Posted with permission of the author, July 3, 2004
So named was our tour to the Bukovina district in the Ukraine and Romania in the Fall of 1996. It was organized by Prof. Dr. Kurt Rein of Munich and Dr. Ortfried Kotzian of Augsburg as a cooperative project between the Bukovina Institute in Augsburg and the Bukovina Society of the Americas. This tour, one of many sponsored by the Institute, was conducted in English for Society members from the States and Canada. The tour was just 7 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, so this report reflects that time period. Since then many conditions have changed.
Werner Zoglauer and I decided to join after Dr. Kotzian gave a presentation on the tour at Bukovinafest 96. We booked our flight to Germany 3 days before joining the tour group to visit our Bohemian roots and some cousins recently discovered in Bavaria. We flew on a Lufthansa Airbus nonstop to Munich in eight hours. The service was great and nearly everyone on board were German nationals returning from vacation in the United States. Most were younger people and very friendly. If I bothered to ask a question, three or four of them jumped in to help. Two young guys’ idea of a prank was to swipe two bags of pretzels off the drink cart while the attendant was not looking, only to put them back later.
We arrived in Munich at 9:00 in the morning on Saturday, September 14th, picked up our rental car and called the home of Norbert and Elly Lang of Grünkraut. It is very close to Switzerland and the first snow fell on the Alps the night before. Their family of four generations greeted us on arrival, and plans had already been made to put us in the guestroom and start the cooking. Beer was served at every meal during the entire trip except for breakfast. Strong coffee is very popular and always served with cream, even if you say you prefer it black.
Homes in Germany are built on very small lots even in small and remote places. As a result, while driving between towns, there is always a feeling of open green space and woodlands. At the Lang home, an addition was made to accommodate several of their adult children and families. It took three years for them to get permission to enlarge the home due to the strict environmental laws. The doors to each room are closed so that hallways or unused rooms are not heated. At the Langs and all over Bavaria, people said the tomatoes and gardens were not as good this year due to rain and cooler weather. Above the door to their home were the chalk markings from January 6th, made on the feast of the Three Holy Kings (Drei Heilige Koenige) This ancient custom is still evident all over Bavaria as well as in Bukovina and Bohemia today. This was a custom among the ethnic Germans in Kansas years ago. Their parish priest made this inscription and the children came to sing and Wünsche for money, which is given to third world charities. The churches in Bavaria have steeples with onion shaped domes very much like those seen in pictures of Russian churches. It is quite a contrast to the traditional German church steeples. The shape represents the image of a candle flame.
The Lang’s granddaughter, Cornelia, was fluent in English and very anxious to translate, even though Werner is fluent in German. Cornelia used the same book, Josef Neuburger’s Buchenhain, as I did to trace living relatives from our ancestral village of Pojana Mikuli (Poiana Micului). She had a computer and database of Bohemian German names to which Werner made substantial additions. Norbert Lang told us of one of his relatives, Ignatz Lang, who migrated to Ellis. He said that Ignatz returned to his village of Pojana Mikuli seven years after emigration and died in Ellis in 1954. Upon return home, I looked up the obituary for Ignatz and the dates and other family background matched. The reason Ignatz returned to Bukovina in 1932 was to remarry after losing his first wife to illness. This is just one example of the accuracy of the oral history of these people. Norbert’s family left the village during the resettlement (Umsiedlung) of 1940 when he was 16. His father, Franz, could not depart with them, being sick in the hospital of the nearby larger town. They learned from the Red Cross in Germany that his father was later shot by the Russians. Norbert was in the German army four and a half years and his brother, Bruno, was killed in action in Russia. Their early life in Pojana Mikuli was pleasant. Norbert’s father operated a sawmill. Though they lived among German Catholics, other ethnic groups were friendly, particularly the Slovaks who lived up the road. They went to school in the village and the town had a small store, which sold basic goods. They took their grain to the mill powered by the river that runs through the middle of the town.
The church and homes in Pojana Mikuli were burned to the ground in revenge by German soldiers during the Second World War. The valley in which the village sat is between two mountain ridges which were occupied by Russian troops on one side and German troops on the other. The village was populated by Polish and Romanian people who were moved into the Bohemian German homes by the Romanian government in 1940. According to Norbert the villagers had evidently became partisan against the Germans and altered road signs, which caused German soldiers to be killed.
Norbert drove by car to visit his former home in 1977 and visited again two years later. He attended Mass in the church, where the songs and service were in the Slovak language. He saw the gravestone of his grandmother Rose Erbert Baumgartner, my great aunt. He gave all of his clothing away to the people. The children begged on the streets. There was no store to purchase food. Norbert and Elly had to buy food from the local people. On his second trip, Norbert packed extra clothing for the people of the village. He learned from his first trip to bribe the border guards with cigarettes to get the extra clothing in. The people of the village, though not part of his heritage, were still on his mind as he worried about their fate. Werner and I planned our next destination at Norbert and Elly’s home over breakfast. Norbert called several families in the Simbach/Inn area that were on my list of cousins. This community has a large Bukovina German population, most from Pojana Mikuli. He learned that at the time of our arrival, the funeral for Bernhard Seidel was being held and we were invited.
Simbach, Kirchdorf, Julbach and several towns are all joined like one town next to the Inn River bordering Austria. We arrived as the funeral cortege began the walk after Mass to the adjacent cemetery. It was led by a brass band, a service for veterans by the local veterans organization. At the gravesite, the band members led the singing of the song, “I had a comrade, a better one I could not have.” After the service we met several cousins we knew of and were soon introduced to more. The ladies greeted us with Grüss Gott; their traditional greeting which is to be answered the same way. This greeting was used in the early years among the Bohemian Germans in Kansas.
Invitations to visit were issued as fast as we could write down names. Our first stop was to the home of Ferdinand “Ferdl” and Hedwig Baumgartner where she laid out coffee and Pflaumen Kuchen (plum cake) which soon gave way to beer. They and the other guests present were very anxious to tell us stories of life in Bukovina. They described how their forefathers felled the trees to build homes and make clearings for crops, skills from their origins in the Bohemian forest. The men would partially cut each tree all the way up the steep hills and then topple the last row to cause them all to fall to the bottom of the valley. Trees not good for building material were felled in a circle so they could be burned. They said the natives looked on from a distance and ran with fear when they heard the roar of falling trees and great fires.
On a prior trip to Germany in 1989 for the 40th meeting of the Bukovina Germans, I met and became well acquainted with our cousin Adalbert Fuchs. We shared the ancestors Adalbert and Dorothea (Sammer) Fuchs of Aussergefild, Bohemia. They moved to Bukovina in 1840, among the last Germans to settle there. Their daughter Josefa married Josef Erbert in Bukovina, my great grandparents who came to Ellis. After Adalbert died, his brother Friedolin took up correspondence with me and was at the Baumgartner home to greet us. He said his mother used to write to Frank Erbert in Ellis, who led the first Bohemian German Catholics to Ellis, Kansas. Friedolin quickly invited us to stay at his home. The guests looked in awe as Werner brought their names up on his laptop computer showing their relationship with us.
