Monday, June 04, 2007

Switzerland Journal: Day Six

Monday May 21st was another day with an early start, only this time the day was already warm when we headed down to the train station. I had a day pack on my back for this trip, it was a fast turn around, returning from Italy the night before, but it allowed me to really see how little I needed for an overnight trip. I confess, I was very proud of myself as we walked to the station, a small day pack snuggled against my back. I'm getting to be a seasoned travel I thought. And I'm liking the simplicity of walking with a backpack instead of pulling a suitcase.
I was also LOVING having a scarf filled with water absorbing beads around my neck...otherwise I don't think I could have made it through the up coming day. My wet neck scarf and my camera were the two indispensable items for this leg of the trip!
We were headed to Germany, and to Mannheim specifically, as that was the town where my mother's father, Matthew Stein and his family lived. I have records of the family in Mannheim going back to the 1600's, when a Stein was mayor of the town. Matthew himself was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, after Mormon missionaries convinced his aunts that Utah was THE place to be. His aunts went, and sent word back to Germany that the rest of the family should come there as well, this being in the late 1880's. My grandfather was born in 1894, and then the family returned to Mannheim, and he lived in Mannheim as a child, then returned to Utah in the early 1900's.
I wished I knew German well enough to have been able to search town records and directories to learn exactly where they lived in Mannheim, but my plan was to head to the oldest section of the town, and towards the Neckar river.
Doesn't everyone who lives in a town near a river eventually take a walk along the river?
My feeling were that if I could walk along the cobblestones of the old town and see the plants that grew there, see the river and hear the local birds sing, I would at least have a sense of what my family saw when they lived in the city over a century ago.
As always I enjoyed sightseeing along the way. We had travel to Zurich to make our connection to Mannheim, and this colorfully decorated train car was one track over. I liked it when the trains designated one car as a "family" car, with kid friendly spaces. Most trains didn't have that option, and we suffered on later travels with wailing babies who were decidedly NOT enjoying their travels.
This passionate train station farewell went on and on and on...he later boarded the train and sat near us. He was gorgeous, no wonder she clung to him so!
The trip through Switzerland and into the German was not long, about four hours, and the scenery very flat. It reminded me of central California, the agricultural area. No mountains, and very little scenery that could be considered memorable.
We're in Mannheim!
What a rush. How long has it been since someone from our family has been here? I think my grandparent's might have visited here in the 1960's when they toured Europe. They took a zillion slide photos, most of which as a child I found excruciatingly boring. Now I would dearly love to look at those slides, to see if Grandpa took any pictures in Mannheim that would give me a clue as to where exactly he lived.
Once we were inside the train station, there were all kinds of little shops and eateries. We got some Euros (Switzerland has refused to join the EU, and has Swiss Franc instead.) The food brought back memories of my Grandfather's yearly birthday dinner at our favorite German restaurant. My mouth was watering and the guy behind the counter spoke no English so I pointed at my choices and found a seat. The pink fluid proved to be strawberry milk, and I will yearn for more of this product for the rest of my life, it tasted like the freshest and most flavorful strawberries ever had met up with the most delicious and freshest milk ever and was bottled seconds ago for my pleasure.
The pink noodle looking stuff on the plate was salad consisting of sliced baloney with little bits of sweet pickles. Hard to picture this as "salad", but then again, Texans call macaroni and cheese a vegetable, so who am I to judge what constitutes a salad?
German potato salad...I love German potato salad. My first bite, and memories exploded in my mind. Suddenly I choked up, and my eyes were filled with tears. It hit me to the core of my being: I was at last IN GERMANY!
Bernie was talking to me, and looked alarmed when he saw my face go wobbly. He caught the moment right after I told him why I was tearing up. The part of me that is German has always been hard to explain. I don't speak the language, although I took two years of it in high school. The only German my grandfather ever taught me was "Ich lieber dich."
I love you.
And I know he did.
Yum...exactly what I had been wanting, on so many levels.

