Saturday, May 30th, 2015 (This is a post I wrote before Berlin…..but couldn’t publish due to internet woes.)
I left the faux world of Clarion Arlanda Airport Hotel, receiving the full benefit of peace of mind by walking out at 7:15 a.m. directly into the terminal to check in.
The German Wings flight, was smooth and brief, touching down in Hamburg a mere 1 hour and 20 minutes later. After retrieving my checked back pack, I hunted down a replacement sim card for my Hakan router and euros for my wallet. Then I went to get my rental car. I was the third person in line. It took AN HOUR AND A HALF till I was driving out of the airport. This storm of service/events/ no cars/and my own feelings can be accessed another time. I am so a product of my culture when it comes to this but onward. I survived the worry of driving in a new country and got out of Hamburg to the highways in the countryside. In about the time it took to get the car in the first place, I was in the vicinity of my destination. Cambs, Germany. The hotel is a lovely quiet oasis. The room inspires for my writing.
Weitendorf, where my great great grandfather on my mother’s side, Karl Langfeld, was born, is 12 km down the road one way, Schwerin 12 km down the other; and Mecklenburg dorf a bit more but not by much due north. (All of these towns are in the province of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, which is what most of my German ancestors listed as their places of birth. Some listed Pomerania Prussia which is the next province over.) So I’m here to find anything I can on my relatives who were Hoth’s and Langfelds. What I have to go on is not much. I know they came from this area, settled in Niles Center (now Skokie) Illinois. I know the kids married other emigrants so there were Behrendts and Ahrens, and Tolzeins in their fold.
On my first walk around the hotel grounds, I found this: Hoth on the water drilling site and Behrendts on the electrical box. Hello.
Weitendorf. The highway cut through this tiny village. I turned right at a stop for some reason and found myself on a cobbled street of brick pavers. I remembered on the map that Weitendorf was the northern point of an extended nature preserve. Light caught my eye as the fluctuating weather changed the skies.
But why the brick path under my tire wheels? Then I ran into Kaarz: an estate with extensive grounds, a large building they called a castle which functioned now as a hotel. This existed in 1822. Perhaps Karl Langfeld was employed here? I have no evidence to prove that and my conversation with the manager of the hotel offered little help. I headed back to Weitendorf and crossed the highway. The village was a single row of houses with an extraordinary crumbling Manor house and stables. But no church or cemetery which is what I was really hoping for. And a place to eat. I was hungry.
I drove to the next town –Buell. The weather had been fickle–rain then sun. On the way to Buell, I was in a hail storm. It passed quickly. I found two cemeteries in Buell. The first was filled with more recent graves and was very well kept. The larger one, through big iron gates under mature trees was a special place. The first graves by the gates were Ahrens but I found no Langfelds or Hoths here. There was something about the place though. It was older and unkempt. Grasses grew high. The trees were lovely, hadn’t been bombed. There was an area in the back corner where four narrow columns with hundreds of names engraved on them stood next to each other. Six unmarked stone crosses stood at attention on the corners of the parcel. No one was tending this memorial. Wild grasses and the occasional clover flower or daisy grew out of control. It was a cemetery out of a romantic novel, complete with overcast skies. It had age, personality and mystery. It was a survivor. There were individual touches of attention but not a lot. I don’t know what church it belonged to, perhaps the larger church in the center of Buell, perhaps all the area villages, I don’t know. But the place spoke to me.
A glorious double rainbow appeared over the sky as I drove the 10 km back to the hotel; it eventually went to one and then faded. I stopped at a gas station for a snack in case I was going dinnerless tonight. I paid for a can of pringles. On my way out I noticed a stone Buddha sitting by the door. It came up to my knee maybe my thigh. I think it had a sign on it saying it was for sale. Ok. a Buddha by the door. Ok.
I wasn’t late for dinner. I sat down and ordered catfish, a local specialty. I looked out at the grass and lake and another large rainbow had appeared. The waiter caught me taking a selfie.
As I travel, I chat with those who have passed. Today it was Mom and Olga (her mom) and Karl and Sophie. Oh and of course God. I’m often bending God’s ear. My friend Bonnie would say that they send signs back. If this is true, I received them …..quirky, synchronistic occurrences. I don’t know if I felt guided but maybe enjoyed; maybe even ‘poked’ in Facebook terminology–signs of Hoth and Behrendt’s right out of the gate, the Ahrens gravestone being the first one in the rustic and crumbling cemetery, a big Buddha for sale at a gas station and then three rainbows. All I can say is hello.