Dan and I have always known we had a bit of common German and Dutch heritage, but it wasn’t that long ago we found out how close our family’s history’s actually were. Dan’s dad’s side of the family is from the Leer area in Germany, which is just east of the Dutch/German border. Dan’s mom’s family is from the Friesland area in the Netherlands, which is just west of the Dutch/German border. Crazy how close they are to each other! Then we come to find out, my mom’s side of the family is also from the Friesland area of the Netherlands! We decided we needed to go explore these areas to learn more about where our family’s are from. It was a quick trip (although was unexpectantly extended…will explain later!), but it was a great one.
Dan’s family provided us with a lot of information and detail of actual places/homes to check out which was incredible to see. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have much information from my side, except that Groningen was the main town that they were from.
We flew into Bremen, Germany early Saturday morning, grabbed our rental car and start our journey. Our first stop was in the adorable little town of Oldenburg, about halfway from Bremen to the German/Dutch border. We don’t have any evidence of either of our families spending any significant time there, but it was fun to check out and have an incredible German lunch. The restaurant has been there since 1886! It was fun to visit small German cities where English is not widely spoken. It was a great chance for me to practice mein Deutsch!
After lunch we made our way into the Netherlands, all the way over to Balk (Beam). Balk is where Dan’s mom’s side of the family was from.
We were able to see Dan’s Great-Great grandparents house and the church where they attended and his Great-Great grandpa played the organ.
That night we stayed in Groningen at an adorable little hotel in the countryside. We went into town that evening for dinner at a local pub, but were exhausted from our early flight we called it a night early! We went back into Groningen Sunday morning for coffee and breakfast and the chance to explore a bit in the daylight. It was fun wandering around knowing some of my great-great-great grandparents walked there as well!
From Groningen, we drove back into Germany to Leer where Dan’s dad’s side of the family is from. Our first stop was a funny one, because it was to a Chinese buffet. If anyone knows me well enough, you’ll know it had to take a lot of convincing to get me in the door as Chinese buffet’s are at the low side of my kind of restaurants. But we were under the impression that the building was an old hotel in which the family had stayed many, many years ago. So we did it! … come to find out the building actually had no real significance to the family, it was just a hotel that Dan stayed in with his family when they visited the area in 2000. Ha! But it was a funny experience and we have comparison photos of Dan then vs. now!
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the town of Leer and the surrounding Holtland area.
After checking all the heritage places off our list, we then started making our way back to Bremen where we experienced their Christmas market and did a bit of shopping!
We were supposed to fly out of Bremen back to London that evening. Unfortunately, our flight was cancelled which caused quite the stir. We took a train over to Hamburg with the intention to fly out of Hamburg back to London, then found out our Bremen flight was rescheduled for first thing the next morning. So we took the train back to Bremen, stayed in a hotel for the night and eventually made our way back to London mid-day on Monday! Quite the exhausting travel experience, but we made it!