#ThursdayDoors: Wismar Germany

This week I’m going back in time to 1995, the year we went to Wismar, Germany.

MapWismar

The dotted red line between Schwerin and Wismar marks the autobahn Germany was building to connect the coastal towns to Berlin.

From the end of WWII until 1989, Wismar was behind the Iron Curtain, making travel there almost impossible. Even six years after the Berlin Wall had fallen, the rustic two lane road from Lubeck to Wismar catered more to donkey carts and tractors than cars and thus resulted in a frustrating three hour drive.  Before the war, the towns along the southern Baltic were popular vacation destinations and the thought is evidently to revive them. However, in 1995 Germany still had a long way to go.DoorWismar

Aside from the lack of easy access, many of the coastal towns were heavily bombed by the Allies in 1945. Instead of rebuilding them, the Soviets simply moved the residents to cheaply-built, concrete-block apartments outside the city walls leaving their centers to sit in ruins for decades. When we were there construction cranes hung over the town as buildings that could not be renovated were destroyed.

Wismar4

Our bed and breakfast was one of the more modern buildings.

Another challenge for Germany, the locals seemed to think making money off tourism was a tawdry business indeed. Certainly anyone caught speaking English on the streets was given the evil eye.

WIsmar2

The town center – note the Hanseatic design of the building facades.

Sorry for the poor quality of the pictures.  We didn’t have the best camera and it rained the whole time we were there.Wismar1

I believe this is St. Nicholas Cathedral but, because it was under repair, we couldn’t get near.

In case you’re wondering why we made a difficult journey to an obscure town on the Baltic, well, here goes: In 1663 (or around that time) a Swedish general conquered this important trade route and until 1717 it remained under Swedish rule.  In return the general attained the noble title “Conqueror of Wismar.”  According to a bit of family lore spawned by a Mormon missionary’s trip to the Swedish History Museum, my husband is one of his descendants.  Didn’t know I was married to royalty, did you?

Check out other doors at Norm Frampton’s fun (and often challenging) #ThursdayDoors event.

Talle Svenska?  Ney…..

bookMany of my blogging buddies have hung up  “Gone Fishing” signs and closed comments until September which means they had the good sense to shut down for the month and either work on a novel that’s been suffering from terminal bloggerhea, or maybe, just maybe, they’re actually on vacation.

I wish I’d done the same but alas my head got stuck on another planet. I decided since I’d spent three whole years studying German, which shares its roots with Swedish, it would be no sweat to translate The Letters from Sweden, sender unknown that I talked about in a post a few weeks back.  All I needed was a Swedish/English dictionary! Easy Peasy, hey? 

Reindeer

Inte satsa på det ! (Don’t bet on it)

At the library I was disappointed to learn there aren’t many people in my small town with the urge to learn Swedish. There was only one Swedish/English dictionary. One! However there were books on Amharic, Gujarati, and Slovene – languages I’ve never heard of, have you?

Undaunted I checked out the one book and hurried home, confident that the secrets of the letters were about to be revealed.   

Ha!

Lovely lettering but what does it say?

Lovely lettering but what does it say?

The problem, as you can probably tell, is deciphering the handwriting. The letters were probably written by three different people – all of whom undoubtedly received straight A’s in penmanship two hundred years ago – but I couldn’t tell their a’s from their e’s  which meant I had to guess.  And I’m not very good at guessing.

After several word by word attempts I realized you can’t translate word by word because the meaning of so many words changes depending on how they’re being used.  So I decided to attempt an entire passage and see if Google could make any sense out of it.  This method is rather like speaking in tongues but I was getting desperate. 

The letter below had the clearest handwriting and so I selected the second sentence, the one that begins “Du skribner,” for my little experiment.  I chose this one because I knew the word “skrib” meant “write” so at least I had some idea what the sentence was about.  Letter_0003

Here’s the result of my effort:


Du skribner att ni amnar att visa fron den platoon fom vi ar men vi tysken att mikar gerna blifrader mi an ack inte olag ga negra . . . 

Here’s what Google came up with:

You write that you intend to display from 
Pluto we are but we German to pickups 
willingly and not illegally.

“What does it say?”  My mother (who’d been waiting anxiously for proof of her oldest child’s brilliance) asked. 

“Well, I think your grandfather asked his in-laws to do something illegal so that he could display evidence that the family was from Pluto.  Apparently it is illegal in Sweden to reveal that you’re a Plutonian.”  

“Don’t you go writing anything nasty about the family!” 

“Who me?  Nah!”

My next brilliant idea was to “read” through the other letters looking for proper nouns that might reveal at least where they were from. A couple of the letters contained the word “Herran,” so I googled “Herran Sweden.” 

“Do you mean Herrang?” was the response. 

WTF I thought.  Maybe I meant Herrang. 

According to Wikipedia Herrang is a town with a history of industry and mining located on the northern coast of the county of Stockholm. Although the population is only in the 400s, it does have one claim to fame.  It’s the site of the largest Lindy Hop dance camp in the world.  The Herrang Dance Camp.

I must confess I had no idea what Lindy Hop was so I hopped back to Wiki and asked.  Here goes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQrQhdJH4tM

Pretty wild, hey?  Apparently this dance is a cousin of the breakaway, the Charleston and the Texas Tommy and got its start in Harlem, New York in the late 1920s or early 1930s. It was apparently named after Lucky Lindy (Charles Lindberg). I must admit it looks like fun.LIndyHop

So what have I learned?  Well, at least my ancestors knew how to read and write although what they had to say, I may never know!