Sep 152016
 
Welcome Back to Osthofen

From the very first email, I felt my ancestral town of Osthofen reaching out to welcome me. The email was, of course, not from the town itself but from my guide for the day, Ursula Feile from the tourist office. Her cheery note: “We’re so excited you’re visiting the town of your ancestors. We’ll show […Read more]

Jul 302016
 
A Village of Quiet Charm

My 1999 visit to Gräfenhausen (origin of my Billigmeier family) epitomizes what not to do when visiting an ancestral town. I showed up there one afternoon, completely unplanned. I stood on the street, looked around, didn’t talk to anyone (didn’t actually see anyone to talk to), took a photo of a building that looked important, […Read more]

Apr 242016
 
The History of the Schott Name

There are several theories for the origin of the name Schott. The one described by Johann Schott von Schottenborn in 1587 is that Schott ancestors originated in the town of Schotten in Hessen, Germany. He describes how his branch of the family left Schotten and settled first near Eisemroth, Hessen. They were smelters and forgers […Read more]

Feb 092016
 
Osthofen, Germany: My Ancestral Town

The town of Osthofen, Germany, was the home of the Schott family from at least1717 to 1809. It is over 1,200 years old, and was first mentioned in 784 in the Lorscher Codex (a manuscript from the Lorsch Monastery). In 784 it was referred to as Ostova. Later names included Osthoven (1262), Osthouen (1268), Ostown […Read more]

Jan 262016
 
Schotten, Germany: Land of My People

The town of Schotten is said to be the place of origin of both the Schott family and the Schott name sometime between the 11th and 13th centuries. The official history for the town of Schotten, Germany, is that an early document mentions a church “ad scotis” or “of the Scots” that is one of […Read more]

Mar 292015
 
Berlin: Then and Now

Even before I first saw the Berlin Wall in 1983, my Cold-War-era childhood filled with black-and-white movies of Soviet spies made it an ominous symbol of repression. Along with a bus full of fellow recently graduated college students who were my travel companions in July 1983, I’d spent the morning seeing West Berlin with a […Read more]

Oct 192014
 
I Need a Dirndl

  In September, my thoughts turn to Oktoberfest even though Americans usually think about Oktoberfest in, well, October. But in its German homeland, Oktoberfest begins in September. (Something about wanting good enough weather to be able to drink beer outside.) For years, Oktoberfest in München was not high on my list of travel priorities. A […Read more]

Oct 072014
 
Who Am I?

As I’ve become obsessed with the news from Ukraine, first the Maidan revolution and now Russia’s invasion, I’ve found I can turn almost any conversation with any group of people into a discussion about Ukraine and its politics. And so I’m often asked, “Are you Ukrainian?” The correct answer would seem to be no. No, […Read more]

Sep 242014
 
Musing on Languages

I recently started wondering how much language audio lessons reflect the culture of that language. I’m not an accomplished linguist, but whenever I travel, I do like to learn a few words of the local language to help smooth my way. Although I’ve always been told that “please,” “thank you,” and “Where’s the bathroom?” are […Read more]

Sep 112013
 
The Borders Are Closed

I was in Germany on 9/11. While my friends and family started their day with the news of the attack, I didn’t learn about it until evening. For Americans in the U.S., it was a day filled with unfolding horror. For me, it was a day filled with sightseeing in Hannover with my cousin David, […Read more]