Episode 12: That Time I Walked In My Ancestor’s Footsteps

365 Dates of Travel Podcast

Transcript for Episode 12: That Time I Walked In My Ancestor’s Footsteps

This week I’ll be reading stories directly from the book and I have included stories from Germany, Yorkshire in the UK, and a story from Portugal. 

The first story is all about the joy I get from an eight hour train journey from London to Germany, with some penny pinching along the way to a luxury hotel and my first glimpse of Germany’s version of ancient Rome.

2nd February (2015) London, UK to Trier, Germany

Check in for my Eurostar train closed at 6:00 am. So I scrambled out of bed early, hopefully quietly, and walked across the road to St Pancras Train Station. I had eight hours of train travel to my destination for the night of Trier in Germany.

The Eurostar would deliver me to Brussels in two hours. The train was sold out, and the carriages were strewn with people’s belongings. I sat next to a guy who could not speak English. I didn’t need to talk. Gestures worked when I wanted to get out of my window seat to use the bathroom and buy myself some food.

I secretly just wanted to walk around the train while moving, and experience the rhythm through my feet as moving along. It’s a novel experience compared to sitting static in your seat. I smiled away as the train threw me from side to side as I walked through the carriages. Trains always bring back memories of my fabulous American trip in 1992.

I brought a sandwich and other snacks with me, but I bought a ham and cheese toastie for breakfast from the buffet car instead. It was warm and filling, and an excuse to explore the train.

Once in Brussels, I had eighteen minutes to transfer platforms. My seat was in coach 17, and I needed to walk to coach 11 to find the platform transfer shortcut along the “couloir sud”, south corridor, the quickest way to platform 3.

The second train, an ICE train, would take me into Germany, dropping me off at the cathedral city of Köln in under two hours. I reserved a window seat choosing a seat with a space between my row and the row behind to keep my luggage close by. It worked well. No one else utilised the space, and I had a double seat to myself throughout the journey. I was glued to the window, watching visions of Europe unfold before my eyes. It’s so different from Australia.

I had been to Köln on my 2013 river cruise. This is my second visit, thus familiar with the cathedral being outside the station. I had an hour layover, so ventured outside to the cathedral and the fresh air.

It annoyed me having to take my big bag. I didn’t want to venture far. I had written directions to, and instructions for, the left luggage service, or “Gepäck”. This was an automated machine you placed your luggage in. Your bag disappears to a downstairs storage area, and returned to you once you put the correct code into the machine when ready to retrieve. It costs €2 for up to two hours.

I was too cheap to pay for the toilet. Though, most of the toilet issue stemmed from the toilet’s location, not the price. The toilets were downstairs. I had visions of falling with my bag landing on top of me.

Now, I would give the machine my bag, paying the €2, pay for the downstairs toilet, and then wander freely outside without my bags. I’m not as penny-pinching anymore. I’d also utilise the toilet on the train before getting off. Next time I’m in town, I want to play with that luggage machine, though, just for the fun of it.

Despite all the above, I headed outside and walked around the outside of the cathedral. Then I found myself a spot with a view of the cathedral to sit down and eat my lunch, my pre-bought sandwich. The bag became useful as a seat. Not long after I started eating, it started sleeting, so I went back into the warm, dry station.

The last train, being regional, had a different design. The train contained a carriage for people travelling with luggage. I sat here with two older women. The seats folded up on the outside of the carriage facing inwards. With only one row on each side, it allowed space for large bags, prams, or bikes, or whatever else someone might travel with. The open space, however, made it easy for bags to fall over. Our bags took it in turns to tumble down as the train trundled along.

My diary mentions the open carriage made it difficult to leave bags to go to the toilet, but it had a toilet. It doesn’t say whether I left my bag to use the toilet. Or if I took my bag with me to the toilet. I am afraid I do not remember. With a two-and-a-half hour train ride, though, I hope I went to the toilet.

