Posts from Family

Meeting new family

Distant Schlossnagles Unite

Today, on our way back to Konstanz from a wonderful wedding in Stemwede (congrats Heinrich and Lena!), we passed through Repperndorf. Now, most Germans I've talked to have never heard of Repperndorf and that's quite understandable as in 2011 they registered a cool 660 residents. Repperndorf seal It has recently been pulled into the larger city of Kitzingen with its 21,000 residents making the name Repperndorf even more obscure.

So, what's so important about Repperndorf? It's where we Schlossnagles are from. Of course, at some point after our immigration to the United States we flipped the last two letters of our last name to Schlossnagle from Schlossnagel. Schlossnagel gravestone Honestly, it makes no sense and we don't know why, but I always joke it's so that no one would know we were German. The long s sound used to be written as the latin long s and followed by a 'z' which leads us to our Germanic character that is that magical "B" looking letter people always mispronounce... it's a ß (see the long 'f' + 'z' shape?) and it makes a long/double "Ess" sound. Making words like "straße" (street) fun and beautiful and words like "Schloss street" just magically fun to say correctly: "Schloßstraße". That's a tangent, but in the olden days our earliest known ancestors spelled the name Schloßnagel and do so even to today.

Looking at family trees

Schlossnagle (including its spelling variants) is one of the more rare long-lineage family names on the planet. Today there are only about forty nuclear families that bear our name. As I have three daughters, future generations of Schlossnagles are not likely to stem from my blood.

We found Repperndorf due to the wonderful invitation from Julia (Schlossnagel) Then. She excitedly welcomed us, shared lots of information about the research she has done into the family (over the last 21 years) and gave us a personal tour around the village of Repperndorf. Such hospitality and excitement... it's like we were family! If we're reading the family tree correctly... Julia and Theo share a great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather Martin Schloßnagel and are seventh cousins. Navigating family trees can be challenging!

The first occurrence of the name in written history is from 1552 and due to the way German cemeteries work (no real preserved headstones) the only records are in church birth and death notes. We learned that in Germany grave sites are recycled after ten or so years and those previously buried have "taken to Earth" so the spot is ready for another deceased. Quite different (and quite a bit more sensible) than the way we Americans do it.

The girls very much enjoyed the city tour and we all marveled at the casual pre-1492 ages of buildings in the area. As we said to each other: that was literally built and here before the New World was discovered (historical inaccuracies of who discovered the New World when aside).


Repperndorf's Fallen in WWII

I suppose anyone who has German heritage has a strong chance of having ancestors who fought for the Nazis. At least one Schlossnagel, namely Fritz Schlossnagel, fought and fell on the German side of the (failed) siege of Stalingrad. I think we all had negative, uncomfortable and conflicted emotions. This was intensified when shown some 70+ year-old soldier pins, armbands and coins. It's so difficult to think that these people had children and parents and loved each other and yet fought for a heinous cause. The human condition is so flawed.

While in Berlin, we visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (also known as the Holocaust Memorial). This is an absolutely fantastic memorial in complex ways. It takes on different moods during different times of day as shadows shorten and lengthen and reflective sky colors change. It is deceptively vast and quite eerie when walked. Each walk of its uneven paths results in a sense of unease and awe that inspires a deeply pensive and reflective frame of mind. On our trip from Berlin to Konstanz and on several road trips since (including our ride into Repperndorf) we have been listening to an audio book of the Diary of Anne Frank. Seeing the memorial less than a week ago, mentally digesting Anne Frank's experience and contemplating that our not-so-distant ancestors were some of the perpetrators that led to its need evokes feelings that are deeply unsettling.

Repperndorf's Fallen in WWI

At least one Schlossnagel fell in WWI as well which, while tragic, is so much less complicated to navigate emotionally.

Also, some of the first recorded names in the 1500's were related to going to war (presumably in the Second Schmalkaldic War in 1552 between Protestants and Catholics). Most people who went to war back then didn't come back, so it's likely one of us died there too.

Wars suck.

A duality of Theos

Perhaps the most interesting and surprising part of the trip was meeting Julia's father. For a long time, Theo thought he was the only Theo Schlossnagle in the world. Julia's extensive research proves that to be very likely, but there is certainly a close call. Jula's father is Theodor Schlossnagel... so that happened.

Theo and Theodor Schlossnagle

There are too many pictures to sensibly put straight into a post, so we welcome you to peruse our Reppendorf gallery.

Returning To Our Nuclear State

Today was a day of mixed emotions and much travel.

Three years ago, when we first entertained the idea of taking leave of normal life for a whole year to experience the world, there was an amusing cavalier attitude because it was unlikely to actually happen. As time went on and we found our way to commit and make this dream possible, we had nothing resembling concrete expectations. In fact, as we've reflected regularly for the last two months, our expectations prior to leaving (even during highly detailed planning sessions) could really only be described as "feelings."

We wanted to experience the world. We wanted to take this opportunity while the kids were young enough to be excited and old enough to remember. We wanted the opportunity to take in the world together and both reconnect our nuclear family while witnessing in awe the connectedness of the world on which we live. We expected it to be awesome and we expected it to be hard. Those goals and expectations are wonderful, but vague.

