Roselyn "Roz" Jackson's recent birthday was of sufficient importance that her children and grandchildren promised Roz and her husband, Charlie, a visit to her grandparents' far-away homes in Slovenia this fall.
Charlie traveled extensively years ago in his employment with Taylor Winfield and could have made the plans, but their son, Kurt, his wife, Melissa, and three grandchildren (Benjamin, Chloe and Madeline, ages 7, 9 and 12) from California took the initiative and planned the itinerary, making all the reservations.
The Jacksons, of Cortland, flew from Columbus to Munich, where the rest of the family joined them. A number of points of interest were visited with the help of an eight-passenger van before reaching Slovenia, the primary objective, further to the east.
"The first real point of interest for me," Roz said, "was an hour-and-a-half, 50-mile drive southwest of Munich, in the German state of Bavaria, to see the seven-hour-long, world-renowned passion play at Oberammergau."
The play, in an open-air theater, is only performed on the 10th year of every decade. Tens of thousands of people attend. The Jacksons planned that right!
The Jacksons returned to Munich, where the Oktoberfest was in full sway. It purports to be the world's largest fair with more than 5 million people attending. The current Oktoberfest marked the 200th anniversary of the event and commemorated the marriage of Prince Ludwig, later King Ludwig the First.
Roz wanted me to be aware of the glockenspiel in the facade of Munich's City Hall. I was aware, as many are, of its special historic and mechanical interest, though I have never seen it other than in photos. The attraction is that moveable figures perform a miniature tournament every day at 11 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. Another note about the city was that though it was bombed out during World War II, the citizens chose to restore the damaged buildings rather than build new.
"The flower boxes of red geraniums under windows were lovely," Roz said. "We went up into the steeple of St. Mark's church to view the entire city.
"The German language was a challenge for us. We were, thankfully, assigned English-speaking waitresses at restaurants. The food was delicious, and the service was good," Roz said.
The inspiration for the design of Cinderella's Castle at Disney World in Florida is Neuschwanstein Castle, out the autobahn a way from Munich. It proved to be a worthwhile stop, especially for the children. King Ludwig II, the grandson of the guy who was involved with the founding of Oktoberfest, completed the ornate castle in 1892. The days of the kings are gone, but some of their efforts from the past are still with us to enjoy.
The group moved from the fun and fantasy time of many years ago to the horrors of not that many years ago. The Nazi concentration camp at Dachau was opened in 1933 for incarceration of political prisoners. The American army liberated the camp in the spring of 1945. The Jacksons found that the Germans discouraged visits to "showers, medical facilities" and crematoriums. It was very solemn and scary. The children saw it all.
When finally driving into Slovenia, a relatively prosperous democracy slightly smaller than the size of New Jersey with a population just over 2 million, the Trumbull County family continued looking at stimulating buildings, mountains and countryside, but now was the time for hugging, photographs, talking ("best we could") with the extended family and visiting in their homes.
"We visited the family on my mom's side on a Saturday," Roz said. A couple days later, they visited on her dad's side in another community. "In both cases we all cried when first we met. We visited a small 800-year-old church to say a prayer in this ancient place and see the original frescoes."
What an enjoyable learning experience. It provided so much variety for all involved, while recognizing and strengthening family ties. It was an extended birthday party to remember!