Zichydorf Tour 2006

This is one person's account of a group tour from North America to Banat. Thirteen tour members will fly to Frankfurt, then tour by bus to the Banat area of Eastern Europe which lies in today's Romania and Serbia. The prime destination is the ancestral village of Zichydorf, known toady as Plandiste, Serbia. Zichydorf was originally a German town in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but is today a Serbian town within Serbia.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday, June 16 – Kelsterbach (Frankfurt Airport)

Today was our Rhein Cruise day. We drove to Bingen, a few km west of Mainz to catch the cruise. We booked a one way trip up to St. Goar and Helmut met us there with the bus. A return trip would obviously have been more efficient, but our trip would have been 4 hours instead of 1.5 hours and we would have been looking at the same scenery twice. Unfortunately, the day was cool, windy, cloudy, and a bit foggy or hazy so visibility was reduced. This spoiled the pictures and some of the enjoyment, but we still had the experience.

From St. Goar we drove back to Bingen and rode the ferry across to Rudesheim. Helmut dropped us off for a brief exploration of a very touristy section called Drosselgasse, and then we rendezvoused for lunch. After lunch, most of us rode a chair lift to the top of the valley where there was a large statue with a lookout and park. The day had begun to clear, so we were able to take a few pictures.

When we returned to the bus, we presented Helmut with a tip and souvenir in appreciation of all his services. We thought that it would be too chaotic at the hotel with everyone scrambling for luggage and checking in. He said that we were the best group he had ever driven, and we like to think that he meant it. He certainly seemed to enjoy himself almost as much as we did.

It was a sad parting. We couldn’t have asked for a better driver. He was not only our driver, but our guide, interpreter, photographer, and friend. We were all virtual strangers thrown together in this common enterprise and Helmut became as much a member of our group as anyone. He was continuously coming up with unexpected gestures of thoughtfulness. He had his ear to the ground and bought cough candies for those with the cough that worked its way through the group, food and candy items for us to sample, as well as responding to many other needs where no help was asked, but it was freely given anyway. In one particular incident, Betty had said that she was looking for a soccer jersey of a World Cup team for a grandchild, but had not been able to find what she wanted. Helmut came back from an excursion with an official World Cup children’s size jersey and shorts. We have particularly appreciated his efforts through the back pain which has plagued him since Sindelfingen. He has been absolutely great in every way.

From there it was on to the hotel. Helmut joined the group as they had some wine while I tried to find out what to do about my passport, which still had not arrived from Budapest. I had asked them to send it by courier, but they sent it by “Urgent Post.” I guess their idea of urgent post is different from mine. Foreign Affairs said that they could fax a letter if I could get a name and fax number at Air Canada. Much easier said than done. After listening to half a dozen voice mail choices and waiting for a long time for an actual human being to talk to, we decided to drive to the airport, which was only a short distance away. But when we got there, the counter was closed and there was no one around. The lady at information gave us some phone and fax numbers, but, with no names, Foreign Affairs would not send the letter. We went back to the hotel where I again phoned Foreign Affairs. They clarified that I could pull this off in the morning while I was checking in. Baz Fritz offered to pick the passport up if it arrives tomorrow – they have Saturday mail delivery here. He would then carry it by hand to China and send it back with some friends who are returning to Saskatchewan next week. I feel safer with that option than with using mail again. With great relief, I set in repacking for tomorrow’s journey along with everyone else.

Meanwhile, the weather had continued to improve until it was clear, sunny, and warm by supper time.

Unless there is some real excitement tomorrow, this will be the end of our story. Hope you enjoyed sharing in our experience.

Glenn Schwartz

Just for your information

We traveled in Germany on two holidays, June 5 & 15. On those days, big rigs, with some exceptions, are not allowed on the road. It makes for much smoother traffic, as they are limited to 80 km per hour and force other traffic to make frequent lane changes at other times. As nice as it is for other traffic, it is no fun for truckers or their companies, as they are stuck in truck stops and rest areas for what I estimate to be 16 to 18 hours of unproductive time away from home.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Thursday, June 15 - Mainz

The plan for today was to take a side road to visit two smaller, picturesque villages en route to Heidelberg. However, before we left Canada, Helmut Kaiser warned that these side roads can become extremely crowded on holidays, which today is, and estimating time is very unreliable. So we decided to go direct to Heidelberg and spend more time there.

