Luise

It’s summer. May be even a late spring day. She is riding her bike and takes a quick break. Her hair draws graceful waves, just like the landscape behind her: Gentle hills; the gables and rooftops of a small town; idyllic homeland in the year 1931. Luise Gumbmann is 25 years of age…

Where did Luise ride to on this beautiful day? This photograph, taken from a family album, doesn’t reveal her destination. She certainly went back to Erlangen at some point, where Luise was living at that time with her husband and little daughter Marga. She looks a bit skeptical, as though she didn’t want to pause for a moment and pose but just wanted to continue her ride. Whether this was the case? We don’t know. And for Luise, many things were uncertain at that time. Take a moment, go back or carry on? On this day, all paths seem possible. At 25 you certainly have dreams, aspirations, big plans in the making, you pray for the happiness of your loved ones. Her daughter is still a small, gorgeous girl. But what Luise definitely can’t even imagine on this sunny day is that Marga would one day open a hotel and name it after her.

It probably didn’t come unexpected for Luise that her daughter would go down this path. She was herself in the gastronomy industry. When Luise was 14 years old, her father, Andreas Pflaum, son of a shoemaker from Hallstadt near Bamberg, acquired the concession of the legendary “Roter Ochsen” (Red bull) in Erlangen’s main street Hauptstraße 24. Luise spent her youth between the counter and many guest rooms. Andreas Pflaum soon becomes one of the flamboyant characters at the Huguenot-city. He was no stranger at the police station – at one time, he had to respond for his gambling, on another occasion, he let a tiresome gentleman from Forchheim, who was getting on his wife’s nerves, rent a room without appropriately notifying the authorities of his stay. Entertaining stories that shine with unwanted comedy, found in the files of police reports from long ago. Luise probably heard the uncensored stories directly from her father during their evening meals.

Whether Luise was interested in her father’s fuzz? At some point she is like any other young woman. The parent’s restaurant seems too small for her. Luise is in love and will soon pave her own way. The uncomplicated woman doesn’t fall for a sly dog, she falls for a dreamer. A man with perspective. Georg Gumbmann is a precision engineer at his day job at Siemens, but after the working day is done, he meticulously works on his own inventions. They travel a lot in Germany; they even visit Lake Constance once. Luise in the city of Lindau. Maybe it’s their wedding trip that takes the young couple right up to the Alps. 1926 Marga is born. Margarethe, that was the name of Luise’s mother as well. Luise and Marga: the photo album has many pictures of them. Happy days. Beautiful cabin. The three of them, posing obediently at the castle garden in Erlangen. In their fine Sunday clothes. Or more casually, at the lake. Luise’s world transports her to meadows, forests, to idyllic places. Erlangen is meanwhile being decorated with swastika signs. Then the war starts. The following pages in the album remain empty.

After 1945 Luise’s daughter starts ambitiously working on her future. Marga has grown, like her mother, to be a self-confident, attractive woman. She is cultivated, practices fencing and sings, and she likes to earn her respect among men. She found the one and only long ago. Heinz Förtsch supports Luise’s daughter when in 1956, after trading a property to Siemens, she opens a hotel. The times are favorable. Siemens is expanding and the hotel grows with the economic wonder. Again, happy days. Luise amongst illustrious company. She wears glasses now. The gracious waves might have greyed out a little. She laughs. Whether she already knows about her illness? In 1967, Luise dies. She was only 61 years old. The hotel is now run by Luise’s great-grandson, as the third generation.

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