We had the official welcome at school this morning. Lots of smiles and lots of applause! Each of our students stood up and introduced him or herself in German and added a couple of “fun facts.“ So…, public speaking in another country in another language…,kind of makes the senior speech look easy! You can see more here:
We spent the day in Bremerhaven and Bremen. Bremerhaven is the site of the emigration museum. Over 7 million Europeans (most of them Germans) emigrated to the Americas from Bremen. The museum gives the visitor a feeling for what that experience might have felt like. After Bremerhaven, we spent the afternoon in Bremen, a member city of the Hanseatic League, an organization of cities that fostered trade and helped bring the Middle Ages to an end in northern Germany.
It’s been a long day(s) of travel, but everyone held up just fine. Here we are with our welcoming party in Löningen, and it’s a beautiful day!
During our final day in Rothenberg we first went to a medieval torture museum and learned about some of the unreasonable punishments for what seemed like minor crimes. We then went to a church and had some free time to explore the city which was filled with souvenir shops and a typical german sweet called a schneeball which means snowball. Although they looked cool, I think most of the American would agree though that they are not worth the hype, and that there was a reason they didn’t make it far out of Rothenberg. We then went on a hike as a group led by Herr Mogen. Being his first time on the exchange, we got a little turned around and had to take an unlikely path down the mountain. The way was very steep and many of the girls decided it would be more efficient to just sit and slide down because we were slipping so much while walking normally. We also had to use Herr Mogen’s arm as a railing and I think some people were holding on for what felt like dear life. Although it wasn’t ideal, it ended up being lots of fun and I think it was more memorable than the easy path would have been.
~ Mariann Kazakis
Today, we saw the castle in Heidelberg and hiked to the top of the hill. The castle was in ruins due to the French storming in 1693, but the walls and interior were still extremely impressive, with some buildings as old as the 15th century. From there, most of our group hiked up the mountain, crisscrossing through the woods on switchbacks, eventually reaching the top of the mountain. The views from there were simply spectacular. From the lookout point, the whole town of Heidelberg on both sides of the Necker River stretched out before us, and as the view panned out further West, the town gave way to vast stretches of farmland, dotted by the occasional small town, an island of green trees and red roofs in a sea of golden wheat. Finally, the neighboring stretch of mountains rise from the distance and meet the sky, enclosing this huge German valley. The lookout captured all the German landscapes in one frame: field, town, water, forest, and mountain. The hike today was the last of the exchange, and a fitting one to wrap up this trip. It will be unforgettable, just as this exchange is.
~ Sammy DeLorenzo
Today we arrived in the city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. One of the few remaining medieval cities in Germany, Rothenburg’s picturesque houses rest above the surrounding countryside. Although we have only been in the city a few hours, it is easily understandable as to why Rothenburg is one of the most visited cities in all of Germany. The picture attached displays the most photographed site in all of Germany. Everything here is absolutely stunning, we are eagerly awaiting enjoying the city tomorrow.
This evening we participated in a city tour with a Rothenburg night watchman, decked out in full watchman regalia. He explained the history of Rothenburg, which results in the ultimate preservation of this ancient city. I will attempt to briefly summarize this history as follows.
Picking up following the Black Plague, the citizens of Rothenburg fell under attack by enemies of the city who had been conquering and massacring throughout Germany in the 30 Years War. The city decided to hold out against the Catholic invaders, and bravely did so for three days. On the third day, the city ran low on gunpowder. When a soldier was sent to the dark arms hold to check the stores, his torch presumably lit the few remaining casks of powder. This explosion destroyed a major part of the city’s defenses, allowing the invaders entrance. For a few weeks or months prior, the city was occupied by the Catholic soldiers until they left, and the 30 Years War came to an end. Fortunately for the preservation of the city, all of Rothenburg was left in extreme poverty. Due to such poverty, no cultural or economic changes developed in the city. The wall surrounding the city resultingly was left in tact, and the stone was not used for other purposes. For over two hundred years, Rothenburg was left alone. It wasn’t until the Romantics in the 19th century that the city began to gain more attention. Slowly, tourism fueled Rothenburg into a wealthy state once more.