The Baumgartners visited Bukovina in a convoy of three cars many years earlier and were pleased to know we were heading there on the tour. They informed us that several Hoffmans who were sent back after the war still live there. Also a Mr. Schwanze whose mother was a Tischler lived there and was a distant cousin to us. They showed their home movies of Pojana Mikuli and Bukovina. They also had many photos of the journey. They were able to see and film a local wedding in which the bride and groom rode on horseback. They said in the church all the single girls, by tradition, stood up throughout the service.
The local Bukovina Germans had a singing group named the Buchenhainer Lieder, from the original German name of Pojana Mikuli, Buchenhain. They gave us a tape of their songs, some of which were familiar in Ellis. They were aware that when the first Bukovina Germans migrated to Ellis, others chose to migrate to Brazil. They told of a lady who moved there and cried each night so hard that her pillow was constantly wet. She and others returned to Bukovina. They did not know why people chose Brazil when letters told of such hardships compared to America. They told of a Rudolf Baumgartner, married to a German Russian in the Ukraine, who went to America in 1949 to settle by his brother, a pastor. His brother did not want them and had tickets ready, sending them to Brazil.
Karl Flachs, a researcher on Pojana Mikuli, and his wife Frieda arrived at the Baumgartner home. He said two of his sisters visited Ellis several years before. When Karl saw Friedolin Fuchs, he immediately said, “Fuchs du hast die Ganz gestohlen.” words from a German nursery rhyme. They proceeded to sing it together, which translates “Fuchs (fox in English), you stole the Goose, give it back, give it back, or else the hunter will shoot you with a big shotgun.” Also dropping by to see us was Jacob and Angela Beer Hartinger. Friedolin’s sister was at the funeral but missed us, so her son Gunther called me to visit. He was the interpreter during my visit with Adalbert Fuchs eight years earlier.
Nearly all the Bukovina Germans now living in the Simbach/Inn area who served in the German army were taken prisoner during the war. Hedwig was an army nurse in Breslow, Poland and was captured by the Russian army in 1945. She was not released until December of 1948 and was used as a laborer after the war by the Russians. Ferdinand was taken prisoner in France and sent to England.
After the war, the Bukovina German soldiers and their families were assigned to live in the homes of farmers and local people in Bavaria due to a lack of housing. The Bavarians deeply resented this mandate. The displaced people worked hard to save money to buy a small plot of ground. They cleared the trees and built the homes they live in today. Our hosts were glad to see us interested in preserving our common history. Karl Flachs saw me writing notes and asked if it was for a book. Ferdl said, “you cannot leave for another week so you can get all the information.” They were pleased to learn of the success of the Bukovina Society and to learn our visit and pictures would be in the Society Newsletter. Their local organization of people with roots in Pojana Mikuli disbanded in 1987 and donated their banner to the Bukovina Society headquarters. Georg and Martalina Baumgartner sent it over with her sister, Gisela Staab of Ellis. They said everyone is getting old. Their children have married Bavarians and do not keep up with the traditions. We probably saw the last chapter of the Bukovina Germans in Bavaria.
We proceeded with our plan to visit ancestral villages in the Bohemian forest in the Czech Republic. These villages date as far back as the 1200’s as ethnic German when Bohemia was part of the German Empire. Cousin Friedolin has been there numerous times and volunteered to drive us. He knew a lot about the history and original names of the former German villages, especially those of our ancestors. He told the story of his father who met a man on the street in Germany after the war. After recognizing their similar dialect they visited further and learned that they both had ancestors who lived at different times in the same house in Bohemia. The guards barely looked at our passports. Tourism is big business, although the curio shops for the first several miles along the highway were garish.
Our first stop was in Vimperk (Winterberg). The buildings showed the effects of pollution and neglect, but all around were signs of rebuilding. Old apartment buildings sported satellite dishes sticking out the windows. A gift shop had a new sign on it dedicated to the U. S. Army for liberating the city on May 6, 1945. The Hotel Anna was elegant and served excellent food. The lobby displayed antique woodcarvings. As we left the city, the countryside and small villages were clean and attractive, nestled among beautiful wooded hills. Signs advertised hiking, camping, and winter skiing. Every 10 miles or so there was a small pension (bed and breakfast) full of cars from Germany. We entered our Fuchs family village, Kvilda (Aussergefild), where lumber work has been an occupation since the 15th Century. The homes were very close to each other with small farms on the outside of town. The church was attractive on the interior, but badly deteriorated on the outside. The old church cemetery had only one grave marker left.
We found home site number 21 of our Sammer ancestor from an old map. The chalk marks from the feast of the Three Holy Kings was on the church and over the doors of some homes. There was a sawmill on the river in the valley. I stopped in a restaurant and bought two bottles of Budweiser Beer as souvenirs. It has no connection with the American beer, which took its name from the beer. There are ongoing disputes over rights to the name in countries to which they are both expanding. The girl who sold the beer spoke perfect English. We were still able to see the flavor of old Aussergefild, but the center of town was giving way to remodeling and new construction to serve the tourists.
We drove on to Srni (Rehberg) which is higher up in the mountains. We saw a ski lift and two upscale hotels. Local lore reported it was among a number of hideaways for communist leaders with money and connections. The rest of the town was very old, but clean and well maintained. There were buildings typical of the Germans in Bohemia and Bukovina. That is, living quarters and barn all in the same structure. The river running through the mountains is dark brown from iron ore mining. At a campsite along the river a man was taking his bath in the cold, rocky-bottomed river.
During our return to Bavaria, Friedolin looked at the map and found a short cut he remembered. We had the opportunity to see an abandoned castle not on the maps. At the border there was a several hour backlog of cars lined up at the gates due to weekend traffic returning to Germany. We returned to Simbach late in the evening and found that Lina and Georg Baumgartner had been preparing evening dinner for us at their home in nearby Keldorf. Lina looked forward to our visit with us because of our Ellis ties to her sister Gisela Staab. Lina and her friend Hedwig told us of a stunt they all pulled some years back. At that time the liquor in Austria was much cheaper but there was a strict limit on what could be brought back into Bavaria. Lina was planning for her daughter’s wedding and they decided to drive into Austria to stock up. In order to get by the border inspectors, they ate lots of garlic and the guards quickly told them to pass on through. Friedolin gave us a book about the Bohemian Germans. It contained a poem that summarizes the immigrant experience. Die Ersten haben den Tod, die Zweiten haben die Not, die Dritten haben das Brot. In the generations, the First has death, Second has need, Third has bread.