After a few kilometres, Helmut remarked that we would soon pass a technical museum along the way. This was of mild interest to the guys, but we weren’t keen to amend our plan – until we drove by and saw a Concorde and the Russians’ Concorde copy along with a dozen other planes mounted on pedestals beside the highway. Within seconds, the girls were outvoted 5 to 6 by the guys. They weren’t too thrilled, but we argued that we had made many detours for one person in the last three weeks, so a detour for 5 people was easily defensible, especially when one of them was the driver. They grudgingly accepted our argument, although they weren't too happy about it, and we were on our way to the museum.

We spent a little more than an hour and were only able to do a quick walk through. There were easily 100 cars, ranging from the 1930s to recent times and including many race cars. There were dozens of motorcycles and airplanes, about a dozen railway locomotives, several dozen World War II vehicles from most of the involved nations, farm machinery, construction machinery, and too much else to mention it all. Trevor even said that he found a section on sewing machines. Not only was there a lot there, but the presentation was very high quality. We could easily have spent a full day or more, but we had a promise to keep, so, with tears in our eyes, we moved on. I would highly recommend this museum if you are ever in this area, especially if you are a guy.

In Heidelberg, we first went to Schloss Heidelberg where we finished up our leftovers from yesterday and toured the grounds. There is a terrific view of the city below from there. We then went down to the Old Town and toured around for another hour.

At 2:15 we departed for a much anticipated appointment. Before departure from Canada, I had discussed with Helmut Kaiser the possibility of meeting with him and Peter Noll. For anyone who doesn’t know, Peter Noll is the man who sorted all the microfilmed Zichydorf church records into family groups. Helmut Kaiser made Herr Noll’s work available on the web and later expanded it after we had obtained the more recent records. Herr Kaiser and I had concluded that the best plan was for him to come to Herr Noll’s house where we would join them for coffee and cake at 3 p.m.

We arrived a few minutes early and were promptly ushered in to a very pleasant patio and yard where a table had been set for our arrival. Because we were early, other people arrived after us, including Herr Schleicher (another Zichydorfer) and his wife and Herr Noll’s sons, Gerhard and Helmut, along with their spouses. Next thing you know there were five cakes on the table. Sadly, I could only manage to sample three, despite encouragement from Frau Noll. Soon wine was also on the table. By 4:30, a trip to the Biergarten seemed like a good idea, so we all went to one nearby until our planned departure at 5:30. We all enjoyed our visit very much and it seemed that they did too. It is surprising how much gemutlichkeit can be generated in such a short time by virtual strangers.

Here are Olga and Perter Noll and their eldest son, Gerhard.

This picture shows Hannelore Kaiser, Betty Harle, Helmut Kaiser, and Daryle Niedermayer.

Here are Bev Fritz, Hannelore Kaiser, Olga Kaiser, Baz Fritz, and Helmut Noll, the younger Noll son.

And here is the whole gang, including Herr Schleicher and his wife.

There were some more sombre moments to the afternoon as the two gentlemen recalled some of their post-war experiences. Herr Kaiser spent four years in Rudolfsgnad internment camp from age 7, watching people die all around him. He recalls that, at age 9, there was no water in the camp, so he took a cup down to the forbidden river and was shot at by the guards. His father had been an officer in the Yugoslavian Army and was taken into the German Army when Hitler invaded. His Serbian former fellow officers ensured that he was executed almost immediately after surrender. Herr Noll was a 17 year old soldier when the war ended. He was taken to forced labour in a Russian mine for seven years, robbing him of what many would consider to be the best years of their lives. Imagine the 17-24 year olds that you know in this situation. It was very easy for all of us gathered in the Plandiste mayor's office to say "Let's put the past behind us and work together in the future," but no one in that room experienced the times that these men did. For them, forgetting is not easy.

After much hand-shaking and many thank yous all around, we got under way about 5:45. Rain was threatening as we left and soon we were driving through a thunder shower. It only lasted a short while ans soon we were under brighter skies again. We got into our hotel by about 7 and discovered that our hotel has quite reasonably priced WLAN. I know what my evening will look like. Some of the others went out to eat, but I am so full of cake and beer, that I haven’t felt like going out yet.

