Elsa at the Frankfurt Railroad Station Although we have had good success finding genealogical information about our relatives, one corner of our family remained mysterious for many years. Elsa's great-grandfather, Peter Walther, had had a long life in Indiana, we knew, but where had he come from?
One day we found on the Internet a family tree which included Elsa's cousin Richard Walther. and subsequently discovered a new cousin, Keri, who lives in Canada. Keri sent us an electronic copy of Peter's marriage record, which also included his own statement that he was born in Schornweisach, Bavaria, Germany. With help from the Internet Transcribe Group and the FamilySearch experts of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we were able to translate the unfamiliar 19th century German script and begin to piece together Peter's family. Now that we had the name of the village, and could find it on the map, we knew it was time to visit Germany. So at the beginning of April, 2012, we flew to Frankfurt to begin a month of genealogy and sightseeing.
Romer Plaza as restored We knew we would be goofy and sleepy-at-odd-times after our long plane ride, so our first destination was a four-day stay in Frankfurt, Germany. Our motel was close to the Hauptbahnhof (main railroad station) in a predominantly Middle-Eastern neighborhood where small markets alternated with sex shops and Kebab shops.
After spending the first morning learning the German transportation system we began to use it. In addition to the railroads, most cities offer S-Bahn (like light rail, traveling from downtown to the suburbs) and U-Bahn (the underground and trams which are mostly within the city). Theoretically one can buy the appropriate tickets from a machine; we generally relied on the humans at the DeutscheBahn counters who were friendly and efficient and taughts us some tips, notably that the best bargain is a Day Ticket for a family of five, which is less than the price of two single tickets to a neighboring city and provides free connecting rides on all the different systems.
We learn cities by foot. We mapped out several walking tours past churches and statues and through shopping plazas before attempting longer trips. At Willy Brandt Plaze we photographed the giant Euro sign -- we decided that if the Euro ultimately fails, we will have a historical image, but we are actually not quite that cynical. The plaza is occupied by Occupy Frankfurt. Celebrating the wedding A sign says it has been going since last October. Lots of handwritten placards to read.
At the Romer Plaza, the frequently photographed (restored after WWII) medieval plaza which resembles Grand Place in Brussels on a much smaller scale, we decided we were ready for lunch and too cold to continue walking anyway, and dropped into the nearest restaurant. We were sent up a spiral staircase to the second/first floor rooms.
We shared two soups -- goulash and liver soup -- and a plate of sausages and sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. Apart from the goulash soup which was pretty salty it was a tasty lunch. Bob noticed out our window, which overlooks the City Office across Meerkats at the Frankfurt Zoo the Plaza, a small group which he guessed was a wedding. Sure enough, eventually the wedding photographer arrived, the bride removed her winter overcoat and blossomed out in her white formal gown. As the big finish to the ceremony, after the champagne had been poured, a white banner was displayed with a large red heart in its center. Bride and groom cut out the heart and folded it away, then had their picture taken poking through the hole. Our waiter says it is a local tradition. He also says there are weddings every day -- nothing special as far as he was concerned.He was more interested in telling us about his cousin who owned two stores in Indiana and lost them both recently to a tornado. We told him about the tornado in Dallas which is why he mentioned it in the first place.
Another day we visited the Zoo, which somehow feels exotic just because the names of the animals are written in German. On yet another expedition we toured the excellent communications and transportation museum.