We chose to visit the European countries where our most recent ancestors lived before they came to America. This was inspired by a call by Al’s second cousins to hold a reunion at the ancestral farm in Sweden. We decided to join them and to visit also Scotland and Germany, where Gail’s ancestors came from. And as long as we were going to Europe, why not stop in Iceland for a brief taste of the island.


We arrived at Reykjavik’s Keflavik Airport at 6:25am, June 8, after flying from Dulles the previous evening. We were only going to be in Iceland for about 49 hours so we could not explore the glaciers, the volcanoes, or the fjords. Instead we opted for two tours, on the first day a cruise to an island near Reykjavik where puffins nest and on the second day a Gray Line Golden Circle Tour that took us to Thingvellir, the site where the world’s first parliament met from the 10th to 18th centuries, to the Gullfoss waterfall, and to the Geysir geothermal area.

Impressions of Iceland

We found the airport confusing to navigate. For example, we wanted some food after our flight but restaurants in the secure zone would only sell to passengers with an outgoing boarding pass ... The drive from Keflavik to Reykjavik confirmed that Iceland was built on lava flows ... The road was well marked with signs ... We were much to early to check in at the Cabin Hótel, but they let us store our luggage while we went exploring the harbor ... Everything was expensive; Iceland is at the end of the supply chain ... The Saga Museum had good dioramas and an audio tour to explain the early history of Viking settlement ... The city folks apparently use dandelions as a decorative flower. Why not? They are bright, they smell good, and they grow like, well, weeds ... Long days near the solstice did not keep us from sleeping, because our tiny hotel room had no outside windows. But there was a window into the hall behind our room, maybe for fire safety ... The Golden Circle Tour was good, but we spent much more time on the road than at the sites ... Finding the rental car return at the airport was hard; we drove around twice before seeing it off to the side.

Reykjavik and Akurey Island

Gail at Reykjavik’s Old Harbor

Harpa Concert Hall

Atlantic Puffin at Akurey Island

Swimming Atlantic Puffins at Akurey Island
The Coast Guard helicopter practicing rescues at sea. The person to be rescued is dressed in warm, waterproof gear and put into the water from the boat. Then the rescuers attach a harness to him or her and a winch in the helicopter yanks him out of the water and up to the helicopter. Our cruise tour guide said that all tour guides on cruises have to go through this training every two years.

The Golden Circle Tour

Thingvellir National Park (in Icelandic, written Þingvellir) is remarkable for both geology and history. Geologically, it sits above the mid-Atlantic ridge where the North American and Eurasion tectonic plates are separating. Historically, starting around 930 CE, representatives of the Icelandic most powerful men met here annually met to hear the Law Speaker recite the laws, to vote on any new proposed laws, and to settle disputes.

Gail and Icelandic horses at Laxnes Farm, where we picked up tourists.
The guide said the Game of Thrones used horses from this farm.

Þingvellir National Park: This cliff marks the eastern edge
of the North American tectonic plate

Looking the other direction

Some tourists at the Þingvellir National Park

Löberg - the Law Rock - where the Law Speaker stood to recite the laws

Redwing bird at Þingvellir declaring its version of the law

In Icelandic, Gullfoss is said to mean the Golden Waterfall. The tourist bureau photos show it in sunshine with rainbows in its mist. It would be nice to see it that way.

Gail at Gullfoss

Gullfoss is a popular tourist site, even without rainbows

Gullfoss, the Golden Waterfall

Looking downstream into the canyon

Can you imagine how startled the Vikings were to find pools of water that would scald their skins and explode into fountains? All earth's geysers get their name from Iceland’s Great Geysir. Etymologically, the word has it roots in the Old Norse word “geysa” which means to gush or rush forth.

The original Great Geysir, which no longer erupts

A colorful, and hot, geothermal pool

The pool of the Strokkur (Icelandic for “churn”) geyser

The start of Strokkur’s eruption

Strokkur’s eruption

The peak of the eruption
Our flight from Iceland to Glasgow, Scotland, was scheduled for 7:35am on June 10. We got up at 4am for the drive to the airport and check-in. I lost my boarding pass going through the security check and had to run around searching for assistance to get a replacement.