I purchased a German pastry known as "Angel Brot", a figure eight shaped pastry with an sweet egg custard in the center of each circle. The sign in front of the stand had the words "Angel Brot!" like it was something unusual, so I had to give it a try. It was tasty and sticky, and perfect for dessert. Not so perfect in terms of having clean fingers!
We tried to ask the tourism stand where exactly the old section of Mannheim might be found. The line was long and a beautiful young woman standing nearby asked if she could assist us. I told her what I was trying to do in town, and she kindly pointed out on the map where we need to go, which was directly down the street from the train station. Now that makes sense...train stations were established in the 1800's and were built to be near the towns of the day, so of course we would already be close to the old section. I worried that it might also be the "slum" section, or an undesirable part of town, but she assured me that actually it was a wealthy area. Greatly encouraged,we headed out.
That was a rookie error: What we SHOULD have done is put our backpacks into to a train station locker. Duh. Instead we trudge down the busy main street, carrying all our possessions on our backs. In the heat, which was getting hotter with each passing moment, this was a regretable oversight.
As we headed down a busy main street there was one pretty little park with flowers. The pelicans were kind of cute in frolicing in their little pond.
And it tickled me to see this sign. What ever LV is, it was in business in 1871 I think. Or maybe that is the address? Oh well, I'm going with it is the year it started and imagine that it is a business my great grandparents would have known about. Anyone speaking German out there, please be a dear and leave a comment with the translation!
Websites and tour books all have little good to say about Mannheim. The water tower seems to be the highlight of the place. Luckily, the water tower (Wasserturm) was hard to miss. A web search revealed that the Wasserturm was built in 1886.

I bought four German guidebooks and only two of them even mention Mannheim.
I did find an excellent website about Mannheim which you can see by clicking here. The site allows you to tour the city via pictures, I suggest you do so while curled up inside of a heated oven if you would like to experience the tour the way we did in real life.
Here's a brief synopsis of Mannheim's history from DK Eyewitness Travel:
Mannheim existed as a small fishing hamlet as far back as 766. In 1606 (when ancestor Stein was mayor...) Elector Fredrick IV the Righteous ordered a fortress to be built on the site, at the junction of the Rhine and the Neckar (rivers). A trading settlement sprang up nearby, which was soon granted town status. Having been repeatedly destroyed through the years, the town was finally rebuilt in Baroque style during the reign of the Elector Johann Wilhelm( 1658-1716). Using a Baroque style pattern of the early 18th century, the town was divided into 136 regular squares, each designated efficiently with a letter and a number. In 1720 when Elector Charles III Philips decided to move his residence from Heidelberg to Mannheim the foundation stone for a Baroque palace was laid...with over 400 rooms, this became one of the largest and most opulent of all German palaces. Mannheim is the second-largest river port in Europe.

There are some very interesting sculptures around this water tower thing! I bet the German boys love this one.

BIG sculptures.

On the other side of the watertower there is this pretty park, called the Jugendstil Friedrichsplatz.
Hey Laura...lookie!

They've got a MERMAID!!! Wish you had been with us, I bet you would have waded in and we could have gotten a great picture of you hugging the mermaid or one of the mermen, just before you would have been carted off by the police!

The shade of this arbor path was most welcomed! Never did figure out what the name of the church with the handsome spire that is seen in the background.

This is Christ Church, which was built between 1907 and 1911. Perhaps my grandfather saw it being built.

I wondered what the significance of two bees would be in church symbolism? There were several small plaques on the outside on the church walls with various symbols that I didn't recognize as tradition church symbols.
It was a pretty piece of architecture. We tried the doors, but they were all locked and we couldn't find anyone to let us in. I guess that like in America, the church staff is off on Mondays.
You know, I am getting really fond of building that are willing to ballyhoo when they were built. It is SO helpful to inquiring minds like mine.
Very cool, very German. I'm guessing really old...

Just interesting to look at.

All this, over a window.

I had read about the Lauer gardens, which one website exclaimed "were the most beautiful in all of Europe!" I took that statement with a grain of salt, but loving to visit gardens, decided we should at least take a peek, besides which it was right next to the river anyway, fulfilling my goal of "walking by the river."
The garden was created privately in around 1822, and eventually passed into public ownership in 1918, following World War One.
These flowers were blooming and so pretty.
This rock memorialized someone from the right time period.
It was really, really getting hot at this point. Walking the shady paths was a help, but when we spotted this feature, boats gliding on a track around the river, well, sign me up!
It was SO hot, it was the only time Bernie and I were exasperated at one another. We totally misunderstood each other (that's what I think happened, he says he understood what I said perfectly) about where the boat would bring us to, either one way or round trip. So in this idellic boat, on this lovely lake, we were busy being totally irritated with each other.
At least the turtles were enjoying the sunshine.

HUGE carp swam next to the boat, or just stayed in place as the boats glided past; it was hard to tell. They reared their heads up, their mouths wide open, trolling for a treat from the boaters. We didn't have anything to offer them, but they were so funny that they broke our snippy mood.

