Saturday, September 10, 2011

I met a superstar!

Allow me to preface this by saying that when Trish and I checked into the hotel (where we still didn't have to leave a CC # or deposit), they told us that there was a "tunnel" that went from our hotel to the main hotel across the street.  This morning, we decided that we simply had to try it out.  I forgot my camera, so I have no photos (I'll take some tomorrow morning), but it is a long hallway/tunnel that takes you twice as long to get to the hotel and breakfast room than if you had simply crossed the damn street.  I guess the hotel thinks that the straße in front of the hotel is equivalent to the Champs Elysees that you must conquer before you get to the Arc de Triomphe.

Trish has also managed to probably get the entire housekeeping staff fired.  She mentioned to the front desk staff today (while she was getting a new wifi password) that our room had not been cleaned.  WHAT???!!!!  They were horrified and very apologetic.  Great.  Leave it to the Americans to get some poor housekeeper thrown out on her keester.

After having lunch with Matti and talking about "home tasks" (what his English teacher told him that we called homework) and similar English language details, I met with Herr Struckmann (another member of the Heimatverein) and his wife.  He has family members in Covington and Cincinnati and wanted to meet me.  I thought that was very sweet of him and, of course, wanted to speak with him.  They took me to see the Chapel of Bueckelte, which is 500 years old (with restored original frescoes).  It's incredible to see this place of worship that my great, great grandparents probably went to every now and again.

After touring this magnificent place, we went across the street to eat a local specialty pastry.  They wouldn't tell me what it was until after I had eaten almost all of it.  It was a cake made from buckwheat.  Apparently, this is a big crop here because it was easy to grow in the "moors."  Another local delicacy is the famous buckwheat pancake.  I get to try those tomorrow.

As we were enjoying the buckwheat cake (with really great icing), we started talking about our shared passion--genealogy.  I mentioned to him that one of the first things I found online was a list of old homes in Haselünne.  I found Casper Kerkhoff's house # and even the exact date the family left the town.  That was HUGE for me.  I even told him that when I found this amazing list, I screamed.  Sean came running into the room because he thought something had happened to me and was not amused when I told him the reason for my yelling.

Herr Struckmann then told me that he was one of the 3 men who compiled and typed out this list and put it on the website.  There is no way that I can properly describe what it was like to meet this man.  Because of his work and dedication to that work, I was able to discover invaluable information about my Kerkhoffs.  He seemed a bit embarrassed by my "gushing," but I didn't care.  This is a superstar in my Kerkhoff genealogy universe!

I showed him and his wife different things I had found concerning my peeps (and I showed this crap to them whether they wanted to see it or not!), and we also talked more about Covington and Cincinnati.  I think we were in that little cafe for almost 2 hours.

After we were literally told that it was time to leave, Herr Struckmann drove us around the villages which surround Haselünne.  One place that he wanted to show me was an "original" road.  This road still had stones paving it that were there when Anthony and his buddies would have been playing in the area.  It's very possible that my great grandfather and great, great grandfather (you know him--Casper the Casanova) would have played and run on this very road.  As I stood there looking at this place framed by beautiful trees and then turning slightly and looking toward Haselünne, I couldn't help but think about Grandpa Joe.  I could just picture him standing where I was, experiencing this place where his dad would have been.  I know that I'm not here just for myself but also for Dad and Grandpa.

After this, we visited the "famous" village of Westerloh (where Matti and Frau Struckmann were raised).  Their Catholic church is rather new, but I personally was able to see "Mary's Way of Faith."  It's a series of 7 sculptures/scenes that highlight different times in Mary's life.  Very amazing and very serene.

Then we drove to a Marian grotto, which is located on a farmer's land.  This man had prayed for his 2 sons during WWII and asked they be returned safely to the family.  They both survived the war, and he built this grotto in honor of the Lord's mother.  I can't begin to tell you how calming it was and how prayerful it was to walk back into this grotto.  And to know that this simple farmer designed and built this in honor of Mary.  Well, it's very incredible.

After leaving the grotto, we came upon an important sight.  As we were going around a bend in the road, there was a group of people dressed alike--White shirts, blue pants, red handkerchiefs tied around their necks, and yes, they were all wearing wooden shoes.  What was this?  A tourist gimmick?  No.  Frau Struckmann explained to me that this is my people's national dress.  Some Germans have lederhosen.  I have red handkerchiefs and wooden shoes.

Then she told me the tradition.  And oh, does this give me a fuller picture of Casper and the rest of them! When a baby was born in the neighborhood or village, these Germans (in their national dress) would bake raisin bread, put it on a long wooden plank (with bread, cheese, etc.), and carry the plank on their shoulders.  They would go to a home, knock and yell "IS THE BABY HERE?"  And they'd be told, "No, the baby is not here," and then would be given schnapps.  Can you guess how this is going to end?  Then they'd go to the next house and repeat the procedure.  And they'd get more schnapps.  By the time they actually got to the "baby house," they were rip roaring drunk.  The new mother (who was, I'm sure, exhausted) then had to cut the bread and offer it to the drunks (since they needed to eat something immediately).  And that is how my people would welcome a new baby into the fold.  For those of you who know me, does this answer some questions for you?  Are things starting to make sense?

These photos were e-mailed to me by Herr Struckmann.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself that, "Sure, this is what these nut jobs did in olden days, but no one does that crap anymore."  Well, you're wrong.  Because while Trish and I were at dinner with Matti tonight, we heard them coming.  Wooden shoes make A LOT of noise, FYI.  And there they were--a group in their white shirts, blue pants, red handkerchiefs, and wooden shoes walking to some bar across from our restaurant.  They were pulling a wagon similar to the one in the photo above, but apparently, no baby was involved.  It was just an excuse to drink schnapps.

Whether I like it or not, I come from these people.  Oy vey!


  1. Sounds like a lovely day all 'round! :-)

    And I love the "welcoming" tradition :-)

  2. This is so interesting! My ancestors came from Haselunne as well. My family is the Kemper family. They came to the USA in 1848 and settled in Southern Indiana. There are many families here from the Emsland area. The town they settled in is called Ferdinand, IN. It was known as the Wooden Shoe village until the 1940s. I'd love to hear more about your genealogy adventures and Haselunne. My Uncle went over several months ago.