Wednesday, June 14 – Heilbronn

On another gorgeous day, we began by driving to Augsburg for a short tour that turned long while we struggled to find what we were looking for. Eventually, we found the Fruggerei. This is the oldest social housing complex still in use in the world. It was erected in 1521 by the Frugger family, of whom I had never before heard. It boggles the mind to think that 500 years ago, commerce was sophisticated enough that they had built a huge fortune by financing the Habsburg Emperors and several Popes and Kings as well as carrying on a worldwide trade in whatever people traded in those days. They saw an obligation to give something back to their community and built this complex to house poor families. It is still in use today, although the residents now have to cope with about 2 million tourists a year. And the rules have hardly changed. Only Catholics are allowed, they have to promise to say several prayers every day, and annual rent is equivalent to .88 Euros.

From there we headed north to Nordlingen, with a stop for lunch at Schloss Harlburg. This fine sunny day was a big change from our first chilly picnic in France a couple of weeks ago.

Nordlingen is an old walled city that has been preserved pretty well intact. We split up to tour independently. On returning to the bus, we decided that most of us had had just about enough of these old cities for one trip, and decided to skip the next planned stop, Dinkelsbuhl, to make up some of the time we had lost in Augsburg.

We couldn’t miss the next stop though. The name “Rothenburg” had come up in some material I had shown Betty about Boglar. She wanted to check out whether her family had originated there. Betty, Trevor, Helmut, and I went to the Rathaus (City Hall) and managed to get the email address for the town historian, who was away on holidays. We also went to the cemetery for a cursory look around, but found nothing of interest.

The itinerary called for another stop at another old city, but the group was all in favour of an early evening lubricated with cold beer, so we went on to our stop for the night in Heilbronn. We checked in about 6 and had a couple of drinks followed by supper.

Tuesday, June 13 – Krumbach

We started today with a tour of Salzburg. First stop for pictures was a spot across the lake from the house used to film The Sound of Music. From there we drove to near the centre of town and walked in. Most of us rode the tram up to the Hohensalzburg fortress. We wandered around soaking up the atmosphere and taking in the various displays and exhibits. I found this chastity belt particularly interesting. Ouch!Meanwhile, Trevor and Betty went straight to Mozart’s house because the slopes and uneven surfaces of the fortress would be difficult walking for Trevor and Carol and Marge took a tour that they just raved about.

We left Salzburg about noon, grabbed a quick lunch on the road, and arrived in central Munich about 2:30. Mary Ann hiked a few blocks to the Marienplatz, where she met a cousin. The rest of us went to the nearby Hofbrauhaus for pretzels and beer. There is a World Cup game here tomorrow and the atmosphere was pretty festive. Contingents from various countries were chanting out their team cheers in great spirit. The house band played a Spanish song and the Mexican group got up singing and dancing. It was all great fun.

At about 4 we made our way to the Marienplatz to meet Mary Ann and take in the obligatory observance of the Glockenspiel. Bells play a song while carved figures on the bell tower play out a story for the crowd below. It is not real exciting, but it is pretty neat what they were able to engineer with fairly primitive technology.

From there we dropped off Frank and Nora-Anne at their hotel on the west side of Munich. They are staying here for a few days to visit cousins that Frank has been corresponding with about genealogy. As he says, it will be their first meeting in 300 years. We will meet again in Toronto on the way back.

From there we were off to Krumbach, a small town about 40 km SW of Augsburg. The booking service that I used didn’t have anything suitable in Augsburg, so I found a place nearby. The last few kilometers were a quite pleasant drive through scenic countryside that you just don’t appreciate whizzing by on the Autobahn. The town is pretty and quaint, as is the hotel.

Weather today was beautiful - warm with bright blue sky. Maybe it was a little too beautiful, as a couple of people were bothered by the heat.

Monday, June 12 – Salzburg

We began another beautiful day with a tour of the Shoenbrunn Palace and grounds. After that, we drove downtown to tour some other sites, but buses are excluded from most of downtown, so we jumped off some distance away and walked. Trevor, with his prosthesis and sore knee, and me, with a sore foot that has bothered me for the last week, decided that we wouldn’t go that far. We had some lunch, and then I went to an Internet café to check my 250 emails while Trevor nursed a beer at the restaurant. The others all went on to shop or visit the cathedral. Meanwhile, Helmut drove Jim to his cousin’s place. He is leaving us here and making his own way home later. So long Jim. It has been fun having you along.