You know, Canada's a BIG country, with lots and lots of lakes. You'd think the Canada goose would be content staying IN Canada, after all, if you get named after an entire country, shouldn't you sort of make it a point to BE there, instead of in Germany?
Oh I get it. You have to take the kids on a European adventure. Sheesh. Haven't you ever heard of the expression "See Canada First?"

Oh wait a minute, that's "See America First." And in your case, you messy birds, we would rather you didn't. Enjoy your visit to Germany! Guten Tag!
At the half way point we debarked our little "love boat" (ha. haha.) I guess there is a tradition here that has to do with baby pacifiers. I couldn't find anyone to ask about it, but I suspect it might be that pacifier addicted toddlers are bribed with a boat ride if they will hang up the "Nuk" for good.
I looked up and saw this.
An honest to goodness storks nest! Complete with baby storks. Awww...I love baby storks.
It was about 86 degrees F., (30 C.) and we proceeded to walk around the area. We also had agreed to "drop it" as far as our tiff was concerned, it was just too miserably hot to even try to carry that stupid grudge around.
The peony blossoms were spectacular.

We were heading for the Japanese tea house and garden (Japan and Germany, always seem to come down to that...) Bernie is into bonsai, and we hoped there might be some interesting examples of the botanical craft.
To reach the japanese tea house, you had to walk through a cave. At least it was a tiny bit cooler in the cave, but boy, not much.
I had read that the Germans loved to put up signage. I found that to be SO true, every door, every window, ever little path, seat, you name it, there was a sign, or several signs. Usually with the word "nicht" or "vorboden" included. I wasn't sure what this sign was saying, so I just backed away from it and kept on going.

The effort to walk to the japanese garden was redeemed by a few nice bonsai examples.

Here I am melting on a bridge by the tearoom. They call it a tea room, but it was also a beirgarten...most folks were seated with a beer. A german one at that.
We were drinking water like crazy and I added a "Pearly Pop" to the cooling consumable. A pearlie pop is a vanilla ice cream bar, coated in chocolate then completely covered with the little round multicolored sprinkles that usually go on cakes or cookie. It was pretty good. Anything dairy based seemed especially delicious to me in Europe.

The garden had all kinds of great activities for kids and families, ranging from a tiny water park, to a small zoo, climbing equipment and a tractor pulled train. It would have been really fun to go there with other families and let the kids run wild while the adults kicked back under the shade trees and talked. And drank beer. Lots of beer over there. Even in the vending machines!

Bernie figured out how to take a bus back to the train station. We missed it by about 1 minute, as we sprinted down a block with our backpacks thumping away madly. What a perfect way to work up an even greater sweat than we had before! We sat watching tiny cars and bikes roar by on a street shaded by enomous trees, and about twenty minutes later another bus came along and we boarded for the train station.
As I put it: Unless ALL the Stein relatives rise up from the dead and and suddenly are able to speak English and WANT to tell me all about what it was like to live in Mannheim for three centuries, I am ready to leave.

And so we did leave, just like they did. And it is entirely possible that they left too from this very train station.

We found our gate, and had to wait a few minutes. At the next gate was another treat:

Behold! A German German Shepherd!

I'm not sure what the leg decorations were all about. A fashion statement? I just can't wrap my head around a German German Shepherds doing fashion statements. And I hope it is a doggie with an ouchie.
Wonder what Otis and Indee would think?

It only took about 20 minutes and we were in Heidelberg, our second stop in Germany. My grandfather's mother's family were from Heidelberg, so I wanted to take a look at that town as well. The train station there was nothing special, but the bikes! Ohmygoodness...all the bikes parked in front of the train station! I LOVE it! I would adore riding my bike to a train station and then riding the train to work. I think that combination would lead to better health AND much less stress for everyone concerned. To say nothing about how great it would be for the environment.
Across the street from the train station was this interesting piece of art. Kate posted a nice write up about it on her blog, if you'd like to learn more, check her blog here.
Of MUCH greater interest to me was getting to the Heidelberg Marriott lobby and getting checked in, and getting out of my sweaty hot clothes and into my swim suit and into their swimming pool. I didn't get a picture, and you would be out of your mind if you think I'd let Bernie take a picture of me in my swim suit, and you should be locked up for your own safety if you think I should have a picture of me in my suit posted on my blog!
That being said...the pool itself will always be treasured as being one of the MOST divine places I have ever been in my whole life. I NEVER wanted to get out of that pool. If you would like to see the pool, click here.


