Aurlandsfjord, Norway

Favorite Images of 2014

I welcomed in 2015 camping in the freezing cold temperatures outside Ouray, Colorado.  Though I was in bed by 6:30pm, because it was simply too cold to do anything but sleep, it seemed a fitting end to the year and beginning of the next.

Here are some of my favorite images from 2014.  Though I have gone to some effort to exclude most of my Lofoten Images, which I’ll post as a set of their own in a few more days over at 68north.  Otherwise, it would be too easy for this list to be entirely made up of images from the Islands.  But I also ended up a couple other places as well, so I thought I would separate the two collections.

2014 was fairly similar to the previous year.  Once again, a majority of my focus was on the Lofoten Islands, staying for just over 2 months in total this year, split between winter and autumn.

In February, between visits to Lofoten, I attempted to make a ski tour on the Kungsleden trail in Sweden.  It didn’t go too well and I never made it very far from Kebnekaise Fjällstation.  But I still had some fun and look forward to making another attempt one of these years.

The spring saw me return to the Silesian countryside of south Poland and a brief visit to the Tatra mountains.  The rest of the time I was in Wales.

In late August, I made my first visit to Tromsø, where I boarded a sailboat for a 2 week trip to Lofoten.  It was absolutely fantastic, and I hope I find the time to make a proper writeup one of these days.  After the sailing trip I remained on Lofoten for most of September.  It was perhaps the best month of northern lights I’ve ever had on the islands, with night after night of aurora filled skies until the early morning hours.

One of the highlights of the year was a 10 day road trip though Norway in October, From Lofoten to Stavanger.  I’ve never properly explored central Norway, only ever hitch-hiking or busses previously.  So it was happy to finally begin to explore some places that I’ve wanted to visit for years.  And the autumn color was some of the best I’ve ever seen, making up for the rather dull color on Lofoten this year.

I’ve missed out on celebrating the New Year on Scotland’s Outer Hebrides for the last 2 years now, which I slightly miss.  So in an attempt to make up for it, I headed to Scotland in October, only to be blasted by wind and rain for nearly 2 weeks straight until I finally lost all motivation and headed south to Wales before returning to California.

2015 will be off to a quick start.  Next week, I’ll already be on my way back to Lofoten to co-guide a photo tour for Muench Workshops.  After that, I’ll stay on the Islands until the end of February to work on my own photography and hopefully climb a few mountains.


Winter night at Kebnekaise Fjällstation, Lapland, Sweden

Photo: Evening comes to Kebnekaise Fjällstation, Lapland, Sweden.  February 2014

Old barn in farm field, Prudnik County, Opole Voivodship, Silesia, Poland

Photo: Old barn in field, Silesia, Poland.  May 2014

Spring thunderstom over fields, Prudnik County, Opole Voivodship, Silesia, Poland

Photo: Approaching storm over field, Silesia, Poland.  May 2014

Town hall and Rynek market square, Opole, Silesia, Poland

Photo: Opole City Hall, Silesia, Poland.  May 2014

Female hill walker on Carmarthen Fans - Bannau Sir Gaer with Picws Du in distance, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Hiker on Bannau Sir Gaer, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  April 2014

Wild Welsh Mountain Pony at sunset on Mynydd Llangorse, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Welsh mountain pony at sunset, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  April 2014

Silhouette of person watching Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis  over coastline, Austvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Northern lights over coast, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  September 2014

Norddalsfjord autumn, Norway

Photo: Alpine farm above Norddalsfjord, Møre go Romsdal, Norway.  October 2014

Nigardsbreen glacier, Norway

Photo: Nigardsbreen glacier, Sogn og Fjordane, Norway.  October 2014

Aurlandsfjord, Norway

Photo: Clearing storm over Aurlandsfjord, Sogn og Fjordane, Norway.  October 2014

hiker crosses snow near summit of Koscielec (2155m), Tatra mountains, Poland

Poland – Tatra Mountains – Part 2

hiker crosses snow near summit of Koscielec (2155m), Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Nearing the summit of Koscielec, Tatra Mountains, Poland.  May 2014

Perhaps there had been too many beers Friday night in Zakopane, so it was a slow start to get moving on Saturday morning.  Eventually the four of us were loaded into the car and on the way to the trailhead for the Five Lakes Valley in the Polish Tatra mountains.

Some roadworks led to some detours which extended the drive time.  But at some point we decided to call the hut to make sure there was room.  It was May, early in the season and a questionable weather forecast, but better to be safe.  At some point in the last year or so, rules changed in some of the huts: from – always having space, even if you sleep in the dining room, to – hut is full, you need to have a room.

Pulling off the road in one of the few places with phone reception, we finally contacted the hut. Full.  Shit!  Next try was to Morskie Oko hut.  Also Full.  Double shit!  There went those plans.

Having a map with me, I suggested we try Murowaniec hut, located on the ‘front’ side of the mountains, a few hours hike above Zakopane.  Luckily there were beds available.  And so a couple hours after we left Zakopane, we were driving back into the town to begin our hike.

