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January 4, 2002
Kommern: Das Rheinisches Freilichtmuseum (Russell)

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Rheinländer erobern Amerika!

During our travels, we try to alternate travel/excursion days with rest days, so that we do not wear Cameron and Joss out too much.  Because had we spent a long day in Darmstadt yesterday and would be driving all day tomorrow, January 4th was supposed to be a day to remain at the timeshare and play in the snow.  However, we discovered that the Freilichtmuseum ("field museum") in nearby Kommern is currently holding an exhibition called Rheinländer erobern Amerika (modestly translated as "Rhineland Conquers America"), about the Germans who emigrated to America a century ago.  This seemed like a perfect accompaniment to Gail's current research into her family roots, so we made the 15-minute drive into Kommern and spent half a day there.

The Freilichtmuseum was huge, and the exhibition itself was excellent, once we tracked down an English pamphlet.  The exhitibion comprised three different halls.  The first hall discussed the situation in Germany that made people start leaving in the 18th century.  The boys were not enamored of the very graphic wax dummies of people being persecuted for their religion -- Joss referred to it as the "house of horrors" (the ongoing audio soundtrack of a man screaming in pain while being tortured did not help).

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Russell mediating between the Europeans and the Amerinds

The second hall discussed the long voyage across the ocean, and this was the most interesting for all of us.  In a full-sized replica of a ship's hold, we were able to see how cramped and miserable the emigrants were -- entire families were often stuffed into a single bunk below deck in steerage.  Cameron especially enjoyed a film (thankfully subtitled in English) that included historical footage of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island.  The third hall discussed the new world of the immigrants, where the boys' main memory is of two wax dummies arguing (in English) over a fence that one had erected between their properties.

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Gail in the ship's hold, wondering how her ancestors endured this

Overall, the day was a wonderful educational experience for the boys (and Gail) to learn more about their German roots, and a fitting finale to our sojourn into Germany.  When we arrived back at the timeshare in the afternoon, Russell took a long walk through downtown Gemünd (very quaint) while the boys had one last snowball fight, then Russell and Gail took a last dip in the sauna.

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A last look at downtown Gemünd


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