09.09.2010 - 09.09.2010
This was a long day, so it requires an expanded narrative.
We started the day early, leaving bustling Berlin at 8 a.m. Getting out of the city of 3.2 million people during morning rush hour was a concern, but actually it was quite straightforward (thanks again to the GPS). The day's agenda included two stops on our way to Frankfurt, which lies SW of Berlin. We anticipated a long day in the car.. .reaching our Frankfort hotel as late as 6 p.m.
The first stop was Wittenberg, the home of Martin Luther and the birthplace of Lutheranism. We motored our way into the quaint town and found a place to park. Just across the street stood the building that served as Luther's home and the meeting place of his students and followers through the time of his ministry and teaching. Housed there now is a very complete museum on several floors of the building. Although an hour wasn't enough time to see it all, we were compelled by our parking time and daylight to move on to the other sites in the city. Walking down the historic and well preserved main street, we reached the small church from which Luther preached his message of reformation on December 25, 1521. Farther down the street stands the cathedral where earlier Luther nailed his 95 theses of reform to the church door. The wooden door has since been replaced with a door-sized tablet sculpted with the entire 95 theses in bronze. The inside of the cathedral was as imposing as the exterior.
Conscious of the time and mileage factor facing us for the day, we scampered back up the old main street to the car. We were headed out of town toward Frankfurt and on the way we were going to stop in Schwarzbach, the home town of Susie's Reinhardt family in Germany. Susie had printed directions to Schwarzbach from Wittenberg; the one problem being that the road map provided to us was entirely worthless—let's say "way too many details crowded onto a single piece of paper." Our alternative was to simply type "Schwarzbach" into the GPS.
Not so simple. You see, in Germany there are no less than ten Schwarzbachs. And when we tried to determine the correct one on the GPS, it wasn't easy. Susie finally determined that one of them was on the way to Frankfurt, so we plugged that into the GPS and took off.
Considering our time crunch, we stopped on the way out of Wittenberg for gas and a convenience store sandwich. Not the height of German cuisine (but OK) and the manager of the station was none to happy that the car stayed parked in front of the gas pump while John wolfed down his lunch. Oh, well. We were on our way.
Susie knew for sure that Schwarzbach was just a tiny burg and a bit off the main road, so we kept our fingers crossed that we would actually get to it. Low and behold, the trusty GPS guided us off the autobahn, into the rolling hills of central Germany, down the narrow (but well paved) rural roads to the quaint hamlet of—there's the town sign...yes...it's Schwarzbach! Susie and Elaine posed in front of the town sign while John snapped pictures of them. A motor tour down the one main street revealed tidy homes, a large duck pond, and a small park, but no commercial center.. .no store or pub. Oh, well, after snapping numerous pictures of the tidy town, we headed back to the autobahn; Susie and Elaine proud and pleased that the Reinhardt clan hails from such picturesque origins.
Back on the autobahn and well within our allotted timeframe, the travelling trio ignored the rain and relished the successes of the day. Things were sailing along smoothly, much like the BMWs passing our car at 120 mph, when Susie looked at some of the road signs, peered at the map, looked at the next road signs, reviewed the map again, and then announced, "That was the wrong Schwarzbach." Yes, it was plain to her—when checking the printed directions she had from the internet to the towns on our route up ahead—that the real Reinhardt hometown of Schwarzbach was still somewhere up ahead of us. Now, keeping in mind that we aren’t out on a Sunday drive here, we couldn’t very well say… “well, we’re getting a little short on time here; let’s catch it the next time we’re in the neighborhood.” And according to the printed directions, the town was only a few miles off the freeway. So we stopped the car, plugged the name of a nearby town Wasungen into the GPS and began following our fearless electronic guide.
The rain was a steady mist as the overcast sky make the afternoon darker. That put no damper on our spirit, though, as we found the exit from the highway that would lead to our destination. Just as we cleared the exit ramp, we saw a small sign that indicated the road to Wasungen was closed. “Nah...that can’t be right,” we said, and we continued down the road.
We continued down the road until it dawned on us that if we continued down this long, winding country road for several miles and got to a road block, we would waste valuable time trying to get to the real Schwarzbach. The decisions was made to turn around, go back, find the detour sign pointing us to Wasungen , and follow it to our destination.
So we did just that. Except when we got back to the place where we’d seen the sign, we didn’t see the sign...and as we drove along looking for the sign, we ended up back on the autobahn. This was definitely an inconvenience. Fortunately, the GPS recalculated our route to Wasungen , and it seemed we would lose little time in our detour. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, because at the next freeway exit, we were directed to turn around and go back to the exit we had goofed up on.
The good news: this time we saw the detour and we took it. The not-so-good news: the detour took us through what seemed like half of central Germany.
We drove through town after town, none of them being Wasungen or our ultimate destination, Schwarzbach.
After what seemed like hours, we passed through a town and Susie said, “I see that on the map!”
John said, “How many kilometers from here is Wasungen ?”
“It looks like 2 kilometers.”
Fifteen kilometers from that point there was still no Wasungen or Schwarzbach. There was, however, fog wafting across the road. There were bridges wide enough for only one car at a time. There were villages with cars parked on both sides of the street with barely enough room to fit through. Finally, when it seemed that the road would have no end, we drove into a town with a sign announcing “Wasungen .” Continuing toward the center of town, we were pushed over to the left side of the road since most of main street was dug up and fenced off. Motoring through the mess, Susie piped up, “Did that sign say ‘Schwarzbach’?”
Because we could stop or turn around to check, the only thing to do was to take the next right; and as we did, right in front of us, plain as day, is a little yellow sign with an arrow pointing left that is printed “Schwarzbach”. Turning left, John muttered something along the lines of, “...just that simple.”
A few more “klicks” (kilometers) down the road, we saw the sign...again… “Schwarzbach.” Once again, John took a picture of the ladies under the sign. Once again, we took the driving tour of the town.
This village was just a quaint as the first Schwarzbach and on the edge of town, a building had a sign indicating it was a pub. The door was ajar so we stopped the car and trooped in. Lo and behold, it was indeed a small pub/café complete with an elderly lady owner and two gentlemen customers. Three small glasses of beer were ordered and a conversation ensued. None of the locals spoke English so Susie was our sole conversationalist. She explained we knew that there were once Reinhardts living here. Apparently, none of them do any longer. Hildegard, the proprietress, and Gunter, one of the customers, were amazed that we were planning to drive on to Frankfurt. They offered us fine accommodations right there in Schwarzbach; but we resisted, finished our beverages, and got back on the road.
The drive was another two hours or so through the rain; eventually it was dark; and Frankfurt is big enough for the freeways to be busy after nine at night. But we made it to our hotel safe and sound, and happy to have found Schwarzbach (twice!) and to have seen the home town of the Reinhardt clan.