Monday, May 20, 2024

Your Story Matters, Chapter 22, We Aren't in Kansas Anymore


 Chapter 22

We Aren't in Kansas Anymore

 My mother's side of the family thought they were German. My grandparents came from Germany and joined a German community in Kansas. However, when my youngest daughter was growing up, she researched our genealogy and found we were Swiss. Maybe my grandfather was German. I never heard his story. 

When I learned about Hitler, I was ashamed of being German. However, when Neil and I drove from Germany to Switzerland, I found a Pharmacy with Hertenstein on the window—my grandmother's maiden name. 

While Neil and I were on his business trip in Germany, I suggested we drive into Switzerland, where blood never reached its shores—no shores; it is landlocked. At the time, I still thought I was German, and I knew that the Hartenstein’s had left Germany before the war because Mom was born in Kansas, and her mother, Great-Grandma Hertenstein, was the first of their children born on American soil. Her mother was pregnant on the boat. Imagine. 

We visited Lucerne, where we found a drugstore and the name Hertenstein, and where the incredible Rhine River tumbled voraciously over rocks, creating Der Rhine Fall. A glorious white swan stood at the cress of a water flow, withstanding the current. In Lucerne, Neil took his sat-upon glasses into an Optometrist's shop, where they repaired them for free.

Neil drove until we reached the end of the road facing the Alps, and coming back at twilight, we saw a little boy bringing home the cows. The air had that fresh, misty fragrance that comes after a rain. Droplets sprinkled our windshield, and through it all, we saw a little boy walking ahead of the cows with the cows following docilely behind. One of the cows trailed the others, and she was so pregnant she stopped, breathed a deep sigh, and labored on.

 We drove through the green countryside of Germany, where cows stood on green hillsides and yellow flowers dotted the green. Beside the roadway, immaculately manicured farms had their morning feather comforters airing out the windows. Off in the distance, we spotted a castle.

It was Neuschwanstein, "New Swan Castle," King Ludwig's castle and the inspiration for Walt Disney's castle in the Magic Kingdom. We hiked the hill from the parking lot to the castle while a horse-drawn carriage carried other tourists. While medieval looking on the outside, that castle has state-of-the-art appliances from the time it was built.

It had running water fed from a spring above and flushing toilets. The kitchen had a Leonardo De Vince-designed device for warming dinner plates. It was constructed from two pullies, with chain shelves between the two. Plates were loaded onto the chains, and the pullies pulled the contraption up behind the stove, thus warming the plates. 

King Ludwig adored Richard Wagner's operas, and many of the walls inside the castle were painted floor to ceiling with exquisite murals of scenes from Wagner's operas. It is said that King Ludwig was crazy, but I don't believe it. He loved beauty too much to kill himself, and then there is a mystery surrounding his downing in the lake while his psychiatrist lived—and there was money to be made. Dum de dum dum.

I was up before Neil one morning. I walked a path until I came to a cemetery awash in May flowers. Iron fencing enclosed many of the little plots, and there were so many flowers it was as though I was in a greenhouse. I watched an old man walk shakily to a faucet, fill a sprinkling can, and carry it to a grave, where he tenderly sprinkled the flowers.

I developed a bladder infection while in Stuttgart, and Neil and I went to a hospital. A young man, an orderly who could speak English, checked me in. I was embarrassed to tell him my problem. However, he told me his story. 

He said he was doing community service instead of being in the military, for he was a pacifist. After hearing that we were from Southern California, he told us that once, while surfing at La Jolla, California (right beside San Diego where we lived), he was hit in the face with a surfboard. He was taken to the hospital, where the doctors treated him so kindly that he vowed to treat others the same.

The doctor gave me medicine and said, "This is Wednesday. We'll bill you."


We were off to Copenhagen, Denmark (home of Legos), where I took a perfect picture of the Little Mermaid statue sitting on a rock in the bay. At night, we visited Tivoli, the exquisite mini Disney-like park under the romantic glow of a million (?) white lights.

In Amsterdam, we took a Long Boat through the canals and under the lighted arched bridges, and they served us so much wine and cheese that I could hardly walk off the boat.

We attended Holland's Floriade, a flower fair covering acres, where they asked if you wanted salt or sugar on your popcorn, and we walked around in the rain. 

This morning, Neil reminded me of the black horse we saw at the Floriade in Holland. I thought that horse was the most exquisite creature I had ever seen, totally black, head high, and with "feathers" on his ankles. I asked what sort of horse he was, and the man nuzzled by the horse said, "Dutch Horse." That didn't tell me much. I was in Holland, after all, but once back home, I looked up "Dutch Horse" and found it was a Frisian, a warm blood. (Frisians were favored by Knights of old for they are heavier than a light saddle breed, easy to train, and could carry all that armor they stuck on the rider and his horse. Think of Zorro's horse. We just watched the new Indiana Jones movie, where I recognized the black horse he rode galloping through the subway and down steps as a Frisian). The Floriade horse was tied to a long rope that extended to a canal boat. It was a demonstration to show how horses were used to pull the boats.

I just now looked up Frisian and found you can pick one up for $34,900.

That trip gave me a taste for travel, which I had the privilege of doing more of later.