Last week, before daybreak on a warm fall morning, we met Don & Lori on the banks of the Rhine, where their Viking River cruise ship Alruna had docked for the day. We all piled into our rental car (Mietwagon) and headed to the hamlet of Mutterstadt, where the Weiss men who came before us once lived.
Don had connected with some city officials in advance of our visit, and we had some sense that a tour would be in the works. But we really had no idea what to expect as we arrived in the town, and parked near the Rathaus (city hall).
So, we were quite surprised to be greeted by a city counselor, a town historian, 2 members of the press! They took us on a detailed tour of the historical aspects of the city, which dates back to Roman times. We learned from our tour how the city would have looked during the Weiss’ residence there (1800s). We visited a cemetery, where we learned that the graves are repurposed every 50 years or so, due to space limits, so there were no headstones to visit.
(As you can see from the pictures, the weather was perfect for strolling around on ancient cobblestones. We fit this visit in just in time as now it is cold and wet!)
We were then taken to the town’s museum, which was surprising it many ways–first of all, for a tiny town to even have a museum seemed unusual to us (we learned later it is not, for Germany), but then, to see the high quality of the exhibits, including a re-assembled skeleton of an early man, and Roman ruins, was quite something. Then came the really big surprise: there was the Weiss name on an exhibit placard listing the names of founding residents! There is a photo below of Dashiell pointing at this.
It was then that we learned the Weiss family likely descended from a French (Norman?) founder, and so consequently, we were actually related to the city councilor as well (Herr Kegel). Ha!
Next, we headed to the basement of the city hall, where the city’s archives are kept. There were shelves and shelves of books and records there, and I wish I had a picture of the entire room. There, we met the archivist who had helped Don confirm the Weiss roots in the town. We looked at original records books that showed the Weiss brothers departing Mutterstadt. The books themselves are very hard to read, since the handwriting was quite different then, and the books themselves have of course deteriorated. But the archivist is an expert at reading these old logs.
As if that were not enough, we were then taken up to a conference room in the city hall, where we were greeted by the Mayor, and a finance person. There was a generous spread of refreshments waiting for us: coffee, juice, pretzels and sweet baked goods. We sat around the circular table and reflected. The mayor presented Don & Lori with gifts from the city, including a bottle of the local white wine.
In chatting, we learned that these “homecomings” are not unusual and that Mutterstadt had just hosted a family from Pennsylvania last week. Still, we felt like royalty, being toured and feted, with the press to boot!
There were 2 articles written about our visit! I’ve got one as a link; you can use your browser to translate. The other one is PDF that you can download: