Saturday, 26 July 2014

A visit to Geijsteren

Oma's hometown smells like roses.  When you come in on the road from Venray (and surely you'll be coming from Venray, after visiting Opa's niece and nephew - Joke and Hans, and his brother, Sej), when you come in on the road from Venray, you'll see a house right up against the left hand side of the road.  It's red brick, old, built in the 1800s.  Look for the sign out front - Henk Lomme. You know the name, right?  That's Oma's brother's house.  Her nephew lives there now with his wife and four daughters. You can stop in and say hello - Dad stayed here, you know, when he came at 12 or 15. 

Just before Henk's house, you'll see a dirt road.   Follow it, and it'll take you back the way you came, past a soccer field, and through the woods.  The road is rough on a bike, but keep going.  You'll soon come to a stream, running along through the forest, with a bridge over it, and a smalll house with a thatch roof and a water wheel on one side.  You recognize it, right?  The old mill, from the painting that hangs in Opa's room.      

Go back to the main road, Oostrumesstrasse, or something similar.  Go past Henk's house into town. You'll smell the roses now, fields of them in red, yellow, whiite, pink and orange, 500,000 stems going many places - Britain, France, the US, Canada.   But maybe they won't be there when you're there.  They only stay for two years and then they are moved.

You're in the heart of town, now, past the rose fields.  You'll see the church, built after the war, after the old one was destroyed in the Liberation.  Oma and Opa were married here, just before they came to Canada.  You can ask to see their marriage record, if you like. And across from the church was the school where Oma would have gone as a little girl, but it's gone now.  Something else has taken its place.  Oma's brothers and sisters lived here, a lot of them, along that mainstreet, Dad's aunts and uncles.  But as to who lived where and when, I'm not really sure - maybe Henk could tell you.  

If you continue straight on out of town, and then take the split left, you'll see the ruins of the baron's castle, and the place where the old church once stood.  The ruins have been restored, somewhat, the moat dug out and the wall re-built, so you can visit it.  But of the castle itself, just a few walls remain.   You remember those stories, right?  Oma bought white for her wedding dress, even though only the nobility was allowed to wear white.  So the baron came into city hall, and strode right through the middle of their ceremony to show his disapproval.  There's still a baron today - he lives on a house along the river Maas.  He's the son of the one our grandparents knew.  

Keep going past the castle and then take a left, back towards town.  You'll see a sign for the Saint Willibrodt Chapelle - the chapel in the woods that Uncle Willy is named after.  Follow that road and go see it, it's not far.  It'll be locked, unless you can find someone at the church who will open it for you.  They only use it for Wednesday evening services, and baptisms.  They use the water from the well right  beside the chapel.  It's from the 13th century, and has healing properties.  If you ask, they might show you Oma's baptismal record - January 13th, 1923, the day after she was born. 

If you come out of the woods, back on the  main road, and follow it past the signs for the Chapel, you'll end up back in town.  And there, on the left, just past the sign that says Geijsteren, is the spot where Oma's house once stood.  You knew that it burned down, right?  That Oma's mother died in the fire? You didn't? Oh.  Sorry, I don't have any photographs or anything to give you of the old house.  But the trees that stand along the edge of the front yard, those trees are still the same.  



1 comment:

  1. That's really cool - I feel like I just visited the old village. I will have to go sometime soon, maybe next summer...