We got to our hotel in Salzburg - one of the nicest so far - before 6. They have a nice little lounge area where we cracked open the bottle of port that Jim had left for us and toasted our departed friend. We followed that with a bottle of wine, and then went next door for some pizza and beer.

Sunday, June 11 – Vienna

We left the hotel at 8 for a short Budapest tour. It was the nicest day we had seen in quite a while, so we stopped at a grocery store for picnic lunch items and finished there about 9. We then began our tour, highlighted by a stop at the Citadel overlooking the city. At 10 we hit the road to catch the cemeteries we missed in the Schildegebirge.

Our first stop was at Csakvar, where Frank’s family had been for a while. We stopped at the church for a few pictures just as the service was ending. Helmut asked a man if he spoke German. He said no, but this other fellow does. What a stroke of luck! We thus met Istvan Beck, whose ancestors were Donauschwaben and who had a bit of a history and genealogy interest himself. We asked him if he could direct us to the cemetery. He said that he lived close to it and would come along and show us. It turned out that the old part of the cemetery that we were looking for (mid 1700s) was mostly overgrown, but that several old German graves were still maintained by descendants of the deceased.

Istvan then offered to take us to his mother’s house to show us some books that he had. He had the newest edition of the Kozma book, but also a German language history. We asked him to send us a copy, gave him some money for the job, and photographed it with a digital camera just to be on the safe side. Next thing we knew, he presented us with a Coke bottle (about 600 ml) of home brew.

From Csakvar, we drove about 6 km to Gant, another town that Frank’s family passed through. The cemetery was well maintained, but there weren’t many really old stones. Several of them had been placed to the side so the graves could be reused. We broke out our picnic lunch, the home brew, and a bottle of wine and toasted our ancestors.

Next stop, Boglar. I had high hopes for this town because I had a list of about a dozen Zichydorf families that had been here. First we stopped at the church for a few pictures. The next step was to find the cemetery. Mary Ann flagged down an older man on a motorcycle who had a young teenager on the back. He offered to lead us to the cemetery. Next thing we knew, Baz was motioning that he wanted to ride the bike, so they booted the young fellow off the bike and onto our bus. He was quite bemused by the situation, but, obviously, a little uncomfortable. The cemetery was only a couple of hundred metres away and we were soon in business.

It had turned into a beautiful day – the best that we have had so far. Even in shorts, it was quite warm walking the cemetery in the sun. Unfortunately, we didn’t find much. Again, the cemetery was pretty well maintained and many of the very old stones were accessible, but several on the edges were overgrown.

We then moved on to Szar (Saar) where Betty had high hopes. As usual, we first went to the church, where we found the Hasenfratz name (Betty’s maiden name) posted in some of the current announcements. We got directions to the cemetery and promptly found oodles of Hasenfratz tombstones, old and new. I got about two dozen Hasenfratz pictures for her and several others with other names in which she was interested. Meanwhile Frank had struck up interesting discussion in German with an old woman who couldn’t believe that we had come all that way to find our ancestors. Every time she suggested another place we should look, Frank said we had already been there. She just couldn’t believe it.

We finally hit the road for Vienna about 4. At the Hungary/Austria border I fished for my passport to be prepared and couldn’t find it. Then I remembered! The hotel had wanted to hold my passport, as the group leader, but had not given it back at checkout. I know that I have to take responsibility for my own passport, but the girl behind the desk was such a ditz. They do this several times every day and you would think she would know the drill. Other members of the group had numerous other complaints about her attitude, competence, and speed. I don’t think this joint will be on our list of places to come back to.

Anyway, neither the Hungarian nor Austrian immigration asked to see our passports and we crossed the border without any difficulty. I later arranged to have the passport sent ahead where I can pick it up later.

Entering Austria, we again encountered a forest of about 200 wind turbines in groups of 10 to 15 at a time over a few kilometers. It is quite amazing to see so many of them working at one time.

We were settled into our rooms before 7:30 and went out to eat at 8, returning after 10.

Saturday, June 10 – Budapest

Stasa and his wife, Georgina, took us on a short walking tour of downtown Novi Sad, followed by a trip to the Museum of Vojvodina. The museum was quite impressive. Our English tour lasted about 1.5 hours even at a hurried pace and we could easily have spent longer. From there we went to the Petrovaradin Fortress on the other side of the river. We had an excellent view of the city, but it started to rain and we did not tour much of the fortress itself. Stasa led us to the highway and we set off for Budapest.

