On the last Sunday in 2007, the Outliers made a
pilgrimage desultory excursion to Pfalzgrafenweiler, in Baden-Württemberg, whence Mrs. Outlier’s paternal ancestors emigrated via Odessa to Russia (now Ukraine) around 1800, then later to the Dakotas around 1890. This devoutly religious and devoutly rural line can be traced back to Pfalzgrafenweiler from as early as the 1500s.
Pfalzgrafenweiler itself goes back at least to Count Palatine (= Pfalzgraf) Hugo II of Tübingen, whose Pfalzgrafenburg there was stormed and razed by a Welf (= Guelph) Duke (= Herzog) of Bavaria in the 12th century. There is also a Herzogweiler within the Weiler Wald portion of the Schwarzwald (Black Forest), which is now a getaway spot for the lumpen as well as the grafen.
Weiler can nowadays be translated ‘hamlet’, something smaller than a Dorf ‘village’, and there are many such placenames stretching far out along both sides of the Rhine, from Basel to Cologne. The equivalent in Alsace and Lorraine is usually spelled -willer (as in Bischwiller, Dettwiller, Ingwiller) or -viller (as in Abreschviller, Guntzviller, Hartzviller). The Alemannisch equivalent is -wiiler. Although related to villa, ville, and village, the term is an early Germanic borrowing from Romance wilare or villare, indicating farmsteads attached to a villa, not the villa itself.
On Saturday, we had made a trip across the Rhine to the Deutsche Bahn (DB) travel desk in Kehl to find out how to get there and buy tickets. (We had not yet initiated our 15-day Eurail Passes.) Despite being just over the border from Strasbourg, France, the DB rep forced his customers to deal with him only in German or English. I chose English after watching the poor Francophone ahead of me struggle along in German no better than mine.
Pfalzgrafenweiler is a bit off the trunklines of public transport. We had to make four transfers to get there. We took the Strasbourg city tram from Langstross/Grand’Rue to the southwest terminus at Aristide Briand, then the old city bus across the river to Kehl. There we caught a tiny Ortenau S-Bahn (OSB) shuttle south over flat farmland to Offenburg, where we caught another tiny OSB shuttle up the scenic hillsides of the Schwarzwald to Freudenstadt, where we hopped a shuttle bus to our final destination. (The DB ticket was good for the bus, too.)
The Kehl to Offenburg leg reminded us a bit of the JR Ryomo line we used to take between Oyama and Ashikaga along the foothills north of Tokyo, while the Offenburg to Freudenstadt leg reminded us more of the scenic Keikoku line running up the upper Watarase River gorge from Kiryu toward Nikko.
Along the way to Freudenstadt (‘Happyville’), the train passed a number of stations whose names ended in -ach (not -bach ‘brook’, but related), meaning ‘watercourse’ and ultimately cognate with Latin acqua: Biberach ‘Beaver Run’, Steinach ‘Stone Run’, Haslach ‘Hare Run’, Hausach ‘House Run’, Wolfach ‘Wolf Run’, Schiltach ‘Shield Run’—but, alas, no Bullach. In the local Alemannisch dialects, the final consonant is lost and the vowel reduced, thus: Biebere, Steine, Hasle, Huuse, Wolfe.
The even more common placenames suffixed with -heim (in High German) suffer a similar fate in Ortenau Alemannisch, where Griesheim = Griese, Meißenheim = Mißne, Ringsheim = Ringse/Rinse; and in Alsatian, where Blotzheim = Blotza, Merxheim = Märxa, Sentheim = Santa. You can see why Baden-Württembergers claim Wir können alles. Außer Hochdeutsch. ‘We can handle everything. Except High German.’
Freudenstadt is roughly comparable in size to Aberdeen, SD, but is even sleepier on a Sunday. The tiny railway station is on the edge of town and lacks even a public toilet. When I followed the arrows on a wall map, I ended up at a port-a-potty in an isolated (and unheated) area nearly 100m from the station. (At least I didn’t have it as bad as Santa did in Pfalzgrafenweiler, where he had to bathe outdoors.) To its credit, Freudenstadt station had a gift shop full of snacks, souvenirs, magazines, travel info about far corners of the globe, and a very impressive collection of cigars for sale in a specially humidified room.
We had left my brother’s house in Strasbourg a little before 9 a.m. The bus dropped us at the Pfalzgrafenweiler Rathaus at 2 p.m., just as the town went into its deepest Sunday siesta. The local pizza delivery shop had finished its last run. Even the local kebap shop had closed.
We walked the silent, empty streets meandering uphill toward the highway, where we found EverRast, a combination truck stop, restaurant, and internet café that was just about the only happening place in town on a Sunday afternoon. We ordered German-style salad plates and sampled the local Alpirsbacher Klosterbräu. The friendly waitress looked African American and switched easily between English and German.
It was already getting dark by 4 p.m. as we meandered back toward the bus stop for the 5 p.m. bus. We had just enough time to snap a few more photos, then stop in at Thome’s Schwanen hotel and restaurant, which was just opening for the Sunday dinner crowd. We asked the gracious hostess for a telephone book and snapped a photo of the handful of listings for Mrs. Outlier’s family name. Most of the telephone numbers had only 4 digits.
It was too dark to enjoy the beautiful scenery on the way back, but we had just enough layover time in Offenburg to explore a few of its cold, empty streets. The only warm, bright spot near the station was the Turkish-run Imbiss Stube. Thank goodness for the Mediterranean work ethic. We ordered hot lentil soups and hot spiked teas. The menu offered not just kebap, pizza, and pide, but also Seele (calzone), which (misleadingly or not) belatedly made the connection for me between Italian calzone and Romanian încălţăminte ‘footwear’.