Sunday, September 29, 2013

Traveling to Insheim, Germany

Bernhard, Roland and me
Sunday evening after arriving in Speyer and checking into my room, I had some time to try and digest my whirlwind days in Switzerland before shrugging out of my Kubler Coat of Arms and into the one for my Metz family. Monday morning I took a bus to the train station, and then three trains to Insheim. I was met at the train station by Roland, our translator, and also Herbert and Bernhard. They drove me to the Rathaus, which is like our city hall, where I met with the mayor and a couple of other people. After some champagne and fresh rolls, they showed a slide presentation of some of the information they had collected about my Metz family. They also provided the data in a printed notebook, in English, which is awesome.

Following the presentation we went upstairs to the Glocken Museum, the second largest collection of bells in Germany. This collection was donated by a resident, and the town takes care of it.

Glocken Museum Insheim, Gemany

Swiss cow bell
Next we took a walking tour of the town, where they pointed out the historic buildings. We saw the Catholic Church, but as this one was built in 1912 and completed in 1914, it is not the one my ancestors would have worshiped in.

Catholic Church exterior

Catholic church interior
In Germany, the ruling king determined what religion the people practiced. So a church may have been Catholic for one reign and then protestant for the next. When that was no longer a law, then churches would sometimes allow both religions to use their building. That was the case in Insheim until the Catholics began building their own church in 1912. Here is the old church where the Metz family would have attended services. It is now Lutheran.

Lutheran Church exterior
Lutheran Church interior

The town cemetery is located next to the Lutheran Church. I took pictures of all the Metz graves that I could find. In Germany, and the same is true in Switzerland, the family rents the grave space for a maximum of 30 years. When someone stops paying or the 30 years is up, the tombstone is removed and someone else is buried there. I asked what happens to the tombstones, and was told that the family could take the stone or it would be ground up and reused. Talk about reduce, reuse, recycle!

Metz grave
Next we drove to Burg Landeck, a nature park containing a castle. There were beautiful views especially from the tower of the castle. We also had lunch at the castle restaurant.

Burg Landeck castle

View from the castle tower
Next on the agenda was a trip to Steinweiler, a small village located near Insheim. Maria Appollonia Schwein from Steinweiler married Andreas Metz from Insheim in 1777. In Steinweiler the local historians had located the house of the Schwein family from 1717. How did they know which house was theirs? It is etched right onto the house. When I saw these markings all I could think was how happy Americans would be to find out not only when the house was built but for whom, just by looking at the outside of the house. The markings also indicate that Schwein was a blacksmith.

Front of the house

Markings on the house

Inside the courtyard

Another courtyard shot
Inside the house
While we were taking photos of the front of the house the owner came home from work. When Roland explained that I was visiting from America and that my Schwein family had lived here, he invited us inside the courtyard and the kitchen area. He and his wife are having the house renovated, and the workmen were there at the time so we couldn't see more of the house itself. To say that it was a thrill to be able to cross the same threshold that my ancestors had crossed is a vast understatement. I still have goosebumps!

On the way back to Insheim we stopped at a vineyard as Roland explained to me that this part of Germany is often referred to as Little Tuscany. I can definitely see why. It is a beautiful area.



Me with the Golden Book
Once we arrived back at the Rathaus I was invited to sign the Golden Book, an honor reserved for VIPs. I was flattered to be asked, and how fun to know that I have left a permanent part of myself in the town that my ancestors once called home. Then Roland and Herbert offered to drive me back to Speyer so I could avoid the three train rides and bus transfer to get back to my hotel. Since they had given me two commemorative glasses of town celebrations as well as two historical books, I was happy to take them up on their kind offer. This was another information packed day with yet another group of people who put a lot of time into looking for my family history, and making me feel welcome in their town. I feel so blessed that my family came from this wonderful little village.

1 comment:

Mrs. Wryly said...

That, indeed, is a great takeaway!