We started the final day before meeting up with the tour group with breakfast at the Baumgartners. Hedwig was not born in Pojana Mikuli like “Ferdl”, but she experienced and shared his great love for the home village. She read to us a poem she wrote about “Poi Nickl.” This was translated and published in the Bukovina Society Newsletter. We departed Friedolin’s home with him for morning touring and, as usual night or day, he does not close his garage door.
We stopped in Waldkreiburg for Werner to work with Karl Flachs on genealogy. The Baumgartners came along to visit and also there to see us was Maria Beer. We were met with a big noon dinner. In the afternoon, the ladies prepared coffee, Apfel strudle, kuchen and shoitle, all from recipes passed down through generations of Bohemian German Catholics. As we ate they sang, “Mamaliga, Mamalai, Bukowina, halb drei.” This was one of numerous short verses and poems based on using the words Mamaliga and Mamalai, both corn meal based dishes in the homeland. This one meant it was time for coffee at half past three. It was time to leave the wonderful community of Bukovina German cousins and friends and we were already late for our first meeting with the tour group. As we pulled out of the driveway Hedwig, who had cooked and waited on us for three days, wept as everyone waived good-bye.
We checked into the hotel in Augsburg and went on to the Bukovina Institute just in time for the Haluschkenessen provided for the tour group. Several professors associated with the Institute gave talks on Eastern Europe and Bukovina history. The Institute offices have a large archive of books and documents. It also serves as the headquarters for other Bukovina organizations. An orchestra led by Ruth Kotzian gave a concert, which featured some American favorites.
The next morning a bus tour of notable sites in Augsburg was provided to the group with the afternoon off for new arrivals to shake jet lag and shop. That evening Werner and I were invited to the home of Dr. Ortfried and Marie-Luise Kotzian for supper. At the door we were greeted by two of their daughters who sang several songs of greeting. Marie-Luise served a variety of Eastern European delicacies and we received a lot of helpful information for the trip. The girls kept an eye on the table and kept everything filled. On departing we signed their international guest book with a message. Their oldest daughter Ruth came by with her new husband Christian Geyer. The three young ladies sang a farewell to us at the door.
ON THE ROAD
We boarded a big Mercedes bus in the morning, which was to be our home, except for sleeping accommodations, for 12 days. Off and on, Dr. Kotzian entertained us with his guitar and German songs. He pointed out all the historical places and some lively discussions broke up the travel time on the bus. On the longer days, I broke out cards and dominoes. All birthdays and anniversaries were noted with singing. At one point he took a big jab at me by describing, in his view, the game of golf. Each morning we had breakfast at the hotel, usually a buffet with cold meats, pastries and cereals with plenty to drink. The bus had a water closet on board. Coffee, soda, beer and wine were available at any time by signing an honor charge slip. Our first stop for lunch was typical of all noon meals, heavy and plentiful. Werner Zoglauer got his laptop computer hooked up on the bus and helped people with their genealogy. The bus left the autobahn to follow a scenic route along the Danube River. All the way into Vienna there were vineyards rising up the hills. The plots were small and each had a hut on it with a bike or a horse tied up outside. Several times a large patch of mature sunflowers gave some of us a brief reminder of Kansas.
After dinner in our hotel in Klosterneuburg, Dr. Ilona Slawinski of the Austrian Institute for Southern Europe gave us a night tour of Vienna. We ended the day with a visit to a typical Heurigen Haus. These were originally farm homes outside of Vienna at the edges of the grape fields. After each wine season the farmers traditionally opened up their homes to the people of Vienna to taste and purchase their particular specialty of wine. The city has now grown up and around the homes, which have become deli restaurants. They still feature specialty wines grown in the area. In the morning we toured the center of Vienna. There was a great amount of remodeling and restoration work going on, particularly at the Hapsburg palace, the great churches and public buildings. Our guide said many years were spent repairing war damage, and now they must repair the damage of time and pollution.
We departed for the drive into Slovakia and waited only a short time at the border for traffic. Our first stop was Bratislava, which showed its age terribly. Amid the historic structures, a 14-story shell of an uncompleted building stood with a “for sale” sign on it. A K-Mart was thriving in the market place. There were construction crews around indicating that restoration and clean up was beginning. Bratislava was a walled city built as the fortress capital of Hungary. A good portion of the wall from the 13-18th century remains. The Cathedral of St. Martin, where Hungarian monarchs were crowned, has also suffered from time. German donations resulted in a new roof to stem further deterioration until full restoration can be completed.
All of the churches we visited in Slovakia were locked. Theft is a problem if a church is open for any more than a service. A caretaker unlocked St. Martins to go in and we asked through our interpreter if we could go in. We told him we would be glad to donate toward the restoration. He bluntly told us no and quickly locked himself in. The town square had been spruced up for a visit by the pope the year before. The music hall was well preserved. The main bank has bullet holes in the brick face from machine gun fire during some prior skirmish.
We continued to the city of Nitra for the night. Hotel Nitra was built some 20 to 25 years ago as a conference center for communist party meetings. It was obviously luxurious for its time, but now was dirty and dark. The plumbing in the rooms were patched with putty and faucets all leaked. There were several cocktail bars on each level and many lounges. These were all closed and only a small part of the restaurant was open. The hotel was busy and commands a high price, some one hundred dollars, due to the lack of rooms available. It did, however provide clean, pressed sheets and hot water. Another soft spot I had for them was their fax machine. I had not been able to get my international phone card to work, so the hotel clerk sent my FAX home for just two German Marks.
When we arrived in Neusohl, a festival was underway in the town square. Booths were set up to sell all sorts of goods. It was a small town with well-maintained buildings. The church was badly deteriorated outside, but through locked gates we could see a highly decorated interior. Rumor has it that outsides of homes and buildings were left to look shabby so as to not attract the attention of the Communists, but interiors were immaculate. The two ways find a restroom in most places are to look for a WC (water closet) sign or ask for “toilette” no matter what the local language. I did just that in Neusohl and was directed to an underground facility which was brand new. The entrance for men and women were separate, and two ladies in a booth between the facilities waived me in with big smiles. On my way out the door was locked and the ladies showed me the coin needed to pay them. I had no Slovakian money so I offered what were certainly greater amounts in German, American or Austrian coins. They continued to talk sternly in their language and neither German nor English helped me a bit. I was starting to wonder what would get me out of this predicament when along strolled a lady from the tour group to use the same rest stop. She had stocked up on local currency for shopping and bailed me out.
