Bucket List and Heritage Trip

Photo by Kevin Pluck - FlickrThe King
As we first began discussing our upcoming trip, at least a few years ago, there were two main objectives.  First, we wanted to explore South Africa, with its combination of large game, fabulous wines, incredible culture and history, penguins and picturesque waterfronts.  Secondly, we wanted to visit the countries of our joint heritages.

With over 471,000 square miles of territory to explore, we will barely touch all that South Africa has to offer.  Kruger National Park is one of the largest reserves in the world, featuring the "Big Five", elephant, rhinos, leopard, lion and Cape buffalo.  And then there are the giraffes, hippos, zebras, wildebeest.

The "Cradle of Humankind"--possibly the start of all mankind on Earth--- is just an hour from Johannesburg.  Cape Town and Cape Peninsula are known for their scenic beauty.  Johannesburg is a vibrant city offering a taste of the many cultures of this country.   And then there is the world-famous Garden Route--rich in natural beauty, Blyde River Canyon with spectacular vistas, and the list goes on.  So much to do, so little time.  We'll give it our best to visit as many of the highlights as possible.

For the heritage portion of the trip, we are traveling to Czech Republic, Poland, Netherlands and Ireland.  Unfortunately, we are going to be missing a few pieces.  Researching our family's past is a project I should have started much earlier.  Beginning the  genealogical search a few months ago, I was hoping to clarify where our ancestors originated with a couple of foregone conclusions, not all of them valid.

Having been told that my father's parents came from "near Prague" we had booked a flight into Prague.  It turns out that my father's father was born in Hungary and his mother was born in Slovakia, neither of which are on our itinerary.  In addition to finding baptismal records, ship's registries and naturalization papers, a general google search opened up an extensive piece of my family that I never knew existed, cousins galore.

We knew that one of Alan's grandmothers was Irish, but were surprised to learn that she was an orphan, and despite earnest efforts, I wasn't able to find anything on her parents.  His mother's parents were both from Poland, and I was able to track back to the village where they were born, Baranowa, and was even able to discover a few additional generations.  Finding this information was made possible through our Airbnb host, Filip, in Krakow.  He had volunteered links to a few Polish genealogical sites, and without his help we would still only know that Alan's grandparents came from Poland.  We probably won't make it to their birthplace, since it is in northern Poland and we are booked in Krakow, which is more southernly, but at least we are in the right country!

My mother's family on her mother's side can be tracked back to Jacob Van Texel and his wife, Aaltjie Storm both born in 1530  and married in 1549 on the little island of Texel, Netherlands.  Being familiar with the Dutch heritage, we had booked Amsterdam, but Texel may be too far afield to squeeze into our visit.  On the father's side of her family, the link goes back to Isle of Man (just off the coast of Ireland) and Scotland.

Hungary, Slovakia and Scotland are all missing from our trip, so just another excuse to travel back!

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