Our Trip to Germany 2009

 

Day 2, Sunday, September 6

 

Andrea told us on Saturday we would be meeting with Wilhelm and Ella Gieg and her parents on Sunday at 9:00 AM at her parents house in Höchst. After a sumptuous breakfast at the Hotel we were off ! I was excited about finally meeting Wilhelm and Ella; a culmination of our many many letters during the last five years.  The Röske Home was just around the corner from the Höchst Cemetery where we had been yesterday. We arrived at the Röske’s at about 8:55 AM. Judy’s journal;

Gerdi Röske , Ella Gieg, and the Amerikan, at the Röske Home.

Downtown Höchst, population about 10,000, was first mentioned in recorded history in 1156. The steeple, right center, is part of a medieval cloister [ca 1575], now used as a church and an institute for German language instruction.

We drove to the Röske’s house, where we were met by Wilhelm at the front door.  He was very excited to meet us and was all smiles. [Wilhelm didn’t speak much English, but, he understood nearly every word we said.] He ushered us into the house, where Gertie and Ella were waiting at the top of the stairs.  Ella had a little speech prepared in English, welcoming the Gieg descendants to Germany.  We all went into the family room, where we met Hans-Ulrich (Gerdi’s husband) and Isabelle (their younger

daughter, Andrea’s sister). We talked for awhile and then we left for a tour of several of the nearby Gieg family homes. In fact, the Röske home used to belong to Wilhelm and Ella before they moved about five miles away to neighboring Rimhorn.  Before that, the house was in Ella’s family and was near the Gieg “settlements”. Gerdi and Ella had located several older photos of Höchst and we went to several of those locations and compared the past photos with the current view. We visited several very old buildings that were being renovated.  It was amzaing to see the huge wooden

beams of the old buildings joined with wooden pegs and filled with straw and dried earthen bricks for insulation and strength. [below] The original craftsmanship was absolutely superb.

Wilhelm surprised us during our walk with a group photo of all of us, except Gerdi who took  the picture, using an American flag he had previously left at the site. [picture at right]

 

Ella and I chatted during the entire walk. She shared with me some of her childhood memories of World War II. She pointed out a home that was occupied by a childhood Jewish friend and her family. One day her friend told Ella that they were moving in two days but she didn’t know where they were going. They were taken away by soldiers, all of their household goods were sold for much less than they were worth and Ella never saw her again. She told me the first English she ever spoke was to ask for a candy bar from

an AmerIcan GI shortly after the War ended.  She also pointed out an under ground storm shelter she and her family used when the English bombed the railroad tracks and depot.  I could clearly tell these memories were sad for her.

 

We discovered that Höchst is actually referred to as Höchst im Odenwald [in the Odenwald forest] to differentiate it from Höchst am Main [on the Main River], a primarily industrial suburb of Frankfurt.

 

For lunch we were going to an all-day 50th birthday party for one of Wilhelm’s nephews in Mümling-Grumbach about 4 miles to the south. I

don’t think we had ever been to an all-day birthday party.  It had started early in the morning and we were told it would last well into the night.  The 50th birthday “boy” was an outstanding baker and we enjoyed the variety and quantity of the many dishes and desserts. [see picture to the right]  While in Mümling-Grumbach we saw a parade commemorating the 683rd anniversary of a local church and we slowly strolled along some of the streets enjoying the architectural features of some of the village homes. [see below] Our

next stop was another 7 miles to the south to the town of Michelstadt,  It was here that Christoph der alte [the elder] Gieg [ca 1594-1662] was perhaps born and documented to have lived in 1528. In the center of town is the old “walled” village of Michelstadt. It was first historically mentioned in 741 by Charlemagne’s nephew Mayor of the Palace Carloman.  Old town is now predominatly various types of shops and upscale apartments. The oldest present day structure is the Town Hall, that also

serves as church, that dates from 1488. [see right]  Wilhelm had located a map that showed the exact location of Christoph’s home which was located about 50 yards from the Town Hall.  Although the present site appears to be upscale apartments it was, nonetheless, an awesome experience to stand 4 feet from the spot where my earliest known German ancestor had lived and worked as a pewter maker and smith in the early 17th century.  The pictures below marked the spot and the very special occasion. We spent about two hours seeing the sights of the old town including “approving” the renovation now underway and resting by the scenic moat

Rathaus [Town Hall] in Michelstadt

Large wooden beams of the Town Hall dated 1484.

just outside the old walls. It had been a very full day, not a moment wasted, and all of us were very tired. We would see the group again tomorrow.  Before returning to the Hotel, we took Gerdi back to her car and along the way stopped by the porcelain shop where Gerdi does her doll work.  Judy was thrilled.