I was tired by now, taking naps along the way. But I wanted to watch the scenery. I was seeing more snow, but it wasn’t everywhere. One thing surprised me, though, was the number of solar panels. There appeared to be a higher percentage of buildings with panels than back home. I think it’s wonderful, but wondered how much use they would be, given currently covered in snow.

On arrival in Trier, I had a quick five-minute walk to the hotel, where the Porta Nigra greeted me. I splurged on my hotel room, paying extra for a room with a view, and it was worth it. All thoughts about utilising hostels disappeared from the memory. Luxury hotels are the way to go. I noted in my diary I felt guilty speaking English throughout the check-in process and the view was AMAZING!!

Being late on a winter’s day, the light was fading. I couldn’t linger on the view for long. It would be there on my return. I’ll assume I used the bathroom before heading to The Roman Bridge.

I found the bridge to be a disappointment, and I didn’t even bother taking a photo in the fading light. I should have waited until tomorrow.

I found a supermarket and bought supplies for the following day. A banana, applesauce, yoghurt, cheese, potato salad and two apple juices cost €6.

For dinner, I treated myself to room service. Schnitzel with a view. I had one of the apple juices to accompany dinner, and I saved the bread from dinner to go with the cheese for lunch tomorrow. Food sorted. Lights out by 8:30 pm.

This story is all about family history in Yorkshire. In 1998, I get to walk in the footsteps of my ancestors and find the grave site of my great great grandfather called Ebenezer Heap. Could you ask for a better name? 

7th February (1998) Yorkshire, UK

I headed to Yorkshire for family tree research. I visited other places outside London on this trip, but I set aside this time for visiting places I’d come across during my research.

Everyone does a family tree assignment during their school years. After doing mine, I remained interested and intrigued, so continued researching while living in London with the records on hand. Now I wanted to see my ancestral home.

The first “Heap” to leave England for Australia departed from a village called New Mill. It was too small to have accommodation. I stayed in a bigger town called Huddersfield, around a forty-minute train ride from Manchester, where I’d found a youth hostel. From Huddersfield, a circular local bus would deliver me to New Mill in between twenty-five to thirty-five minutes, depending on the direction. New Mill’s deep in the Yorkshire countryside, and beautiful.

My first arrival in New Mill was heart-warming. The bus dropped me outside the local food co-op and I wasn’t sure what to do from there. Then I saw the church on the hill. That’s the perfect place to start. As I walked up the hill, I recognised street names and places I had come across during my research. I thought of my ancestors walking up this hill back in the day and tears started falling down my cheeks. That was unexpected, but something I will never forget. We had come full circle. It was here, my family left, and now I was back. Amazing.

The church was locked. I could access the key from such-and-such address. Back down the hill. I nervously knocked on the door, and to my surprise, given the key without requiring a spiel about family history. Back up the hill, and I let myself in.

It’s eery being alone in a church. Even a small church. I passed the baptismal font wondering how many of my ancestors had been baptised in there. I looked around, taking it all in, but I desired a tangible connection to my family. Eventually, I found a list of contributors, including the Heap surname. The “Misses Heap”. That referred to Betsy and Alice Emma, the spinster sisters of Joseph Heap, who emigrated. The sisters ran the family grocery business. Concrete evidence my family was here.

I returned the key, then explored the cemetery outside. Within minutes, I found a large grave with a tall stone cross and “Heap” written on it.

In loving

memory of

Ebenezer Heap

Sudehill Cottage, New Mill

Who died Jan 30 1868 aged 61 years

There can only be one Ebenezer Heap. Actually, there is a second one in a distant family branch, but I had found my ancestor, Joseph Heap’s father, my great-great-great-grandfather. Twelve other family members were buried in this plot, so an incredible find. Ebenezer’s first wife Ann, nee Lockwood, my direct ancestor, was the oldest burial, with her dying at the tender age of twenty-six in 1834. The last burial being a granddaughter of Ebenezer, aged eighty-six, in 1947. Over a hundred years, and three generations of family together.