Gail’s father’s parents came from Scotland and, after WW II, they moved back to Scotland, where they died. We had the address where they grew up from the Scottish census and the last place they lived from the return address on an envelope. We wanted to see where they came from as well as see a little of the countryside and historic sites of Scotland.

We chose the town of Grangemouth for our base of operations because it was near the historic castle at Sterling, near the town of St. Ninians where Gail’s grandfather, George Paton, grew up, and because it was the town where George and Bella Paton lived until they died.

We stayed at the Grange Manor Hotel. It was great! The room was spacious and the bathroom even had a tub. The breakfasts were full meals, actually two full meals. First there was a breakfast buffet with a variety of good stuff and then after that we got a hot cooked breakfast from the kitchen. It also had easy access to the M9 freeway.

This is the story of driving in Scotland while American. We had no serious mishaps, but they do drive on the left side of the road. We have driven on the left on St. John in the Virgin Islands, but there the driver sits on the left and you would be lucky to get up to 20 mph. In Scottish cars, the driver sits on the right and traffic is a lot faster than 20 mph. Our rental was a sporty Honda Civic. It was hard for us to bend enough to squeeze in the doors, but the arrangement of the brake and clutch were the same as on American cars. Now, when the driver is accustomed to sitting on the left, he or she expects the left side of the car to be close at hand. That’s not how it is when driving from the right. Numerous times our left wheels ran on the shoulder or against the curb because we misjudged the location of the side of the car.

The Grange Manor Hotel

Our room

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

Our adventure for our first full day in Scotland was a visit to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. We drove to Balmaha, stopping at the visitor center there and then hiking along the lake with others ranging from folks strolling with their dogs to long-distance backpackers heading for the mountains. During our hike, two rangers told us about the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) Loch Lomond Wildlife Preserve. We went there, but arrived just before closing time.

We visited Loch Lomond on a mostly cloudy day

Scrambling to an overlook
We did not see any other hikers here. I wonder why.

The southern end of Loch Lomond seen from the overlook hill

Tourist boat and the northern mountains seen from a different overlook

By the Bonnie, Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond

A pair of Goldfinches at RSPB Loch Lomond

More Sightseeing in Scotland

We visited Sterling’s historic castle, built to control the Sterling Old Bridge across the River Forth and, thereby, access to Scotland. History tells of a number significant battles fought at Sterling Castle: the 1297 Battle of Sterling Bridge where Willam Wallace defeated the English (Remember “Brave Heart”?); the 1298 Battle of Falkirk where the re-energized English took back Sterling from the Scots; and the 1314 Battle of Bannockburn where Robert the Bruce defeated English King Edward II. The last battle at the castle was in 1746, when “Bonnie Prince Charlie” tried to take it. Most of the current buildings at Sterling Castle date to Scottish Kings James IV (1488-1513) and James V (1513-1542).

Sticking to a historical theme, we also visited the remains of the Roman Rough Castle and of the wall built at the direction of the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius to protect Roman England against the northern tribes.

Near Rough Castle is the Falkirk Wheel, a sort of Ferris Wheel to lift boats from one canal to a much higher one. We arrived at the end of the day and did not see any boats actually lifted, but we did witness a rotation of the wheel.

We visited the Kelpies, 98-foot-high horse-head sculptures, representing dangerous, mythological water spirits.

At one of the Sterling Castle’s gates

Formidable defenses

The Great Hall of James IV, the largest building in Scotland at its time

Interior of the Great Hall

Life-sized statue of James V on the palace wall

Some of the Sterling Heads on the ceiling of the King’s Inner Hall.
The portraits include Scottish and European royalty, Roman
emperors, and mythological heros.

The Queen’s Inner Hall.

More formidable defenses

A Cannon’s view from Sterling Castle
On the distant green hill is the 220-foot high monument to William Wallace

Gail at the Antonine Wall
The wall constructed for the Roman Emperor Anoninius consisted of a deep ditch, a bank of dirt and stone excavated from the ditch, and a wooden palisade on top of the wall. It ran from the Firth of Forth on the east to the Firth of Clyde in the west. Constructed from 142 CE to 154 CE, it was abandoned 8 years later. In 208 CE, it was briefly reoccupied and then abandoned again. Now there is little to see. The palisade has rotted away. The bank eroded. But the ditch still remains.

