July 2013


Lake Lazern

Lake Lazern

We set out this morning (7/31/13) to explore Switzerland. We had checked out the internet for recommendations, but really just wanted to take a scenic drive through the countryside (not spending three hours stuck in a traffic jam.) To this end, we headed down to Luzern as a starting point. We had no idea what it had to offer, other than pretty lakes.

After about a two hour drive (mostly highway, but still in view of the scenery), we arrived. We found parking in the Frei Parking, only to discover that Frei does not mean free as in “costing no money” but free as in “available.” Depending on how long you stayed, you could rack up a 28 Franc bill. We opted for between an hour (3 Francs) and two (5 Franks.)

Parking secured, we walked across the street, stopped in the hotel to get a map, and headed out to the lake. This is truly a beautiful area. Lake Luzern (Lucerne is an alternate spelling) is quite serene with swans swimming along it and sailboats on its placid waters. We walked along the lake and found the Bachmann bakery stand. We bought a chocolate roll and a hazelnut roll. WOW! After almost three weeks of wheat sandwich bread, this fluffy, melt in your mouth variety was incredible. (We bought 4 more to take with us on our way back.)

Past the bakery, we headed into the old city to see the beautiful architecture. We contemplated seeing a lunch show, but opted to keep going. One of the neat sites in Luzern is the Chapel Bridge (German: Kapellbr├╝cke). This bridge is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe and the oldest truss bridge in the world, dating back to 1333.

Chapel Bridge (Luzern)

Chapel Bridge (Luzern)

Unfortunately, part of this great treasure was destroyed in 1993 when the bridge caught fire. It lost all but 30 of the original 158 (147 before the fire) internal paintings which were done in the 17th century. Thankfully, it has been beautifully restored and is an amazing sight to behold. We concluded our journey through the old town by stopping at Bachmann’s chocolatiers.

Then, we had wanted to take a scenic route through mountain towns, but headed out the wrong way (GPS miscommunications…), so took another highway drive to the breathtaking Lake Urnersee. We stopped at a pull out by the exit for Morschach to enjoy our lunch and the beautiful landscape. One of the things mom and I both love is just enjoying the beauty of nature, and this spot had beauty in all forms.

Lake Urnersee

Lake Urnersee

Finally, it was time to turn back for home. Once again, we planned to drive along the lakes, and once again, the roads took us away via highways and guard rails, so mom didn’t get the drive she wanted. (Though, she did comment that perhaps the sleepy little villages had changed in the 45 years since she was here before.) It still was a beautiful drive, and I’m glad to explore a bit of Switzerland. It definitely makes me like it better than sitting for almost three hours to get through the tunnel did. Wherever you are, there is amazing beauty and peaceful tranquility. It reminds me of something Rick Steves said in his description of the Black Forest. He mentioned that doctors in Germany would prescribe vacation trips to the spas to maintain your health. I think we all might enjoy life a bit better if we take time to enjoy the beauty along the way.
Our haul of chocolate

Our haul of chocolate

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Pocket sundials

Pocket sundials

We set out this morning (7/30/13) to explore the Black Forest region. Our goal was not necessarily just the end destination, but also to enjoy the beauty along the way. Our first stop was the Deutsches Uhrenmuseum (Clock Museum). This was another Rick Steves recommendation, but mom thought she remembered it as well. Turns out, it was a different location. But, we paid the 2 Euros parking and went in, after paying 5 Euros for mom and 4 Euros for me–she gave me the student rate, since I am still a student.
Outdoor Museum

Outdoor Museum

This museum gives a thorough view of clock making and the way that clocks have changed through the generations. Some of my favorite exhibits were the musical clocks and the pocket sundials. It also had an alarm clock candle, which I thought was hilarious as well. The museum was interesting, but not as “must see” as Rick Steves made it out to be.

From there, we headed to the Vogtsbauernhof–the Black Forest Open Air Museum. This is a historic village which offers houses from many different time periods from the 1600’s up until present day. It reminds me a lot of Conner Prairie near Indianapolis. Outside of each house is a triangular display that can be switched between German, English, and French, in order that most tourists can understand the different areas. Like most historic villages, it offers something for everyone: Animals to pet, herb gardens, minerals, woodworking, and a giant play place for children. It was a lovely and relaxing place to learn and well worth the 8 Euro admission fee (plus 1.50 parking).