The light rain at the fortress developed into steady moderate to heavy rain as we traveled north until the Hungarian border where it started to clear. Hopefully, this is a portent of things to come.

We were settled into the hotel before 6 when we were expecting to meet up with Laszlo Rudolf. Unfortunately, Laszlo was unable to come, but Beth Long, his research partner from San Diego who now lives in Budapest, met us. She also brought along her young cousin, Tomas, an Electrical Engineer working on his Doctorate who is also a keen genealogist. They suggested a short subway ride to a Hungarian restaurant in the heart of downtown. We had a very entertaining evening of good (but too much again) food, wine, live music from a violin and accordion combo, and interesting discussion. When we finally left about 9:30, we stepped into some light rain. So much for our good portent.

Mary Ann, Daryle, and Marge stayed behind to explore downtown with Beth and Tomas while the rest of us headed back to the hotel. When we got off at the station, we suddenly realized that we had followed Beth without paying much attention to where we were going. We asked an old fellow for directions. He seemed to know where he was going, so Carol, Sue, and I went along. The others weren’t as confident and stayed behind to get better directions. That turned out to be a good choice, as our guide, as sure as he sounded, was taking us in exactly the opposite direction. When we were finally able to get away from him, we headed back to the station, got our bearings from a map on the wall, and caught up to the others at the hotel.

Friday, June 9 – Novi Sad (Neusatz)

Helmut, Stasa, Mary Ann, Sue, Jim, and Daryle joined me at 7 a.m. to check out Kudritz before we left on the planned itinerary. We got some pictures of the church and cemetery, but most of the headstones were toppled face down, so I didn’t get pictures of the ones I hoped for, although I got a few that may be of interest.

The weather has been cloudy, wet and cool again for the last few days and today was no exception. It rained again overnight, so the long cemetery grass was soaking wet and there were numerous puddles to be avoided. We had hoped to pick the others up at 8 and drive to the top of the Werschetz mountain for a panoramic view, but the mountain was shrouded in cloud and we felt we would be short of time, so we set off.

Some of the group wanted streetscape pictures of Plandiste and pictures of specific houses, so we drew up a plan of attack and dropped a few people off to cover their routes on foot, then picked everybody up again. We set off in the rain, passing through Lazarevo (Lazarfeld) to a much too big lunch in Zrenjanin (Gross Betschkerek). We set off again after 2 p.m. for Rusko Selo (Ruskodorf) where Jim’s cousin had been the parish priest at the end of WW II when he was sent to the Russian coal mines for five years. (He wrote a book about his experiences that Jim has translated into English. It makes an interesting read.) Jim got a few pictures, and then we were off to Ravni Topolovac (Kathreinfeld).

We followed the directions of one of the locals, but missed the cemetery. Then somebody noticed the steeple of a small chapel poking up above the scrub brush and trees. We waded into the bush and found a few tombstones and some crypts that had been opened and the bones scattered. It was very sad. Our search was almost totally fruitless, as the area was so badly overgrown that it was very difficult to penetrate and impossible to see more than a few feet. During our search, Stasa learned from a local that they have been raising funds to clean the place up and hope to begin this summer. They feel bad about it and they can’t get the local authorities to do anything.

By this time the weather had begun to break and it was turning into a rather nice day.

We headed back through Zrenjanin to Ecka (Etschka). There was a large, beautiful old church there that seemed to be more or less unused. Frank did not have much luck in the cemetery, but the Minnesota girls and Daryle had a stroke of luck just before we left when they found a Schaag relative.

From there we set off for Knicanin (Rudolfsgnad) one of the most notorious post-war internment camps in which thousands died. Frank’s family had lived there before they moved to Zichydorf. On the way there, passing through the village of Perlez, Stasa spotted a Serbian Orthodox priest that he knew and we stopped to say hello. (It turns out that he is the son of the priest we met in the Mayor’s office.) The priest insisted that we drive him to his car so that he could lead us to the Rudolfsgnad Memorial, where we stopped for some pictures. Then it was off to the cemetery where we found that the German section had again been allowed to become overgrown and impenetrable. Maybe it is better that way. At least it is relatively safe from destruction.