I spent the rest of the day traversing the cemetery, finding a few more gravestones potentially relating to my family. I copied down the details for future reference. A successful first day in my ancestral town.

The last story for this week is set in Portugal. The magical, wonderful Portugal. And I’m in Tomar, where I get to visit a castle built by the Knights of Christ, which was the continuation of the Templar Knights that were disbanded in the 14th century. I had no idea they existed until I did research for the Portugal trip. And I learnt a lot, and it was worth it.

27th February (2020) Tomar, Portugal

The included breakfast started the day well despite being difficult to get up. Reception staff locked my bags away and I headed to the castle. The square from last night had mesmerising paving, called Portuguese Pavement, and I stopped to appreciate it before finding the stairs that started my climb.

The road leading to the castle entrance was steep and winding. Being early, no one was in front, or behind me. It was meant to be a ten-minute walk, but the steepness made it longer. Stopping to catch my breath added time. The castle walls became imposing as you got closer. My tummy was all a flutter at the joy I knew was coming. The climb would be worth it.

Behind 12th century walls sits The Convent of the Knights of Christ. The Knights of Christ were the continuation of the Templars after their official disbandment in 1314. I loved The Da Vinci Code and Templar history, but did not know the Templars sort of lived on in Portugal until researching this trip.

They achieved the circular shape of the church by having sixteen sides creating magnificence, both outside and in. The charola, a round walkway encircling the altar, is rich in decoration and intricate details. Shining gold and painted surfaces. Many people visit without going inside. Why? The inside is incredible. You can’t imagine until you see for yourself. Entrance costs €6. People on TripAdvisor reviews said there was enough to see outside, so didn’t waste money going inside. This shaped church is unique and worth seeing inside.

The site is confusing to navigate. I’d been advised to pick up a map, but they were sold out. Over three hours, I saw everything I could. I’m unsure if I saw everything as no set path to follow, multiple avenues to get to places, throw in backtracking and going round in circles, and who knows where I went. I saw the highlights I knew of though, including the Manueline Window. Fabulous. I explored cloisters and stairways, ruins and turrets, gardens and drains.

I had the venue to myself in the beginning. It’s wonderful having places on my own. Slowly people arrived as the day moved on. I bought lunch, a ham and cheese tostas, or toastie, which I ate outside in view of the viaduct that delivers water to the convent. I wanted to head out of town where you can walk along a section of the viaduct built between 1593 and 1613. Without a car, and out of season, I was out of luck. One day, I will have to return.

Without visiting the viaduct, I had time to fill in. I treated myself to a Portuguese tart at the cafe out the front of the castle. When in Portugal you have to eat Portuguese tarts.

I headed down the hill, picked up my bags from the hotel, and walked to the train station. Leaving earlier than planned allowed for a nicer arrival at Lisbon. I settled into my room before attending a work conference the next day.

I had a great food day. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and room service dinner, with nothing from a supermarket. I am loving Portugal.

Wrap Up

That’s it for this week’s episode. Thank you for listening to my stories today. I hope you found something that was fun or made you smile. Next week I will be talking about the March chapter of the book, a behind the scenes look at the stories from Ned. And don’t forget, if you want to read the full stories, you can buy the book. So it’s 365 Dates of Travel: The first six months, and you can buy the paperback or ebook from multiple different vendors. And you can click directly through to a lot of them from my website. And there’s photos on the website as well, if you’d like to check that out. 

Go to franheapwriter.com

There’s a Books page where you have direct links to buying the book.

There’s the Podcast page, where you can listen to all the podcasts.

There’s the Blog page, where you can read the transcripts from the podcast episodes.

And there’s also the Photos page where you can see lots and lots and lots of photos from the stories that I talk about in the book. 

So there’ll be something there to find interesting. So have a look at that when you get time. And otherwise, I wish you an interesting day.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top