Archiver > BURGENLAND-NEWSLETTER > 1999-07 > 0931520049

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Subject: [BURGENLAND-NEWSLETTER-L] BB News No. 42A dtd 31 Aug 1998 (edited)
Date: Fri, 9 Jul 1999 07:34:09 EDT

(issued biweekly by )
August 31, 1998
(all rights reserved)

This second section of the 3 section newsletter features an interesting Trip

Ed. Comment-the following recent trip report covers the northern Burgenland
as well as parts of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany and Hungary. The
journey involved most forms of transportation. It's a great report. One
observation is that genealogical research is improved by spending a few
nights in the village of your ancestors. Most people on their first trips to
ancestral homes are torn between "seeing" Europe and persuing family history.
My first three week visit of Austria was followed by a five week one which
included fourteen days in the villages of my ancestors. It was the second
trip, of course, which yielded family links and data.

TRIP REPORT (from Barabara Rabbe; )
The goal of this trip was to take Mom on a sightseeing, genealogical tour of
the homelands of her parents and Dad's parents. They are as follows: Mom's
mother- Trinec(Tryzniec) in Czech Republic on the Polish border. Mom's
father-Somewhere in Bohemia- he was orphaned at 14 and raised by an aunt- He
came to Trinec looking for work as a young man. Dad's mother- Wallern,
Austria; her mother -Tadten, Austria; her father's grandfather-Andau,
Austria. Dad's father born in Pecs (Funfkirchen), Hungary; his father born in
Wurzburg, Germany from where he escaped during a political uprising.

I looked for a loose tour that would take us to the major cities near these
locations, but that would give us lots of freedom to take side trips on our
own. General Tours had a 9 day Gems of Eastern Europe package: 3 days in
Prague; 3 days in Vienna; 3 days in Budapest. They met us at the airport,
transferred us to a hotel, provided orientation and half day city tour and
put us on the train to the next city. I had made reservations from home for
rental cars and train tickets for our side trips to the towns and villages of
our ancestry. Getting to Germany was the next hurdle. It seemed a long way
to drive and we did not want to have to handle luggage on the train. I
found a KD River Cruise of the Danube that started in Budapest and ended in
Regensburg, Germany. From there we arranged for a rental car to drive to
Wurzburg, spend the night and then drive on to Frankfurt for one night as we
had an early flight for home the next morning. In all a 20 day trip.

We departed July 16 from Seattle-Tacoma Airport for Copenhagen on SAS- then
got a connecting flight to Prague. Upon arriving we were met by our General
Tours rep who drove us to our Hotel (Moevenpick). I took note of the lovely,
large old stucco homes, some in disrepair, as we traveled to our hotel. One
thing I noticed were lots of fruit trees laden with fruits of many types and
entire backyards turned into vegetable gardens with flowers included. It was
obvious which buildings the Communists built- big, plain cement apartment
buildings-very stark and unkempt and not at all fancy as were the older
buildings. There was graphite (soot) everywhere throughout Prague, almost as
bad as Los Angeles.We took a walk to find the nearest tram station from our
hotel and stumbled upon the most unique old cemetery. This was part of an
adjoining Catholic Church that dated from the 1600's as near as I could
figure out as the description was in Czech. The gated cemetery was like a
park below street level, with huge old trees and HUGE tombstones and
monuments. The tombstones that were new enough to read dated from the mid
1800's and had German names. Some had as many as five people buried under
each monument. The next day we took a bus tour of Prague with the 6 other
people from our tour group. I was totally in awe of the unique, intriguing
architecture in Prague. Everywhere you go and everywhere you look are
beautiful old buildings, ochre in color, red tiled roofs. Most have some
unusual ornamentation; they are all charming. There are castles on every
hill and huge churches nestled right in with other buildings, always with
onion domes and spires atop. We discovered a Mozart Concert just half a block
from our hotel. Everyone was served champagne before the concert in the
outdoor courtyard before entering for the operetta (all in German). We
enjoyed the view from the glass enclosed tram that took us from our hotel to
the restaurant on the hilltop above. There were so many pleasant surprises
and discoveries in Prague- a very undiscovered city. We had arranged with our
hotel for a taxi to the train station for our trip to Trinec and the porter
made sure we had the same cab driver to pick us up so we would know exactly
where to meet him. That meant an 8:00 A.M. trip to the station and an
11:00P.M. return to hotel for our cab driver.

