Friday, May 28, 2010

Detmold Living History Museum

Tuesday - Detmold Freilichtmuseum

One of my favorite places to visit when we are in the Northwest of Germany is the Freilichtmsueum (living history museum) in Detmold. It really helps to give you a first hand look at how your ancestors lived centuries ago. Although a lot of the farm houses were large, probably more examples of landlord houses, they do have a couple “heuerlinge” houses, where the poor tenant farmers lived. I’ve requested the same guide the past couple times because she is so good, her name is Ingrid and she is very knowledgeable about the museum and also of the time periods. She explained a few interesting things that you may not have heard before.
One is when we were visiting in a bedroom of one of the larger landlord houses, she showed us on the bed where there was built in little cabinets at the foot of the bed. This is where the farmer kept his valuable possessions, especially if there was any money. This allowed him to know where it was even when he slept and they still have a saying in Germany about this.
“Geld auf der hohen Kante haben” to have some money put away. Or for rich people they say
“Geld an den Füßen haben” to have money at the foot.

Another interesting thing she told us was when we were out in one of the gardens. Still today they grow things in the gardens that would have been needed on a working farm but we noticed a little shed out past the gardens and asked what that was used for and Ingrid told us that when the farm wife would do the laundry (which we found out wasn’t very often) they would spread the linens out in the field to dry, plus they needed the sun to bleach the linen whiter, someone would need to stay in this house night and day to keep an eye on the linens, so they wouldn’t blow away or get stolen. Linen production was a major industry in this part of Germany and most farms used this as additional income in the winter time to supplement their farm income. Most income or production was taxed by the landlord too.

One other thing she told us what about another saying they have in Germany and how it may have got started. The saying is.. “ins Fettnäpfchen treten” Explanation:

In the farmhouses we saw hanging above the fireplace the sausages or other meats that would be smoked from the smoke rising from the fireplace and of course since the majority of these meats was fat, there would be grease or fat falling to the floor. At night or even during the day in the dimly lit house, you would have to be careful not to step in the fat and drag that along the rest of the floor. Sometimes they would put small pots or buckets to catch the fat and now this saying means something like “to blunder or put your foot in your mouth”
These were a few of the interesting stories we learned this day. I will include some pictures and a couple short videos of Ingrid’s talk.

After the Freilichmuseum we headed into Detmold to the Landesarchiv. We had called ahead of time and had things pulled for any of our tour members who would have had towns that would be covered by this Archive. First we had a short overview of the Archives by one of the employees and he was very interesting. He explained the types of things they had there and how they preserve items. My main question to this man was “How can we find out what exactly is available at this archive?” Well, unfortunately they have so much stuff it is not possible to have a complete online catalog. So the best advice I can give you that he gave me is if you know your hometown and know the closest Archive, you can email them with your town’s name and ask what they have for this town. You may be surprised. A couple of our tour members found out that they had pulled for them the complete Farm Books for some of the Farms that their ancestors had lived on. They were able to request that these books or however many pages they wanted be imaged and sent to them on a CD. Then they can get them translated. I assume that most of the information would be tax lists, or maybe even deaths and who would have next run the farm but we will have to see what all kinds of detail is included in these books. What a find though. So I guess it pays to check with the Archives and see what is available for your town.

Then we walked through the main pedestrian zone of Detmold and wandered through the Gardens of the Residence Palace of the Prince of Detmold-Lippe. The Princely Family with Armin Prince zu Lippe as the head of the family, still lives in this palace. After a little while to shop or take pictures we headed to a local restaurant for dinner.

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