The suspect weather had cleared into a nice sunny day by the time we finally got onto the trail, well, more of a fairly well worn path through the forest – the Tatra are a popular hiking destination.  Sometime afternoon we finally arrived at Murowaniec hut to a scene I am familiar with from hiking the Alps, benches of people sitting in the sun eating home cooked food with a glass of beer or two.  The food did smell good, and we were hungry, so after checking into our room for the night, we were ready to get something to eat.

Never having been to this part of the mountains, I wasn’t really sure what to do with the remainder of the day.  I had been up on Kasprovy Wierch, so wasn’t really interested in hiking up there again, and it looked really crowded up on the ridge anyhow.  There was still a lot of snow in all the gullies, so without winter gear we had a fairly limited list of possibilities.  I pointed out an interesting looking peak above the hut, but it turned out not to have a trail to the summit, so a fairly difficult bushwhack through the dense dwarf pines would have been required.  FInally, Jack pointed towards a tall, and from our angle, quite steep looking mountain, the 2155 meter high peak of Koscielec.

Still with a few spiderwebs of snow covering the face, it seemed like the best option, or at least we would go as far as we could.  Backpacks bag on – overnight stuff – we hit the trail in mid afternoon.

While I appreciate the wilderness we have in the mountains of California, sometime I like being able to hike, for the sake of hiking.  This is the experience in the Polish Tatra mountains.  Criss crossed with a seeming endless series of sign posted trails, all are well build and maintained, something like mountain sidewalks.

After an hour or so of hiking we reached a small pass at the base of the mountain.  The angle didn’t look too bad anymore, but I could tell we’d have a few sections of snow to negotiate.

The next hour was spent going up, up, and a bit more up, as the trail wound its way higher on the mountain.   For the most part the route was simple going, with maybe a short scramble here and there.  And of course, ever improving views as we came closer to the summit.  It had been t-shirt weather thus far, but the winds picked up as we neared the summit so it was back into a fleece again, which was good, as I was probably getting pretty sunburnt anyhow!

About five o’clock, with the sinking afternoon sun we arrived at the summit.  Wonderful views in every direction, but especially towards the 2301 meter peak of Swinica, still covered with a healthy layer of snow.

We took our time on the summit as the weather was near perfect before we eventually figured it was time to head back down.  Before leaving the hut, we noticed a sign saying, ‘kitchen closes at 21:30.’  Without further inquiry, we figured this would be the last time to order dinner.  A dinner I was greatly looking forward to from my memories of my last trip to the Tatra!

Descent was a little more complicated than the ascent and took a little more time than I thought.  The sky was growing dark as we arrived back at the hut a little before nine o’clock.  I was somewhat shocked to see a full on party going on in the dining hall, even with a live band.

Now looking forward to a good meal, we went up to order, only to be informed that there was only one selection of soup available – a sauerkraut soup that I don’t care for very much.  When asking about the 21:30 closing time, we were informed that was when the whole dining hall closed.  Shit!  10 hours hiking in the mountains and I couldn’t even get dinner.  I guess malted barley water would have to suffice, along with the remainder of my hiking food.

Luckily the presence of the live band meant the dining room stayed open later, so we could at least enjoy a few drinks, somewhat to the protest of the hut warden, who could have been doing good business with the full house crowd, but chose to close the bar, only returning sporadically and serving drinks when sufficiently harassed by enough people shaking money at her.

Sometime after 11pm my head finally hit the pillow.  Jack and I had discussed some place of getting up for sunrise, maybe even hiking up Kasprovy Wierch, we would see.  But by the early morning hours the hut began to creek and the windows bang in the increasing winds.  With barely a hint of morning light I got up to checkout the sky.  Fully grey, and the trees were doing quite a dance.  At that, I was content to stay in my sleeping bag for a while!

A lazy hike out of the mountains and back to Zakopane followed.  We headed to a place to grab lunch (another pizza for me) and as we headed inside, thunder began to rumble and rain fall.  Good timing getting down the mountain I guess.

We got dropped of by Jack in Krakow, where I then ended up on a standing room only mini-bus, I was one of the ones standing, back to Katowice before a tram back to Chorzow.

Overall, not the trip planned, but a good one none the less.  Zakopane is such a wonderful mountain town, and in the spring it is nice and green yet the streets, while still crowded, are not overly crowded.  I wished I had had a few more days just to hang out there and enjoy a bit of mountain town life.  Maybe next time…

Two female hikers hiking in Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Heading up the trail to Murowaniec hut, Tatra Mountains, Poland.  May 2014


Female hiker sleeps on bench outside Murowaniec hut, Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Afternoon nap outside Murowaniec hut, Tatra Mountains, Poland.  May 2014


Two female hikers hiking in Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Hiking towards Koscielec, Tatra Mountains, Poland.  May 2014


Koscielec (2155m) mountain peak, Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: The 2155 meter high Koscielec rises in the distance, Tatra Mountains, Poland.  may 2014


Female hiker on the summit of Koscielec (2155m), Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: On the summit of Koscielec, Tatra mountains, Poland.  May 2014


View towards Swinica (2301 m) from summit of Koscielec (2155m), Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Panoramic view from the summit of Koscielec, Tatra Mountains, Poland.  May 2014