The Prague train station was seedy, no English and you are really on you own
to figure out where to catch the train. It is imperative that you know the
train number not just the destination. There was never anyone to check
tickets when boarding but if you look hard you can usually find a sign
attached to one of the cars with the train number on it. For this 5 hour trip
across the Czech Republic, I had prepared mom and myself for much
environmental devastation. Other than the 3 nuclear power plants right in the
cities, we saw nothing but beautiful countryside all the way. The farms are
very large and red tiled roof houses are in little clusters in villages often
with a church at the center. Our guide later told us that since the end of
communism, a lot of the villages have chosen to remain in the agricultural
collectives. Everything looked green and thriving as we traveled through the
gently rolling hills of Moravia. Along the tracks here and there are little
areas with gardens and huts and our guide later told us that these were used
by the apartment dwellers
from the larger cities who take the train out after work to tend their
gardens. Everywhere were fruit trees. Being Sunday, we saw no one doing any
work in the fields but men were tending the gardens in the villages. We were
told the women would be inside cooking. Lots of families taking the train or
biking together. You can take your bike and your dog on the train. I don' t
know if you can tell the prosperity of an area by the type of hay bales but
we noticed this area didn' t bale their hay- just a large stack at the end of
a field. No sign of irrigation either but all quite green. Tricky knowing
where to get off the train, you can' t always see the sign for the town from
your car and you are on your own to figure how to open the door and get off.
I learned that you can tell the town by the time- trains are very punctual.

We hired a taxi to go from Cesky Tesin(Teschen) to Trinec, just over the
river and along it for a mile or so. We communicated with the cab driver by
writing Czech phrases from my phrasebook on notecards. We had intended to
see the Culture Museum, Trinec Museum and find my grandmother' s house- #15.
The Culture Museum was out of business, the Trinec Museum was closed on
Sunday(Czech museums are usually open Sundays and closed Mondays) and the
location of house #15 was now a restaurant and taxi company with apartments
above. The building seemed post W.W.II. There was a new, very large steel
production plant right along the river on way to Trinec and communist style
housing units in the town. It would have been nice to peruse the cemeteries
and churches in Trinec and to cross over into Poland to see Ciesyn (the other
half of Cesky Tesin-split apart in 1920) but with just 2 hours at our
destination I didn' t want to cross the border and taking a taxi was not easy
when no one spoke English. We spent the rest of our time walking around the
Plaza and shops in Cesky Tesin. I had photos of the old buildings but none
matched. I had read that the old Plaza ended up in the Polish part. Most
everything was closed except ice cream shops, etc. The people were all in
their Sunday best and seemed relaxed, strolling the streets, usually in
family units incorporating the old and the young. They seemed a very
reserved people, not much interaction outside family units but very good with
each other. This would be a great place to go exploring on a bike, pretty
flat along river and in towns at least on the Czech side of the Polish
border- It would be helpful to be able to say a few phrases in Czech because

The train trip back to Prague was uneventful save for 3 burly uniformed
patrolmen that kept parading together through the cars reprimanding folks for
having their feet up on facing seats. I never figured out what their function
was- I did not see any of these on any other train and we were not near a
border so they couldn' t be border guards. Martin our cab driver was there to
meet us when we got off the train in Prague- he got a big tip! We traveled
with our tour group to Vienna by train. Unlike our trip across the Czech
Republic the day before, this trip was very hot and these trains aren't air
conditioned. Countryside also beautiful here and more evergreens as we travel
through some low mountains. The villages and church are tucked away every
few miles and the farms are still huge as we noticed on our trip the day
before. The train slows while border guards from the Czech Republic and then
Austria pass through to check passports. In addition customs agents came
through to eye each compartment including luggage racks above seats. As we
enter Austria we see irrigation, roofs no longer all red, streets laid out
more our style rather than in clusters, a golf course, hay bales and
graphite not so noticeable.

