Posted by: Emily Schmutz Garcia | January 13, 2010

The Schmutz Home in Switzerland

Click clack click clack click clack. The train in Switzerland click clacked along the tracks. Our small traveling group was heading back towards the capitol from Bern. We had just been to see the temple there-it was lovely. Our plans were to spend the evening wandering around the capitol and then head back towards our study abroad homes in France. My plans changed when I noticed a dot on the train’s line that said “Worb.”

Before I left for my study abroad, my Uncle Spencer Pickett from San Diego gave me an outline of some roads and pictures of a home in Switzerland that my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather built. My Uncle Spencer had gone over and visited a few years ago. His map said that I would take a train to Worb, and then a bus to Vechegen and finally I would walk to Diepoldshusen-where I would find the Schmutz home. I looked at the train chart again, and it really did say “Worb.” I figured I had no idea when I would return to Switzerland, so why not at least give it a try?

So, at the mighty age of 18, I left my group and headed for the help desk. I didn’t speak any German, and most of the people who helped me didn’t understand any English-but one person in line did help me translate a bit and between the three of us, we figured out how to get roughly to Diepoldshusen. After taking the train to Worb, and the bus to Vechegen, I started on the path that I hoped led to Diepoldshusen.

Creative Commons photo by Spigoo

Creative Commons photo by Spigoo

After passing two ferocious dogs, and hoping that I had picked the right path, I met a herd of grazing bulls. There was a very tiny wire that separated me from the bulls. As I passed their pasture, each bull walked up to the minuscule wire and stared me down. Gulp. I was not slightly intimidated-their horns were menacing. To be fair, they might also have had utters, but I really only payed attention to their horns. However, I made it past them without a charge. Whew.

There were no numbers on the houses. There weren’t many-this was a small, country town. The houses were spread out and all I had of the Schmutz home was a picture. At first, all the houses looked exactly the same. Then, I realized that the Schmutz home had three windows on the top row and four windows on the bottom row. The house with the dogs only had two windows on top. The house with the bulls only had three windows on bottom. I decided to stop and ask for directions. This was very amusing since I knew exactly three German words and the man at that house knew about two English words. However, after many gestures and lots of German, he pointed me to the next house down the road.

I walked on and started counting the windows…1..2..3 on top and 2..3..4 on bottom-Hooray! At least this house matched my picture. I nervously knocked on the door. An ancient German man answered. He spoke about as much English as his neighbor. Luckily I had my speak-easy German with me-it was next to helpful.

“Ich heise Emily Schmutz.” -I am Emily Schmutz. I took out pictures of the Schmutz home, and started repeating my last name-which means dirt in German. Finally, he stopped me and said, “San Diego?”

Victory! Hooray for Uncle Spencer, his maps and his pictures. I had done it. I had found the Schmutz home in Switzerland. The nice man showed me some pictures of the house and an old pot bellied stove. I took some pictures and then ran all the way back to Vechegen to catch the bus. I caught the bus and the train and even managed to meet back up with my group.

What a liberating experience! Here I was, one of the youngest members of my study abroad, and I had ventured off on my own,  without knowing more than three words of German, and I found the home of my ancestors. What a great day!



  1. What an amazing adventure story to tell. Your children will love hearing it. I loved hearing it. Thanks again for sharing.

    • Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it. It was quite an adventure and it is fun to re-live it. Cheers.

  2. ah yes, the Schmutz home! I should have remembered your enthusiusm once we met up again more vividly… alas, i was still pretty self-absorbed at the time, having just vinished a rendezvous with my swiss ex-boyfriend. isn’t it cool how we all have different distinct memories of the same days and events?

    • I guess a rendezvouz with a Swiss ex-boyfriend would have a tendency to blurr one’s memory. I’m thinking it was a great day to be in Switzerland. Cheers.

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