Trommler Georg Will beim
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Wedding on the “Ulmer Schachtel” – 1785

In May of the year 1785, there happened to be chaotic activity before the old city of Ulm, where the small Danube flows into the large Danube. A motley crowd gathered around the landing place of the “Ulmer Schachteln” (a special little ship).


The model of an “Ulmer Schachtel”. In the background a picture of an old German town (Reutlingen, Baden-Württemberg)

The citizens of Ulm had already seen some curious ship coming up and driving down the Danube, but what happened now at the landing place seemed worth a second look. Thousands of emigrants left their German homeland and paddled downstream with kith and kin. In the overcrowded hotels of the Ulmer city spine-chilling tales of Hungarn could be heard, a land which was supposed to border upon Turkey. There was a general shaking of heads about this never-ending rush of people, who waited for the strange ship in order to travel to that far, wild country. The citizens of Ulm stood several-day-long on the banks of the Danube and watched the bustling activity and the embarking, watched the boats crammed with travelling people sailing down the Danube, and shook their heads.
Idle people rove about among the emigrants, merchants drowned out the noise praising their goods, which they dragged through the crowd on small carts. The May sun shone warm on the colourful scenery, and the clear water of the Danube whispered in the sands. Remarkably much girls and women stood together in larger and smaller groups, surrounded by children. The men were in the city, they had affairs of passport to arrange; they listened in the guest rooms to the narrations of the landlords, who knew much of the earlier colonists and exaggerated their stories in order to captivate the guests; they deliberated about the route and future.
In the tavern “Scheibenwirt” everything was in a happy jumble. The bar parlour was packed with settlers. Thick clouds of smoke hung in the air. Beer mugs were set down hard on tables and the discussion undulated over-loud through the room in one hundred directions. The innkeeper “Scheibenwirt” forced his way through the tables with his thick belly, both hands full with beer mugs. Today, the “Scheibenwirt” was particularly cheerful. He ordered an extra round of drinks for all his guests at his own expense. He had become godfather today. An emigrant’s wife, who lodged at the “Scheibenwirt” waiting for the next ship to come, bore a son. And because the woman and her husband had come alone from their village and had no acquaintances or relatives among the emigrants asked the “Scheibenwirt” if he might lift the little boy from the baptism. The godfather was honoured with largest joy in the guest room. The innkeeper knew his business. With him being a godfather he was popular with the emigrants at one blow, and everybody poured into the “Scheibenwirt”. Even curious Ulmer citizens could be seen within the crowd of emigrants, listening to the discussions of the colonists.
On the banks of the Danube sat the children, throwing pebbles into the water and laughing about the gurgling sound. The adolescents hurled flat stones over the water surface so that they up-hopped several times and tore "clocks" into the water surface. Winner was who made more "clocks" with a throw, and was duly admired by the snips. The children came together easily; whether they came from the Odenwald or from the Rhine, Kaiserslautern or from the Black Forest, from the Neckar or the Mosel. They twittered in the most diverse dialects, wearing different traditional costumes, but they understood each other. They became the generation, who remembered the German homeland merely as a dream in the new, foreign country.
It was more difficult with the old. They flocked together after village and area, after costumes and dialect. But the same destiny also built bridges, differences faded. Many a man sat at the banks of the Danube and looked mutely into the playing waves, as if he wanted to ask her for his future and his destiny. And nearby sat another man, turning the same thoughts in his mind. They moved closer, asked about their home village and emigration destination. Some friendship and some loyalty vow were forged here, closed by the same fate, the fate of the German emigrants.
The awaiting crowd started to move when, against noon, the carpenters rolled an “Ulmer Schachtel” on trunks into the Danube. Everyone milled around the little ship. The men and lads pushed strongly into the joints of the ship-posts and soon the “Schachtel” waved on the water. The masters examined the ship in detail, let it row back and forth on the river before the eyes of the crowd and then declared the embarking to start.
