A Journey To The Fatherland - Part II

By Emile M. Benoit

We returned to Dörrenbach early that day since we had planned a dinner that early evening for the entire group (nine Americans and Ernst and Hedwig) at the Altdeutsche Weinstube (Old Wine Room) restaurant right across the street from Fritz's house. After much toasting and welcoming the new arrivals, we were served a delicious dinner of ``ponce bourr‚,'' sauerkraut, bread and several different wines. It was a very fine evening and after supper we six returned to the guest-house and gathered in one room for a night cap of desert wine.

The next day (September 24), Ernst came to meet us at nine in the morning as we had planned a trip to Strasbourg, France. He arrived with bags of apples, freshly picked from the trees in his garden, fresh home-made pretzels, and apple and orange juice. Ernst said that because of the food he brought, we would not have to take time stopping to eat. Everyone was on board except Bishop Jude and Hedwig. In just a few miles we noticed an imposing building built over the highway and Ernst pulled into its the parking lot. It is called the Deutsches Weintor (German wine door) which marks the entrance to the German wine region of Pfalz. The building is really a museum. There was a tower in the center which is reached by several flights of well-worn stone stairs, from which one could get a wonderful view of the entire area. There were also displays of both ancient and modern tools used in the vineyards, many different exhibits and also a large wine display and tasting room in which to sample the wines of the Pfalz area.

On our trip to Strasbourg, we first arrived at Wissenbourg, which is very near the French border. Wissenbourg is a very old and beautiful small city, and while there we visited the farmer's market and the old church. Everyone there is bi-lingual and it was enjoyable to speak French to the ladies selling their produce in the marketplace. We arrived at Strasbourg about noon, parked the van and went on a walking tour of the center of the city which included a tour of the very old and beautiful Cathedral. It being Saturday, the streets were crowded with street vendors, magicians and tourists. We even saw an organ-grinder and his monkey. After having enjoyed coffee at a sidewalk cafe we then returned to Dörrenbach, arriving there early since we had been invited to a reception by the Mayor of Dörrenbach.

We were very well received by the Mayor who welcomed us and then poured a entire bottle of wine into a huge goblet from which everyone drank until it was entirely emptied. That, we learned, is a German welcoming custom.

After the ceremonies at city hall we went to the church which is located across the street from the city hall and where a wedding was just finishing. By the time Mass was ready to begin, the church was full. Bishop Jude and Father Jules co-celebrated the Mass, with Bishop Jude giving a homily in German and Father Speyrer one in English. It was a very impressive ceremony. After Mass, all nine of us, including Hedwig, Ernst and Peter went to the Weinstube zum Spundloch for a delicious supper. After supper we bought two bottles of Ortega Spatlese and joined by Peter we went back to to the guest-house for a nightcap that had become a nightly ritual!

The church in Dörrenbach is used by both the Catholics and Protestants of the town. There are two altars, one for each denomination. At supper Bishop Jude had suggested that since many of the Protestants had attended our Mass Saturday evening, it would be appropriate for us to attend their service that was to be held at 9:15 Sunday morning. We all agreed. We gained an hour than night as that was when Germany returned to standard time. We enjoyed the Protestant service and were made to feel really welcome. After services, the six of us staying at Fritz's guesthouse decided to go for a short walk in Dörrenbach as we had been invited to Ernst and Hedwig's house for coffee and cake that afternoon and for supper that night. Returning to our quarters before dinner, we decided to have a light lunch and went across the street to Altdeutsche Weinstube where we had soup and potatoes served to us on the patio. We rested until 2:30 P.M. and then left for Bergzabern to Ernst's house for coffee, after which Claus took us for a walk in the Kurpark.

The outing was very enjoyable. There were beautiful flowers, trees, a pound with ducks, etc. When we returned Hedwig was ready with the table all set for supper. She served a delicious meal of ham, rice salad, pate, bread, green beans, sausages and wine. We returned to D“rrenbach at 8:30 P.M. for bath and early bed. The next day (September 26) at 9:30 in the morning we went to Bergzabern to meet Ernst and Hedwig for shopping as we wanted souvenirs, and Lenora and Chester, the only ones with grandchildren, did not dare come back from Germany empty-handed. We shopped until noon and then left for Speyer. In Speyer, we parked near the Cathedral and then went to lunch at the historic Zum Halbmond restaurant which specializes in Hungarian food. We then toured the Cathedral and the city square. We returned by a different route following the Weinstrausse (Wine Street) through all of the small towns in the wine growing area and arrived in Dörrenbach at 6:30 P.M.

There was a small family winery across the street from Fritz's guest house whose owner was confined to a wheelchair. The owner's son runs the vineyard and the winery but the owner is nonetheless very much in charge. Every day he would wait for us to return from our outings and then invite us over to have some Neuwine (grapejuice, freshly pressed) and wine, That day was no different, and again we graciously joined him and his family. We sampled several different wines and bought two bottles of Dörrenbacher Bacchus Spatlese. Those tastings gave us a good appetite and soon we were getting very hungry. Since it was about 7:00 P.M., we knew that the stores would be closed. It being Monday, the restaurant was closed. We discussed with Peter our problem. He told us that he would see if he could find something in the kitchen. Fritz heard about it and joined us with another bottle of wine and Peter arrived with a platter of sausage, bread and pickles. The next day (September 27) was to be last day in Dörrenbach.

After breakfast we drove to Bergzabern to meet Ernst and Hedwig. We had confirmed our flight and all was in order for us to depart from Frankfort the next day at 9:35 A.M., but we had to check in two hours before departure. Ernst had very generously agreed to drive us to the airport Wednesday morning even though it meant leaving at 5:00 A.M. Lenora and Chester had not yet finished their shopping so they returned to town. Ernst wanted my wife, Sis and Fr. Jules' sister, Eula Lee to see the Gerhard Leonhard winery and Hedwig had some chores at home so we went to the town of Klingen. The ladies enjoyed it very much and before we left, Frau Leonhard and her daughter served us a fine lunch of pat‚, bread, tomatoes, pickles and wine.

A farewell supper for everyone, given by the Americans was planned. Ernst, Hedwig, Fritz, Peter, Sabene, Andre and children and the nine of us really had an enjoyable evening. Getting up the next morning at 4:00 A.M. was not too uncomfortable since Sabene greeted is with some fresh coffee. We loaded up the van and left for Bergzabern where Ernst was waiting for us. I gave him the wheel and we left for Frankfort, arriving at the airport at seven. We checked in and regrettably said goodbye to Ernst thanking him for his many kindnesses toward us during our visit. We then had breakfast and went to the boarding area where we said goodbye to Lenora and Chester, who were booked on a later flight for the return trip. Our plane left on time and we had a comfortable flight home, arriving in Lafayette at 7:00 P.M..

Each of us had had a wonderful eight days visit to Germany, where we were always treated with great hospitality by everyone. This made us feel as though we were visiting dignitaries! Now, when I think back about our trip to the homeland of our Speyrer ancestor, it all seems like a delightful dream!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ernst Lammering is a connoisseur of the wines of the Pfalz region and is well known and sought after by the major wineries where he gives lectures to visiting groups of tourists and buyers. In addition, he conducts wine tastings and demonstrations for these groups. All of this accounts for his having access to all of the wineries in this region of Germany. We were very fortunate to have him as a tour guide. His wife, Hedwig's mother was Rosine Scheib whose mother was a Speyrer. That is Ernst Lammering's Speyrer connection!

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