Clock of the year

Clock of the year

After Vogtsbauernhof, we headed home by way of the House of 1000 clocks, where I purchased my own black forest clock (though small and battery run was about the top of my budget.) Here, you can find clocks from the small 20 Euro range up to the 1000 Euro range. The “Clock of the Year” cost 809.90 Euros. Definitely beautiful to see, though, even if you can’t take one home. We also stopped by another little wood working store which offered many hand carved wooden items as well.

Finally, we headed to the Triberg Falls. This beautiful waterfall is one of Germany’s largest, with a 163 meter descent (it’s not a straight drop, so they count how many meters it goes down.) Because we arrived after 6:00, entry was free (saving us 3.50 Euros each.) We chose to go to the middle of the Falls, though visitors may approach from the top, middle, or bottom. We didn’t want to have to walk too far up or down.

Triberg Falls

Triberg Falls

This is truly an amazing waterfall, though the yellowish water marred the appearance somewhat, I think. Finally, it was time to head home to enjoy our Black Forest cake, which looked amazing, but is nothing to write home about (in my opinion.) Definitely a good day with many beautiful sights.

Tavern where Dr. Faust (Faustus) stayed

Tavern where Dr. Faust (Faustus) stayed

Today (7/29/13) was a rainy day in Germany, which provided us a welcome opportunity to sleep in, be lazy, and catch up on things. Finally, in the afternoon, things had started to clear up, so we headed out to find a fan. The rain has cooled things off considerably, but temperatures are expected to go right back up. When the man at the departments store when we’d first arrived told us they we sold out of fans in the entire region, we were concerned. But, today we found one at Obi–a store recommended to us when we stopped in to ask at Ikea.

Castle Ruins Staufen

Castle Ruins Staufen

So, fans taken care of, we headed off to Staufen. This little town was another nugget we drew from Rick Steves, who informed us that Doctor Johann Georg Faust (Faustus) had lived here. This was surprising to me, since I thought Dr. Faustus was just a literary figure. He did not, to my knowledge, sell his soul to the devil, but one can see where the story came from. In reality, Faust (he added the Dr. himself) was an alchemist (Some sources list other titles as well). The people in Staufen had been supported by ore deposits, but when cheap silver was imported, their fortunes took a dive. Desperate for funds to pay off their debts, they invited Faustus to work for them. Interestingly, they didn’t want him near the castle, since alchemy was considered a “dark art” and was frowned upon by society, so they moved him to the Lowen tavern. The tavern was located where most of the artisans congregated, so it was a good spot. One night after a bit too much drinking, Dr. Faust went home to do some experiments, and instead created a massive chemical explosion which killed him. Today, anyone who’s taken Chemistry understands the smoke, colors, and smells of a chemical explosion, but at that time, those effects, coupled with the disfigurement of Faust’s body, would have easily given rise to stories involving the devil.

The road home

The road home

After visiting the Hotel, we headed back home. The drive between Staufen and Freiburg is a beautiful one–rows of farms stretched out on rolling hills. Definitely worth seeing. What struck me most is that instead of having a house in the center of fields, all of the fields were grouped together, and all of the houses are grouped together. Once again, this underscored the sense of community here. It is truly a beautiful place to be.

Schoenthal kin at the Friedrichstal Museum

Schoenthal kin at the Friendrichstal Museum

When I started this blog in 2011, I had just received a grant to photograph the areas which inspired two different writers. I decided to call it “Legacy Hunting” because I wasn’t just trying to learn names and dates, but to really understand what made these people tick–to truly discover who they were. I was hunting for the legacy they left for us, and so this blog was born.

Since the grant, I have reported on incredible places and the phenomenal people connected with them (when possible), though it has not been about a specific person and the legacy he or she has left. But every once in a while, I get back to the original intent. Yesterday (7/28/13) was one of those days.

Comparing charts with the curator

Comparing charts with the curator

When we first planned on coming to Germany, my mom (who has worked with our family tree for decades) thought it would be an amazing opportunity to connect with our heritage as one branch of our family came from this region. Imagine her surprise when, as she was googling the map of the town, she noticed a business with the Germanic spelling of our ancestors surname (Schoenthal; Shindoll in America). She immediately Emailed the owner to see if there was a chance we were related. He said his brother knew more of the family tree, but we were welcome to visit or spend the night.