Fast forward a hundred years, and the beginning of World War II began to affect the city. The Jewish citizens were forced from the city, and the Nazis prized Rothenburg for its German beauty. As the war progressed, Allied bombers struck the northern part of the city. Had the day of bombing not been foggy, much more of the city would have been destroyed. As the war drew to a close, German soldiers were ordered to occupy Rothenburg, and not give it up no matter what. American forces prepared to attack the city. At the last minute, the commander of the assault received a phone call, direct from a government official back in the states. The official had heard of the medieval city from his mother, who had come to Rothenburg in 1914. From the stories told by his mother, the official decided the city should be spared. Fortunately, the commanding German officer was out of town when the Americans attempted to reach peaceful agreements just outside the city walls. The remaining German officer saw the war coming to a close, and happily forfeited the city. American troops occupied Rothenburg the following day. Later, the US official who called of the assault was awarded honorary citizenship.
Rothenburg had been largely spared, however, the city still faced financial problems, not to mention the destroyed northern part of the city. Thus, Rothenburg opened to the world, inviting everyone to symbolically purchase parts of the wall. The funds of this project helped immensely in the reconstruction and modernization of Rothenburg. All of the donors to the city received plaques of commemeration, which are still visible when walking the city walls.
Rothenburg’s history is complex, yet also incredibly lucky. Had the perfect string of events not occurred, this pearl in the German countryside could have been permanently lost. Today we spend the whole day in Rothenburg, and are looking forward to seeing what else the city offers.
~ Hans Christoffersen
After visiting the mayor, Dr. Naujoks asked for some of us to be interviewed by her host’s sixth grade english class. Hans, Mariann, and I all immediately volunteered. First, the class was split into three groups and each of us picked our groups. Hans naturally chose the group with all of the boys, who were chanting his name waiting to interview him. Then Mariann and I chose our group of girls randomly. During my first interview, I realized how similar the girls and I are. Many of them love Ed Sheeran or Justin Bieber just like me, or we play the same sports. By the end of the interview we were laughing and enjoying our conversation like we had been friends forever. My next group of girls were very similar to the first, because they all like the same classes, sports, books, or singers. The major difference between the second group and the first was that the second group fangirled over Hans. They thought that he was so hot and they were so excited that he would be the next person they would interview. They continuously asked me questions involving Hans. Their love was super funny to me. Lastly, I was interview by the group of boys. They showed me the differences between the cultures of America and Germany. Instead of following football religiously, the german boys loved soccer and did not want to stop talking about it. Overall, I had an amazing time getting to know all of those sixth graders.
~ Kaitlyn Antonick
On Friday the 16th, we took our 5 hour bus ride to the capital of Berlin, traveling through numerous checkpoints that separated east and west Germany just 30 years ago. Upon our arrival at the hotel (jugend hostel), we walked around the neighboring part of the city. First we explored the 7 floors of the KaDeWe, fully called the Kaufhaus des Westens, which was actually one of the many infrastructures used to attract east Berliners to the west. We also enjoyed the beautiful details and structure of the bombed-out Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church museum (Gedächtniskirche), and the current service church next door. Along the walk to the Ubahn station, we passed a few markings of where the Berlin Wall used to separate the capital. We took the Ubahn to Potsdamer Platz, one of the 3 centers of the city. Here we experienced the Holocaust Memorial, Brandenburg Gate, and Reichstag building. The Holocaust Memorial was created by American architect Peter Eisenman in 2005. Named the “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe”, his image of gray, granite pillars of varying heights and floor depth illustrates the immensity and gravity of Germany’s history while provoking the viewers’ empathy of grief and recovery. At the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor), we practiced our tourism taking pictures in front of the famous columns while listening to one of the many festivals in swing during the summer. We finished our landmark sightseeing at the capital building–the Reichstag–and the center of German democracy. Inside the building at the terrace lies a massive glass dome. Within this dome is a cone of mirrors reflecting the panorama, and winding ramps which we took up to the viewing platform. Despite the German summer rain, we were able to watch the sun go down from the top terrace of the capital building.
~ Abby Feigenbaum