Murowaniec Mountain hut, Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Murowaniec hut, Tatra Mountains, Poland.  May 2014


Two female hikers sit outside mountain barn, Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Resting outside a mountain cabin, Tatra Mountains, Poland.  May 2014

Female hiker near Kasprovy Wierch (1987m), Tatra mountains, Poland

Poland – Tatra Mountains – Part 1

Female hiker near Kasprovy Wierch (1987m), Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Stormy spring sky over the Polish Tatra mountains, near Kasprovy Wierch, Poland.  May 2014

My first trip to the Polish Tatra mountains was in the late autumn of 2011 when I was making was way south from Estonia, through Latvia and Lithuania, before an epic, 18 hour bus ride to visit my friend Jack in Jaroslaw, located in the south east corner of Poland, more of less closer to Ukraine than anything else.  After a few days in the nearby Bieszczady mountains, we headed west to the high peaks of the Tatra.

Being November, we weren’t sure what to expect, but 2011 happened to be an unusually warm autumn in Europe and so we had snow free travel up to the hut at the Five Lakes Valley (Dolinie Pięciu Stawów) for our first night in the mountains.  The next day we continued on towards Morskie Oko hut, thinking about hiking Poland’s highest mountain, Rysy, before deciding conditions weren’t too good.

While somewhat small compared to the Alps, the Tatra left an impression on me as a wild and rugged set of peaks with some stunning views from the high summits.

Returning to Poland this May, I made plans to meet with Jack in the mountains again.  Staying in Chorzow, near Katowice, it took half a day on Polish busses to arrive in Zakopane, where we would spend Friday night before heading further into the mountains.

The weather forecast was so-so, actually rather poor.  Arriving on Friday afternoon in Zakopane, the skies overhead were heavy and dark.  Being lazy, and with a few hours of daylight left, we took the cable car to the summit of Kasprovy Wierch to at least get a few mountain photos.

The trip was also to do a bit of scouting for the next day’s hike, as one of the possibilities was to cross from Kasprovy Wierch over into FIve Lakes Valley and stay in the hut for the night.  But from up high, it was evident that without winter gear, there was still too much snow up high for the journey to be possible.  So it was back down to Zakopane for a pizza and some beers (and a Kebab on the way back to the guesthouse).

We made plans to head to Five Lakes Valley in the morning.


Sprintime view over Tatra mountains, from near Kasprovy Wierch (1987 m), Poland

Photo: Spring in the Tatra mountains, Poland.  May 2014

View towards Swinica (2301 m) from Beskid (2014 m), Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Snow covered Swinica, Tatra mountains, Poland.  May 2014

Stormy weather over Tatra mountains, Poland/Slovakia

Photo: Dark sky over the Slovakian side of the Tatra mountains, near Kasprovy Wierch, Poland.  May 2014

Town hall and Rynek market square, Opole, Silesia, Poland

Opole – Poland

Town hall and Rynek market square, Opole, Silesia, Poland

Photo: Town Hall and Rynek Market square, Opole, Upper Silesia, Poland.  May 2014

My first, and brief visit to Opole was in May 2013 when I visited the Polish state archives looking for a bit of my family history.  I had know the town by name, but knew little more about the place.  On the day I visited the streets were full of young students celebrating something or another, so I didn’t have the chance to take too many photos – I was mostly in the archives looking at old microfilms anyhow – but upon this first impression, I knew Opole was a place that I would like to have a chance to spend a bit more time in.

Fast forward to May of this year when I somewhat unexpectedly found myself in Poland again (for a wedding).  I wanted to do a bit more exploring of the Silesian countryside where part of my family comes from, so instead of making the usual day trip from Chorzow (my somewhat industrial home base in Poland), I decided it would be a bit nicer to spend a few nights in Opole, two to be exact.

Typically in my European travels I’m a backpacker through and through.  And while the hostel representation in eastern Europe has greatly expanded since my first travels in 2006/2007, there are still some cities that are completely off the charts for travelers.  Opole is one of those places.  It seems that for backpackers, Poland only consists of Krakow, and perhaps Warsw, Gdansk or Wrocław.  But beyond that, much Poland remains an empty zone for hostels, as the backpacker route continues on to Prague – also skipping one of my favorite cities in the Czech Republic, Olomouc.

Luckily, hotels in Poland, if you book through Polish websites, are not too hard on the budget.  We found something reasonable and just outside the city center for our two nights in in Opole.

Opole itself is a wonderful town!  While the city center is quite small and compact, it is evident that it has received a fair amount of EU funding for some revitalization, no doubt due to the strong German roots of the city and its historical importance as the capital of Upper Silesia.

For me as a photographer I found the streets wonderfully void of people standing in the way of my photos during dusk, while at the same time, the restaurants we chose for dinner filled up with a lively crowd of university students each night, which I’m sure picks up even more on the weekends (I was there mid week).  My timing was even good enough to coincide with a visit from the Polish president – who’s entourage passed me by as I was walking down one of the streets.