We arrived in Vienna and were met by the tour guide. My impression was that
it was a very crowded modern city with some very large, beautiful white
buildings with gold decorations. The buildings along the Danube are mostly
post W.W.II as this area was heavily damaged during the war. The one
exception is the Jubilee Church(where the Hapsburgs were crowned).This is a
beautiful, huge church right near the river. Interesting note- the shops
across the street from the church don' t take American Express Travelers
Checks. We stayed at the Hotel Biedermeyer which was charming but not air
conditioned and Vienna was experiencing a heat wave during our stay there. We
went on a city tour with our guide- saw the Schonnbrun Palace which was
lovely and the Vienna Woods of deciduous trees. Unlike the gracious people
in the Czech Republic, I found Vienna to be very crowded, traffic a mess and
people not helpful or friendlly (with few exceptions) and most don' t speak
English, young or old.

Burgenland-Wallern, Tadten & Andau
Our car rental for our trip to the Burgenland turned out to be a luxury
Mercedes (not what we ordered) but most importantly it was air conditioned. I
hadn't intended to take the autobahn but that was the only direction our less
than helpful Budget Rental Car agent gave us for exiting the city. We ended
up completely off track but saw some beautiful country as we traveled through
the foothills of the Alps on a course for Graz. We found a helpful delivery
man at a rest stop along the autobahn who spoke some English. We went back
to Eisenstadt and then around the north end of the Neusiedler See as I didn't
want to waste time going the southern route through Hungary. Beautiful area
on western slopes of the See with vineyards everywhere. We arrived at
Wallern first. A very unique town- flat area with farms outside of town in
long narrow rectangles. Men all have tractors that they use to transport
themselves to their fields. They park them in big stucco sheds that open to
alleys behind their houses. Most of the houses are walled and connected
making a solid wall facing the street and are right on it. They each have a
front door and a big fancy garage door that opens from the street into their
houses and courtyard. Their backyards are walled in also. The crops were
grapes, tomatoes in plastic greenhouses, hay, sunflowers and some kind of
greens. Every long rectangle was a different crop so I don't know how many
each farmer tends or owns. Our guide said most construction jobs in Vienna
are done by Burgenlanders as there isn't enough farmland to support them all.
Some new houses are being built, same style as old, brick blocks covered
with stucco but not walled in.

We stopped by a lovely Gasthaus on the edge of town. No English spoken
there. I saw "salat" and asked if "kalt" and the young waiter nodded. It was
a beautiful gourmet lunch, a combination of chopped vegetables with white
cheese cubes and herbs. The place was filled with beautifully made unusual
crafts. I asked the waiter about our house numbers 118 and 119 and he turned
to the older patrons and then they explained that Wallern's house numbers
only go to 90's. He did draw me a map to the mayor's house and said he had
all house numbers back to 1700's. We drove there but there was no sign and I
find it difficult to go up to someone's house and knock when I don't speak
their language very well. The cemetery adjoining the church was quite unique.
The Austrians recycle their graves about every 20-30 years so the oldest
graves were from the 1960's. They all had large, shiny new tombstones for
each family. The vertical portion at the back had the family name and some
had pictures next to the individual's names and the horizontal portion was
about a foot high and ran the length of the grave and was used as a planter.
All were meticulously planted and cared for. I saw all the family names
that I see when I read the church records. This was a moving moment. The
main tower in town has an occupied stork nest on top- huge thing and
intricately woven with reeds. It looks like a thriving area, people of all
ages and lots of bike riding around town and some families riding along paved
road between fields and highway. Great place for biking, very flat. We saw
lots of bikes in racks on way back to Vienna, perhaps this is where they bike
for the day. Every so often along the highway, as we traveled from village to
village, we noticed a religious monument at the end of the row of crops.