It is interesting to note that the German parts of the Romanian cemeteries were relatively well maintained, while the German parts in Serbia had been allowed to return to nature. This is probably due to the fact that the German population of Serbia has been gone more than 50 years, while the Germans in Romania have mostly left in the last 15 years and there are still some left behind to care for the remains of their family members.

From the cemetery, we were led to the site of the former Catholic Church, now a park, and the school that Frank’s father had attended. Finally we set off across the Theiss River for Novi Sad, encountering a few hills again on the mostly flat plain. We arrived at the hotel about 8, had an excellent, but too big meal, and retired to our respective rooms about 10. I took a walk and found a children’s festival underway. They have numerous horse statues in the streets, painted by artists, much like Regina’s Pigs in the City art competition. I think the horses are just a little bit more elegant.

Thursday, June 8 – Vrsac

Apparently, there were a couple of fuzzy heads this morning, but I’ll never tell who – unless the price is right. The included breakfast today was a little one dimensional – or should I say three dimensional - meat, cheese, and eggs with a stack of white bread on the table. Until now breakfasts had included cereal, fruit, pastries, and a selection of breads and juices. They have a different eating style here.

Our goal for today is our main goal for the whole trip – Zichydorf. We left at 8:30 for our 9 a.m. meeting with Monsignor Eros Lajos (pronounced AIR ohsh LIE ohsh). Here he is with our guide, Stasa. He is the Hungarian priest resident in Jermenovci with responsibility for the several churches in the area. He was tickled pink that we would come all the way from North America to

see him and his churches. He was just glowing.
With him was his cousin, a younger priest from Werschetz (Msgr Lajos is age 75). For an hour he addressed us and answered our questions, and we toured the church, took pictures, and examined the beautifully embroidered vestments. From there we went to the cemetery. We found many headstones of interest, but, as Sorin had warned us, the cemetery is gradually being renewed as stones of the present inhabitants replace the old ones.

We had to break off our search after 11 as the Mayor had asked to see us any time after 10. Here he is with the local Serbian Orthodox priest and Msgr Lajos. We had a very excellent meeting in which he offered us any help that it was possible for him to provide within the resources that he had. He might not have all the answers or documents that we seek, but he would help us to find them as much as possible. He and we acknowledged that some unpleasant things had happened in the past, but that we should learn from our history so that it does not repeat itself and try to form new, mutually beneficial bonds of friendship for the future. This got us all thinking about some possibilities for when we get home.

Also present were the town’s cultural history representative, the Serbian Orthodox parish priest, and a lady who is translating the town history into English for posting on the town’s web site. After mutual presentations of gifts and some group photos, we were off for a snack and Msgr. Lajos’ home, or so we thought. We were treated to a lunch of several kinds of local sausages and cheeses, some biscuits, wonderful hot house tomatoes, and dainties. Oh, I almost for got the delicious Apricot brandy. I think he could have sold a few bottles of that to this group also. We presented him with a book and some cash form the ZVA and from the travel group. He presented us each with a CD of pictures of Zichydorf and Heiducica (Heidheschitz) churches and a CD of corrections and updates to the digital church book records for the ZVA.

We thought we were back on the tour, but we soon found that the good Monsignor had hijacked us. We had planned to hardly slow down for Heideschitz, but he took us to the small building that they were renovating into a new church. We were met by some of the parishioners, including the lady that looks after the town “castle,” the large house of a previous noble or wealthy man that they are renovating. From there we went to Duzine (Setschanfeld) where a couple of people had hoped to find some treasure, but the old lady that we questioned said that it was almost inaccessible and badly overgrown. Next stop – Vilika Greda (Georghausen/Gyorgyhaza) where we again had high hopes, but there is no cemetery there and most of the things we wanted to tke pictures of were gone. Msgr. Lajos had prepared another welcome for us by local parishioners who showed off their new, although small, church, seen above and at right. Again, snacks were on offer all around. Finally, we drove the Msgr. home and headed back through Zichydorf to Velika Gaj (pronounced Guy). We found the Serb cemetery after a hike down a long and muddy path. Meanwhile, Stasa had found a local who took him to the Catholic cemetery, but it was heavily overgrown and inaccessible. We then returned to Zichydorf to snap photos of some more headstones and do some rubbings. It is really kind of silly, to record all this info that is probably in the church books, but, you get so excited being there that you want to capture the moment and be sure that you don’t miss anything.

