April showers are supposed to bring May flowers but this year it seems that April showers brought May storms and flooding. All around us we see pictures of the mass flooding and watch the water levels rise and rise… also the patience level of a toddler who desperately wants to play in his sandbox drop and drop. This past week we had a bit of a change. On days when we got 2 hours of no rain (note that I didn’t say sunny blue skies) we got outside and did what we could to combat the jungle like weeds that were taking over our front garden.
Literally toddler sized weeds sprung up in a matter of days. Snails were crawling all over our cement walkways and our lawn, well dandelion field, was up to Brock’s waist. But with our short windows we took advantage and started pulling weeds and playing with our outside toys. Today seemed to be the first turn of the weather. Blue skies and temperatures around 70. What a treat! So we packed in the jogging stroller and set off on a nice walk around town. And that walk is what inspired this blog post today.
For some time now I have been researching and collecting stories about where we live. Of course the research can always continue so I kept telling myself that I would write it once I knew more… well today the beauty of our town won out and I decided to record what I have.
Ok, so basics first. Hoppstadten and Weiersbach were separate municipalities that existed since around the 1300’s. In 1969 they mostly joined together… there is now only one mayor and council but separate fishing, soccer and other clubs. This distinction is important because it is real. One of the first things my neighbor explained to me about our town was that I lived on the Hoppstadten side and Hoppstadten people don’t really know much about Weiersbach people. Seriously. A town with less than 3,000 residents and yet divided. For centuries there were rivalries where the two towns would steal each other’s May pole and do pranks like that. Today you do not see the rivalry but people still talk about it.
I was told that all the trouble started with the church. Apparently, the diocese in Trier said that a new church was to be built in Weiersbach and part of the reason they were selected was because Hoppstadten could not afford to keep their own priest. My source said that the Hoppstadten people were not giving the priest enough and he was very poor. Anyways construction started and in the dead of the night some people from Hoppstadten snuck over and stole some of the timber. Nobody knew what had happened but once they figured it out the Weiersbach people snuck over to Hoppstadten and stole it back. Quite silly.
Another funny rivalry story he had to share was about Weiersbach’s nickname Sweden. I had seen a barn in Weiersbach with the Swedish flag on it and wasn’t sure what it meant, but really enjoyed the story! During Napoleonic times, 15 to 20 Swedish soldiers stayed in Weiersbach for a few nights on their way back to France. Hoppstadten people started to taunt the Weiersbach villagers calling them Swedes in a derogatory sense. Well the villagers took it on proudly and made shirts, flags and songs depicting their new found Swedish heritage, upsetting the taunters and winning the little battle of words. How funny!
Both Hoppstadten and Weiersbach share very interesting histories and customs. Let’s start with Weiersbach and why they blast cannons around Corpus Christi every year. Right around the American Memorial Day holiday our town was under cannon fire. Some days it was just a few blasts and others it went on all day. Come to find out that this tradition can be dated to at least 1760. There was a small village between Weiersbach and Gimbweiler that was completely wiped out by the plague. The people of Weiersbach were so grateful that they were spared from the disease that they decided to shoot cannons to God in praise. The church in Weiersbach has purchase records for gunpowder for this event going back to 1760 which is simply incredible. In modern time the cannons are loaded with gunpowder and newspaper and shot off over the course of a week with the boom echoing through the valley.
Naturally, our city crest has an interesting story too. The crest has four parts, the lion which is commonly found on crests in the Rhineland Pfalz (our state), the castle Werdenstein, the river Nahe which passes through both towns, and a wagon wheel with a stake through it. Schloss Werdenstein was built in about 1550 across the valley from my house. It is truly a shame it is no longer there because what an even better view we would have from our living room! In the 1800’s the maintenance of the castle became too much for Weiersbach so they dismantled it and encouraged the villagers to reuse the stone in their own homes. The wagon wheel and stake represents a bit of a miracle. The patron saint of Hoppstadten, Katarina (Catherine) was tied to a wagon wheel to be killed because she believed in Jesus. Before she could be murdered a miracle occurred. The wheel broke and she was free. Her story was then used as a symbol of faith for the village.
In modern times our village has had quite a run with the German and United States Military. During WWII the edge of our village housed a small satellite camp of the Hinzert Concentration camp. I cannot find any information on it other than it existed. Apparently, it was one of 23 sub-camps that held prisoners who were to perform manual labor often in the forest. The majority of these prisoners were political prisoners in transit to larger camps.
Soon after the war in 1952 the United States built a major hospital very near where the camp was. The hospital was also joined with a small airfield in town and the two were major employers and social outlet for the village. My German friend’s father told me a long list of all the American girlfriends he had when he was young. The hospital was a critical stop for injured soldiers returning from Vietnam. Today the hospital campus has a handful of purposes. There is a kindergarten, a branch of a larger university, and also a Chinese-German business partnership. The airfield is still an airfield, but for small private planes. This morning on our walk we happened to be right on time for a take-off.
So what else did we see on our walk to that captivated me and inspired this post? Well mostly just the sun and a beautiful blue sky! It is really amazing how the sun can change the face of cement buildings so stunningly. That aside, it was a picturesque morning. Through the butcher shop door you could see him working his way through the 4 hanging quartered animals, taking the scraps right out to the trash on main street. Across the street is the best bakery in the world! If you don’t believe me ask my dad. When he visits he walks there on his own to bring us all breakfast and bread for the day.
We rounded the corner and was at the town square right by the church. Brock was really excited to peek in the canal for any fish.
This large home once was a synagogue. I cannot find out too much information, as much is hidden or was destroyed, but from what I can tell Hoppstadten had a thriving Jewish community before the war. In the woods you can still find, although I have not yet, Jewish graves that go back to the 1700’s. Also, the leader of Reform Judaism, Rabbi David Einhorn, was the rabbi to Hoppstadten before immigrating to the United States in 1855.
But most of our time is spent at the playground.
We feel so blessed to live in such a historically and culturally rich village. Our village is small, and there are not many Americans, but it is simply beautiful. With the woods for hiking behind us and the view of both villages in the valley in front of us I really do not know how we will match this when we move.
In this post I really just skimmed the surface with the town’s history and stories and I hope to learn more.