June 1, 2010

History Lesson

Over the weekend we learned some interesting facts lore about our little German village.  Ever wondered about the true definition of folklore?  It is defined as (and I paraphrase here) the traditional stories and history of a culture passed down by word of mouth.  So just to be clear, don't really know if this is true or not, but I'm thinking that it's probably more trustworthy than your standard 'urban legend'. 

Just behind our house stands a somewhat modern church whose bells both wake me and tell me I need to eat lunch, and whose glistening chimes I have come to love.  Beside the church stands a grove of giant oak trees.  I have thought it interesting in passing by there almost everyday while walking der hund, that there is nothing built on this particular lot, probably 2-3 acres.  In a country and village where 'elbow room' between neighbors is not prized as in America, I found this odd.  We found the following snippet from Wikipedia and thought I'd share:

The oak grove is a stand of oak trees in the middle of [our village] almost 400 years old that is unique in Germany. The local lore has it that it came to be during the Thirty Years' War when marauding bands made it impossible for the farmers to drive their swine to pasture in the surrounding oak forests. Instead, the villagers gathered acorns together in the woods and then cast them at the edge of the village to the animals as fodder. Some acorns were worked into the ground by the creatures, leading to growth.

Oh, and just so you know, swine, or pork, is the meat of choice here.  Kind of like beef in Texas.

These trees are huge!  I had our eldest stand close to one the other day on a dog walk so you could feel its mass through a photo.  They were planted by accident around the same time the pilgrims were coming to America.  Wow!  It would be another 150 years before the U.S. would even be her own country. How much world change these have seen in the past 4 centuries!  Think of the wars! Kings and Queens!  This region alone kept switching back and forth between the Franks and the Deutsch.  Blows my mind!  If trees could talk......

Ok, now let's talk about the Thirty Years War. This is what I know. It's duration was 1618-1648. This 'war' or long succession of battles was basically over who would get to decide the religion (and therefore the ruling entity) of each city state, as Germany was then. Territorial drama and religious issues generally got rolled up together like a jellyroll. The Catholic Hapsburgs were a strong dynasty that ruled throughout this area as well as Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Until now, each region's ruling Prince had been allowed to chose the religion of each state.  The Protestants, at this point in time, were aided by Cardinal Richelieu of France, also Catholic, but was more interested in preventing the Hapsburgs from gaining power. Anyway, a long devastating war ensued. They burned and looted towns, and the peasants suffered terribly from famine and plague as farming became difficult or impossible.

So, in a nutshell, (pun intended) these gorgeous, massive, strong trees were inadvertently planted by the poor peasants here in this village who just were trying to stay alive in the middle of a war.

Now let's go back several hundred more years. We also learned, in the same article from Wikipedia, that we have a Roman Road that goes right through our town.  I've been trying to decipher which road the article was referring to as we have several that lead out to pastureland.  I think this is it. 

Our village is in the path between Trier and Koblenz.  Constantine had a palace in Trier, which also contains many Roman ruins (fodder for a post tomorrow?).  Koblenz was (and is) a bigger metro area important for commerce.  So, I'm sure the 'biggies' in history have travelled this road.  This particular gravel road just looks different from the others around the area.  The rocks are bigger, flatter, and not 'gravelly', in my expert archaeological (NOT) opinion. The other dirt roads are just that...dirt. 

So there you have it.  Once again wishing that roads could talk.  Soon after we got here and saw the many castles just right around the area, I kept visualizing medieval characters appearing out of the woods, on horseback, some with armor.  Can't you see it?  Constantine, Roman Emperor,who by the way we studied this year (and found him fascinating as he became a Christ follower and then strived to convert his empire) may have travelled this road, or Napoleon.  Can you tell I love history?


  1. Your blog makes me so happy! I was an exchange student to Germany when I was 16 and lived in Rothenburg o.d.T. for a year. It literally changed my life.

    I hear you completely about Germany being foreign and not at the same time.

    And to think. 70 years ago we were trying to annihilate each other...?

  2. I love that! "...if trees...and roads could talk..." Yes. Beautiful.


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