We returned to the hotel about 8 for a quiet night of blogging– at least for me.

Wednesday, June 7 – Vrsac (Werschetz)

By the time we got the group rounded up and filled up with gas, we weren’t on the road until 9 a.m. We were off to Bethausen, a village founded by migrants from Zichydorf and some other villages in 1883. Most of the way was on the main road from Timisoara to Bucharest. Traffic was heavy and the road was as bad as the side roads we were on yesterday. It just wasn’t built to handle this volume of heavy truck traffic. It was under repair for most of the length of our trip, but there is still a long, long way to go.

As we approached Bethausen we began to see hills again for the first time since the Schildegebirge with small mountains of the southern Carpathians in the distance. Bethausen lies in these beautiful rolling hills. We found many tombstones from Zichydorf families, especially Niesners.

We returned to Timisoara by a different road that was in a little better shape, but which passed through more small towns, so the timing was about the same. We had to forego the tours we had planned in Timisoara because we were short of time, but we did grab a quick lunch on the main square. From there we set off for Serbia via Moravita (Morawitza), where my great, great grandfather was born. Unfortunately, Sorin advised that the cemetery there is almost unreachable and, if you could reach it, it is very grown over. So I contented myself with a picture of the church.

I must say that Sorin is everything he is reputed to be. He was very professional and he is knowledgeable about many subjects including history, the economy, and the political situation then and now. And he was even able to demonstrate considerable patience with our wayward flock; although I am sure we had him muttering to himself.

With things going so well, we were bound to hit a bump in the road sooner or later, and it happened today. The Serbian border guard said that our bus’ insurance wasn’t valid in Serbia and that Helmut’s bus driver ID was not sufficient identification. We waited on the bus for more than half an hour until Helmut convinced them to let us cross to the nearby bar, where we had been watching our next guide, Stasa Cvetkovic, pacing back and forth waiting for us.

Finally, after a little more than 1.5 hours total and some phone calls, Helmut was able to prove that everything was above board and we were off again at about 5:30. (We gained back the hour that we had lost in Romania.) Our first stop was to be a wine cellar in Guderica (Kudritz) where my grandmother’s family had made wine. However, Stasa found a better deal at the neighbouring village of Veliko Srediste (Gross Srediste). We went to the private home of Dorde (pronounced Georgie) Kristov, who was born in Kudrtiz to Macedonian parents. Dorde had 2.5 hectares of vineyards and produces 5,000 to 6,000 litres of wine per year. He has a wonderful

wine cellar below the house. (It is his mother-in-law’s house and he says that he married his wife for it.) We all went down to the cellar to taste 10 different wines and several homemade cheeses, sausages, and bread. Then we all went upstairs to a party room where we all had more of the wine that we liked the best and more food samples. When it was time for the sales pitch, we were well primed to buy his wine for 3 Euros per bottle and 10 Euros for a bottle of port that had the knowledgeable drinkers raving. The crowning touch was that Marge picked up the 5 Euro per person tasting charge as a business expense for her liquor store.

By the time we got out of there, it was 8 p.m. and it had started to rain. No Kudritz cemetery today. We proceeded to our hotel in Vrsac in a very god mood indeed.

The hotel was OK, but not quite up to western standards. It was a little worn and the materials were on the cheap side. For instance, when I tried to open my room’s door, it seemed to partially open, but got stuck. I pushed a little harder – just with my hand – and the whole door jamb fell to the floor. It was a little smaller than 1 inch by 1 inch and made of that pressed paper board. Not much of a deterrent if an intruder wanted to get in.

Tuesday, June 6 – Timisoara (Temeschburg)

Soon after Gyor, we diverted off the main highway to the early German towns in the Schildegeberge. The land had been flat as a pancake (Yes, even flatter than Saskatchewan) since before we entered Hungary. Suddenly there is this narrow band of beautiful green hills running NE-SW. We drove down the western side, then through a pass. We detoured off the main road on not much more than a cart path to the town of Kozma, where Mary Ann hoped to find connections. As we drove up the narrow road, we wondered, “What do people do here?” as there was no agriculture apparent. We soon learned when we ran into a couple of logging trucks.

At Kozma, we hit the jackpot for Mary Ann. We found about 10 stones in her Kindl line. Unfortunately, we got ourselves well behind schedule and had to leave three other villages to catch on the way back.