I’m pretty sure I’ll return again one of these days, as a base for a bit more exploration of the SIlesian countryside.  Though I think I will also have to make a visit to Wrocław a priority as well.

Town hall tower rises above old town, Opole, Silesia, Poland

Photo: Town Hall tower rises above the city center, Opole, Upper Silesia, Poland.  May 2014

Historic buildings along Rynek market square, Opole, Silesia, Poland

Photo: Colorful buildings line Rynek market square, Opole, Upper Silesia, Poland.  May 2014

Town hall and Rynek market square, Opole, Silesia, Poland

Photo: Town Hall building, Opole, Upper Silesia, Poland.  May 2014

Historic buildings along Rynek market square, Opole, Silesia, Poland

Photo: City center at night, Opole, Upper Silesia, Poland.  May 2014

Spring storm over farm field, Opole voivodship, Silesia, Poland

Silesian Fields

Spring storm over farm field, Opole voivodship, Silesia, Poland

Photo: Dark skies over green fields, Opole Voivodship, Upper Silesia, Poland.  May 2014

I stopped along the side of the road in the village of Ligota Bialska (Formerly Ellguth), deep into the southern reaches of the former region of Upper Silesia, to take a quick photo of the WW1 memorial and record the names of the fallen in search of my families distant connections.  From a farm building across the street I hear a shout and then two men begin approaching our rental car.  Though we rented the car in Katowice, the obvious ‘W’ (Warsaw) license plate of the rental agency denoted us as distant foreigners in this quiet, rural part of Poland.

We explained my interest in the memorial.  That I was looking for traces of my family.

‘Hindera? Yes, I think I knew of some Hinderas.  Over in Smicz.’  The old man muttered through his few remaining teeth.

‘Ahh, yes, the name seems familiar.’ His friend interjected.

‘Do you know of still any around?’ We asked.

‘Hmm, no.  It has been a long time.  You’ll probably find them in the cemetery by now…’ The old man replied.

And so we continued on through the Silesian countryside.  The Spring sky dark and heavy with rain.  I was in search of the dead; names now long forgotten.  Upper Silesia is a lonely part of Europe.  Formerly the eastern most expansion of the German Empire and now an empty part of Poland.  Just to the south lies the Czech border, whose mountains rise along the horizon, above fields of barley, wheat, rapeseed, and corn.  The green and yellow fields contrasted with the blue and black sky overhead.  A storm was approaching.

We passed the villages that I have only seen by name in birth, marriage, and death records of my ancestors: Grabina/Grabine, Otoki/Ottok, Ligota Bialska/Ellguth, Biala Prudnicka/Zülz, Wasilowice/Waschelwitz, Smicz/Schmitsch, Wilowice/ Mühlsdorf, Kolnowice/Kohlsdorf.  Tiny, one road towns of crumbling brick buildings and potholed streets.  You’re more likely to see tractors than cars driving along the roads.  The locals watch you out of the corner of their eye, as the rental car was far too nice to be owned by any resident.  What were we doing there?

The addition of the historic German names in 2005 to many of the villages seems to have come at the distain of some locals, and more than once, I noticed the German version of the town name covered in black spay paint.  It appears history still holds bitter memories for some.

We drove further south to Prudnik, now just 5 kilometers north of the Czech border.  After driving in a few circles we next headed west towards Nysa. Just outside of town the sky erupted.  Lightning cracked and thunder rumbled all around us.  I made a quick turn off onto a farmer’s dirt road and into a field where I attempted to photograph the action.  I was just on the edge of the storm but soon that cold breeze picked up and a bolt of lightning hit a little to close for comfort.  Heavy drops of rain began to fall.  I thought of my ancestors, leaving these fields for a new home in Nebraska in the 1880’s and 90’s.  They may have moved a content away, but still they remained in a familiar land.

The storm passed and as we reached Nysa a bit of sun was beginning to shine.  The cities cathedral, beautiful and imposing, rose high above the city center.  But the place overall was a bit too busy for my liking.  And so we took the narrow country roads back north to Opole.  The rain caught up to use once again.  This time without any drama, just grey, liquid skies which lasted into the night.

If it weren’t for an historic family connection, then there is little doubt that I never would have heard of, much less visited, Polish Silesia.  And while you wont ever see any of these town names appearing in guide books or magazine articles, there is still a wealth of history and a lifetime of stories to be discovered in this lonely corner of Europe.  I have little doubt that I’ll be back again.

