As my three weeks in Germany comes to a close, I reflect on the great times I had with everyone. One moment that stands out to me the most is a cook out we had during our first week with our host families. The German and American students all sat together, talking and catching up since the last time we were together was way back in April. After dinner ended, everyone started playing volleyball together in the yard. This will always be one of my fondest memories from my trip to Germany because everyone put their phones aside and enjoyed each other in the moment. This naturally brought us all closer to each other.
The best time I had in Germany was the last Sunday I was able to spend with my host family. I slept in really late and soon after my host father Andreas grilled some meat for everyone. It was like nothing I’ve ever had in America and I made sure to eat as much as I could. However, I think the best part of the day was when I went to the lake with my host family. I spent lots of time talking with Andreas who didn’t know English about my life back home. He joked that my beach back home might be a little better than the lake in Germany but I just laughed and said I didn’t have an opinion. We also talked a lot about the wildlife in America. I explained that you can often see dolphins from the shore in Virginia Beach and how there are sharks but I am fortunate enough to have never seen one. However, there were several times when I couldn’t understand what he was saying so I just nodded and said “Ja”. But I no longer felt afraid of speaking in German. Although I am still far from fluent it was truly a great feeling knowing that people could understand me in a different language. This was an experience I could never replicate in German class and I was fortunate enough to form close relationships with people on thousands of miles away from home.
Saturday, June 29
On the last day, we all woke up with mixed emotions; some happy and some sad. Ready to tackle Heidelberg, we left the hotel in the morning in order to see Heidelberg University. After this, we walked to the Heidelberg Castle, where we were given an extensive tour. We viewed Heidelberg from many different heights and angles, taking in the view of the beautiful city. After our tour, we all ate lunch in a cafeteria in the castle. Then, we hiked up to the Königstuhl above the castle, where we were able to view the city once again from a different angle. Sweaty and exhausted, we were all rewarded with a relaxing ride in a funicular. We then had free time in the city for about an hour and grouped together once again for our final dinner in Germany. It was nice to have a conversation with everyone at once, including Christoph! After, we played a game of mafia by the river. Then, Herr Mogen treated us all to ice cream.
~ Katherine Chang
Friday, June 28
Today we left Rothenburg and headed on a bus ride to a museum that had 100s of old cars and planes that were cleaned up and insanely cool. We saw huge airplanes, massive tanks, and some lambos. Then the group played some mafia waiting for the bus and then we took the bus to Heidelberg. This city looks like the Venice of Germany. We then got settled into our hotel room which was actually really nice. Afterwards we took a long walk through this beautiful city and came to pedal-boats where we pedal-boated in a very beautiful area on the Neckar for about 40 minutes. Afterwards we walked back to the hotel and had some free time to eat dinner and explore the city. Wyatt, Colin, and I went to a Italian restaurant called Vapianos that was actually very good. We then just walked around and explored the beautiful city. We then came back to the hotel and had a really good sleep as the tempature outside was perfect.
~ Ben Shine
Thursday, June 27
During our second day in Rothenburg, our group first visited the Kriminalmuseum, which displayed medieval torture devices as well as gave insight into law and order in the medieval time period. After exploring much of the old city and its walls we visited the St. Jakobs Kirche (church) and admired the lavish architecture built when Rothenburg was a wealthy city inhabited by rich merchants. Our group then dissolved to explore many of the little shops throughout the city. Returning to our hotel for a group dinner, we then set out once more for a group hike outside the city walls into the valley below. To finish the day, we had our daily photo contest and ice cream.
Wednesday, June 26
We departed our youth hostel and took a short bus ride to the beautiful town of Rüdesheim. We were given time to walk around and look in various shops and I got to practice my German with a shop owner when I wanted to buy a satchel. After a little bit of exploring we got back together for a nice long cruise on the beautiful Rhine river. We had a photo competition to see who could capture the best picture under the theme of Romantacism. I took a picture of a castle on a hill as I thought it was an impressive piece of history. Fortunately for me my picture ended up winning the contest allowing me to get a free scoop of ice cream later in the day. After our cruise we went on the bus for few hours and took a lunch stop and eventually arrived at a family owned hotel in a medieval town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The houses were like nothing I’ve ever seen before and it truly looked like a town from the Middle Ages. Our last big activity for the day was an hour long tour led by a “night watchman” named George who carried a pole axe and explained the history of Rothenburg. He discussed how dangerous and miserable life was centuries ago while being funny and entertaining. Although the heat often times felt merciless, and a lot of times I missed cold water and air conditioning, it was a fun day full of great memories.
~ Carlon Ford
Tuesday, June 27
Today we said goodbye to our host families and friends from Löningen and embarked on our five day travel around Germany. It was very hard to leave and I think everyone wanted to stay, but we all knew that we had to see what other adventures lie ahead of us around Germany. We all built great relationships with our German friends and many of us are already planning trips back to Löningen next summer or planning to host a friend or two in America again. A 40 minute bus ride took us to Köln where we explored the Kölner Dom and many of us climbed all the way to the top of the Cathedral. We had a photo contest to see who could take the photo that inspired the most “awe” and Rio won, claiming a free ice cream sponsored by Herr Mogen and Ms. Marshall. Then we had a longer bus ride to Wiesbaden where we stayed the night in a Youth hostel. But before we went to bed we had dinner as a group and then took a walk around the city and stopped at an Eiscafe to get some ice cream. On our walk back we stopped at a fountain that got its water from a hot spring. There were signs saying you could drink the water, the only problem was it was boiling hot! We also had a little fun on a merry-go-round we found at a playground next to the fountain. Finally we walked back to the hotel and concluded our day with a hot, but much needed sleep.
~ Colin Dowd
Monday, June 24
Today was our last full day in Löningen. We spent our morning making a visit to Löningen’s Bürgermeister (mayor), Herr Marcus Willen. We were greeted with gummy bears and Coca-Cola in the meeting room of the city council, where Herr Willen shared an informative presentation about Löningen and answered questions from the students. It ended, as always, with a picture for the newspaper. Thank you, Herr Willen, for such a wonderful welcome in this beautiful area. After the meeting, we headed back to school for our final classes, pausing in the school yard for a final picture. Tomorrow morning we head south to Köln and the Rheinland!
This weekend The 2019 German Exchange group had a ton of fun. Friday, right after school, we went to the Kletterwald, which is equivalent to the adventure park in Virginia Beach. The best part of that was on the hardest course, where you had to jump down from a 100 foot drop. It was scary at first, but once you jumped it was cool. On Saturday, our group went to the Jump Haus. It was in the Bremen mall, and we had to take two trains to get there. It was a blast. There was also a marathon, half marathon, 10k, and 5k in Löningen on Saturday. Ms. Marshall aka “Marshall Marshall” got 3rd place in the 10k. Sunday, a few of us went to Thülsfelder Talsperre, the local lake, which, coincidentally was on the same road as the Kletterwald. We hate that it’s our last weekend with our hosts, since we’ve had so much fun with them here.
Hello! This Monday at Copernicus Gymnasium in Löningen we went to a sixth grade English class. Here we were able to speak English with those learning the language. They knew a similar amount of English that we did German. They first read their interviews of famous athletes to us and we corrected them. Then, we went outside and they interviewed us! They asked questions like from “where do you live,” all the way to “who’s your favorite German teacher.” It was very fun and we learned a lot about German youth.