Another full day with the Weichels, this time 90 Weichels total! We met for the Official Reunion at a hall in a small village not far from here. There was, of course, beer. And LOTS of delicious food. Oh, and the desserts were incredible. Ooooh so many different kinds of cakes and pies--all homemade of course. They do cake like they do cars around here: top notch!
The official meeting began with the list of Weichels that have passed away in the past 5 years since the last reunion; then a roll call of names and indication of everyone's branch in the family tree.
A local poet read a collection of his poetry written in the regional dialect which is the same that Andy's grandparents spoke to each other at home.
The local press came to photograph our little group of American Weichels along with the oldest living Weichel who is 92 years young. The outdoor group photo of 90+ people was like herding cats. German cats.
After lunch our entire party caravanned to the town of Grumbach where the family's ancestors worked as bakers for the royal family. All that remains of the old castle is a series of ancient stone caves that are still used for social functions. The church atop the cave overlooking the sprawling hills and valley below the town is brand spanking new compared to any building we've seen thus far (constructed in the 1800s).
Had another magical moment when while visiting the church the Germans broke into a beautiful choir song spontaneously. They asked us to sing for them (ha!). But Amanda saved the day and sang beautifully while the rest of us hummed along.
After the reunion, our little group returned to the 300 year old family home in Steinwenten for champagne, wine, pizza, wine and some more wine, to toast to the success of the reunion and promise to meet again in the spring.
We were given a tour of the trophy room as hunting is a BIG thing with Roland's family. Dozens and dozens of wild boar tusks and tiny deer antlers, a few stuffed fox and hares, rams; and one mammoth boar head. We even got to see the fierce looking knives they use to finish off the animals...
Side note: We learned quite a bit about the family's hunting tradition that seems so prevalent in this area. Getting a hunting license here takes a year of rigorous study and training followed by an exam. Once an animal is killed, a blood sample is taken and sent to a lab where they analyze the animal for any diseases to ensure it's safe to eat. When it comes back clean they either sell the meat at local markets or eat it themselves.
...As the sun set on the courtyard we made our way into downtown Kaiserslautern once again to wander the lively town center and stroll in and out of the enormous ancient churches, listening to various choirs perform during a special city-wide music festival.
Yet another magical moment had when wandering off the busy town square into a cavernous cathedral illuminated by countless candles, completely silent, despite the hundreds of people filling the pews. After a few minutes of basking in the glowing stillness, the choir resumed and the acoustics made it sound haunting and ancient and lovely.
The long, dark drive back to our tiny village in the country finally felt familiar and it was good to be "home."