The land remained as flat as a table top all the rest of the day. We drove across Hungary and into Romania at Kiszombor/Cenad where Helmut paid 50 Euros for a 9 Euro road tax receipt. We were about an hour behind schedule, or so we thought. It turns out that there is a time zone change also, and we were actually two hours late and it was just after 4 pm. Undetered, our guide, Sorin Fortiu stated his determination to complete the planned five hour program. Forgive him for his naivete, for he soon learned that it takes a pack of border collies to keep this crowd on track!

The next town we passed was the old Gross St. Nikolaus. It was very prosperous and booming with new jobs as several international companies are building facilities to be on the doorstep of the EU without having to be inside and follow the detailed rules. This town was not of interest to us, however, so we went on to Tomnatic (Triebswetter), where Jim and Frank both had interests. Once we were off the main highway, the roads were so bad that they make Saskatchewan’s look like they are paved with gold. The villages were very poor and poorly maintained. The houses and streets were all in need of major repair. The main vehicle for transportation and work is still the horse drawn wagon.

We spent quite a while in the Tomnatic cemetery and Jim found a few headstones of interest. He also thought that he had a pretty good handle on the old family home, but we were unable to locate it. Too much had changed.

Here is an example of a Donauschwaben house that Sorin figured might be an original. Note that the door from outside opens onto a covered porch that runs the langth of the house.

We went on through Lovrin and Gottlob to Grabat (Grabatz). We took a few pictures of the church and moved on to Comlosu Mic (Ostern) via Jimbolia (Hatzfeld). Frank had some pretty good luck here and found a few stones of interest. Then we backtracked to Grabatz and scouted their cemetery before moving on to Lenauheim, Bulgarus (Bogarosch), and, finally, Timisoara about 10 p.m. We hadn’t had anything to eat since a junk food snack about 11 a.m., so most of us went to the hotel restaurant and didn’t bed down until close to midnight.

Timisoarsa is a bigger city than I thought. It is about 400,000 people by itself and about 500,000 including the immediately surrounding suburban areas. The hotel was remodeled only a couple of years ago and was quite modern with front desk staff that were fluently bilingual.

On the bus today, Sue told us that it was her birthday and that she couldn’t think of a better way to spend it. Later, the hotel noticed her birthday on her registration and sent up a complimentary bottle of champagne. With the language barrier, she didn’t know what to make of it, but finally accepted it from the insistent hotel employee.

Weather today was pretty decent with some sunny periods and mild temperatures.

Monday, June 5 – Gyor, Hungary

Today was pretty uneventful. We hit the road at 8 and drove all day past Augsburg, Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna. With stops for rest, food, crossing the Hungarian border, getting vehicle permits for Austria and Hungary, and changing some money into Hungarian Forints, we only reached our hotel at 7:30. After a late, but delicious Hungarian meal, we all headed off to bed in anticipation of a 7:30 a.m. departure tomorrow for a very busy day. This research is hard work!

Here we are at the Hungarian border. From left to right, Baz, Frank, Jim, Nora-Anne, Marge, Daryle, Carol, Trevor, Betty, Mary Ann, Bev, and Sue.

We passed by some major tourists stops today, but our mission now is to get to our ancestral homeland as quickly as possible. We will take in some of those other stops on the way back.

The scenery today was right off of postcards or jigsaw puzzles - gently rolling to somewhat hilly through southern Germany, beautifully green through the foothills of the Alps in Austria, and

onto the flat plains with many bluffs of trees in Hungary. Everywhere we have been has been beautifully green, but I guess that should be expected for spring. They have had a lot of rain here also. The rivers are all filled to overflowing. In Hungary there was standing water in some of the fields and the river through Gyor is over its banks, although contained to a floodplain by dikes and catchments areas.

The weather has also been pretty consistent – cool and mostly cloudy, with showers. So far the showers have been either light enough or timed well enough that they haven’t hampered what we wanted to do.

Our hotel tonight is so quaint that it deserves special mention. It seems to consist of several buildings tied together or several additions added on to one another. There are so many unexpected turns and corners and uncounted short stairways of two to five steps up or down at a time. It is decorated with wood trim in some places and wood trim with cloth in others. It has a couple of cozy little sitting areas and numerous racks of deer antlers hung everywhere.