In the beginning of this year, after planning south-east Asia, we realized some things. Two adults with three kids would be a lot to manage (some places only allow two per-room including kids, some countries don't really have taxis that take more than four people, etc.) We realized that while we'd manage that, it would mean being "always on" and never allow an adult (or a child) to really be alone to reset and revitalize. Date nights with just the old-folk would be rare and experiencing adult-only things would be nearly impossible. This led us to the idea of bringing a nanny and without changing our vague expectations we engaged Michelle and life kept hurtling forward.

Much of what Michelle brought to the table came exactly how we (vaguely) imagined it. Stress levels were down due to the 1:1 adult:child ratio. Children enjoyed time away from parents and parents enjoyed secluded sleeping arrangements, time alone and many nights out on the town. It was great. But something wasn't right and it took quite some time to place it.

All of our expectations, no matter how vague, revolved around the nuclear family and that's exactly what we were not. In bringing a helping hand, despite all of the advantages and perks that came with it, we sacrificed the context of the original dream. We had inadvertently moved the goal.

After some rather painful reflection that taxed many of us, we realized the devastating truth: we must return to a nuclear unit to pursue this dream. This morning the Schlossnagle family said heartfelt goodbyes and apologies to Michelle at the Copenhagen airport as we headed for Berlin. The rest of the this trip will not be the same without her, but it is the trip we need.

One thing that is hard to express is how thankful we all are for the two months she spent with us. Michelle changed each of us for the better and helped us find a part of us that we had lost. Thank you.

Starting out

Athens in the Rearview Mirror

Headline: Schlossnagles escape Athens alive

Today the whole family hops on a plane and flies to the United Kingdom to start our land invasion of western Europe... but first, some reflections on Athens.

The food

The food in Greece was a carnivore's dream. Beef, pork, chicken; kebabs, gyros, filets, etc. It was great to just eat in the little restaurants lining the streets and enjoy a bit of Greek city life. Amusingly, a small Italian gelato shop won our hearts and tongues. It was hot as hell in downtown Athens, so it's no surprise that ice cream was a big hit. Fortuitously, we visited the home of a friend and had a home cooked meal. Reflecting on the food from Athens has become more difficult because the wonderful meal from Fotini and Vasilis made all of the other meals rather uninteresting even if they were delicious.


The city

The city was hot and surprised each of us differently. Some were surprised at the untidiness of the city (with a bit of garbage here and there, cigarette butts everywhere and an ample spattering of graffiti. Others were surprised by the modernity of the city juxtaposed by older buildings that spread a mind-boggling time gap. Many of us were relieved to be in major city where people dressed better for the hot weather. While in Istanbul, many of us were uncomfortable for the women that were in heavy jackets and/or full-body cover and being uncomfortable for someone is uncomfortable in and of itself. People in Athens dress like people in New York.

Athens graffiti

The history

The history of Greece is truly epic. It is both long and deep. When you can tell truly complex stories from 1100BC and forward, you know you've got real history. Not only that, the evidence of all of these historic civilizations are laid out before you in startling clarity. Frankly, it was too much too consume. Luckily, we had our greek mythology expert, Gianna, on hand to help guide us through and (most often) correct our misunderstandings around Greek mythology. The Acropolis Museum was a fine establishment... it was big, clean, clear and well organized. The artifacts on display were fabulous and eye-opening. It might be the air-conditioning swaying the judgement, but it was one of our favorite sites. The Acropolis itself was simply beyond words.


Greek hospitality

Fotini and Gianna On our second day in Athens, Theo’s co-worker Vasilis had us over for dinner. He and his wife’s cousin picked us up at our hotel and drove us to Vasilis and Fotini’s beautiful home on the outskirts of Athens. They greeted us warmly and made us comfortable immediately. We dined on the most delicious homemade food - see Theo’s post for more - but the one dish I will always remember is Fotini’s pastitsio. It was so delicious and heart-warming that we wanted to cry.

Let me explain. Lisa's Grammy grew up in Boston, surrounded by Italian-Americans but not actually of Italian descent herself. She married my grandfather, who was Italian-American, and they had a family together. (They put the -ini in Schlossini.) Grammy made the best meatballs on Earth. She made them for just about every family get-together, and would even make them at home in Massachusetts and drive with them down to Maryland when she visited. They were heaven in bite-size form, and it’s one of the earliest food-love associations Lisa has. She passed away years ago but dementia took her before then, so it’s been over a decade since any of us tasted those meatballs. Grammy left behind her recipe, but as with many cherished family dishes, it’s not quite the same.

Fotini’s pastitsio tasted like that kind of heaven. As Lisa ate it, she said it felt so reminiscent of Grammy’s meatballs. There was love in the dish. As we sat and ate and talked and they brought out more food for us, there was love in the air. It was as if we’d known each other for years, and language barriers were nil. We talked about our trip and the Greek crisis and they’re lives overseas and now back in Greece with their young puppy. Gianna, of her own initiative, helped clear the table and became attached to Fotini. It was a late night for us, a bit of a rhythm problem on our part, and the kids held up very well. Just before driving us home, Vasilis presented us with a gift from his sister - a basket homemade honey and jams. Can you imagine? So touched.

When they come to America, we’ll be sure to return the hospitality.