I didn't even bother with dinner after that. I just went back to the room and went to sleep.
It sure felt good to be in Germany. And it was good to consider that every generation has lived with hot weather from time to time, no matter where they lived.


Julie said...

Hey Jill, if you come to Europe with me I could help you with German and we could look for our relatives together.. My grandfather Reinke has apparently lots of relatives there that we don't know about.

The business sign
"Lebensversicherung" is
Lebens = life's
versicherung = security
So maybe a Life Insurance co.?
LV would be the abreviation for the business, and I would agree with you the numbers would be the year the business was started, especially since it is repeated before and after the business name.
Your garden sign "Pflanzungen nicht betreten" simply says not to walk on the plants.

A very fascinating post again, Jill with the added attraction for me because it is where my forefathers lived too. Some day I would love to go.

"Ich liebe dich, Jill!"

Lovella ♥ said...

Wow, (do I say that after each day?) . .day six was just fascinating. I'm going to email Bea and ask her for the translation. I understand parts of the word but not in its entirety.
So, German Shepherd fashion. I called Terry in to have a look and we both had a chuckle on that. We can't imagine Indee in her rebellious state wearing anything we ask her to . .tomorrow we will see though . .chuckle.
The German food looked yummy and I'm now quite thirsty for fresh strawberry milk.
The peonies were so beautiful and it seemed that I could smell them, OH wait, I could smell them, since they are on my table as well. Isn't it amazing that the same flowers are blooming straight across the world? How fun.
Jill, thankyou for all you work on this vacation posting, you are putting so much work into making it just perfect, for all your family and friends.

Demara said...

WOW NOW YOU ARE still in Germany!?! went all over Europe eh? Neato~ And I loved your pictures of the evidence of spring (with all the baby animals) in the air!!! So fun~ OH and the Fish cracked me up!!! HAHA he looked SO he was begging...haha I've never seen a fish look like that before except for sushi in Korea.

Becky said...

Okay, thanks for the tour. I think I get the idea that Europe was very hot! When you are content to swim and sleep rather than eat, its just plain too hot. Loving the pictures and the tours! I hope to get over to that end of the world. It must be spin tingling to think that you may have walked where your grandparents and other family members daily strolled. I am glad you had the opportunity! Someday, hundreds of years from now, there might be some blonde girl ooggling over some place in Texas, touring a library, and thinking about you! :)

Julie said...

Hi Jill, I left you a long comment yesterday, seems you didn't get it??
The words on the sign.."Lebensversicherung" means..
Lebens = life's
versicherung = security
so maybe a Life Insurance company? the LV would be the abbreviation and I agree with you that the numbers are the year - especially since they are repeated before and after the name.
Your other sign "Planzungen nicht betreten" simply means not to step on the the plants.

I thoroughly enjoyed your post and was thinking if we went to Europe together I could help you with your German and we could look for relatives together. Apparently I have lots in Germany!

I was thinking that you should make a DVD of all your pictures and add your narative --- I would buy one if you did!!

"Ich liebe dich, Jill!"

Thoughts on Life and Millinery. said...

Thanks Julie! Ich lieber dich you too!
It has been so weird, some times the comments come up on my email, and sometimes not. I check comments on the blogdash board, and sometimes comments pop up a day later. I think it has to do with the Northern California techno community where blogger/google resides. They look down their noses at all things Texan, and I swear they monkey around with Texas area feeds just to make Texas look stupid. I want to wave a flag and yell "Hey, I used to live in San Jose, right next to the Googleplex! Cease fire OK? I'm one of you!"
They are just really jealous of our fabulous real estate prices...if the truth be known.

Lovella ♥ said...

lebensversicherung ... life insurance. german is just crazy; they put tons of words together and call it ONE word. don't know how they get away with it.

Becky said...

I thought I had left a comment here, but maybe it was only in my mind. What a wonderful experience for you to have walked where those of your bloodline may have sauntered, or fled. I picture 100 years from now, your great-greats giving a wonderful tour of a university library saying, this is where my great-great-grandmother Jill worked, touching the hearts of the learned and researching the vast treasures of the past and present only using a computer! :)

Thoughts on Life and Millinery. said...

Becky, you are so kind! I'm not sure what the deal is with comments, I check both email and dashboard for comments, and sometime stuff pops up days later. I'm treasuring this comment though, and glad you took the time to make sure I got it.