We toured an area nearby that had been settled by Germans in the 12th Century. Known as the Zips, they were experienced miners who were recruited to Bukovina along with the Bohemian and Swabian Germans. We visited the only village left of ethnic German heritage in that part of Slovakia. The ethnic Germans who lived there for all those years and through the wars were kicked out in 1946 by the government. The local people were busy gathering up the potato crop. Following the tractor and digger seemed to be every man, woman and child in the village.
We visited the walled city of Levoca, which has come under the wing of UNESCO. It showed its age, but the buildings were magnificent. We went in small groups for a walking tour. A brass band was playing in the square to no audience except the few of us passing by. The little town gave us a real sense of the local culture from the bakery, to the meat shop, to the local tavern. There were no signs on stores. One could tell which shop was which only by looking in, or in the case of the bakery, by smell. This was the only time beggar children confronted us and they were well trained in their art. Their dirty faces looked made up. If they made a score, they headed straight for the house to deposit the proceeds and back to the street. Our next night was spent just before the border to Ukraine at Hotel Slovan.
The plan for the next day was an all day drive to Czernowitz. We were informed that in Ukraine, a traveler has three wishes, first for electricity, second for water, third for hot water. This proved to be a warning regarding the third wish. We were also told at evening dinner we should practice something needed for our health while in Ukraine, to take a shot of Vodka before each meal, and then one after. We were also advised to drink only bottled water. At that very time one lady was emptying her bottle into a glass, and it turned into a brown cloud. She gave the bottle to Dr. Kotzian and said “so much for the bottled water.” He looked at the label and replied, “it says it has many ingredients, this must have been some of them.” In the morning over breakfast we met a mother and daughter bravely traveling through Eastern Europe on a genealogy mission. They had so much fun talking to our group, they wanted to join the tour.
Several hours delay was encountered at the border crossing while the Ukraine guards collected all the passports for examination. Ukraine was the only country on the tour that also required a visa to enter. We had stopped for gas before the border crossing and from that point on a water closet was a rare sight. The water closets were locked at the border facility and our interpreter could not convince the guards to open them. While the passport check went on, another guard gave us a form to list all our money. We were informed that upon leaving Ukraine, another list would be taken of our money. If you left with more than you arrived, it was a crime.
We toured the towns of Ushgorod, Munkatsch, and Kolomyja dating from the 15th century in a forested region. The houses were somewhat run down, but the people in the towns were clean and well dressed. I recalled the rumor about exteriors of buildings. Saturday is the day to go into the city from the rural areas. The churches were all locked. In 1991, when Ukraine separated from the Soviet Union, imported goods began to flourish on the black market. The importers who grew rich from the trade had to hide their wealth, but are now showing off by building large, beautiful homes. These homes stand right in the middle of rows of humble structures, rather than in a luxury compound. The rural areas have recovered from the collective farm era with good use of the land. Small farmer owned plots contain a variety of crops, orchards and grapes.
Our lunch was at a roadside rest stop, there were no restaurants the organizers wanted to use. A special treat was sent along for this lunch by Frau Tilly Nebl of Augsburg, Mohnkuchen (poppy seed cake). This rest stop was frequently used by the passing traffic. The were no trash barrels so litter was everywhere. Two well-worn paths led into a wooded area for personal relief. A pit was built into the asphalt parking area where cars stop for maintenance. It was lined with old oil cans, filters, mufflers, and trash. One fellow pulled up in his Mercedes gushing steam and opened the hood. He managed to work over some hoses, talking to us the whole time, then headed out. We picked up our Ukraine guide during the afternoon. An experienced lady, she gave us talks while the bus rolled on which seemed part propaganda and part history. She informed us there was no hot water in the Ukraine because they were saving money to pay the debt to Russia. The last part of the drive to Czernowitz was along a river, the border with Romania. It was very scenic while the light lasted but hilly and slow driving. We went through small towns and encountered the first police car. The policeman stopped the bus and asked a lot of questions.
We passed over a bridge on the outskirts of Czernowitz and saw a welcome to Bukovina sign. Everyone jumped off the bus in cold drizzle, took pictures and celebrated. A number of local people gathered around the bus to talk to us. One woman invited us to her home, saying she would get a bucket of warm milk from her cow for us to drink.
Hotel Tscheremosch was our base for three days. Upon entering the cold, dimly lit, massive marble lobby we learned that in addition to no hot water, there was no heat. We had to turn in our passports to the hotel and were told they would be returned three days later. I asked why and was told it was for safekeeping. A uniformed guard watched the passenger elevators. Hotel staff answered every question or request for three days with no, or it was not possible. Asking for stamps from the currency changing office, the surly desk clerk said only “at the post office window down the hall.” This was never open. Only the Ukraine guide could break through the staff to get things done. The meals at the hotel were served in a very large hall, with our group nearly the only people there. They were very tasty and plentiful. Our first requests for beer or Vodka went through a chain of command, but became easier to order when staff became familiar with us.
We were told the rooms had only cold water, but women would get half a bucket of hot water because, “it was appropriate for them.” The men were told it was healthy to use cold water. A chatty maid working my floor handed me a full bucket of hot water and I gave her 2 Marks, worrying later if it was proper to give away foreign money. After that she watched for me to offer hot water. It didn’t help the cold showers any. I gave her the last tip in Ukraine money and some ballpoint pens. She said they would be useful to her children. We found the people of Czernowitz to be very friendly and industrious.
Sunday morning in Czernowitz was a good time to tour churches as they were all open for services. It was my first visit to the first of numerous Orthodox churches and I immediately noticed there were no pews or seats. Most people stood facing the altar, signed themselves and bowed after each prayer. A choir was answering the prayers sung by a priest. There were no musical instruments. A number of people walked around and kissed icons or lit candles, murmuring prayers. A few panhandlers roamed freely inside and out shaking down the congregation. After the chanting and singing, two doors were opened in the highly colorful and decorated front part of the church exposing two altars. The service continued from there and evidently lasted for hours. Most of the churches are concentrated in an area of Czernowitz once considered the wealthy part. Some of them were Catholic churches taken over by the Orthodox when the Germans departed. The neighborhood was built by Germans who were active in business. After they left, their large homes became business places or multifamily housing.
St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral has the nickname “the drunken church” from the unusual twisted spires that seem to lean crooked. There, a man tried to get my attention, smiling and greeting me all the way out the door. He had sufficient English and German language skills to ask if we were from America or Canada. Werner and I called for our guide who explained to us he had a brother who moved to Chicago years ago. He lost touch with him and asked for our help. We wrote down the man’s address, and promised to publish his name in our newsletter. At St. Mary’s Catholic Church we arrived in between morning masses. A lady at the church encouraged us to return for the next Mass. The Polish Catholic Church was also in between services, and again we were recognized as Americans and the parishioners struck up visits with us. They also wanted us to stay for the next Mass. Our last church stop was at the first Orthodox Church built in the Ukraine, in 1607. The original log church burned down just a few years ago and was restored according to the exact plan, all without a metal nail. As we entered the yard, the people were leaving, but promptly returned to enjoy our company. The priest blessed and placed oil on our foreheads and we were given bread bits and water. Through our guide we had a nice conversation with the church leaders and exchanged small gifts.