Abandoned building, Grabine - Grabina, Prudnik County, Opole Voivodship, Silesia, Poland

Photo: Abandoned house in the village of Grabina/Grabine, Opole Voivodship, Upper Silesia, Poland.  May 2014


Abandoned building, Grabine - Grabina, Prudnik County, Opole Voivodship, Silesia, Poland

Photo: Wind and Curtain, Grabina/Grabine, Opole Voivodship, Upper Silesia, Poland.  May 2014


Bales of hay stacked in field, Grabine - Grabina, Prudnik County, Opole Voivodship, Silesia, Poland

Photo: Bales of hay, Grabina/Grabine, Opole Voivodship, Upper Silesia, Poland.  May 2014


Spring thunderstom over Rapeseed field, Prudnik County, Opole Voivodship, Silesia, Poland

Photo: Spring thunderstorm over field, near Laskowiec, Opole Voivodship, Upper Silesia, Poland.  May 2014


Spring thunderstom over fields, Prudnik County, Opole Voivodship, Silesia, Poland

Photo: Approaching storm over field, near Prudnik, Opole Voivodship, Upper Silesia, Poland.  May 2014


Nysa cathedral, Opole Voivodship, Poland

Photo: Nysa Cathedral, Nysa, Opole Voivodship, Upper Silesia, Poland.  May 2014


Old barn in farm field, Prudnik County, Opole Voivodship, Silesia, Poland

Photo: Lone barn in field, Opole Voivodship, Upper Silesia, Poland.  May 2014

Spring farm fields near village of Scmicz - Schmitsch, Opole Voivodship, Poland

Hindera Family Origins in Schmitsch, Silesia – Smicz, Poland

Genealogy research into the Hindera, Lempka, Brinsa, Walczyk, Globisch, Pela, and Masur families originally from Smicz, Poland – Schmitsch, Silesia, Germany and settling in southeast Nebraska in the 1880’s – 1890’s.

This article is an update into my research, mainly of the Hindera surname.  A few years ago, I wrote a BLOG POST about my visit and viewing of the catholic church records in Smicz/Schmitsch, Poland.  What originally began as a confirmation of the birth of my GG grandfather – Albert Hindera, has now turned into a list of hundreds of names recording the historic residents of Smicz/Schmitch.


Spring farm fields near village of Scmicz - Schmitsch, Opole Voivodship, Poland

Photo: Green Silesian fields of Spring, near Smicz, Opole Voivodship, Poland


In 2011, during a drip to Poland, I made my first visit to the small town of Smicz/Schmitsch, located in the southern part of Opole Voivodship, about 10 miles north of the Czech Republic border.  Historically, the Opole (German Oppeln) was located on the eastern most edge of the historic region of Silesia (German Schlesien – Oberschlesien, Polish Śląsk, Silesian Ślůnsk) and formed a part of several of the major European empires as power waxed and waned over the centuries.  In 1742, Prussia was the last to obtain control of the region, which eventually became absorbed into the formation of the German empire in 1871.  German control remained in various forms until the end of WW2 in 1945, when most of Silesia was given to Poland.

My first visit to the Church in 2010 was brief, but I was able to confirm that I was on the correct path.  I have attempted several other visits to access the records in the last couple years, but the priest has always been hesitant to give further access.  Not willing to run into roadblocks, and after a bit of research, I visited the state historic archives in Opole, Poland in May 2013.  Fortunately, the archives have microfilm copies of all the regional church records, including Smicz/Schmitsch.  I was also allowed to photograph the records to take home and review later, as there was too much information to simply write down.  After several hours in the archives, I had discovered dozens of new names and began to form something beginning to look like a family tree.

Luckily, You do not need to go to Poland to access the records.  Thanks to a comment on my last blog post, it came to my attention that the records can be accessed via the Mormon church, more specifically, via their genealogy website:

Smicz – Schmitsch Microfilm at

You can see which microfilms are available to order:

Smicz microfilm Part 1 (this is the main and most relevant archive)

Smicz microfilm Part 2

Taufen – Baptism/birth records
Heiraten – Marriage records
Tote – Death records

My Research

The legibility of the records varies greatly, from simple and easy to read to impossible.  Much of this depends on the handwriting used at the time, the early 1900’s are some of the hardest records to read due to writing style, while at other times the pages are old and the ink so blurred/faded, that barely a word can be discerned.

The style of recording the Birth/Baptism information changed over the years.  The older records, before about 1850, contain long paragraphs wherein the parents’ names are somewhere written, not always clear of Legible.  After about 1850, the records are kept in a much more legible, clear fashion.  There are also multiple switches between the use of birth or baptism as the key recording element: sometimes names are listed by actual birth date while other times baptism date is recorded and the birth date is contained somewhere within the text.

I have found spelling to be more consistent than expected, though there are some deviations from time to time and perhaps an ’s’ become a ‘z’ or a ‘Johanna’ becomes an ‘Anna.’   It is also important to remember that administratively, the regions was German, while the population itself would have been a mixture of German and Polish.  Many names are Germanized versions of Polish names, which seem to have more flexible spellings than the fully German names.

There is also an interesting period from about 1750 – 1780 where a feminine form of the surname was given to women (Male Hindera – Female Hinderin, Male Walczyk – Female Walczykin, Male Masur – Female Masurin, etc).  This also corresponded with a ‘Latinization’ of many of the given names: Jacobi (Jacob), Bernardus (Bernard), Georginus (George).  This was only a short period before names returned to their normal style.  I do not know why this change occurred, but it was shortly after Prussia gained control of the region, so perhaps there was some brief change in naming conventions?  It is also during this period that Hindera (and a few others) received a temporary spelling change: Hindera to Hÿndera.  I have tried to find the origins of the ‘ÿ’ character without success.

