Mannheim Ancestral Tour
Germany: Main River Tour – Mannheim Ancestral Tour 53 Km (Tue 30th May 2017)
Weather: 16⁰C min – 29⁰C max, partly cloudy
“To us, the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their resting place is hallowed ground” ~ Chief Seattle
What started off as a quest to trace my ancestors, ended up as just a superb day of cycling. My route was mostly on cycleways that we can only dream about in Australia and took me through unbelievably picturesque countryside, all kinds of crops and orchards, as well as several enchanting little villages with lots of timber-framed houses adding German character.
When I created a cycling route around the Rhein-Neckar-Kreis district where my mother’s paternal ancestors, the Frauenfelders, came from, my expectations were unclear. There was a remote possibility I might find the graves of my great, great, grandfather (Friedrich Frauenfelder) or my great, great, great, grandfather (Johan Mathias Frauenfelder) somewhere in the Mannheim area, but I realised it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. What I really wanted to do was just experience for myself the countryside and villages (including Käfertal, Feudenheim and Großsachsen) where they lived, worked and died.
Surprisingly, each of the cemeteries I visited (Friedhöfe Mannheim, Friedhöfe Kafertal, and Friedhöfe Hohensachsen) had no old graves that I could find (only burials post World War II). But what incredible cemeteries I found them to be. Nowhere have I ever seen graves maintained in such good condition and tended to with such loving care. No artificial flowers were to be seen anywhere, in fact most graves had been turned into well-maintained gardens that would rival any botanical gardens. The cemeteries even have racks of watering cans scattered around at various points for visitors to tend the graves of their loved ones.
What made today so special was the emotion I felt riding through the districts where my ancestors used to live. One of the highlights was the stunning village of Großsachsen, surrounded by hillsides covered with grape vines. This is the area where the Frauenfelders would have acquired their vine-growing and wine-making skills that led to them to migrating to Australia in the mid 1800s.
The following article appeared in the Ovens & Murray Advertiser on 24 May 1866:
“It is about 15 years since the first small attempt at vinegrowing was made at Albury by Messrs Schubach, Rau, and Frauenfelder, Germans, who carried from their fatherland a just appreciation of the value of the vine, and subsequent experience has proved that in this, their adopted country, they have not only turned this knowledge to their own advantage but to the benefit of the colony. Decided success has crowned the labours of those pioneer winemakers, and the example set by them has been followed extensively. Numerous vineyards are now planted through the Upper Murray District. The primitive system of working the vineyards by manual labour has been in part superseded by the introduction of steam and horse power.”
The other stand-out villages I passed through were Schriesheim-Altstadt (where I enjoyed a 5-scoop icecream sunday) and Ladenburg. As I was riding along thinking what a perfect day of riding it had been, I looked at the sky over Mannheim that had suddenly become black. With about 10 Km still to go I started pedalling like crazy, but there was there was nowhere to escape the torrential rain and hailstones that started falling. I was totally unprepared for this and all I could do was shelter under a tree, probably not wise with all the thunder and lightning about.
Ahh … the joys of bike touring!