Last year, my wife and I were talked into taking a Danube river cruise from Budapest, Hungary to Prague, Czech Republic in late August. While we were planning our trip, my wife agreed to add an extra day at the end of our trip in Prague so that I could learn more about my Wendish heritage. I wanted to visit the Sorbisches Museum in Bautzen and I was hoping to see the area where my mother’s family (Matthijetz) came from.
As I looked closely at the Sorbisches Museum, I found that the museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays. We were scheduled to arrive in Prague on a Friday afternoon and fly home the following Tuesday. Our river cruise included a tour of Prague on Saturday, the only day we could really visit the Sorbisches Museum. My wife and I had never been to Prague so we really wanted to get a tour of the city so I started to look up tour companies to see how expensive it would be to book a private tour of the city, and also tried to find a way to get to the Sorbisches Museum in Bautzen. My wife and I aren’t ones to venture out on our own much, so being in a foreign country and not doing all of our excursions through the tour group or cruise group was new to us. Fortunately, we had several months to prepare for this trip.
I first looked into taking the train to Bautzen from Prague. While it was doable, the time spent on the train was twice as long as if we travelled by automobile. My wife and I did not feel comfortable in renting a car and driving ourselves, so I started looking at other options. I found a tour company run by a husband and wife who did tours in the surrounding countries along with Prague and the Czech Republic. They had excellent reviews on Trip Advisor.
I contacted them to see if they could drive us to Bautzen on Saturday and then give us a Prague tour on Monday. After several emails, they found a driver to take us to Bautzen on Saturday and a tour guide for Monday.
Sometime after our agreement with the tour company, I realized that the church my ancestors attended was very close to Bautzen in Klitten. St. Johns Lutheran Church in Klitten was also the church of Pastor Johann Kilian and the passengers of the Ben Nevis. I contacted the tour company again to see if the driver could take us to the church after our visit to the Sorbisches Museum. A few days later, I got the quote for the added trip to Klitten and agreed to the terms.
I had also contacted the Sorbisches Museum by email before our trip to see if the exhibits were in English, because I do not speak or read German or Wendish. Mrs. Pawlikowa and I exchanged some emails back and forth and she let me know that the museum had an audio guide in English that we could use. I asked her if we could meet. She said August 25, the day we would be at the museum was her day off, but she would try to meet with us.
On August 25th, the driver picked us up at our hotel and we were off to Bautzen. The weather that day called for rain showers and as we entered the city of Bautzen, it was pouring rain. Our driver was having some trouble finding the museum and had to ask some locals for help. Just as we arrived at the museum, the rain stopped and it did not rain again that day.
When we went into the Sorbisches Museum, we met the Director of Research, Mrs. Andrea Pawlikowa (Andrea Paulik). It was a pleasure to meet her. I gave her a copy of my book and she gave me a book about the Wendish culture and some pamphlets about local Wendish customs. We spent about 2 hours looking at all the exhibits and learned a lot. We walked around that part of the city and found a place to eat lunch. They had some Wendish items on the menu and we tried the Wendish dumplings, Wendish wedding soup and the Wendish roasted pork. We also tried a Bautzen brewed beer. Everything was very good. We walked around the general area of the museum and took some pictures before heading out to visit St. Johns Lutheran Church in Klitten.
Our driver found the church very easily, but when we walked up to the church I wasn’t sure we were at the right one. Above the door of the church, there was the date, “Anno 1930”. I tried to enter the church, but the door was locked and no one was around. My wife and I walked around the church to see if there was another way in. There wasn’t but there was a cemetery next to the church. My wife and I started to read the headstones and realized this had to be the church we were looking for. The names on the headstones were Kieschnick, Noack, Mitschke, etc, so I knew we must be at the right place. However, we could not get into the church. I was a little disappointed, but we decided we would leave.
As our driver started to leave the church property, he saw a man walking towards the church, so he stopped the car. I got out of the car to talk to the man. He asked why we were there and I told him I thought my family had immigrated from there and when he heard the Matthijetz name, he introduced himself. His name was Pastor Daniel Krause and he was the pastor of St. Johns. He asked me if we wanted to see the inside of the church. I said yes and he said he would go get the keys and be right back. When Pastor Krause came back with the keys he unlocked the door and let us in. We asked if we could take pictures and he said yes. The church had the same floor plan as St. Pauls Lutheran Church in Serbin, TX and I knew we were in the right place. In the back of the church there was also a small plaque commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Ben Nevis voyage to Texas.
Pastor Krause told us the church had burned and the steeple had to be removed. The main body of the church was the original building but the steeple attached to the church was rebuilt in 1930. Pastor Krause gave us each a copy of a hymn he had written about the church, so I gave him a copy of my book. All in all it was a great day. For me, it was the highlight of the whole trip.
To see pictures from the Sorbisches Museum in Bautzen and St. Johns Lutheran Church in Klitten, Germany please go to: