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Grandpa's Town

Story ID:5240
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Travel
Location:Lahr Germany
Year:2009
Person:Wilhelm Kopp
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Grandpa's Town

Grandpa's Town

Grandpa's Town

Grandpa's Town

Grandpa’s Town

My husband, Ken, and I recently spent three weeks in Germany and Austria. We’d been there twice on guided tours, but Ken wanted to go back and do it on our own. So, right after Christmas, we started making plans. First, we e-mailed some dear friends in South Africa to see if they had any interest in joining us. The immediate and positive answer flew back across the cyberworld. Many months passed with Ken hunched over a huge map of Germany on our dining room table, leafing through guide books, checking rental cars and booking tickets for our flights on the internet. After much deliberation, he decided we should concentrate on the more scenic part of the country, the southern half, and the star on the itinerary belonged to a small town of about 45,000 on the western edge of the Black Forest area called Lahr. For a good reason.

Ken’s paternal grandfather grew up in Lahr. He sailed for America about age 20, where he married, raised a family and spent the remainder of his life in a small central Illinois community. In his later years, he made a visit back to Lahr. It was to be for a few weeks, but he couldn’t pull himself away for nearly three months. I think maybe Ken wondered what it was about this town that kept Grandpa extending his visit. Maybe because it still said “home” to him. Wilhelm Kopf of Lahr Americanized his name to William Kopp, but I think a part of him always remained Wilhelm Kopf. I had the great pleasure of getting to know him in our early married years. He would write letters to us, which always began in the same way. “Dear Kennard and Nancy, I am fine and dandy. How are you?”

Now, I looked forward to this visit to Lahr, too. We looked up the city’s website prior to our visit, so we’d have a little idea of what to expect. On the tenth day of our trip, we headed to Lahr. Our friends, Mike and Mavis, had picked up on the importance of visiting this particular town, and I think they looked forward to seeing it right along with us. As senior citizens, we have all come to appreciate the meaning of our heritage and have learned that family roots hold us fast.

We had not encountered any difficulty in finding a gasthaus(small inn), zimmer (private rooms in a home) or small hotel to stay in. Not until we reached Lahr. We stopped at one place after another to meet nothing but disappointment. One turned out to be far too expensive, another not up to our standards, three with absentee landlords—open but deserted. By this time, it was getting to be late afternoon and then some, and each of us was beginning to worry silently. Sleeping in our rental car didn’t pop up on our list of options, but it did cross my mind. Ken drove up one road and down another. Finally, we saw a small hotel on a tree-lined street. Hotel am Westend was painted across the top of the building, and a second floor deck was surrounded by flowerboxes alive with colorful blooms. Ken and Mike went inside, and Mavis and I waited in the car. They came out several minutes later with big smiles and beckoned to us to come in. We were saved.

We booked our small but comfortable rooms for three nights. The owner was a man named Dirk, who turned out to be a warm and helpful host. He spoke English well, and he gave us many tips for our sightseeing in the area. He also reconfigured the GPS in our car to English, since the Hertz people in Munich had not done so. The corridors of the hotel had Oriental rugs and were lined with antiques and fascinating paintings. It was a treat each time we walked to our room. The dining room served good food, and the hotel dog, who is known to be the hotel Guest Relations Manager, and a cat roamed the place at will. They were never a problem, just seemed part of the welcoming committee.

The next day we made a short drive to Strasbourg, France which borders Germany. After a nice day there, we returned to Lahr, and Ken and Mike went out to find the downtown area and take some pictures. Ken had learned some things about the city from Dirk, and he’d also gone through a brochure on the city at the hotel. I could tell how pleased he was to be in this town where Grandpa Kopp grew up. He seemed to smile a lot while we were there. Those strong roots had pulled him in, and seeing part of his heritage proved to be a very meaningful experience.

On our final day in Lahr, we drove to Baden-Baden, a resort town known for a large casino and spa, then to Triberg in the southern Black Forest where the famed cuckoo clocks are made. We returned to the hotel and asked Dirk for a restaurant recommendation, since the hotel dining room was closed on Sunday evenings. Without any hesitation, he named a place and gave directions. Much to our surprise, we found ourselves in a wooded park at a Greek restaurant, which turned out to be a very nice way to finish our visit to Lahr. We ate outside and had a wonderful view and an excellent meal.

The next morning, as we drove through town on our way to The Romantic Road, a scenic area filled with castles. I couldn’t help but think about Grandpa Kopp again. These were the streets he walked on his way to school, on errands for his mother, to visit a young girl perhaps. It was the place where he spent time playing with his friends and where part of his heart remained all the years he lived in the USA. The town is bigger now, but it’s still Lahr where the Kopp family roots run deep. I knew Ken would be eager to share his experience in Lahr with his two brothers. Maybe he’ll inspire them to make a trip to see it for themselves.

Photo 1: Ken in Lahr, Germany
Photo 2: Ken on a downtown street in Lahr
Photo 3: The old Rathaus (City Hall) in Lahr
Photo 4: Hotel am Westend