On the walking tour of the center of Czernowitz, the smell of fresh bread led us into a little shop where a well worn abacus sat on the counter next to the cash box. The German architecture in the square was stunning. The buildings are still in good physical condition but in need of help. A theater with “perfect acoustics” is the center of attraction in the downtown square. Nearby is a building dating from 1901 with the original painting on the exterior depicting a scene of Bukovinian people. When the sun shines on it the mural turns to gold except for the faces. Our last stop in the morning was at the location of an Orthodox University and seminary. Our guide was spotted by another professional guide who invited us all to come into the compound, a rare opportunity. The campus had been Catholic and the chapel was remodeled for Orthodox use. A wedding party was planning to use the chapel. They saw us taking pictures and, on their own initiative, got out of the car and posed for us. The mother of the bride ran around making sure all the family were included in the pictures.
During afternoon shopping, it was fortunate we had new currency. The old currency was so inflated that the government added zeros to the bills and coins were useless. Handmade goods from Russia and Ukraine were very reasonably priced. The clerks can’t all be trusted to quote the same price each time, especially when they see a group spending lots of money, so our guide negotiated each purchase. We toured the original Czernowitz cemetery. It contained many Bukovina German family names. They have a policy of putting new graves on top of old ones if there are “no survivors left,” so along the main paths, shiny new black granite stones are replacing old markers never to be seen again. Off the main path, I saw an underground tomb cover broken and half-missing. Curious, I peeked into the gravesite and was horrified to see a skull and remnants of bones and casket. There were more broken open. Two young men dressed in uniforms sauntered by smoking cigarettes, went into a small office and sat down.
Sunday evening we were feted at a restaurant operated by a Ukrainian family. It was in a dingy part of town in the basement of an old building. At first sight I was glad to be in a group. We were served sausage, cheese, vegetables and choice of drinks. A special list of flavored Vodka was the feature of the house. A performance of very emotional and lively music and dance was delivered by a troupe that nearly equaled the number of guests in the small room. The singers, dancers and musicians worked their hearts out entertaining us. To our surprise, dinner was then served. The earlier foods were so plentiful we thought it was the whole meal. The main meal was delicious, followed by more Vodka and more of the show. The whole evening was dedicated to only our seating and they were particularly glad to see all of us from foreign lands.
As we gathered in the hotel lobby on the morning of our first visit to ancestral Bukovina German villages, a lady was there who heard about the touring Bukovina Germans and came hoping to meet us. She was born nearby and spoke German and a little English. She was resettled in 1940 and ended up in East Germany, which was a ticket back after the war. She lives in the city with her 90-year-old mother who is glad “the neck of communism was cut.” She said times are still hard. We asked about her family names and none were familiar. She asked of mine and when I mentioned Fuchs, she immediately said in German, “Fuchs you stole the goose.” I laughed at this and she asked what was funny. I told her about having heard the same phrase just days ago in Bavaria from a cousin.
The first homes we saw have been highly decorated in the fashion of the people of Romania and Ukraine. Even the roof gutters and downspouts are fancy. Virtually all transportation for the rural people, from farm chores to going to church on Sunday, are the one horse and wagon each family owns. The wagons are V shaped with a flat bottom and roll on pneumatic tires. Where they salvaged that many wheels and tires to build the thousands of wagons was a puzzle. The villages are isolated so our large touring bus was unusual. The few tourists are Germans with ancestral ties to the villages. The yards were orderly with livestock, corn and gardens taking up every inch. At our first stop a couple of men were shoeing a horse and we were all anxious to take photos. Flattered by the attention, the men made a production out of the chore, working slowly and eyeing the cameras. We drove up the mountain to a game preserve where ox likes animals roam. They are being bred to resemble the extinct Aurochs, a symbol on the Bukovina coat of arms. Wealthy German sportsmen have come here for many years to hunt the ox and wild pigs.
The Kirchdorf cemetery, taken over by the Orthodox Church, was well maintained except for the German graves. The church in Katharinendorf was nearly in ruins. We found a side door open and looked around. It had been started as a Lutheran church for those Bukovina Germans from Augustendorf who were not Catholic. The Catholic Church in Augustendorf was also abandoned. Germans with roots from there paid for a new metal roof to stem the deterioration and assist in restoration of the interior. We were led through by two neighbors. Stored in the church attic were the salvaged roof tiles, made by a factory in Czernowitz. One was given to us for the Bukovina Institute one and for the Bukovina Society. Outside other curious neighbors stood by and watched as they did at every stop. We always approached them for greetings and conversation, and they were always very pleased by the attention. Small tokens from America were received with a smile and appreciation.
Our late lunch was in Wischnitz, an active town with retail shops and many nice autos on the streets. We saw school children going home. They wore very colorful, attractive clothing and were delighted with the pens and pins we gave them. The meal was served in the community hall. Several town dignitaries were at the lunch and sent over a shot of Vodka to the tables before and after the meal.
The contrast between the peaceful rural areas and Czernowitz was evident. A policeman waived our driver over and they spent several minutes yelling at each other. The driver kept telling him we were “Amerikanski” and it was mostly bluffing on both parts. After our tours of villages, the final cold night in the hotel seemed bearable, knowing we were leaving soon. I had slept in full clothing under all the blankets in the room. In the morning we lined up shivering in the lobby to collect our passports after producing our room key.
The drive from Czernowitz to the border with Romania was short. However, we ended up waiting three hours as Ukraine guards collected passports and distributed forms to fill out detailing our money supply. The Bukovina name and heritage receives more recognition in the Romanian part. The name is used in various products such as bottled water. The Bukovina Auroch and coat of arms are displayed on buildings and monuments. Our first stop was in Seret at the Church of Holy Mary, one that reopened early after the 1989 revolution. Restoration began immediately and the interior is decorated with paintings of Christ and the Holy Family in gold trim. The artist painted himself, with easel in hand, into the center of one mural. At the cemetery we met a Mr. Kost who has lived there 54 years. He did not resettle in 1940 because, he said, “I fell in love with a Ukraine.” He was sent by the Russians to Siberia for a year and a half and returned here to live. He knew every German grave marker in the cemetery and the families associated with them. Mr. Kost said he was among the last of some 30 Bukovina Germans in town. He loved to smoke and was delighted to receive cigarettes from one of our group. Some very polite schoolgirls slowly drew near to the bus and became chatty after we greeted them. The oldest spoke good English and said she was in the sixth grade and were required to attend 10 grades. They go to school at 7:30 in the morning and were walking home for the noon meal. We saw the first evidence of dictator Nicolae Ceauscescu’s plan for the people, large concrete “Agro Industrial” communities. He had a systematic plan to bulldoze individual homes in favor of big concrete apartment buildings. Along the drive, fall crops were being gathered. Farmers were using scythes to cut the hay, which was then loaded onto their horse pulled wagon. After the revolution each farmer was given 10-hectare plots in an effort to privatize the land and have made good use of it. In the Bukovina district, they are still farming like our ancestors did over 100 years ago. The small plots are one of the reasons because machines would not be financially feasible or even possible on the steep hillsides. There are larger farms in the flatter regions where tractors and implements are used.