Now the crowd became a rummaged ant-hill. The mothers called for their children and husbands. The belongings and large multicoloured bundles were picked up and the large farmer chests were filled with all the indispensable things; the departure drew nearer now and the children became a little anxious. They clung to the skirts of their mothers and looked timidly to the small ship. The young people joyfully cut capers and announced themselves boastfully as scullers to the ship-masters. The embarking began. Over broad planks the small farmer cars and trucks, horses and flock were shipped into the rear part of the “Ulmer Schachtel”. Womenfolk carried kitchenware and bags of food over the planks, sweating and with fearful eyes. Over there, two boys nearly took off the neck of a goat, because it merely gazed into the water and didn’t want to go over the ship-planks; there, a gasping man and woman shoved a calf, which refused each step with saucer eyes and pitiful blare. A little girl carried carefully a little basket with tiny chicken and a clucking hen, which gaggled crabby with ruffled feathers. An old man with hoary hair carried a large trumpet under his arm, with which he, as one told, came from a war and he did not want to part with it. The children, each with a bundle sometimes bigger than themselves, ran headlessly in disorder. And the citizens of Ulm stood around and shook their heads; the merchants made their last efforts, and the horses whinnied fearfully in the rocking ship. The “Scheibenwirt” dragged an old farmer cradle for his godchild to the ship, stating that they won’t probably have such a thing in Turkey. Old farmers with tricornes and plaits, in blowing long coats with light buttons, disputed with the ship master, paid the price of transportation and determined the rowers, who had to pay only one gulden. Strong young fellows and men were chosen, who should handle the heavy long rudders. When at noon the bells of the “Ulmer-Cathedral” droned, cattle and cars, plows and households, beddings and foodstuffs were embarked. Forthwith, after a quick meal, the emigrants finally mounted the little flat ship. The children were set on bedding- bundles, the women and girls squatted all around on timbered banks, men and fellows stood on the thwarts. Finally, the landing-stacks were pulled and the ship-master called for departure.
An old farmer-woman flipped the Bible open and read with aged voice the event, how Jesus saved the fishermen from storm and waves. The rowers uncovered their heads, and the children folded their little hands. The ship-master bawled rhythmically over the small ship, the oarsmen cast one last look to the old houses of the city of Ulm and dipped the long rudders into the clear waters of the Danube. From the banks the staying folk took their leave. The “Ulmer-Schachtel” slid slowly downstream. At the nose of the ship stood haughtily the old man with his trumpet and belt out in pure tones the folksong: "If I come, if I come, if I come again ..." into the sun-clear May air. The old song resounded with Ulm’s gabled houses. The women were moved to tears, the men had transfixed faces. Keeping time with rowing, the rudders struck the water. The old trompeters song faded away. He clamped his instrument under the arm, sat down calmly on a large farmer-chest and dug his old face in his hands. He had once been a rough warrior and was ashamed of his tears. Many of the hard, haggard faces of the emigrating German men twitched in pain. They knew that they would never again see the Cathedral of Ulm.
The little ship skimmed over the surface of the Danube, propelled by strong arms. The men relieved one another at rowing. The children lay spread on beddings and dozed in the May sun, womenfolk, overcome from the excitements and efforts, fell asleep while sitting. The little crowd rove calmly southwards through German lands on the old Danube-route.
On a vacant thwart sat a girl, hands in her lap, and sang quietly to herself. Her eyes followed the silver-bright small waves which were drawn into the water surface by the ship. Longing and soulful sounded her melodies. She sang of lonesomeness and abandonment, about the forget-me-not in father’s garden, sang of green clover and white snow, of love and death. When she saw her pretty face dancing with the waves, surrounded by her fair plaits like a golden ring, she laughed and got dimples into the cheeks. She seemed to have turned away from the women’s anxious faces and the men’s sober discussions. The sunny day of May was reflected on her “dimples-face”; the young bosom enjoyed the full fresh Danube air and her blue eyes competed laughing with the reflection in the Danube waves.
When she raised her eyes to the oarsmen, who stood sweating at the long rudders, she blushed. In front, close to her, rowed a tall and slender lad, who seemed to observe her. She didn’t know him but had already noticed him amidst the mass of emigrants because of his composure and taciturnity. He always stood alone and didn’t seem to look for company. He didn’t come from her village. Regarding his traditional costume he seemed to originate somewhere from Franconia or from Palatinate. His tanned face seemed to lighten with joy when he saw the girl blushing. His bright eyes were caught by the lovely reflection of the girl, which juggled in the water. After a while the girl continued unflaggingly to sing.
Towards evening the rowers were replaced. When the young man jumped off his thwart and sat down on his chest, an old farmer, the leader of the group of emigrants, walked up to him and asked: "You are emigrating all alone?" The fellow nodded. "Are you married?" the farmer continued to ask. "No", the lad answered. "Well", harrumphed the leader: "An important point of the settlement instructions is that only married settlers are allowed to settle down in a farmer colony. In Vienna they will not allow you to travel on." For a while both fell silent. Then the old man answered deliberately again and put his hand on the lad’s shoulder: "Look boy, as a German you surely wouldn’t want to marry a Turk or Walachia if you arrived there, provided that you pass Vienna”. The young man looked across to where, in the gloss of the sinking sun, the girl still sang her songs, turned and said smiling to the old farmer: "It is still a long way to Vienna..." The old man understood and twinkled cunningly. He rose, gave him his hand and said laughing: “Thus, then good luck!” He groped over the bundles, stopped again and asked: "What is your name and where do you come from?" "Christoph Burger from Franconia." Nodding, the old man left.
