I've been back in Australia for nearly two months now, so I'm sorry for the delay. But I am determined to finish this, even if it nearly kills me...
Monday 19 Sep 11 - Tuesday 20 Sep 11
I got off the train at Mannheim, a relatively small industrial city in Baden-Württemberg. It’s not in many travel guides, being mainly a business city, but it was one of my two stops in Germany because of its significance to the Heselev family.
My grandma grew up there in the 1930s, before she and other members of the Liebhold family came over to Australia.
I wasn’t expecting much of the town itself, if I’m honest, but it really surprised me. Wide, quiet streets, friendly locals, lots of green space, and the Wasserturm, or water tower, a major site in the town – it was a great place to wander, and a really pretty place.
I had a look at Nietzschestraβe, the street where their house was, and tried to find the Bettengescheft, the bedding business that was sold in 1938 (and has since, of course, been built over numerous times). I also had a stroll in the city centre, which has an interesting grid system, which, in a very organised German fashion, has streets labelled with letters and numbers (e.g. E4) rather than names.
I had dinner at an Italian restaurant – but don’t worry, I had penne with wurst (sausage), so there was a German element. I also had the local soft drink, Spezi (not pronounced speh-zee, but shpet-si), a curious but delicious mix of Coke and Fanta.
The following morning I walked again to Nietzschestraβe, Nana’s street, and managed to find the house that she grew up in. I imagine it didn’t look like this apartment block when she lived in it, though.
Another short walk took me to Luisenpark, a great park that charged an admission fee, but made it worthwhile, with animals, huge open spaces, multiple playgrounds for kids, cafés, kiosks, fountains, themed gardens, and best of all, a minigolf place. Awesome. I had to have a game.
I spent a good two hours taking it all in (not minigolf, the park) before I moved on to my next stop.
It was a fair walk across the river to the Jüdische Friedhof, the Jewish Cemetery, where some of my distant relatives are buried. I found one straight away (well, she might not be a relative, but she has the surname ‘Liebhold’), but had no idea how many there were or where they were. After wandering around for what seemed like hours, I found a small, elderly man, who didn’t speak English, but I managed to get my message across and he dug out a list of everyone buried in the cemetery, including four Liebholds. I managed to find three before the cemetery shut – whether they are relatives or not I’m entirely sure.
I walked back into the centre of town, on another quest, this time to find the site of the old Liebhold Bettengescheft. I had been told that it was now a fast food shop, but I made an important discovery – while the site is next to a McDonalds, it is actually now an optometry store, one of those chains. Still, better than Maccas.
I bought myself a pretzel and walked back to my accommodation, munching into a schnitzel for dinner. German food is cool.