Romania was a contrast to Ukraine in many ways. Romania suffered a bloody revolution while Ukraine gained independence from the breakup of the Soviet Union. In both cases the new leadership was simply the old gang in new clothing. Romania was more open to promotion of tourism and showed more signs of economic progress. The few gas stations in Ukraine were old and state owned, whereas Romania had brand new gas station/restaurant facilities catering to travelers. The highways were much busier in Romania.
Suceava, our host city for three days, was a thriving community and the county seat. On arrival at Hotel Arcasul, I was greeted by Friedolin and Heinrich Fuchs, our first meeting after 6 years of exchanging letters. Friedolin took the train in from his home in Cimpolung and Heinrich hitchhiked up from his cabin near there. Their families were resettled in 1940 and were forcibly returned. We believe they are distant cousins, although they did not have much information on their ancestors. My first contact with them was when I wrote to all of the Fuchs names I found in a phone directory of the Suceava region. They were the two who replied. They were very gracious about answering my questions by mail and doing cemetery searches. I wrote ahead informing them of our hotel and asked to meet them. Heinrich operates a hunting lodge and is a forester. He has been granted German citizenship but doubts he will leave his home. After our visit, he left to host a hunter from Germany. Friedolin worked 40 years and receives a pension equal to 60 dollars a month. They were very hesitant to join us for lunch as guests because they knew it was expensive to eat in a hotel. Friedolin said one night of lodging there would cost the same as his monthly pension. They enjoyed the food and we had to encourage them to feel free to order more beer and rum. After the meal Heinrich carefully checked our bill to see that we were charged properly, but more likely out of curiosity. In a hilarious repeat of the “Fuchs you stole the goose” story from Bavaria and Czernowitz, I asked Heinrich if he had ever heard it before. He replied, without hesitation, “Yes, but it was my father who stole the goose.”
After a walking tour of downtown Suceava, we assembled in the city hall to meet the mayor. He gave us a welcome and presented me with a medallion of the city for the Bukovina Society museum. He hoped that other American tourists would visit them. In an emotional moment he asked us “why did the American Army not continue to drive east after the Second World War rather than allow the communists to occupy Eastern Europe?” We returned gifts of recognition. On the way back to the hotel, we shopped at a big department store where the manager happily exchanged 3000 Lei to one dollar out of his pocket. Our meals at the hotel were delicious and often included sausage and Mamaliga. The hotel was known as the place where the movers and shakers of the town gathered. They all had cell phones and smoked constantly, keeping the dining room in a fog. The restaurant staff treated us like family. The hotel desk clerks were a little aloof. The cost of a county map that was selling briskly to the group went up in price for people who came up later. When a clerk did not feel like selling something, as one fellow reading the paper evidently didn’t, he just said the counter was closed. When used a phone card, just after making the contact, the line was cut off at each attempt. We found out phone calls were made by negotiating with the desk clerk. He took the number you wanted to call and said “go to your room and wait,” where the phone rang with your party on it.
A group of excellent musicians played each evening at the hotel. Sometimes dancers that had toured abroad joined them. The music and dancing were very lively. There was no heat during our cold and rainy time there, and they kept the windows in the restaurant wide open, probably due to the smoke. We were told the hot water season began in October. A day later we had hot water for a brief period, which proves it was nice to know the mayor who got word of it. Thereafter the hot water came periodically, though unannounced. Our guide and interpreter in Suceava said at his place, the hot water comes from a central municipal source and enters apartments for a short time each day.
The morning drive passed through the Milleschoutz area, famous for its cabbage. After harvest, which was going on, the huge heads are layered in large wooden barrels with salt and water to stand for seven weeks. The wooden houses from the Bukovina German times are mostly intact with some covered with stucco. Newer construction contains masonry products, including used or waste concrete rubble, with stucco finish. Logs cut fresh from the forest are used as beams over the openings and roof. In Arbore it was market day and everyone was headed there on the family wagons. The ladies were dressed so well we thought a church service or some celebration was going on. A First World War monument in town with the inscription “Eroilor Nostri 1914-1918” contained the names of Ambros Gastler, Edward Stadler, Carl Raitmaier and Johan Sneller, though different spellings, all Bukovina German. The buildings reflect the Austrian period when it was developed. In Satulmare the Lutheran Church was now Orthodox, and some of the cemetery stones remain intact. The people were all friendly, invited us into their homes, and wanted to know all about us. We usually offered a handshake first, but one man would grab people and kiss them on each cheek, and another old man kissed the hands of ladies. Marginea is the site of an old famous pottery factory. They make black pottery, the color coming from the smoke in the curing. Our shoppers inundated the small store.
On our way to Sucevita to see the first of the spectacular painted monasteries, we stopped to view an ancient monument dedicated to the visit to Bukovina by Rudolf the son of Austrian Emperor Franz Josef I. This monastery is one of the best preserved and most famous of the 30 built by Steven the Great, which are still actively operated by religious orders. The monasteries were painted with bright colors inside and out and have miraculously survived the years. They depict biblical stories, the life of Christ and Judgment day. They were called “the bible for the poor” who could worship there without the benefit of being literate. A new extended roof was put on several years ago to help protect the paintings. Nuns live in cloistered buildings nearby and work at preservation chores in addition to their other duties. We saw was a nun with a long soundboard walking around the monastery. Tapping on the board in a progressively rapid manner while she strolled, she stopped to pray at intervals and continued on. At the entrance, names were scratched into one small portion of the building. These included the famous R. F. Kaindl, an author of Bukovina history, who entered his name on three trips there. Also noted were German names of Gaschler, Kohlrus, Lang, Weber, and Neunteufel, indicating pilgrimages to the site. The surrounding Carpathian Mountains are a resort destination with luxury mountain homes under construction.