I have found it useful to compare both birth/baptism and marriage records at the same time, as they both contain important elements to put the overall puzzle together.  The accuracy problem arises in the fact that nearly everyone is named the same back then; thus you have fathers, sons, cousins, mothers, daughters etc., all having the same names over multiple generations and often several identically named persons per generation.  So I discovered early on that I had made a few mistakes just going by name and approximate age.  For example, there are 3 ‘Marianna Brinsa’ born within about 10 years of each other, and all would be about the correct child bearing age for who I was looking for.  Initially I found one that I assumed to be correct based on her birth.  But upon comparing the marriage record which contained the birth date, and knowing this would be the correct Marianna Brinsa – married to Franz Brinsa, the birth record I had previously found was off by 4 years, and thus the wrong Marianna.

I have ordered and reviewed many of the records, but not all yet, and compiled a rather large list of names and geanologies, taking the Hindera line back to the mid 1700’s.  The first document I have made is a huge archive of hundreds of names, and quite confusing at first.  I have more or less recorded any seemingly relevant name I have seen.  While many of the lines may be unconnected or irrelevant, as many of the people had the same names, it is necessary to know who to exclude at times.  The second document is strictly the Hindera (and any directly related) family.  There are still a few holes, but I have traced the various family lines as some moved to Nebraska and others stayed in Smicz.  I have Hindera descendants born in Smicz up to the early 1930’s.

Any internet searches show that Hindera is a relatively rare surname.  Checking a modern surname map for Poland, it occurs nearly exclusively in the Smicz/Schmitsch area, which would likely indicate that the name probably originates there at some point in history.  In comparison, the name is somewhat more widespread in Germany, but this would likely be the result of the aftermath of the German expulsion from Poland at the end of WW2, as some of Hinderas would have likely moved to Germany during this time.


Photo: Distribution of Hindera surname in Poland

Surname map for Poland – CLICK HERE 
Surname map for Germany – CLICK HERE 


View over spring farm fields towards village of Scmicz - Schmitsch, Opole Voivodship, Poland

Photo: Church tower of Smicz – Schmitsch rises in distance over fields, Opole Voivodship, Poland.

As I write this, I will be shortly returning to Smicz again in the middle of May (2014).  Along with another visit to Smicz, I am going planning on some exploration of other nearby villages to see if I happen upon any further information.  For example, the origins of the Lempka family appear to be in nearby Grabina/Grabine, but unlike the Hinderas, who still have descendants in Smicz, the Lempka family seems to have disappeared from the area completely after the families moved to Nebraska.  I would like to discover why.

If you would like to have a copy of my research, as well as some photos from Smicz, feel free to CONTACT ME and I will send you a copy.

Here is a brief listing of the direct family of Albert Hindera:

Paul Hindera – b. 30 June, 1799, Schmitsch (marriage record)
+ m. 28 Nov, 1828, Schmitsch – Age: 29, 24
Johanna Walczyk – b. 26 Dec. 1804, Schmistch

——Maria Hindera – b. 28 June, 1830, Schmitsch

——Franz Hindera – b. 11 Aug, 1832, Schmitsch
——+ m. 29 Sept, 1857, Schmitsch – Age 24, 23
——Marianna Brinsa – b. 1833/1834

——Rosalia Hindera – b. 4 Sept, 1840, Schmitsch
——+ m. 14 Jan, 1860, Schmitsch
——Anton Masur

——Thomas Hindera – b. 19 Dec, 1842, Schmitsch

——Catharina Hindera – b. 25 Nov, 1845, Schmitsch (marriage record)
——+ m. 26 Feb, 1867, Schmitsch – Age 23, 22
——Wilhelm Goreczka – b. 1843/1844, Ellgath (sp?) (marriage record)


Franz Hindera – b. 11 Aug, 1832, Schmitsch
+ m. 29 Sept, 1857, Schmitsch – Age 24, 23
Marianna Brinsa – b. 1833/1834

——Rosalia Hindera – b. 24 Aug, 1858, Schmitsch

——Marianna Hindera – b. 4 Aug, 1860, Schmitsch

——Albert Hindera – b. 5 June, 1862, Schmitsch
——+ m. 6 Oct, 1885, Nebraska
——Johanna (Anna) Lempka – b. 2 Jan, 1867, Schmitsch

——+ m. 30 Apr, 1894, Nebraska (Albert’s 2nd marriage)
——Mary Hintz

——Franz Hindera – b. 2 Aug, 1864, Schmitsch

——Felix HIndera – 2 Jan, 1867, Schmitsch

——Constantin Pius Hindera – b.10 Apr, 1869, Schmitsch

——Felicina Hindera – b. 7 June, 1871, Schmitsch
——Frank Weber

——Martha Hindera – b. 19 Feb, 1874, Schmitsch
——Florian Masur

——Johann Hindera – b. 31 May, 1876, Schmitsch
(Johann and John probably same person)
——John Hindera – b. May, 1877, Schmitsch (1900 Nebraska Census)
——Anna Hupka – b. 1890, Nebraska

——Franciszka Hindera – b. 30 Jan, 1882, Schmitsch
(Franciszka and Frances probably same person)
——Frances Hindera
——Joseph Lempka

Town hall and city center, Opole, Poland

Photo: Historic town hall of Opole, Poland.