Sixteen forts were built along the wall to house the legions manning it. The one at this location, called Rough Fort, was one of the smaller ones. This fort was manned by Nervians, a powerful tribe from southern Belgium. Nothing remains above ground to be seen.

A rotation of the Falkirk wheel

The Kelpies at the Forth and Clyde Canal Gail with the Kelpies

Family history search

We were not successful in visiting the locations associated with Gail's father’s family. Gail’s grandfather, George Paton, grew up at 1 Bannockburn Road in St. Ninians, just two miles south of Sterling. George’s mother, Sarah Hepburn McLean, grew up in Bridge of Allan, four miles north of Sterling. After returning to Scotland, George and Bella Paton lived on 66 Grange Street in Grangemouth.

While we were at Sterling, we drove to Bridge of Allan, but did not know where to look to find where Sarah McLean had lived.

Next we tried to find St. Ninians. Our Scottish map showed the town, but lacked the detail to tell us which streets would get us there. The GPS system in our rental car did not recognize the name of the town! Other than that the GPS was pretty good and easy to program. What happened? After returning to Maryland, we learned that St. Ninians had been incorporated as a district in Sterling and no longer existed as a separate town. A lost opportunity.

Neither GPS nor Google could tell us where Grange Street in Grangemouth was located. We visited the local library where we learned the street had been eliminated and an industrial park built where it had been. The librarian did have a book that showed an old photo of Grange Street. In the Grangemouth Advertiser we found notices of the deaths of George and Isabella, but there was no information about what cemetery they were buried in.

We flew out of Glasgow on a 10:40am British Airways flight. We had over 4 hours of layover in London so we did not get to Sweden until the evening.


The idea of holding a family reunion of the descendants of Olof Andersson and Eva Anderssdotter at the ancestral farm in Sweden was first proposed at the 2016 family reunion in British Columbia. After nearly a year of planning, it came true in June 2018. My grandfather, Victor Emanuel Holm, was the grandson of Olof and Eva and the son of their son Fredrick Olofsson, who had remained in Sweden when three of his brothers emigrated to America. Gail and I participated in the gathering and then took advantage of our presence in Sweden to see cousins to whom I’m related through my grandmother, Frida Sörqvist, and to do more sightseeing in this picturesque part of Sweden.

Location of Fjällbacka in Sweden

We chose to stay in the resort town of Fjällbacka because we knew that it was only about 30 kilometers from the location of our ancestor’s farm. Brad had been there decades ago and knew it was good place to use as a home base, with hotels and restaurants. It is a picturesque village on the rocky shore of the Skagerrak strait. The actress Ingrid Bergman spent her summers here and, when she died, had her ashes scattered near the island her cottage was on. The village is featured in a series of murder mysteries by Camilla Läckberg.

The following cousins attended from America:
  • Eunice Helgeson, great-granddaughter of Olof and Eva’s son Andrew Holm (Anders Olofsson), who emigrated to Minnesota in 1879.
  • Cynthia Sabinske, great-granddaughter of Olof and Eva’s son Otto Holm (Otto Olofsson), who emigrated to Minnesota in 1882.
  • Mike Holm with his wife, Jeannie. Mike is a great-grandson of Otto Holm.
  • Brad Holway, grandson of Alida Carlson. Alida was the daughter of Olof and Eva’s son Fredrick, who had remained in Sweden. She emigrated to New York in 1932.
  • Dan Holway, Brad’s son.
  • Al Holm with his wife Gail. Al is a grandson of Victor Holm, who was the son of Olof and Eva’s son Fredrick. Victor emigrated to Canada in 1909 and then to the U.S. in 1917.
The following Scandinavian cousins also attended.
  • Gerd Sønsterud and her husband Knud Lorensen from Drøbak, Norway. Gerd is a great-granddaughter of Olof and Eva’s daughter Anna Maria, who married Ivar Olof Löngstrom.
  • Linda Tollefsrød, Gerd’s daughter, with her husband Odd and sons Henri and Håkon.
  • Monica Myrland, Gerd’s daughter, with her husband Tommie and sons Axel and Philip.
  • Lars-Olof Holmberg, his son Marcus Holmberg, and Marcus’s partner Ulrika from Vartofta, Sweden. Lars-Olof is a great-grandson of Olof and Eva’s son Carl Johan Olofsson Holmberg.
One of the challenges we faced in planning our reunion was that initially none of us really knew precisely where the farm was located. In her book The Descendants of Olof and Eva Andersson, Helen Holm Hobert had written, “Olof Andersson was a farmer who owned land at Heljebo near Lake Bullaren, the largest lake in Bohus Län”. In his memoir, Victor Holm had written that farm Helgebo was in Mo Parish on the east side of Lake Bullaren at the foot of Kynne Mountain. The farm’s name did not show up in a Google map search. However, from the description, a Swedish cousin of Al was able to locate it with a Swedish online map program. We also found the farm - named Häljebo - in topographical maps of the area. Its location is circled in the map image on the right.

To help future generations to find Häljebo, we note that its latitude and longitude are 58º 39' 31.16" North, 11º 34' 34.64" East.

Laila Falk put us in contact with the current owner of the farm, a German, to make sure that we had permission to visit. She also arranged for the previous Swedish owner of the farm, Rolf Olausson, to give us a tour.

In his later days, Fredrick Olofsson moved to another farm, named either Hällekårret or Hällejäret and that is where Brad’s grandmother grew up, but we were not able to locate it on our maps.

Another challenge the Americans faced was getting in touch with Swedish relatives. This side of the family had lost contact. Once again Laila Falk was able to provide the necessary information. Eunice corresponded with our newly found relatives and some of them were able to join the reunion.

Laila Falk also arranged for us to get see the interior of Mo Kyrka, the church that our ancestors attended, and to attend a church service at Naverstads Kyrka, where Victor Holm was baptised.

Häljebo farm location near Lake Bullaren

Thursday, June 14, was our day of travel and of checking in at Villa Evalotta, our hotel. Brad and Dan came from a journey up Norway’s coast with the Hurtigruten Cruise Line so they flew south to Oslo and drove down from there. Cynthia, Eunice, Mike, and Jeannie flew directly to Oslo from Minnesota. Gail and Al flew to Göteborg from exploring her family’s locations in Scotland.

We stayed in Evalotta’s Villagården building and had all but one of the rooms. It had a large dining and living room, a kitchen we could use, and WiFi. There was even a large-screen TV in the living area where we watched some World Cup matches.


We could have enjoyed ourselves here even if we had not had an ancestral connection to the area. The region is very pretty, both Fjällbacka and the other coastal villages and the inland landscape.

There is a world heritage location at Tanum with petroglyphs created somewhere between 1800 to 500 BCE by the bronze-age inhabitants of the area. We saw many petroglyphs, which had been colored red by the museum folks to make them more visible. I wonder if our ancestors ever saw them.

While riding on a rural road, Al even saw a moose in a deep, wooded gully alongside the road. There were other activities, such as fishing, taking a cruise among the islands, or spending time in Göteborg, that we could have enjoyed, but did not have time for.

Fjällbacka’s harbor seen from our hotel

Fjällbacka’s waterfront seen from Kungsklyftan (The King's Cleft)

Gail walking in Kungsklyft above Fjällbacka

Eunice and Mike planning our itinerary

Typical landscape in this region, fields surrounded by
steep-sided rock hills crowned by trees

Fjällbacka’s Waterfront

At the Bronze-age Petroglyph site at Vitlycke

Ships and the men crewing them were a common subject
of the petroglyph artists

Dancing Girl Petroglyph

Our bronze-age ancestors were not prudish

Churches and Churchyards

Of course, we visited the churches and churchyards that are associated with our ancestors. On Friday, we went looking in the churchyards at Kville, Mo, and Naverstad for gravestones of our relatives. In Sweden, there are no municipal or private cemeteries. Everyone has to be buried in the churchyard. We knew that Fredrick Olofsson had been buried at Kville, but could not find his gravestone. Later we learned that if a grave is not kept up, the stone will be removed.

Mo Kyrka was the home church for Olof Andersson’s family. It is on the west side of Lake Bullaren, so the family probably took a boat across the lake on Sundays. The stone for Fredrick’s older sister, Anna Maria Långström, was still in place at Mo Kyrka and someone was even planting fresh flowers for it. On Saturday, we took Monica and her family to see her ancestors grave.

Al’s grandfather, Victor Emanuel Holm, was baptised at Naverstads Kyrka in the middle of January 1879. We don’t know why this was not done at Mo Kyrka. Maybe the weather was too stormy to cross the lake.

Sunday was our day to see the inside of Mo Kyrka and to attend a 2PM service at Naverstads Kyrka. The visit to Mo Kyrka went very well thanks to Brita. When we got to Naverstads Kyrka, we found a handful of parishioners filing out. The time of the service had been changed without our knowing. However, the pastor and organist stayed late to lead us in three Swedish hymns.

Mike and Cynthia at Kville Kyrka, where Fredrick Olofsson was buried

Eunice, Brad, Mike, Cynthia, Dan, and Al at Mo Kyrka,
the home church of Olof Andersson’s family

Monica and her family at the grave of her great-great-grandmother,
Anna Maria Långström, in the churchyard at Mo Kyrka

Inside Mo Kyrka: Dan, Brad, Gail, Al, Laila Falk, Brita Ivarsson,
Mike, Jeannie, Eunice, and Cynthia

Naverstads Kyrka with its separate 1669 bell tower

Ceiling art, organ pipes, and paintings of Jesus and his Disciples in Naverstads

The Gathering of Cousins

Gerd, her daughter Linda, and their families arrived Friday afternoon. We got together with them that evening, and spent until midnight getting acquainted.

On Saturday, Monica and her family, and Lars-Olof and his group joined us. We had lunch and got to know one another. Later we took our newly found cousins to see Häljebo and the Mo Kyrka.

Gathered for our Saturday lunch

Knud and Brad comparing mustaches

Linda, Gerd, Knud, and Per

Markus, Ulrika, and Lars-Olof

“Official” photo of our reunion, on the steps of the Villagården building

The Ancestral Farm

We visited the Häljebo farm three times, once on each of the full days we were in Sweden. On Friday, we visited it to be sure we knew where it was. On Saturday, we took our Swedish and Norwegian cousins to see it. On a chilly Sunday, Rolf gave us a tour and showed us where the vanished farmhouse had been. Rolf told us that, in his time, the farm had mostly been used for grazing.

Dan, Mike, and Eunice at the approximate location of
Olof Andersson’s home at Häljebo

Rolf shows us a footing stone for the old home

The root cellar may date from when our ancestors lived here,
even though the old home is gone

Rolf’s old photograph of Victor and Jenny Holm with his father and
grandmother gave us assurance that we had found the right farm

Cousins at the location of the old home

Dan, Al, Mike, and Cynthia with the farm’s field behind

The farm buildings today

At the site of Häljebo’s old house with the new one in the background.
The new one has a color common to many Swedish houses.

Panorama of Häljebo’s field

Reunion Conclusion

Our gathering ended on Monday, June 18. Mike, Jeannie, Cynthia, and Eunice headed back to Oslo and a visit to the Viking ship museum there. Brad and Dan remained in Fjällbacka for another day while they met with relatives of his Schevenius grandfather in nearby Humburgsund. Gail and Al moved inland to Dingle and remained in Sweden for another week, meeting relatives of his Sörqvist grandmother and seeing more sights in Bohuslän.

On Our Own

Between leaving Villa Evalotta and checking in at the bed and breakfast, Gail and Al visited locations where his grandmother and great-grandfather were born, but no buildings remain from those days. We also visited the Svenneby Gamla Kyrka. Swedes began building this church in the 1100s. In accordance with the beliefs of the time, it does not have windows on the north side. Its bell tower stands atop a cliff behind the church.

In Dingle, we stayed at Ängens Gård, a bed and breakfast built in a converted barn. The room was spacious with lots of storage, and breakfast was complete - rolls, omlet, tasty Swedish pancakes, cheeses, meats, bacon, fruit, yogurt, cereal, and more - even when only the two of us were there in the middle of the week. In Sweden there are no laundromats, so the kind owner even did our laundry for us when we were running out of clothes.

The old church in a scenic location No windows on the north side of Svenneby Gamla Kyrka

The Bed and Breakfast in Dingle

At the hitching rail

Sörqvist Family History Locations

On Tuesday, Eva-Lisa Lundgren, my second cousin once removed, and her husband Åke took us visiting family history locations. We went first to Svartborgs Kyrka, where Frida’s father, Carl Alfred Sörqvist, was baptized and also where Victor’s grandfather Olof Andersson was baptized. Eva-Lisa's great-grandmother, Mathilda, is buried there. After that they took us to Uddevalla, first to the cemetery where Carl Alfred Sörqvist and his wife Hilma are buried. Next we went to Björkebohagen their last home (58º 22' 28.5" North and 11º 58' 1.2" East), but the only thing that remains there now is an old apple tree. Our final family history stop was Bokenäs Gamla Kyrka. This church dates from the Early Medieval Period, possibly even the late eleventh century, and it is also the final resting place of Al’s great-great-great-great-great-grandmother’s brother, Gabriel Gustaf de Moine. He is buried under the floor of the church in 1751.

After exploring the family history locations, Eva-Lisa and Åke treated us to a delightful lunch of salmon, potatoes, dill sauce, thin bread, cheese, and green salad. Finally, they took us back to Dingle via a scenic coastal route from Kungshamn to Hamburgsund.

Svarteborgs Kyrka, sitting atop a hill

Nearly every church had a row of paintings of Jesus and his Disciples

Eva-Lisa at her great-grandmother’s gravestone

Eva-Lisa, Åke and Al at the site of Björkebohagen.
the vanished last home of Carl Alfred and Hilma

Gravestone for Carl Alfred and Hilma Sörqvist

Where the Sörqvist stone is found in the Eastern Cemetery in Uddevalla

Bokenäs Gamla Kyrka, seen from the south
This church also has no windows on the north side.

A model ship hanging in Bokenäs Gamla Kyrka
Many churches in Bohuslän have these ships.

Back to Tanum’s Petroglyphs

The next day was cold and intermittently rainy, so we decided to stay close to our Bed and Breakfast and visit the bronze-age petroglyphs again. This time we stopped at all four locations with petroglyphs - Fossum, Vitlycke, Aspeberget, and Litsleby - and even accidentally stopped at a rest stop on the E6 freeway with a display about the bronze-age inhabitants. We also visited the reconstructed bronze-age settlement at Vitlycke. Of course, we saw many more ships with their crews, but we also saw a number of other interesting designs.

Based on archeological excavations, a Bronze-age home looked like this

“Sun Horse” at Fossum, left uncolored so the real etching is visible

Either a bronze-age calendar, four rows of seven dots with an 29th one above
or a bronze-age balloon salesman

The “Spear God” at Litsleby, maybe a precursor of Odin
Note the footprints at the left, maybe for a god too powerful to portray

Hiking On An Island

The weather report for Thursday was more positive so we drove to Strömstad, near the Norwegian border, and took a ferry to South Koster Island, which is in the center of Kosterhavet National Park. The Koster Islands are not part of the marine park, but are a nature reserve. They are said to enjoy more sunshine hours than almost anywhere else in Sweden but you can’t tell that from our visit. We hiked along the shore and Al got a number of photos of birds. Freezing the swooping motion of terns was especially hard. We even saw a small Swedish Grass Snake, but did not get a good photo.

The catamaran ferries to the Koster Islands

Hiking along the shore of South Koster Island

A Common Tern, frozen in flight at Ekenäs

Strömstad’s riverfront, the tower of its city hall in the background

Midsummers Day Weekend with Cousin Britt-Marie

Friday morning we drove to Stora Vägen to visit with Britt-Marie Nordqvist. She planned to take us to Tjörn Island for the Midsummer’s Day holiday, but by the time we got there traffic to cross the bridge was backed up. So Britt-Marie first took us to the little Stenungsunds Hembygdsföreningen Museum where she volunteers, and then on the ferry to Ourst Island. On Ourst, we stopped at the house owned by Britt-Marie’s daughter, Malin; Malin had planned to join us for the holiday, but she had to stay in Switzerland for work. We also visited an unusual old church at Halleviksstrand and a Midsummer’s Day celebration at Stenugsund. Back in Stora Vägen, we celebrated the holiday with schnapps and beer, but not too much of either.

The next day Britt-Marie took us to visit Tjörn and the scenic shore towns of Klädesholmen and Skärhamn. The weather turned sunny that day to make for a better experience.

Britt-Marie also gave us old family photos and letters sent by Victor Holm and Aurora Holm to Swedish relatives. Perhaps the most interesting of the family history information was that Al’s grandmother’s grandmother had been sent to debtor’s prison in 1876. Her husband had run off to Norway and it was hard for her to raise her children.

Brit-Marie with a traditional dress in the museum

A 341-year old book in the museum

Gail and Brit-Marie at Halleviksstrands Kyrka

Dancing with children around the Midsummers Pole

Swedish coastal scenery at Kladesholmen on Tjörn

The harbor at Kladesholmen

A beautiful day at Kladesholmen

Al, Brit-Marie, and Gail at Skarhamn

A Day in Göteborg

We visited Göteborg on our last day in Sweden. At Britt-Marie’s suggestion, we avoided the problems of driving and especially parking in the city by driving to the airport and taking the airport bus into the city. In the city we visited the Stadsmuseum, where we learned about the history of Göteborg, and we walked along the waterfront. Göteborg was built by the Dutch in the 1620s as a nearly circular city on the banks of the Göta River with a massive wall, a moat, and a canal into the heart of the city for cargo ships. The city wall is gone, but the canal and much of the moat survive.

At Göteborg’s canal

Looking the other direction on the canal

Remains of a Viking trading ship at the Stadsmuseum

Barken Viking hotel ship on the Göta River and the Lipstick Building

On Monday morning, June 25, Gail and I caught a 6:35am SAS flight to go to Germany.


We visited Ingrid and her family in Gelsenkirchen in 2012, and it was time to visit again. Felix was now seven years old, and we had not met the new “babies”, Marta, five, and Leander, three. As in 2012, Ingrid’s parents, Klaus and Ilse, put us up in a spare room and fed us, fed us very well.

We relaxed a lot, hiking on trails, eating, sleeping, sitting in the garden, doing laundry. In addition, Ingrid arranged for some memorable adventures. We visited the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann, Germany, which is at the site of the first Neanderthal skeletons were found in 1856. We hiked to and climbed on Externsteine, a distinctive series of free-standing rocks. We sailed on, and some of us swam in, Steinhuder Meer, the largest lake in northwest Germany. We visited an art installation called Der Berg Ruft. We watched Germany play Korea in the World Cup. That did not turn out well for the home team, but we still had BBQ in the garden afterwards.

We also visited the St. Nicolai Kirche in Bakede - now incorporated into Bad Münder - and found more records of Gail’s mother’s ancestors.

Holger has a Miata convertible for his commute to work. Cool!


Marta enjoys the pizza her grandfather made It looks like spaghetti, but it’s ice cream
This one is simple, just the ice cream, bananas, a wafer, and fruit sauce. They can be elaborate, shaped to look like a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce, an eggs sunny-side up breakfast, or some other non-ice cream dish. A good reason to visit Germany.


The Neanderthal site includes a modern, interpretative museum, a trail up the Neanderthal valley, and a breeding center where animal breeders are trying to recreate animals with the appearance of the wild Eurasian horse, Tarpan, the wild Auroch cattle, and Wisent, the European bison. The Tarpans and Aurochs are extinct. We saw several horses in the Tarpan pen, but no Aurochs in the Auroch pen, and the Wisent pen was too much of a march for our young hikers.

Felix and a Neanderthal model in modern clothes

Marta and a Neanderthal girl model

Excavating a skeleton? Or digging in a sandbox? Both?

Where the Neanderthal bones were found, since quarried away

“Recreated” Tarpan horse

Marta discovered this strikingly yellow spider along the trail

World Cup

So, Germany beat Sweden and Sweden beat Korea. By the transitive law of math, Germany should then beat Korea. That’s not how it works in sports.

Wearing the right colors is important

How does this work? Leander soon found out

Dressed for victory ...

but the German team is not living up to expectations


The directions to Externsteine were confusing, and we wound up parked 2 kilometers from the rocks. However, the trail through the woods was paved and and good exercise. And there was a giant sandbox along the trail that appealed to the kids.

Gail and Al at Externsteine

Ingrid and the children at Externsteine

Felix and Marta raced to the top of the rock, leaving Al panting behind

Felix, Marta, and Gail descending from the top

Relief carvings in Externsteine’s stones (photo by Ingrid)

What could be better than a large sandbox? A sandbox suspended in the air

Steinhude and Steinhuder Meer

At Steinhude, we stayed in a rental apartment. It was spacious, decorated with a nautical theme, and, best of all, had lots of toys and games for the children. For the adults, it was conveniently located across the street from a supermarket and bakery, and only a short stroll from the lake.

Steinhuder Meer is the largest lake in northwest Germany (12 sq. mi., about 40% the size of Loch Lomond), but is very shallow, averaging only 4.4 feet. It has two islands, Wilhelmstein and Badeinsel. In the 1700s, it was on the border of two warring German states, and in 1765, William, Count of Schaumburg-Lippe, built a fortress on Wilhelmstein. Badeinsel is reachable by a bridge and has a swimming beach.

Only a few ferries are licensed to use an internal combustion engine on the lake. It is delightful to see electric boats leisurely crossing the water. There are many sail boats, and paddle boats shaped like cars are available for rent.

Buildings in the tourist area of Steinhude are picturesque and old

Ingrid found a stork at Steinhude for Al to photograph

The fleet of beautiful boats that ferry passengers to Wilhelmstein

Ingrid, Holger and the kids sailing to Wilhelmstein

Wilhelmstein’s fort

The view from on top the fort

At Badeinsel, going to check the buoy marking the edge of the swim area

A Great Crested Grebe on Steinhuder Meer

Walking along the Steinhude Nature Reserve

Transportation for tourists

Dino Park

On our way back to Gelsenkirchen from Steinhude. we visited Dino Park in Rehburg-Loccum, Germany. It has educational and entertaining exhibits built around a layer of rocks with fossil dinosaur footprints.

The family with one of the many life-sized dinosaur models

Some of the fossil footprints

Felix works to free a model fossil from a fake rock

St. Nicolai Kirche in Bakede

Gail’s maternal ancestors attended St. Nicolai Kirche in Bakede before they came to America. The village of Bakede is now incorporated into the larger town of Bad Münder. This town is southwest of Hanover and just a little north of Hamelin, the Pied Piper town. Bakede’s latitude and longitude are 52º 12' 36" North and 9º 23' 21" East.

We found and photographed records of Hennies family marriages, births, and deaths in the church’s register books. The church administrator said it is good that we came now because in the future the books will be sent to an archive. She also told us that this church has no churchyard where we might find tombstones for family members.

St. Nicolai Kirche in Bakede

The birth record of Gail’s great-great-grandfather,
Fredrich Ludwig Conrad Hennies,
to Hinrich Hennies and Eleonore Stomeyer on September 17, 1788

After our visit to the church archives, we ate lunch at Frietags Hof
in Bakede. Gail ordered Berliner Weisse beer. This is what she got.
Not only colored green, but sweet. (Photo by Ingrid)

The date beneath his name is his date of death, February 6, 1865.

Der Berg Ruft

This one-year art exhibit features three floors of large images of mountains and mountain inhabitants. The top floor has an a 1/500 scale model of the Matterhorn suspended upside down from the ceiling. The floor is a mirror so by looking down the visitor can see what the mountain would look like if you were floating high above the mountain. Patterns of colored lights show contours of the mountain, paths taken by climbers reaching the summit, and more. The title of the exhibit, Der Berg Ruft, comes from a 1938 movie about the tragic expedition that first climbed the mountain. The exhibit is housed in a 100-meter high tank that formerly was used to hold gas. Visitors can go to the top of the tank for a great view of the cityscape.

The old gas tank rising above its neighborhood

Ilse, Gail, and Ingrid at Der Berg Ruft

The view from the top

The End? Other photos

I keep finding aspects of our visit to Germany that I want to remember.

On the Slinky bridge

Felix after his bike class at school

Leander enjoys the wading pool of his Lebanese neighbors

Marta also enjoys the pool

Searching for a bird in Gelsenkirchen (Photo by Ingrid)

Working on “up” and “down” at the playhouse (Photo by Ingrid)

On the morning of July 4, Ingrid escorted us on the train to the Duesseldorf airport. We flew on Aer Lingus, first to Dublin and then on to Dulles. Aer Lingus fed us a good lunch on the transatlantic leg.

Responsible: Albert Holm
Created: 23 July 2018; Updated: 17 December 2021