We traveled on to see Fürstenthal, one of the principal villages associated with the migration to Ellis, Kansas. It is very neat and well preserved in a valley with a few new homes under construction. The school children were dressed in uniform in the church schoolyard and waved enthusiastically to us. Their teacher let them come over to see us. A small stream runs through the town dotted with domestic ducks and geese roaming freely. The sides of the wooded mountains rose steeply on each side and the roads were muddy from the rain. As Bev and Joe Augustine walked along, Joe said, ” I have a great sense of satisfaction walking in the same mud that my father walked in.”
At the former Catholic Church a young priest who held a loaf of bread and cup of salt met us. We broke off a piece of bread, dipped it in the salt and ate as we entered the church. The Orthodox interior was very ornate not so much from paintings and statuary as from cloth, wood, and icons throughout. The first church from 1822 to 1865 was a small chapel before this replacement and the original cross from the steeple stands prominently out front. Janet Gagnon said it was the most memorable part of her trip to be where her father was baptized. As always, a trip was made to the cemetery. The few good gravestones showed Gaschler, Baumgartner, Augustine, and Tauscher. About 10 per cent of the markers have survived the indifference and neglect whereas graves of the Romanians are well kept. A few Bukovina Germans graves have been restored by relatives from Germany. Bev and Joe Augustine took a picture of a hand made metal cross, with inscription in Romanian, of an Augustine born in 1906.
We ended the day in Radautz, a larger city of some thirty eight thousand people. Oscar Zoglauer was born there and Werner was able to visit his father’s house. It was a good shopping opportunity. Hand painted eggs by Romanian artists and woven goods by farm wives were a favorite purchase. I purchased a full Romanian dress outfit for my wife Pat with selection advise from Ortfried. For the final day of village tours, the group was split up into vans, cars and the bus. The bus started with a tour of Paltinossa. We parked by one of the covered wells in the front yard of a home where people stopped to drink from the bucket with a common cup. The small school was two doors away and a few children came through the gate to try out their English. Soon the whole class was there. The teacher was a little perturbed by this and told our interpreter she was sorry but they had to return. During a walk I saw two men in the small barn attached to their house beating wheat stalks with chains attached to a pole. They were separating the grain from the heads and would occasionally sweep up the grain and pour it into a barrel.
The utility poles along main roads are tall concrete towers. This is a favorite spot for storks to build their huge nests. The mileage markers in kilometers between towns still remain from the Austrian Empire along this stretch of highway. We turned onto a rocky, muddy, steep road along the Humor River to Pojana Mikuli, eight kilometers away. Although all of Bukovina was interesting, this was my reason for the long journey. My grandfather Joseph arrived in Ellis from Pojana Mikuli with his parents Josef and Josepha (Fuchs) Erbert as a young man in 1889. Joseph’s oldest brother Frank led the first group of Bohemian German Catholics to Ellis from this village several years earlier.
The bus pulled up to the Holy Heart of Jesus church. The parish priest, Cazimir Cotolevici, was in front to greet us. I had written ahead with the date that we planned to visit. He speaks German and guided us through the church and surrounding cemetery. He said he has ministered to the people for 35 years. Since the church was on a different site than the original, the cemetery did not date back to the time my ancestors left for Ellis, but did have grave markers for many familiar families. Fr.Cazimir invited our small group into his home across the street. We sat around a large table in his main room, kept warm by a big ceramic wood burning stove. He served us fresh pastries and shots of homemade plum schnapps called Zuika. It is the custom that if you set your empty glass down it will be refilled. Only by setting it upside down will it remain empty. I gave him a copy of the centennial book of the St. Mary’s Church in Ellis and told him it was their daughter church in America. We took up a collection for his church. Pojana Mikuli is one of the prettiest villages in the country. It is also very remote. The people practiced religion openly during the communist years. Small chapels or icons are in the front of many yards. A new Romanian Orthodox Church was recently built. Mr. Hoffman, his son and Mr. Schwanze, as expected, walked up the road to visit with us and also spoke in German. The elder Mr. Hoffman was born there, resettled in 1940 and then sent back without any claim on their family assets. Mr. Schwanze’s family stayed in the village during the resettlement, although his mother was a Tischler.
After the Romanian Revolution in December of 1989 I tried to establish contacts in tbe village. I wrote letters in both the German and English language addressed to the mayor and to the parish priest. I joked that maybe at least a curious postman would open the letters and respond. My first letter was from the village postman Lucaz Balak, a Polish man who was asked by the priest to answer my inquiry, which Fr. Cazimir also answered. His first reply was on a typewriter belonging to the priest, an illegal possession before the revolution. We traded letters through the years but packages I sent never arrived. He said they were probably stolen. I began sending the family bank cashier checks. The bank in Gura Humora (Gurahumoruli) hassled him before cashing the first check because in Romanian his name is spelled Balac rather than the Polish Balak. When I inquired by letter if any Germans lived in the village, he cited the Hoffmans but said they did not know the German language. His first letters were very cautious and always advised not to send cash, although I slipped in some small bills. He always faithfully answered my many questions and sent us pictures of the village and his family. The family was anxiously waiting for me, so the priest took me and several from our group to their home. Lucaz, his wife, mother and father, two daughters and a son were there to greet me. The oldest son finished his military tour and works at the post office in Gura Humora. It will be impossible for the rest of the children to find work in the village and will probably have to relocate also to a larger town. A big bear hug united us after the years of close friendship through letters.
Their home was very neat and the walls were decoratively painted. They had spread out paper on the floors due to the muddy conditions. Behind their home are six hectares where they grow all they can. They also have the typical horse and wagon and a small plow, attached on the wagon for planting crops or bringing up potatoes. His barn is attached to the house with a small house a few steps away for his parents. Inside Lucaz brought out home made Heidelbeere Schnapps, called Affenata. The priest sang to me, “may you live 100 years,” and he added, may the other guests also live 100 years. The senior Mr. Balak sang a Polish song in honor of my visit. I brought gifts for all of the family from America and a well-appreciated bottle of Vodka purchased at a state store. They laid out meats and cheese, followed by goulash and desert. As I departed they presented me with a gift and I hated to think what my visit cost them. It was very sad leaving them because they said they had expected me to stay with them. They came to the bus for final pictures and farewells.
The last drive along the seven kilometers of the only road in town revealed only two small shops, with limited hours for basic supplies, the churches and a school. A small car pulled up by the school and one of the men jumped out of the back seat and seemed anxious to talk to us, which made me a little nervous. He spoke English and explained he was the school inspector from Gura Humora. We had a great visit and I offered to send books on our Bukovina heritage to the school. We exchanged addresses and have written each other often. A lady was raking her yard with a wooden rake as one of the ladies took her picture. The lady came over and kissed her hand. Her neighbor was outside near the road spinning wool with a hand devise. The interpreter told us she makes all her household material this way. I offered to buy anything she might have available and she flatly refused. I stopped at the site of the original church where my grandfather worshipped as a boy and my great grandparents were married. The priest allowed me to take souvenir stones from the old foundation.