Meeting relatives with the family tree

Meeting relatives with the family tree

So, yesterday morning, we got up early and headed into Friedrichstal. We were greeted by Mike and his beautiful wife Tina and a friend Joerg, who would help translate, though Mike and Tina both spoke English better than they thought they did. They had also invited the town museum curator over to help us connect our information with theirs. Tina had made us an incredible spread of delicious sandwiches, and the work began. If you’ve never done family tree work, it involves a lot of finding names and dates and trying to match which person belongs where. In this case, we were trying to connect the Shindolls who came through New York with the Schoenthals who left Germany. After pouring over records and comparing dates, we discovered it was a match, and we were, in fact, related. Mike’s brother had thought we might be in two different lines since one of our ancestors had remarried after his first wife died in childbirth, but we were in the same line (Granted 7 “Greats” back.)

The family tree

The family tree

Mike had also contacted a number of Schoenthal relatives in the area, but the majority were in France at a sister city there. We did, however, get to meet his father and a few other relatives. One relative brought over a hand painted family tree with pictures of the houses our relatives lived in and family crests. Such an amazing treasure. Another point of interest is that in Germany, they only allow tombstones to remain for 25 years. Because of that, we wouldn’t be able to find any of our ancestral graves. They were impressed when mom showed them a picture of one of our relative’s gravestones from 1875.

Huguenots used these lamps to read the Bible in secret

Huguenots used these lamps to read the Bible in secret

One of the things I’ve discovered along my journeys is how rich history becomes when you allow the people to be flesh and blood. What I mean by that is that we often read history as just names and dates we have to memorize. To realize these are real people with real hopes and dreams, real struggles and challenges, who had to make tough choices and struggle against sometimes insurmountable odds–this is what makes history live for me. I had another experience with this when we went to the museum. I remembered learning about the Huguenots in high school and teaching about how they fled religious persecution. I had no idea that was my family. Our family started in Switzerland, moved to France, and finally, after the persecution were offered protection by a Margrave in Friedrichstal. It turns out he was not just being kind, but also knew they had a talent for growing tobacco, so he invited them to settle as a way to get money into the area. It turns out Friedrichstal had good soil for tobacco, and they were successful here.
Relatives

Relatives

They did, however, experience more difficulty when France swept through on various invasions. Having fled to Germany from France, they were considered traitors by the invading French and the enemy by those around them. This also made life difficult. Eventually in 1832, John Daniel Schoenthal, his wife and children, his widowed mother (who did the paper work), and two sisters booked passage to New York. One of John Daniel’s sons–just 1 at the time–was our great (x3) grandfather William Schoenthal.

New family and friends

New family and friends

After seeing the museum and visiting a few other family members, we relaxed and ate some more of Tina’s wonderful food for lunch. It’s an incredible experience to sit with complete strangers who are family–there truly is an instant connection in knowing you’re related, however far back. Such a blessing to just sit and share–to hear about struggles and joys and to learn about the talents that run in our family and see the similarities, even across so many generations. Truly a treat.

Sunset on the Rhine

Sunset on the Rhine

Then, we took a drive to see the sights of Friedrichstal, ending up having dinner at a cafe by the Rhine. Though it was around 10 when we made it back to their house, and we still had an almost two hour drive ahead of us, neither of us wanted to leave. It truly had been an incredible day where we were lavished with care by family we didn’t know we had. Definitely one of my favorite days so far.

Swiss Traffic jam (viewed from the gas station)

Swiss Traffic jam (viewed from the gas station)

We recently (7/27/13) left Italy to head over to Germany. The drive is about 7 hours, so we planned to leave early, go by way of Switzerland, enjoy the many photo opportunities the alps had to offer, and make it to our next destination by early evening. Alas, the best laid plans…

We made it into Switzerland with no problem, and enjoyed driving through Italy away from the city. Crossing the border was fairly easy, though you do have to purchase a 40 Euro sticker to drive in Switzerland. I think it’s good for a year since this one had a 13 on it (and we didn’t have to say how long we intended to stay like we did in Austria) So, we affixed our sticker and headed on our way. For a while, it was the beautiful scenery we expected (though as I was driving, and there were no pull outs, I got no pictures.) Then, we got to the San Gottardo tunnel (which I think sounds like retarded for a reason). It was a nightmare. It quite literally took almost three hours to get to go through. While it is long (16,942 meters), the line to drive through it was a major traffic jam, completely stopped with people peeing on the side of the road. Apparently, this is normal for summer. So, instead of enjoying a picnic lunch overlooking beautiful Swiss scenery, we ate our lunch in the car with the windows open.