The young man rummaged in his chest. Soon he leaned against the ship posts, munching his supper. He had put the broad hat over his knee. The evening sun gleamed in his hair. Settled in groups and alone, the colonists ate their simple cold meal. The cattle nibbled in the back part of the ship. The youngest emigrant, whom the “Scheibenwirt” had lifted from the baptism in Ulm, also received supper; he hung with full cheeks on mother’s chest. Father and mother looked with pride on the hungry offspring.
Little by little the sunset glow faded between the willow-bushes on the banks. On the Danube it flickered like liquid gold. The evening bell sounded from a village somewhere near the Danube.
The emigrants wrapped blankets about themselves and lay down to sleep. It became quiet on the “Ulmer Schachtel”. The rudders rushed monotonously and the cradle, present of the “Scheibenwirt”, beat time on the ship-boards. The young mother hummed quietly a song.
On a little wooden bench sat the blond girl, her arms behind the neck and looked up to the stars, which appeared now in the pale sky. Suddenly she winced. The Burger Christoph had sat down beside her. She moved away a little and smoothed her blue apron. "Are you frightened?" Christoph asked and looked into her face. "A little", she said and twiddled the corner of her apron with bended head. "What’s your name, girl?" "Annemarie. Annemarie Siewert. They call me Amei. And you?" She watched him curiously. "Christoph Burger, Stoffl I’m called” "Don’t you have any relatives among the colonists?" "No, got away at night and climbed over the village wall. Wouldn’t be a bondslave anymore. The noblemen’s servants rode over our fields at a battue, they rammed everything into the ground. I almost beat the equerry to death and then rushed into the forest. I had to flee at night. They searched the whole village for me. My old father was beaten, in order to betray my hiding place. Now I am denunciated as a subject, without permission for emigration. There is no way back any more. I want to be a free man on a free clod. And if I had to plough this clod with my fingernails, it must be free and I should be freeman on it. For this clod I want to fight death and devil." The fellow’s eyes sparkled and he clenched his fists. "You are a rough fellow", the girl said seriously and watched the young man’s marked face. "Girl, the world and humans made me rough. Down there in the Temer Banat one will need the rough fellows." There was silence for a while. "Who’s your father, maid?" "The old trumpeter." "So it’s due to him that you know all these beautiful songs?" "Did you like them?" “All day long you seemed to me like a Danube-damsel, who guarded us with her songs against the dangerous eddies and rocks. The rowing wasn’t wearisome at all." "Look Stoffl, do not tease me or I will become angry. I grew up with songs and singing. Trumpeter-Hans, my father, already played these many old songs at my cradle. One day without a song would be like a funeral for me." "I am not teasing you, in no way Amei! Because my childhood was so sad and stern, without sun and singing, you appeared to be a fable figure with your beautiful little songs. At home, they always tell you that the Danube-damsels sing at sunset and that they would be blond, that is what my mother said. You will have to stand it that you seem to me like a Danube-damsel, only that you miss the fins." He reached for her hand and, laughing, looked into her eyes. She withdrew her hand from his large fist and said, impishly looking at him: "However, no one is allowed to travel over the Danube’s maelstrom with a Danube-damsel.” They both laughed and the girl said after a while: "You don’t seem so rough to me any longer." "That I owe the Danube-damsel. It must be true that a magic proceeds from them. When I was still a little boy, my mother told me that every man who looked into the eyes of a Danube-damsel at sunset, is bewitched and has to follow her... Amei, I almost believe that I’m bewitched.... ". “Amei!" called a voice from stern. "That’s my father. I ought to go." He pressed her hand and she disappeared under a tent square, behind which a candle flickered.
The Stoffl stayed on the bench for a long time, looked up to the stars and listened to the regular clap of the rudders. On the bench of the steersman stood a lantern. One could see the mates’ pipe glow. Except for this the ship lay in darkness. The deep breath of the sleepers reached the oarsmen, who seemed to grow into the night like ghosts. When the moon rose, Stoffl wrapped a rough blanket around himself and lay down on the ship-planks.
Towards morning, when the eastern sky turned pale and the birds ashore began to twitter in the branches, they awoke the Stoffl. He had to row again. When the first rays of the morning sun flit over the Danube, Amei appeared under the tent square.
The Stoffl had already been watching the spot for a long while and was now sending her a morning greeting, laughing. "The Danube-damsels sleep that long?” Amei fiddled with her blond plaits and sent him a laughter. The sunlight surrounded the girl. Stoffl almost lost the beat, in such a way the sanguine girl had him enchanted. "I wonder what your eyes are looking for, Stoffl?" an oarsman muttered in front of him. The girl laughed and squeezed through the scattered household appliances.