Tadten was our next village and it was nearby. After driving around the town
and observing that it was much like Wallern, we went to the Zwickl Gasthaus
and had a beer. The couple who ran it spoke no English but were very
interested in our family tree and in helping us find our house numbers. They
followed up our Zwickl line and conveyed that it wasn't theirs and then they
wanted to know how long we were staying so they could help us. We said we
were going back to Vienna that night so there wasn't much they could do but
they did enlist the help of older folks to no avail. They had a crucifix on
the wall of the Gasthaus which was really a tavern. The men began filling
the tavern as they brought their tractors back to town but I didn't notice
any women patrons. Tadten also had a stork nest atop a building and this one
had 3 storks.

We traveled just a short distance before we came to Andau-same type of town.
We headed out of town the wrong way and right away there was a lookout tower
with armed border guards. Ahead was the usual customs office that you'd
expect at a border crossing. We did a u-turn and headed back. Our Vienna
guide said these were the Austrian border guards protecting Austria from
would be illegal immigrants. I was surprised that Andau was so close to the
border. When we write to villages in the Burgenland and get no reply it could
be because they don't speak English or because postage in Austria is very
expensive-over $1.00 to mail a postcard. The people seem very genuine and
eager to help and I wished that I'd been able to stay a few days and spoke
better German. I'll work on that for next time.

Hungary-Budapest & Pecs
The train from Vienna to Budapest was very hot, the countryside looked a lot
like the Burgenland and the border crossing was serious business. The train
came to a complete stop for about 10 minutes. I was asked for my passport 3
times by 3 separate people. Inside Hungary as we approached Budapest I
noticed that the Hungarian roofs are very unusual. Generally black with
pronounced ridge work and some have a roof on top of a roof and all are
rather steep. We were met at the station by our very gracious guide and
taken to the Hotel Intercontinental. American hotel right on the Danube and
most importantly it was air- conditioned. Budapest seemed quite charming,
full of graphite, however. Some larger than life churches, buildings and
monuments on the river and hillsides above. They are all lit up at night as
is the chain bridge and it's all quite spectacular. Mom preferred to stay
near the hotel so I went on the train alone to Pecs( a three hour trip
south). As I had done in Prague, I arranged for a cab to meet me at the train
station upon my return. The train trip again was miserable and unlike any of
our other trains this one was packed with people standing. A Hungarian woman
and her son were in the seats I'd reserved but since I had a seat I didn't
make it an issue and I think she was saying that someone else had taken her
seat. I didn't find anyone who spoke any English on the train or at my
destination. Pecs, on the other hand, was enchanting. I wrote phrases from
my Hungarian phrase book to communicate with the cab driver and everyone was
very helpful. Some people knew a little German and I communicated a little
in German. This was a medieval town with beautiful churches and a Turkish
Mosque that was made over into a Catholic Church. There were narrow streets
running every which way on the side of a gently sloping hill. I bought an
English book about the city and the surroundings. I took lots of pictures as
I was captivated by the city's charm, I had no idea it would be such a
delightful place. I walked back down the hill, and once on the flat, passed
through rows of Communist style housing complexes before reaching the train

I just about missed my train- the only one to Budapest that day-because it
said Krakow on the side. As time for my train approached, I walked close to
see Budapest in tiny writing. Again, the time was a good indicator for the
right train. En route the conductor studied my ticket for the longest time-
even sat down in the seat next to me to read it more carefully- I'm thinking,
am I on the wrong train? Finally, she returned my ticket and gave me a look
like O. K. Trip back to Budapest- train practically empty- where did all
those people go? Religious monuments in fields here like in Burgenland but
graveyards more like ones at home. The environment of southern Hungary looks
healthy-storks and birds everywhere. I saw 2 teams of horses and wagons
collecting hay but most farmers had tractors. My cab driver met me at the
train as I disembarked.