View from the balcony of our German flat

View from the balcony of our German flat

Finally, we made it to Germany (this border we just drove right through) and found our lodgings. Since this is short, I decided to include some tips I’ve learned for driving in Germany and Austria (in no particular order.)

1. Stay in the right lane unless you’re passing–then, watch out.
2. Bus stops are marked by a green H in a yellow circle surrounded by a green circle.
3. Eingang/Einfahrt = Enter Ausgang/Ausfahrt = Exit
4. The white arrow in the blue circle tells you which area of the road to drive on.
This is especially helpful at medians, roundabouts, and other places you might be
confused.
5. Lights turn yellow both before and after they turn green.
6. Yellow lines are only used in construction or to indicate the fast pass lines.

Alas, no shoulders

Alas, no shoulders

7. White lines close together show some degree of separation (either an exit or traffic
going both ways. If the broken white line looks like the States’, it’s a one way.
8. A black forward slash or 3 lines of a forward slash indicate end of or leaving (This
one is sometimes red too.) For example, you’ll have a speed limit sign (black
numbers in a white circle with a red circle around it). Then, a bit down the road,
you’ll see the same number with 3 forward slash lines. This means that speed limit
no longer applies (watch out!)
9. Blue lined parking is paid parking (or the credit card line in a toll booth), while
white lined parking is business or residential. You usually have to use paid
parking unless you are going in the business.
10. Be aware that very few roads have a shoulder. Often times, houses will mark the
end of the lane. Additionally, cars may park halfway in the street, taking up part
of an already miniscule 2 lane road. Small towns aren’t fun for driving…

Tips in Italy: Be fully aware of everything–especially motorcycles, which do not drive in the lane like they do in America, but often between two cars going in opposite directions on a tiny road.

Parking at Piazzale Michelangelo

Parking at Piazzale Michelangelo

Today (7/26/13) was our last time to park in Piazzale Michelangelo, and I can’t honestly say I’m going to miss the experience. Italian parking has tested my Driver’s Ed skills beyond what I thought possible. But, we have discovered that if you arrive around 9:00 A.M., you can usually find a parking space where you should be able to pull straight out. I wish a photo could capture the tight spaces we had to get in and out of (all the while with three different cars trying to go three different directions around you–Craziness!) So, we got settled and went to wait for a bus that would take us to another bus to get us near Casa Buonarroti. (Mom has declared Florence a “Tourist unfriendly” city.)

Yellow House = Michelangelo's

Grey house right of Yellow house = Michelangelo’s

So, two busses and a couple of blocks later, we arrived at a rather unimpressive facade to have housed one of the most famous artists of all time. But, while the outside is rather unimpressive, the inside is neat to see. A grand-nephew Michelangelo’s, known as Michelangelo the younger, did a great deal of work in restoring the house and gaining a collection of Michelangelo’s work–some of which he had to purchase at great expense from the Roman market. Here you may see lesser known works of Michelangelo’s like The Madonna of the Stairs (usually–we saw a bronze cast as the original was on loan to Japan for their Culture of Italy celebration.), the Battle of the Centaurs, a photo of the Crucifix that we missed seeing in Santo Spirito, and plans and models for the facade of the church of San Lorenzo. In point of fact, there are not many sketches of Michelangelo’s left, since the artist himself destroyed many of them to keep people from knowing how much work went into his image of perfection (He even had the nickname Michelangelo il divino–Michelangelo the Divine). This is, however, another “No Photo” Zone, but you can check out some of the collection here: http://www.museumsinflorence.com/musei/Michelangelo_house.html

Santa Maria Novella Front

Santa Maria Novella Front

After leaving Casa Buonarroti, we headed (via a circuitous route) to Santa Maria Novella. We’ve discovered that the Firenze Card App for the I-phone is an amazing treasure. It not only gives you information about the sites you can see with the Firenze card, but also gives you a map of the location with a little moving blue dot indicating where you are. This helped us know when we were close, or in the case of Santa Maria Novella, when we got off at the WAY wrong stop. (Note: Novella and Nuovo are not the same thing. And there are a lot of Santa Maria’s in Florence.)