The small ship came back to life now. People emerged from their blankets, stretched their numb limbs; the women had kindled a small fire and prepared gruel.
When Stoffl was relieved, he went to see the ship-master and asked him when the “Schachtel” would arrive in Regensburg. "The day after tomorrow, if the weather stays fine," said the man and stuffed his pipe without a hurry. It happened that the leader approached. He came to a stop beside them, looked smiling at Stoffl with his old wrinkly face and asked: "Well Christoph, what about the most important point of the settlement instruction and about the farmer colony in the Banat?" "I will get the permission to settle down!" Stoffl laughed. “Golly! That however is boldly spoken. But it pleases me. Well…what did I want to say…. who is going to settle down with you in the colonist house?” “You will come to know in Regensburg. Would you stand in for my father and be witness to my marriage?" Now the old farmer was astonished nevertheless. He moved his broad hat to the neck. “If you are serious, shake hands with me. We will hold together! I like you, Christoph.” "My father called me Stoffl." "Stoffl. They call me Schultheiss-Martin. You can call me cousin Martin." Somebody called for the Schultheiss-Martin. He padded Stoffl’s shoulder and left. Stoffl was eagerly looking forward to the evening. He tried to speak to Amei several times, but she always escaped him.
When it was his turn to row again, she sat on her usual place and sang for herself. She secretly glanced at the tall young man. When he noticed her glances and their eyes met, she blushed and hesitated in her song. When the lad was finally replaced at dusk, he sat beside her, seized her hand and asked her to stay with him. She lowered her little head and worried that the ship would sink. Thus they sat there mutely for a while. The stars already twinkled in the sky. Stoffl touched the girls chin and turned her face. "Amei, I like you, would you like to settle down with me in a farmer colony in the Banat, will you become my wife, Amei?" For a long time she looked in his face, in which the features were hardly to be seen in the darkness. She could only see his honest, bright eyes. "Do you like me, Amei?" he asked again quietly. She nodded. He embraced her, and on the water’s surface where the moon’s silver flickered, you could see two tightly embraced figures.
At the landing-stage in Regensburg a large crowd of curious bystanders assembled when the “Ulmer Schachtel” landed. The bank was packed with emigrants, who wanted to start their journey to the Banat.
The same scenery as in Ulm. From the “Ulmer Schachtel” a solemnly course disembarked. Foremost went the Amei, her father on her side, that Trumpeter-Hans and his wife. Followed by Stoffl and the Schultheiss-Martin. From Amei’s shoulders hung an old threadbare fringed cloth, and into her fair plaits she had wreathed a white little crown of flowers. Stoffl´s hat was also embellished with a white crown and the “Trumpeter-Hans” and the “Schultheiss-Martin” wore their dark jackets decorated with twigs of rosemary. That little rosemary bush, which a woman had carried with her, was the one to suffer. Amei and Stoffl also had prigs of rosemary attached across their chests. The passengers of the ship gathered around the small wedding procession, which slowly forced its way through the dense crowd at the landing place. The grave and grievous faces of the surrounding emigrants brightened, as word spread that a wedding procession approached. A small man waved his hat and shouted: "Is this all a wedding?" The Schultheiss-Martin laughed and pointed at Amei and Stoffl: "The protagonists participate, the other folk is not needed." Laughter arose around and people followed the procession with their eyes, shaking heads. The Amei looked shy on the ground, as it befits a bride. The Stoffl walked upright and with free eyes beside the distinctive Schultheiss-Martin. The parson of Regensburg could not unite bride and bride-groom in the church, because the necessary formalities could not be performed but he nevertheless wrote into the "marriage book for soldiers and foreigners": On permission of the mayor, of me privatim wedded in the study of rectory to Regensburg... and then still remarked behind the names: "on their way to Banat.”
When the procession made its way back through the lanes of Regensburg, the Stoffl led his young wife at the hand. Congratulations were shouted from all directions. At sunset the “Ulmer Schachtel” was on its way again towards Vienna on the wide open Danube. On top of the thwart stood Stoffl and rowed. Amei sat at his feet, knitting a sock for him and had dimples in her cheeks all the time. The Stoffl rowed with strong arms, looked down at his young wife and imagined his settler-house, somewhere far down in the “Temescher Banat”, surrounded by the field, the free clod, his clod and the clod of his children.
Leopold Egger
Excerpt from "Tag der Donauschwaben- 5 bis 10 August 1958“
Translated by: Hartmut Flohr

Freundliche Grüße an alle Neu-Pasuaer Landsleute in der ganzen Welt

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