Back in Gura Humora we visited the church, cemetery and historic buildings. A German theater and meeting house was being restored by friends from Germany in the exact detail of its original construction. The main highway back to Suceava took us through Illischestie, ancestral village to most of the Swabian Lutherans who migrated to Ellis. It was formerly a Lutheran community with only a few Romanians and Catholics. The land around Illischestie is flatter between the wooded mountain ranges and supports larger farms. We saw the side door open at the former Lutheran Church and peeked in to find ourselves welcomed by the elders of the Orthodox community who now occupy the building. They had just returned from a funeral and offered us the small loaves of bread, which were served after the service. Each one had a symbol baked into the top like a cross, bird, or snake signifying something about life and death. A newer Orthodox Church stood on the corner directly across. The Catholic Church was located down a steep hill at the edge of town. Walking there put us in contact with a happy group of children. When we waived at the older ladies in their yards they beamed and started talking. They were very surprised when our interpreter told them we were from America and Canada. As we stood at the locked church a neighbor, the caretaker called out and held up the key. He unlocked the church and patiently let us explore every inch of the place. We learned there are no Catholics or Lutherans in the village and the Catholic Church is not used. At the cemetery everything is neat and cared for until you reach the back and see that few German markers remain. The most prominent German marker is for the Kipper family.
That evening the separate groups met back at Hotel Arcasul with many exciting stories of their visits to ancestral villages. Two men went to Arbore to find their grandfather’s flourmill. They found a mill but learned from an older German speaking lady it was built in 1935 and could not have been the mill of their grandfather. Two men on a tractor saw them and volunteered to get their nephew who was a mill operator and he took them to the original mill. They were hesitant to show them the old mill due to its condition. They had to climb through two back yards to get to it. When the ladies needed a rest room they were handed some paper and led to a clean, one-stall outhouse. The mill dated to 1880 and a family was living it. The woman who visited with them in German cried as they left. A lady and her daughter spent time in the Gura Humora area looking into their ancestry and lucked into finding a few relatives. In nearby Ostra, they learned from one of them that when they were sent back to Romania after the Romanians planned to settle them to the south part of the country. They hid out until it was safe to stay in their original home area. She did not want them to leave, squeezing her American cousin and not wanting to let go, pleading that they return. At departure, our tour lady received a picture of all the German villagers after Resettlement with the inscription, “Zo Wagna bei Leibritz Mai 1941.”
On our final day in Bukovina, Werner Zoglauer went back to Radautz for another look at his father’s home. The plot of land belonging to the family was since broken into smaller plots for homes. He met a man in the neighborhood who remembered the family and that his father Oscar had eventually moved to America. Werner ate fruit from the trees his father spoke of. He met a Romanian lady who also knew the Zoglauer family and remembered details of their work and life there. When asked to pose for a picture she excused herself, went inside to remove her bandanna and comb her hair. Werner stopped at the market where his grandmother sold vegetables. Oscar was three years old when his father died and she raised produce to help support the family. Paprika (peppers) were abundant at the market. Marinated peppers were a staple in most of the salads we ate in the Eastern European countries. At the hotel, a Canadian couple hosted their distant cousin still living nearby. It was the first meeting of anyone between the families since immigration to Saskatchewan. Their common ancestor was not resettled in 1940 because of his marriage to a Romanian girl.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
In departing, the Bukovina German communities of Dorna-Vatra and Siebenbuergen were visited along the route and a picture stop was made at a Bukovina road sign as we left our ancestral homeland. En route to Hungary our lunch stop was at Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania, a popular tourist destination. Dr. Kotzian took the group on a tour of the dungeon with the warning that if 12 people go in, only 11 will return. Homes in this area all had two large vent openings in the roofs. These were called Kukuruz (corn), and originally built into the attic to dry the grain. This feature is now being used as part of the architecture in new buildings.
Our night in Hungary was spent in Debrecen at Hotel Aranybika, an elegant, clean hotel with lots of hot water and good food. The color television sets in our rooms broadcast American shows as they were being aired in the states. We watched Peter Jennings’ evening news in the morning. Hungary has much better public roads and buildings compared to other former communist countries. They lived in what was called “Goulash Communism,” that is, not as harsh and with some economic ties to the West. In the morning we drove to Budapest for lunch scheduled at Hotel Flamingo, also a first class place. The headwaiter was quite snooty and managed to make most everyone mad at him. A local guide came on board in Budapest to give us a tour of the city. It was formerly two cities, Buda and Pest, which were separated by the Danube River. Lots of construction and renovation was evident in the city and it was bustling with tourists. It is the hub of the country with all roads; railway, air travel, commerce, and culture focused on the city. We saw the U.S. Embassy where Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty spent 15 years in exile after being arrested and tortured for his anti-Communist crusade. Much of our time was spent on Castle Hill, a high plateau where the kings lived because it was easy to defend against invaders. A spectacular church occupies a position on the hill containing relics and treasures of Hungarian kings and saints. It was so large, a complete wedding was going on in one part while the tourists filed through the other areas. Hungary was the only eastern country where we did not get a close up of smaller towns.
Our next night was at the Hotel Wende, a resort on Lake Neusiedl in Austria, just outside Vienna. A golf course was part of the facility, a rare site. The hotel was decorated with very familiar Western American antiques. In the morning we toured Monastery Melk. Students gave us tours of the chapel, library, and the ancient monuments. In town our bus driver had another of his frequent clashes with the local police who gave him a ticket for illegal parking. He talked his way out that it as usual. Rolling back to Munich, a wedding anniversary was announced by Dr. Kotzian. He and his wife Marie-Luise celebrated an anniversary while attending the Bukovinafest in July and he remembered the crowd singing the Braut Lied (bride song) in their honor. So Dr. Kotzian called me up to the mike and we sang the same wedding toast to the couple. The last of the drive was filled with speeches, good-byes and thanks to and from our tour leaders. We were deposited at the Hotel Metropol in downtown Munich. It was located across the street from the train station and the major retail area. A walking tour of Munich in the morning included several cathedrals and watching the famous Glockenspiel operate at noon. The local people were very touchy about tourists talking in the churches. In the afternoon a bus tour of the outer city and shopping completed the day.
In the evening we went to the famed Oktoberfest. The center of the fairground is an arcade of games and rides surrounded by 14 beer tents each holding 5,000 people. Seven million people attended the two-week event. We were in the Lowenbrau tent. Seating was at picnic tables pushed very close together, so dancing was in the aisles and on the tables. The lively German band, one in each tent, dedicated about one out of every three numbers to group singing. Ein Prosit was sung on a regular basis. The celebration was a great way to end a memorable trip.