13. Darmstadt – Hermann’s Legacy

In the morning I leave Milan to return as quickly as possible to the coolness on the north side of the Alps. I travel by train to Zurich where it has started to rain relentlessly in the meantime. Again I test the quality of my rain gear and then travel, when the sun is shining, along the lakes on the east side of the city. The road through the valleys leads me first to Liechtenstein and then to Lindau on Lake Constance.

This two-day trip feels like a necessary route to return because on the one hand there is no historical link between this area and Hermann’s travel story and on the other hand because I feel that the landscape with mountains and lakes, as at the beginning of my journey, is already seen enough. When I reach Lindau I take an extra day of rest to put the website in order and prepare for the final chord of my journey; the meeting with Hermann’s estate in Darmstadt.

Photo: Werner Neidhardt (HFV)

A few months prior to my trip, I received permission from the State Archive in Darmstadt to be photographed together with the only known copy of Hermann’s booklet from 1854 and Hermann’s original photo from 1860.

When I arrive at the State Archive, a photographer is waiting for me and a lady who, as it turns out, is the journalist for the local newspaper. After entering the archive, we go to the reading room where Hermann’s archival documents are already available.

Much to my delight I can carefully hold the pieces, which must have once been touched by Hermann himself, with my fingertips, after which photos are taken that will support the newspaper article about my journey.

With Hermann’s photo and travel book in hand. Photo: Werner Neidhardt (HFV)

After the photo shoot, I am extensively interviewed by the journalist who, in addition to the substantive questions about my journey and family history, also wants to know what prompted me to ever start my family research and the journey in Hermann’s footsteps. After half an hour she knows enough and she has to wait for the newspaper article to be published. I say goodbye to the company with thanksgiving and realize that this is the real end of my journey. The 5 months of intensive preparation for my trip has paid off so that I have hardly experienced any setbacks (I am ignoring the constant headwind). A journey that in 3 weeks not only brought me through Hermann’s memories, but also fulfilled my need for adventure with unexpected events that gave color to the course of my journey and therefore for me a journey I will never forget….