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Dec 17, 2001
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December 23, 2001

(click on photos with yellow borders for larger version)

I drove from one end of town to the other. I didn't see any Weiss's anywhere. At the entrance of the town was a sign with about 50 names (I assumed it was the townspeople--strange) and there were no Weiss's. I parked my little Mercedes and walked around in the snow, freezing to death the whole time. I climbed up to the church and wandered around the cemetery. I found two Weiss tombstones which were obviously placed long after my ancestors left in the 1850's. I got teary-eyed when I saw the stones. Had they known my great, great grandfather? Did they even know who I was? I spoke to three groups of people (one didn't know any English) and a lady who just seemed amused when I told her my great great grandfather was from Dörrenbach, and then later, at the highest point in the town, I approached an older couple--looked to be in their 60's or 70's. They spoke decent English, and their name was Schilinger. They were from Manheim, Germany and were visiting his mother in Dörrenbach. His daughter was educated at a university outside of Boston, Massachusettes. They did not know of any more Weiss's living there, although they said there was one Weiss, a lady, a few years ago.

Dörrenbach Welcome Sign
Aerial Photo of Dörrenbach Sunset in Dörrenbach, est. 992AD

My Distant Family

My Distant Family

This was my tiny car, 141 inches long, 62 inches tall, 95-inch wheelbase, 67 inches wide. Weight was in the 2356-pound range. I think horsepower was 102 horsepower from a 1.6 liter 4-cylinder, 22-39 miles per gallon (I'm translating this from German owner's manual). The owner's manual said 0-62 in 12.2 seconds with its five-speed automatic--about 68% slower than Alexandria (my Accord). It had a very smooth ride for such a tiny car. When the "Sunflower Seeds Low" light came on--time to refuel--gerbils are tired.

St. Martin's Church-Fortress (below) dates from the year 1304. Gangs of robbers, roaming the local villages, made the villagers turn to fortresses for protection. Most of the Church-Fortresses in the area are in ruins, but the one in Dörrenbach is still in use. The walls of the Church-Fortress are 20 feet high and 3 feet thick. Constructed of sandstone blocks, the fortress walls form a square around the Church and graveyard (some photos were shot on my third visit in February 2002).

 My Mercedes Benz
St. Martin's Church, built in 1304Main Street Dörrenbach, Germany
The church wasn't very impressive when compared to the grand churches in Germany, but it was obviously very old, and very original.

I walked back toward my car, passed a lady riding a horse, and took a few photos when I noticed she was smoking a cigarette while riding. Did she use the horsey's head as an ashtray? It didn't seem out of place somehow.

100 horses short of a stampede
100 horses short of a stampede100 horses short of a stampede

100 horses short of a stampede

Some days you just can't find a place to park your horse
Fortress ChurchTown Hall
The Village Council-Hall (Rathaus) was built in 1590 and constructed in typical half-timbered style, with panels of masonry plaster formed by heavy construction timbers (above right). The building still houses the Mayor's Office and the Village Council. Considered today to be one of the best examples of its time, it is visited by several thousands of tourists each summer.

I walked around the village for hours, but for the most part it was desserted. It was like a time capsule (with electricity) in the middle of a not-so-modern part of Germany. In the village center, most 'roads' were actually narrow brick paths. The 2007 census put the population of Dörrenbach at around 960. I spoke to random villagers, all very friendly, but sorely lacking in ability to speak English. I did speak to a gentleman from another European country (can't remember) and finally had to head home because the sun was going down and the winding, rural roads would be icy and dangerous in the dark. But I didn't have any souvenirs. I took a good look at the church wall and saw many of the bricks appeared loose. I gave a good kick to one and it fell off. (see brick hole in picture).
This is where I got my mother's Christmas present
I quickly ran it back to my car as I passed three more groups of people, whereupon my hands were so cold they lost feeling and I could barely open the hatch of my Mercedes. The brick was like carrying a giant ice cube.

Five minutes from Dörrenbach, I decided to stop and look at my atlas. I was only about 10 kilometers from the French border. So I turned around and headed back. However, about 9 kilometers from the border there was a huge traffic accident with four emergency vehicles that looked like big blue bread trucks with blue flashing lights. I sat in a long line of vehicles that didn't move for ten minutes--didn't move at all. The sun was going down so I decided to call it a day. I turned around and headed back to Kaiserslautern, with my brick.

Me...sick in Dörrenbach, Germany
Me...sick in Dörrenbach, Germany