Nativity Scenes.


 We got to the Rathaus just in time to see the Glockenspiel’s show as the clock chimed and the characters started their movement. This happens only once a day in the winter, and we happened to walk up just in time.



Rathaus-Glockenspiel

In addition to the much beloved Gluewein, I tried a new drink in Munich’s Christmas market. Dad even liked this one. It was called Feuerzange​nbowle. Below is the Feuerzange​nbowle booth -- selling the traditional​German alcoholic drink for which a rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and drips into mulled wine. 





Mom buying souvenirs 
After buying souvenirs, we went to the Hofbräuhau​s to listen to some traditional music and to have some beers and a late lunch.

Mom and Dad at Hofbräuhaus (Not Dad's beer!)



By the time we left, it was dark, so we got to see the Christmas lights by the Rathaus and other beautiful decorations. 






After going back to the hotel, mom and I revisited the events at the fairgrounds. We went into the tents there this time, which were not as crowded as our experience the night before. It was much more enjoyable. Leaving there, we went on a long walk to Sinan’s, my favorite post-Oktoberfest bar/restaurant and got a pizza to go to bring back to the hotel room. It was a pretty long walk – I think we walked off all of the calories before the pizza was ever ingested.


The next morning (Monday), we got up early to make our return trip to the states. Luckily, it was very early, as I had spent all of our cash the evening before and thought I might need cash for both diesel fuel to refuel the car and, as it turned out, to get out of the garage. I ran several blocks to get the cash, then attempted to leave the garage. This was also problematic, as we couldn’t figure out how to exit. It turned out you had to pay at a paystation, but the paystation was not located near the exit or where we had left the hotel. The hotel desk clerk at that time of the morning may have been able to validate it and charge it to our rooms, but if he have, he was unaware and wasn’t very helpful in letting us know how it worked, either. Nothing like a little last minute drama before having to catch a flight!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rothenburg ob der Tauber




After leaving Weigenheim, we drove to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany. By the time we got there, it was dark. We drove into the city gates, through the narrow streets, and found our hotel, the Goldener Hirsch. The hotel has been in operation for over 530 years.



Inside the Goldener Hirsch

The hotel was on a beautiful street, near the famous Plönlein, one of the most photographed sites in Germany.




After checking into the hotel, we walked up the street to the Christmas Market by the Rathaus and enjoyed a mug or two of Glühwein.




At 8:00, we met in front of the Rathaus for the "Night Watchman" tour. The medieval town used to have six night watchmen that patrolled the cities. Now, there is only one, who says he doesn't work hours that are as long and gets paid a lot more. The tour was great, and he was very funny. Highly recommended!

The Night Watchman
We walked with the Night Watchman through one of the gates outside the city wall. He pointed out the "manhole" that allowed residents to come back in after curfew with a high fee.

One of the city gates
The "manhole"
After the tour, we had dinner at Rothenburger Kartoffelstube. Mom got an amazing potato soup as a starter, which is what it was known for. It was a cute restaurant. 


Mom in the Rothenburger Kartoffelstube
The next morning, we had a nice breakfast in the hotel, overlooking the Tauber valley. 


Breakfast at the Goldener Hirsch


View at breakfast
After breakfast, we went out to see the sites of the beautiful city in the daylight:


Plönlein


Main Square and the Christmas tree


One of the things I wanted to do before leaving was visit St. James' Church (St. Jakob). Inside, there is an gorgeous altar carved from wood. It is very elaborate, as it contains a holy relic. The cross at the top is supposed to contain a drop of Jesus' blood.


St. James' Church (St. Jakob) 
The Holy Blood Reredos
I climbed the 220 steps to the top of the Rathaus tower for great views of the city. It got really narrow at the top--and it was also very, very cold. It was a cold day to start with, but the top of the tower was windy. 




After grabbing some bratwurst at the Christmas Market, we left Rothenburg to make the drive to Munich.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Weigenheim, Germany

Friday morning we left Bamberg for Weigenheim, the village where my Great-grandfather was born. It was a beautiful drive through the countryside and throug many little villages. Along the way, we saw a huge field of sheep and stopped for a photo opp:


After a couple of hours, we arrived in Weigenheim at around 10:30 am.


We went first to Fritz Saemann's house. We had arranged to meet him that morning. Fritz and his wife Hilde were amazing hosts. First, we drove to Schloss Frankenberger, the castle on a hill high above Weigenheim.

Frankenberger Castle
Mom and Dad at the castle
After the castle, Fritz took us to visit Claudia Saemann. Claudia is also descended from my Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Nicholas Saemann. Later that day, we would visit her mother, who still lives on the same lot where my Great-Great-Great-Grandfather used to live.

Afterwards, we returned to Fritz and Hilde's for a delicious lunch.

Hilde, Mom, Fritz, and Dad
After lunch, Fritz took us on a walking tour of Weigenheim with Gertraud Noeth, who lives down the street from him. We went first to the Weigneheim Church. It had been the church my Great-Grandfather and Great-Great Grandfather were baptized in and lived by. It has since been rebuilt after being destroyed in World War II.

The Church at Weigenheim

The Sämann name, still on the door of the house on the spot where my Great-Great-Great Grandfather lived

The Church and to the far right, the house (also rebuilt) where my Great-Great-Great Grandfather Nicholas lived when my Great-Great Grandfather Johann Peter Saemann was a boy.

During our walk, we visited the house where mGreat-Great-Great Grandfather Nicholas lived (since rebuilt) when my Great-Great Grandfather Johann Peter Saemann was a boy. This house at  is still in the family--Claudia Saemann's mother lives there. Then we walked down to the house where my Great-Great GrandfatherJohann Peter Saemann and his son, my Great -Grandfather Jakob Saemann  lived before moving to the United States. The Weidt family bought it from them, and still lives there. (They also rebuilt the house in the 1990s.)

We then visited the local guesthouse (Gasthaus). The woman who owned it with her husband was also a Saemann before she was married. She gave mom two bottles of their Weigenheim wine. (My ancestors had been wine makers-- though we learned that at the time, they would have made only white wine, not red, in that region.)

In front of the Gasthaus owned by a Saemann cousin


After our walk through the village, we hiked up to the top of a hill called "Chapel Hill"--Kapellberg. During the summer solstice, Weigenheim has a gigantic bonfire there. We enjoyed a great panoramic view of Weigenheim and the surroundings. Here's the view:



Returning to the car, we drove to Reusch, just a couple of kilometers from Weigenheim, where we visited the Church where my Great-Great Grandfather's third wife was baptized. There is a gorgeous altar there from the 1400s. The altar (with folds open and closed):




After a wonderful day, we returned to Fritz and Hilde's for coffee and wonderful desserts. 

After our return to the States, we had a wonderful surprise. The tale of our visit to Weigenheim had been posted in the local newspaper:

The translated text (thanks to Paul Bumbalough):

Alice Wrenn from North Carolina, along with her husband and son, trace back to Weigenheim:


Visiting in the Homeland of her Ancestors

After immigrating to America – Family researcher Fritz Saemann toured guests from the USA
Weigenheim – Tracing back the roots of her grandfather and great-grandparents, Alice Wrenn, from Henderson, North Carolina in the United States, as well as her husband and son (both Frank),visited the birthplace of her grandfather, Johann Jakob Saemann.  He was born in 1874, the second child of the married couple Johann Peter Saemann and his second wife, Margaretha, born a Kistner in Wallmersbach, [Jakob] being born in old house number 36 on Mönchstrasse.

Margaretha died in childbirth following the birth of her sixth child in 1882.  That prompted the widower, along with his six children between the ages of 9 and a few months, as well as his future wife, Katharina Barbara Schwemmer from Reusch, to immigrate to America.

His brother Valentine would follow him, with his wife and five children in September, 1883, to Ridgeway, North Carolina, together with the widow Margarethe Barbara Kilian, born Hammerbacher, and her seven children.

Also a number of other immigrants from the Uffenheim district followed the Weigenheim immigrants, as Barbara Bumbalough, born Sinn, with ancestors from Gnodstadt and Michelfeld, recorded in her book chronicling the first three generations of these immigrants.
Alice Wrenn and her husband live today in the town of Henderson, a few miles south of her birthplace of Manson, a smaller neighboring town of Ridgeway, where she once attended school.  The married couple already had been to Germany, as Alice Wrenn reported that their first time was in 1967/68 while Frank, Sr. was stationed with the army (U.S. Armed Forces) in Heidelberg.

Now she was following through on her desire to learn about the birthplace of her ancestors, and her son also took vacation himself in order to accompany his parents.

The homeland expert and local area family researcher Fritz Saemann – who, himself in 2007, followed and visited several of the immigrants’ descendants [in North Carolina] – toured them and was able to make many connections and show them local points of interest in Weigenheim and Geckenheim:  Frankenberg Castle, the church in Weigenheim, the altar in Reusch, the birth houses of the [Saemann] immigrants, and a panoramic view from the Kapellberg.

Competent translators, English teachers Gertraud and Friedrich Nöth from the Christian-von-Bomhard School in Uffenheim, made themselves available to assist [Fritz] Saemann.  Last year [the Nöth s] had visited Ridgeway and its local environs in connection with a student seminar and they enjoyed the gracious hospitality of the immigrants’ descendants.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bamberg, Germany

While I was in Munich for Oktoberfest this year, mom commented on my Facebook page that she missed Germany. It wasn't that much longer before we decided that this year's Thanksgiving trip would be to Germany. Christmas Markets! Lights! Ornaments! Glühwein!


Christmas Market in Bamberg


We flew out on the night before Thanksgiving and landed in Munich the next morning. This time, I had decided to rent a car. We found the Sixt counter, got the car, and headed to the garage. Everything went smoothly until we got the parking garage, where we couldn't figure out how to start the car. It turns out, there wasn't a key for the ignition. But you did have to have your foot on the break before hitting the start button.


We drove to Bamberg first as their Christmas Market was opening that evening. We checked into our hotel, the Best Western Bamberg, and walked around the old city. First stop, glühwein! And of course, some bratwurst. After some of the nice mulled, hot wine and our bratwurst, we walked around the city a bit, through the streets to the old Cathedral. 


Mom and Dad walking the streets of Bamberg


After visiting the old Cathedral (Dom) we went to the rose garden overlooking the city. From there, we had a beautiful view of Michaelsberg Abbey.


Michaelsberg Abbey
Altes Rathaus in Bamberg


After going back to the room for a bit to warm up and change into warmer clothes, we returned to the Christmas Market for some more glühwein. Mom met a German lady named Josephine whose sister lives near my sister. 
We all stood by the fire, enjoying the warm wine and the feeling of Gemütlichkeit.


Tree in the market
Mom and Josephine
Staying warm by the fire

For dinner, we went to Brauerei Spezial, where mom and dad had the cordon bleu and I had wiener schnitzel. The beer there was interesting -- very smoky flavor. It was a very nice day, that also happened to be mom and dad's 46th wedding anniversary. 


Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!

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