Went to mass next morning at St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest. Huge church,
hard to find entrance. Mass and sermon in Hungarian but service same as in
America including greeting and women without hats. Beautiful marble altars
and huge, high painted ceilings. Doors are even grandiose -can't reach
doorknob-makes you feel very insignificant. Our General Tours guide
transferred us to our KD river cruise and we spent 7 days cruising up the
Danube to Regensburg. This would be backtracking the way my great
grandfather must have come as he escaped from Wurzburg to Pecs, Hungary; most
likely down the Danube River. Going through Austria was especially beautiful
and lots of people were biking the paths on either side of the river. I was
impressed by how much of the riverbank is unspoiled and open to the public
to swim or fish, very little development along the river through Hungary and
Austria. We stopped and walked around Bratislava, Slovakia. A lovely city,
formerly Hungarian capital. A cultural center with
museums and a university. You go through numerous locks as you travel from
Budapest to Regensburg- about 14 in all. Toured the abbey at Melk- Beautiful
setting, interesting abbey, church breathtaking. The side altars contained
glass coffins displaying skeletons dressed in fancy clothes and posed. The
abbey is Benedictine and dates back 1,000 years.

Germany-Wurzburg & Frankfurt
Regensburg, Germany was our point of disembarkation and we took a cab from
the boat to the Avis Rental Office.This agent was more helpful about how to
get out of town. We traveled part way on the Romantic Road and part way by
autobahn as we headed for Wurzburg. Lovely trip, beautiful lush, green
countryside. At Nordlingen the sign for Romantic Road had an X through it
with no alternate route or detour so we stopped to find out how to get to
autobahn. Again, no English. We understood directions, however and found
our way.

I imagined Wurzburg to be a little medieval town but was surprised to see it
was a thriving city perched on both sides of the Mainz River. It was easy to
find English speaking people here in restaurants, hotels, mini marts and gas
stations but we still had a great deal of difficulty locating our Hotel
Amberger. We circled many times trying to figure out which street to take.
I walked to the Residenze of the Prince Bishop early Sunday morning and was
captivated by the gardens in the back. Some of the most intriguing gardens
I've seen : with fountains and statues and geometric flower beds; with paths
all over; with archways of climbing vines and steps ascending to higher
levels all covered with ivy. Dad said that his grandfather had been a
gardener in Wurzburg at one of the palaces- this could have been it. I went
armed with my new camera and a new roll of film but about 6 pictures into it
the battery went dead. So, I sketched the garden. Mom and I attended mass
that morning at the Stift Haug (I don't know what that means) but again an
enormous church. This one was pre baroque- built between 1670 and 1691. It
had a dome over the altar with pews on 3 sides. When the organ played your
whole body felt the vibration. Mass was all in German. The priest was black
which I found unusual in this country where the only black people seemed to
be American military personnel.

There was a lot we left unseen in Wurzburg but we were concerned about making
it to Frankfurt so we left early. We had no difficulty getting from Wurzburg
to the Frankfurt Airport via the autobahn but the car drop off is in a
basement garage with no directions for what to do after you park your car.
Thankfully there were lots of other Americans lost there also and I found a
man with an Avis sticker, didn't speak English but motioned to follow him.
Difficult airport to navigate! We took a cab to our hotel Astron- out in the
middle of an industrial area. Lots of Arab people living in Frankfurt- cab
driver, hotel management and staff. Most people speak very good English in
this area- American base nearby. Free shuttle from hotel to airport in the
morning and found our way to correct gate. One hour stopover in Copenhagen-
our connecting flight was in a different section of airport and we arrived as
they were boarding. Non eventful flight home and arrived at the same time we
left Copenhagen. Great trip- only hitches turned into adventures and lots of
memories and new experiences. I'd love to return someday.

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