A Journey To The Fatherland - Part I

By Emile M. Benoit

On September 21, 1994, a small group of Speyrer family members and friends departed from the Lafayette airport with an ultimate destination of Dörrenbach, Germany. Father Jules Speyrer, his sister, Eula Lee Phillips, Wilda and Emile Benoit and Lenora and Chester Ortego comprised this very excited and eager party. We arrived in Dallas at noon, had lunch, and departed soon thereafter for Frankfort, Germany. After a long night aflight, we landed in Frankfort in the early morning hours of the 22nd.

We had been planning this trip for many months and had every detail covered. Well, at least we thought we had every contingency covered, since we were following the path of the Speyrer family group which had visited D”rrenbach in 1992 on the occasion of 1000th Anniversary of the founding of the village. We had planned to board the tram from the airport in Frankfort to the main railroad station, then to Karlsrue, then to Winden where we would board a bus for the final leg of the trip..

The first thing we were supposed to do on arrival in Frankfort, was to call Ernst Lammering to let him know what time we would arrive in Winden. It took some time to re-claim our luggage and then I located a railway ticket office to find out the train schedules. By then it was nine o'clock in the morning and the ticket agent informed me that the next train for the main station in Frankfort left at 9:23 a.m. and that we could purchase tickets for the entire trip from her, which we did. We soon arrived in Windin via Karlsrue..

Unfortunately, we did not have time to telephone Ernst Lammering to inform him of our arrival because of the closeness of the train scheduling. We really had to run as the trains are all electric and always on time. We arrived in Winden at noon, but the station was closed and completely deserted. Fr. Speyrer said that the bus was located behind the station, so we went around, but all we found was a schedule informing us that there was no bus service on Thursdays! We did find a pay phone but the coin slot was jammed..

About that time a man came by and I asked him for assistance. He began beating on the phone with his fist and coins which had jammed the coin slot began falling on the ground! Finally, I was able to dial Ernst's number, and his wife, Hedwig, answered. She told me that Ernst was already on his way to Winden to pick us up. Sure enough, in a little while my wife spotted a man talking to the ``good samaritan'' who had helped us, and told Father Speyrer, ``That looks like Ernst'' Ernst turned around, saw us and came running towards us. After much hugging and hand shaking, Ernst told us that he had a friend coming in a station wagon to bring us to Dörrenbach. We left Winden very much relieved to be rescued by Ernst and soon arrived at his home in Bad Bergzabern. Hedwig was waiting for us with a delicious meal, which included Fr. Speyrer's favorite German dish, kartoffel supps (potato soup). With tasty bread, sausage, German wine, and good company the evening was a complete success..

After lunch and visiting, Ernst and his son, Claus, drove us to Dörrenbach (the hometown of our common forefather, Conrad Speyrer) and to Fritz Speyrer's guest-house, about 3 miles from Bad Bergzabern. Fritz's daughter, Sabine Guents, as manager of the guest-house, showed us our rooms. She was gracious and even asked us what time we wanted breakfast. Fritz Speyrer's guest-house is quite large and consists of four guest-rooms, an apartment for Fritz and his son, Peter, an apartment for Sabine and her husband, Andre and their two young daughters. There was also a large courtyard, closed off from the street by large wooden doors, and a separate dining room for the guests. After we settled in our rooms we went for a walk in Dörrenbach and bought cheese, wine and bread which he enjoyed back at the guest-house..

The next morning Ernst came to pick up the men to take us to Herxheim (12 miles away), so that we could rent a van. Since three more would soon be joining our party, renting a van was the only way we would have room for everyone. Bishop Jude Speyrer, his brother Alfred and Alfred's grand-daughter, Melissa Mayne were due to arrive in Germany that same day. On the way to Herxheim, Ernst stopped at a family-owned winery in Klingen owned by his friend, Gerhard Leonhard. We saw the grapes coming in from the vineyard in tractor pulled stainless steel trailers..

We also viewed the grapes being pressed in a brand-new modern wine-press, and then being moved into the basement, in large hoses, to the huge fiberglass and stainless steel tanks for the fermentation and final stages in making the wine. We went on to Herxheim and rented a 9-passenger Mercedes van for 5 days at a very reasonable price. I drove the van with Chester's help as we followed Ernst back to Bergzabern. We then proceeded on to Dörrenbach. The ladies were waiting for us and we lunched with them at the Rathaus Gasthaus, on noodle soup, french fries, salad and naturally, German wine and beer. Soon, Ernst came to meet us and we all went to tour a huge co-operative winery in Elgerheim. It is the largest winery in Western Germany and it's difficult to describe its immense size and modernness. We felt privileged to have our private tour guided by Ernst..

(To be concluded in the Spring 1995 issue).

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