Side view of Santa Maria Novella

Side view of Santa Maria Novella

We made it with a half an hour to spare before our Firenze card ran out (Alas, only 13 of the 84 sites viewed…). The church itself has an amazing collection of art and frescos (like most of the Cathedrals around Florence.) It is not as elaborate as some of the churches here, but has a number of cool frescos behind the elaborate altar. The museum holds many of the vestments of various priests including St. Thomas of Canterbury’s. Otherwise, it’s a fairly small museum.

Finally, our card had run out, and it was time to head home. We stopped by our favorite gelato shop, Porta Romana, and headed up to pack. We’re off to Germany via Switzerland early tomorrow. The other 61 sites will have to wait for another time. We had tried to find where Museo di casa Guidi was but could not locate anything on Google or the maps. This is supposed to be the Florence home of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and as an English major and admirer of her work, I would have loved to see it, but we weren’t able to. Nor did we have time for Dante’s house or the Galileo Museum. But, that saves some special things for another time.

Backside of the Pitti Palace

Backside of the Pitti Palace

Today (7/25/13), we headed up to the Palazzo Pitti or Pitti Palace. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this massive structure blew away all my expectations. Once again, you are not allowed to take pictures inside, so I have can’t show you the amazing treasures housed there.

The Pitti Palace actually houses six different museums within its palace and property. They include The Palatine Gallery, which contains over 500 Renaissance paintings; The Royal apartments, fourteen rooms which housed the Medicis and their successors; The Gallery of Modern Art, thirty rooms of works from the 18 and 19 centuries; The Silver Museum, which contains jewelery and other silver pieces; The Costume Gallery which had costumes from the 18 through the 21 centuries; and the Porcelain Museum, which is out in the Bobili Gardens

Passageway in Pitti Palace

Passageway in Pitti Palace

(we didn’t visit there.)

It’s hard to know where to start to explain the vast beauty we saw today. It is actually a bit overwhelming to see that much at one time. I think my favorite was the section of the Palatine Gallery (I believe–they all run together). It housed a number of statues and works in Ivory. My favorite–how I wanted a picture!–was a sculpture of Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac. It follows the style Michelangelo modeled in his Victory of sculptures in a spiral. Isaac is the bottom of the spiral. Abraham is above him with his sword aloft. The spiral finishes with an angel who is holding on to Abraham’s upraised sword. The angel is flying downward, so the top of the spiral is the feet of the angel. It is an amazing work of artistry (and I can’t even find a picture on the internet!)

Another favorite of mine was a painting by Antonio Ciseri in the Gallery of Modern Art. It displays Pilate’s presentation of Jesus to the crowd. (You can view it online here: http://www.museumsinflorence.com/foto/galleria%20arte%20moderna/image/18.jpg ) The perspective of the painting is from behind Pilate who is leaning over the railing talking to the crowd while gesturing back at Jesus. What I find fascinating is the way the artist portrays the looks on each person’s face. Each has a different reaction from bored indifference to sadness and disapproval. It really places the viewer in the moment with a different perspective than we normally get.

Additionally, both mom and I marvelled in the silver museum at the size of the pearls in the jewelry. This is before synthetic pearls, so these were the real deal.

Bobili Gardens

Bobili Gardens

Leaving the last museum, we toured a bit of Bobili Gardens, but decided not to walk up to the Porcelain Museum. We stopped by Santo Spirito to double check their hours from Rick Steve’s Guidebook. According to the guidebook, they were supposed to be open today, but their next opening is Saturday, and we will be gone. I had wanted to tour this church because it contains a crucifix Michelangelo carved as a seventeen year old as a thank you present for the priest for letting him dissect. (The priest had allowed him to dissect dead bodies before burial. Apparently, he also did his dissection in the monastery there.) Alas, no such luck.

Well, tomorrow is our last day in Florence, and our last half of a day on the Firenze card. We have seen 11 of the 84 attractions offered to us on this card. Who knows what we’ll find to tour tomorrow!

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