Old buildings in rural village Scmicz - Schmitsch, Opole Voivodship, Poland

Photo: Smicz/Schmitsch, Opole Voivodship, Poland

Tatra Mountains – Poland

Tatra mountain panoramic photoPhoto: Krivan (Slovakia) rises in the distance, Tatra mountains, Poland

In early November I made a quick visit to the mountains of the Polish High Tatra.  I had been in the region once before, in Feb. 2007, but I never made it into the mountains at the time.  This time around, and with a Polish friend and fellow photographer as a guide, I was looking forward to heading up into the hills.

After an overnight car-bivy in the parking lot we headed out under clear skies into the crisp morning air up the road which forms the first park of any hike in the region.  After a few kilometres we headed into the forest and up the trail towards the Five lakes Valley.  A little before 10am we arrived at the hut where we would stay for the night, right on the edge of a beautiful lake and surrounded by steep mountain peaks.  After a brief rest and some food we headed off with camera’s in hand to go wander about.  With no plan, we headed in the general direction of Zawrat pass arriving some time later.  Being November, there was a bit of snow about, but thanks to an unusually dry and mild autumn for most of Europe in 2011, we were fine in just trail runners and no winter gear.  From Zawrat pass a bit of a scramble along a ridge led us to some small 2,200 meter peak with stunning views back to the Five Lakes Valley and south into Slovakia (where the highest mountains of the Tatra are).  After a bit of time taking some photos, we eventually wandered our way back to the hut a little before sunset.

A side note:  As an American, I have basically no experience with mountain huts.  If I hike in the mountains in California, I carry a tent, tarp, or sleep in the open.  I cook (crappy) food on my little stove and drink from rivers or melt snow.  In winter, I go to sleep in the cold and get dressed in the cold the following morning; my boots usually frozen solid.  Now for Europeans, this is almost barbaric.  As much as I like wilderness and wild camping, I cannot deny that I enjoy the luxury of mountain huts.  Maybe I’m just getting old.  In Poland the huts are fairly cheap by European standards, with dorm bed running around 40 Zloty ($12) and dinner $3-6 (A huge schnitzel, sauerkraut, potatoes, potato pancakes, and a beer cost be about $6 at Morskie Oko hut).  A warm shower after a long day on the trail is probably worth a few dollars alone.  Plus the benefit of the weight savings from not having to carry camping gear means I can either travel lighter than possible back home, or load up on more camera gear.  Probably better to choose the first option…

At 6am the following morning we were on the trail to Morskie Oko.  We had hopes of perhaps trying to get up Rysy, Poland’s highest mountain, but upon closer inspection it would have been a rather dangerous adventure on the icy snow without crampons and ice axe.  After a few hours wandering around the lakes we headed back to the Morskie Oko hut a bit after noon to a shock of surprise.  Hoardes of people.  Everywhere!  A definite change of scene from the 5 people that had been in the Five Lakes hut the day before.  But Morskie Oko is one of the most famous places in Poland.  And the fact that people can be taken by horse drawn carriage the 10km up to the hut, means there is more of a city looking crowd of day tourists filling the dining room.  Luckily they all leave by late afternoon and only a few smelly hikers seem to be left.  After a good dinner it was off to an early night while setting my watch for 4:00 am.

Now, we weren’t getting up at 4:00 am to continue further into the mountains.  It was in hopes of getting to the parking lot before the attendant and thus saving 20 Zloty.  When we had arrived, on a Thursday, the parking attendant got there around 6:00am.  Cool we though, get there a little before that and we should be fine.  So at 4:15 am we left the hut and started the 10 km walk down the road towards the parking lot.  Making near record time, we at the car at 5:30 am and started loading our gear.  Then we saw the light in one of the buildings turn on and the parking attendant man come walking up towards us.  Bugger, I guess someone spends the night on the weekend.  20 Zloty poorer we hit the road.  So much for that genius idea.  Though a bit of luck was on our side as we came across some nice light over the forested foothills a bit down the mountain (the last photo).  Leaving the mountains we headed to Bielsko-Biala to visit a few more friends and spend the day eating pizza at the climbing gym.

Overall, I’m quite impressed with the Tatra.  Though not the highest mountains in Europe, they are rugged and beautiful with a good network of trails and fun scrambles, I’ll definitely be heading back one of these days and wander around for a week or two.


Przedni Staw - Front lake, Five Lakes Valley, Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Przedni Staw – Front lake, Five Lakes Valley, Tatra mountains, Poland


View of Wielki Staw - Big lake in Five lakes valley, Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: View of Wielki Staw – Big lake in Five lakes valley, Tatra mountains, Poland


Tatra mountains poland

Photo: Slovakia – left, Poland – right, High Tatra mountains, Poland


Tatra mountains poland

Photo: View south into Slovakia from near Zawrat Pass, High Tatra mountains, Poland


Dawn tree silhouette in Tatra foothills, Poland

Photo: Dawn comes to Tatra foothills, Poland

Travel Updates – In Wales

Northern lights lofoten islands october 2011

Photo: Northern lights over Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Oct 8, 2011

It’s been quite a bit of time since my last post.  I’ve been on the road for the last 2.5 months in northern and eastern Europe.  I really tried to get some blogging done, but every time I pulled out the crappy little netbook that I had, I felt more like throwing it in the ocean than trying to get any work done.

