Monday morning with left the beautiful town of Clervaux, Luxembourg for a scenic two hour drive to Nunkirchen, Germany. Nunkirchen and the surrounding environs is where Lynda's maternal side of the family is originally from. We found a cemetery here and actually found two grave sites with the name Johanntgen. Lynda's mother always spelled Johanntgen with one "n" but we figure an "n" could have been lost in the shuffle of emigration. After the cemetery we found the local church, a beautiful church dating from 1886. Next door was a community center for the church. Unfortunately, the only women we found spoke no English and had not heard of any Johanntgen's in Nunkirchen. The local postmaster was of no help either. We drove on to nearby Wadern. Here we lucked out. In a bookstore we found a women who spoke English and she looked up JoHanntgen in the phonebook and found two people listed, both in nearby villages. Next was a visit to the Wadern cemetery but it did not have any gravestones of Johanntgens. We did driveby's of both addresses we were given but saw no sign of life. We did find a third cemetery which had two more Johanntgen gravesites. We checked into a Wadern hotel and rested a bit before going out to dinner. On the way to dinner we stopped again at Peter Johanntgen's house where there was no answer, but Marlies Johanntgen answered her door. Again, the language barrier reared its ugly head but it seemed that Marlies denied being related to the Johanntgens of Nunkirchen, about 4 miles away! As frustrating as that was Lynda enjoyed seeing the hilly country around Nunkirchen and realizing how her JoHantgen family must have been amazed by their new home in flat Ohio.
Tuesday morning we drove around the area outside of Nunkirchen on the off chance we might find another cemetery. No luck, so we headed for Riems, in the middle of the Champagne region of France. As is often the case, we got sidetracked and ended up in Verdun, famous for the longest battle in modern military history. During WWI the Battle of Verdun lasted from February to November and resulted in the highest number of casualties in a single battle. Of the 300,000 soldiers from both sides who were involved in this battle, over 100,000 of them were either killed or injured. We focused our visit on two American facilities, the first being the American Memorial. This impressive memorial stands over 190 feet tall and sits on a hill with a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. Next was the American Cemetery. This cemetery is the largest American Cemetery in the world with 14,246 gravesites as compared to Normandy where there are over 6,000 gravesites. We never cease to be moved by the beauty of the many American Cemeteries we have visited.
|American Memorial Verdun|
|American Cemetery Verdun|
The rest of the day was a comedy of errors. We drove on to Riems from Verdun and while we were driving Lynda searched for a hotel on line. She did not want to stay in a chain hotel, even a European chain. She found a small hotel in a small village outside of Riems that was right in the center of Champagne country. The hotel turned out to be farther outside of Riems than Lynda thought so what was to be an easy hour drive into Riems ended up being a two hour drive. On our arrival we found the hotel closed. We then stopped at a nearby hotel we had passed but it, too, was closed. At least at this hotel we found people who were able to direct us to a hotel that was actually open. It ended up being a cheap chain hotel with small rooms and no charm. To rub salt in our wounds, the hotel restaurant was doing a very tired looking buffet. After some quick research, Tim found a nearby restaurant that was getting good reviews. When we arrived at the restaurant they were fully booked for their Valentine's special meal. We were disappointed because it did look really good. Next we found a pizza place right next to an Asian Buffet restaurant. The Asian restaurant had a long line of people waiting to get in so we tried the Pizza Restaurant. It was also fully booked. We made one more last attempt following signs to a restaurant that turned out to be in a very impressive hotel on a gated property. Also fully booked. Evidently Valentine's day is a big deal in France for going out to dinner. We headed back to the hotel planning to make a meal of the cheese left over from our last night in Paris. When we drove into our hotel parking lot we discovered a kiosk next door selling fresh made pizza out of their booth. So we bought a pizza and a bottle of wine and went back to our cramped room to celebrate Valentines Day. Tres Romantique!
This morning, Wednesday, we drove into Champagne country and found a winery that was open. Michel Fallet Champagne is being produced by the fourth generation of the Fallet family. Mrs. Fallet was nice enough to give us a brief tour. The Fallets produce about 38,000 bottles of Champagne each year. She explained which variety of grapes were used for each of the different champagnes they produce and went through the whole process of producing champagne. When the bottles are first filled and the yeast is added to the wine a metal cap, similar to a pop bottle cap, is placed on the bottle. The wine sits in the bottle this way for a minimum of 15 months. Next the wine in the bottle passes through a chiller that freezes the yeast particles so they can be easily removed from the bottle. Sugar is then added and the bottle is corked. At this point the champagne is ready to be labeled, sold and drunk. We were particularly interested in the corking process. Mrs. Fallet showed us a cork before it goes in the bottle. It is a perfect cylinder. The corking machine compresses the cork to fit into the bottle. Once it is in the bottle the cork expands to the shape of the bottle giving it the distinctive shape we have all seen when a cork is removed from champagne. It was a bright, cloudless morning as we drove through acres and acres of vineyards thinking about the bottle of champagne we had just purchased directly from the winery.
|Wine storage vats. Beige vats are 2nd |
generation and stainless steel are new.
|All of these crates contain bottles of|
champagne before the yeast has been removed.
|Cork before being used (right) and after removal |
from a champagne bottle.
|Vineyards in Champagne country.|
Both of us have been a bit under the weather the last day or so so we decided to find a hotel with more room then last night's so we can repack our suitcases and rest up for our flight home tomorrow. This is our last posting from this marvelous trip. As always we hope you have enjoyed reading our blog as much as we have enjoyed writing it.
See you all soon.