Wednesday afternoon we ventured over to the Museumdorf Cloppenburg to continue our history lesson. The museum simulates a 16th to 19th century Niedersachsen village. The buildings on display have been dismantled from various locations around Niedersachsen and have been meticulously restored and rebuilt on-site. I think both Korey and I got more out of this museum than the Deutsche Auswander Haus, probably because it showed us a better perspective relative to the living conditions our ancestors experienced.
There is a Bäckerei on site, and it was here that we got a taste of Schwarzbrot, the bread of our ancestors. It was explained to us that white bread has a shelf life of 2-3 days, but that Schwarzbrot could stay on the shelf for 10-14 days. This bread is extremely coarse and we saw murals of bakers mixing the dough with their feet, in a fashion similar to mashing grapes.
In the feudal system my ancestors lived in, each village had a few classes of citizens and their houses reflected their status within the system. While the size and quality of the house may have varied, the general design and layout was almost always the same. In the back of the house was the “Diele”, stalls for the horses and cows. Yes, they were in the house. This large room often included a very small room with a bed which provided living quarters for the “Heurling” or what we would call the “hired hand”.
The next room was a large room with a stone hearth and a stone floor where the cooking took place over the fire. Because the fire was almost always burning, meat or sausage was often hung well above the hearth where it would be smoked and cured.
Finally in the back of the house would be the living quarters which often included a more formal dining area. No space was wasted and the kids slept in bunks recessed into the walls. Behind the house were meticulously cared for flower and vegetable gardens.
That evening we had dinner at the Sander residence and then drove with Friedhelm to his house in Gross Ringmar where we stayed for two nights. Korey was tired and fell asleep early, but Friedhelm and I stayed up until 2:00am talking about genealogy and history. Friedhelm is a walking encyclopedia and an incredible genealogist. By this time I was starting to feel a little more comfortable with my German and learned a lot from him, as I suspected I would. What I hadn’t really anticipated was that during our short time together, we became good friends. Thank you Ernst-Dieter and Friedhelm for your hospitality and for your friendship.
I don’t know what Ernst-Dieter and Friedhelm were looking at, but obviously the dumb American missed it! Oh, by the way…Ernst-Dieter…if you see this, I think you have one piece of wood that’s just a little out of place.