The trip started with 2 weeks on the Lofoten islands, with a spectacular display of the northern lights on my final night.  I next spent 25 hours on 3 train to reach Stockholm.  Then I took the overnight ferry along with hoards of drunk Finns to Helsinki and immediately took another ferry to Tallinn, Estonia.  I had meant to travel through the Baltics about 5 years ago, so this part of the trip was long overdue.  I spent 2 weeks heading south via Riga, Klaipeda, and Vilnius before an epic bus ride to far south east of Poland.  In Poland I hiked around the Biesczszady and high Tatra mountains, taking advantage of an unusually warm and dry autumn in Europe this year.  After Poland was a journey through the Czech Republic, visiting some old favorite cities of Olomouc and Cesky Krumlov.  Finally it was another 2 weeks in Germany visiting old friends and a bit of bouldering.

I’m in and around Wales for the next couple months.  Will make a journey out the the Western Isles for the new year again and maybe another journey in late Jan out to Orkney.  I’m also working on possible plans for a Lofoten trip in Feb.

The blog should more or less be back to normal now (not that many people read it anyhow) and I’ve lots of photos and stories to post from the last couple months.

Tallinn, Estonia

Photo: Main square, Tallinn, Estonia


High Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: High Tatra mountains, Poland


Frankenjura Bouldering

Photo: Bouldering, Frankenjura, Germany

schmitsch Smicz, Prudnik, Poland

Schmitsch – Smicz

schmitsch Smicz, Prudnik, Poland

Photo: Freshly plowed fields in autumn, Schmitsch/Smicz, Poland

[UPDATE: April 2014 – I have written an updated post about with further information into the Hindera (and other) families – CLICK HERE ]

Rarely do I visit a place that I have a personal connection with.  The tiny village of Schmitsch/smicz is an exception.  It’s the place where my great-great grandfather, Albert Hindera, was born.  In those days it was part of Prussian Silesia.  Today it now lies in Prudnik county, in the south of Poland.

This history of Schmitch, now named Smicz in Polish, is a complex one.  At the center of Europe, the Silesian region (Schlessien) has fallen under the rule of numerous duchies, kingdoms, and empires throughout the centuries.  By the mid 18th century the Prussians gained control over the region from the Austrian Habsburgs.  In 1871 Silesia then became part of the newly formed German empire (Deutsches Reich) where it remained a part of Germany up until the end of WWII, when a majority of the region was transferred to Poland.

In 1879, at the age of 17, Albert, along with several brothers and sisters, left the German port of Bremen for America.  Landing in Baltimore he took the train to Nebraska, eventually ending up with land in western part of the state.  He built himself a house out of sod and started a farm.  After 5 years, he was awarded the deed to his land, upon which he sold it and bought another farm in the southeast of Nebraska near the town of Steinauer, where the soil was better.  There he married another Silesian immigrant, Anna Lempka and in 1889 my great-grandfather George Hindera was born.  Looking at family records it seems like half of Schmitsch must have traveled to America during that period.  The names of the Nebraska census closely match those from the war memorials, cemetery, and church records in Smicz.

I was granted the privilege to look in the hand written church birth/baptism registry where I saw the names of long forgotten family and the records of their births from centuries past.  Even finding a few new names of my family line further back in time.  It was somewhat difficult to read the old German handwriting.  Especially once I got used to one persons writing style in the book, and then a new person took over with even worse handwriting!

I unfortunately was not allowed to take any photos of the books, not sure why not.  It’s a bit frustrating to realize how much information is locked away in those old books with their deteriorating paper and fading ink.  And there is no real access to it outside of going there, and hopefully having someone who speaks the language of the local priest.  I guess I should also be thankful that my family records have survived two wars and dramatic political changes.  Hopefully I can return in another few years and keep looking back further in time and maybe try and get permission to take some photos.  The records go back to the 1500’s.

Looking at the war memorial in the city center, I guess it is a good thing my family left.  The names Brinsa, Hindera, Mellar, and Peschel are all of direct ancestry to me, and probably nephews/cousins of Albert.  It seems a large toll was taken from this small town of 500 souls.   The cost of the second world war was even greater.

Schmitsch smicz poland bilingual sign

Photo: Bilingual Polish/German city sign.  The region where Schmitsch/Smicz lies is one of the few areas in Poland where German has recently become an official recognized language once again.

Rural road in poor condition, Smicz, Opole, Southern Poland

Photo: Main road into town.  Could use some paving.

Schmitsch smicz poland

Photo: Downtown Smicz.  Other than the asphalt and power lines, it probably hasn’t changed much since Albert left.  When I return I’ll see if the family home still exists.

German war memorial schmitsch smicz poland

Photo: WWI memorial.  A lot of names, both German and Polish, for a village of 500.