Day 10: Our Last Day in Berlin (By Zara J.)

To start our final day in Germany, we took an audio tour of the Reichstag parliament building. With a winding ramp all the way up to the dome, the audio tour explained all of the important buildings in Berlin and the specifics about the building and its modern architecture as we ascended and descended the ramp. The architecture was very well thought out, as the structure in the middle served as a way to conserve the amount of energy used. The glass windows making up most of the building symbolized an open, honest relationship between the government and the people. Next, we went to the Topography of Terror museum, which gave us more information about Germany’s role in World War II, how it came to be, and its consequences. Before coming to Germany, I was interested in finding out how they would present their history, especially in World War II. This museum displayed the information effectively, and explained the details of the Nazi Party and the error in their beliefs and actions. This museum also gave weight to and exhibited specific stories about political prisoners who were persecuted.

Our next stop was a “hipster” neighborhood known to house many Turkish immigrants. Just walking down the street the diversity of the city was evident in the people, food, and stores. For lunch everyone enjoyed a popular Turkish dish called “döner kebab.” After lunch, we went into one of the bigger shopping malls in the city and went to a rooftop Biergarten, where some students enjoyed alcohol-free drinks. The quirky decorations and views allowed for some great photos. My favorite part of the day was the last part, the Syrian cooking class. Khaled, the instructor, taught us how to make various Syrian dishes such as Ouzi and Knafeh. The mission of this organization, Über den Tellerrand, is mainly to facilitate the integration of the Syrian culture into Germany through community projects, cookbook sales, workshops, etc. My personal favorite was the Knafeh which I didn’t think I would like since it was mainly just cheese and flakey pastry, but it was actually very good. The amazing dinner was a great finish to our trip in Germany.

(Written by Zara J.)

Klunkerkranich Biergarten, Neukölln, Berlin

Über den Tellerrand, Syrian Cooking Class, Berlin

Über den Tellerrand, Syrian Cooking Class, Berlin

Über den Tellerrand, Syrian Cooking Class, Berlin

Day 9: Our Second Day in Berlin (By Niles L. & Hardy M.)

Today, I woke up at 7:50 to go downstairs by 8:15 to eat breakfast with the rest of the students. We had a nice breakfast in the hotel while we waited for our tour guide to arrive. Sebastian, our tour guide, showed us some of the important sites of Berlin. We saw some really cool sites like the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Museum Island, and where Hitler died. The tour was really cool even if it made us walk for 3 hours. Museum Island was just what it sounded like – it was an island in the middle of the city that held 5 museums and each one had a different purpose. Some of them covered Ancient Greece and Rome, while others covered Ancient Egypt. Checkpoint Charlie was cool too, even thought it was mainly a tourist trap because the original was destroyed after the Berlin Wall came down. The Brandenburg Gate was spectacular and we also saw a lot of old cathedrals. Some of them represented peace and others represented cultural tolerance. Overall it was a pretty good tour and we learned a lot about Germany’s and Berlin’s history.

(Written by Niles L.)

After a long morning of walking and strong rain we stopped for a delicious traditional German lunch. We ate curry wurst. The curry wurst was delicious, and arguably my favorite part of the day. The sauce was very different compared to anything I had ever had before. I’m usually not a big fan of potatoes, but I just had to eat them at the curry wurst restaurant because they were so good. After our delicious lunch we were left with one hour of free time. With this time we decided to stop for some ice cream and explore the city a little bit more. By exploring on our own I felt like we were able to experience the city a lot better and understand it from our own perspective rather than the perspective of a tour guide or somebody else. I found it easier to immerse myself into the culture and learn more about it. After exploring the city a little bit more we decided to stop at the German Democratic Republic Museum for an intricate guided tour displaying what life was like for people in the GDR. We got to see examples of newscasts, the cars that were used, and propaganda of the time. This created a clear picture of what life was like at the time and I really liked how the museum was modeled. It was modeled specifically after the types of living conditions at the time. This really helped my understanding and gave me a visual picture of what I was learning. After this, we hopped on the train and headed to the movie theater at Sony Center. We watched a movie about an a young man from India who was living in Ireland. This movie was really interesting to me because it reminded me of our exchange program. We all felt uncomfortable at first, and the same could be said for the main character of the movie. Although we were very different than that main character, I felt a connection. After our movie, we stoped for a nice dinner. During this dinner, we all reflected on the highlights of our busy day. We all had a lot of fun and enjoyed each other’s company and shared many laughs. Many of us even tried kangaroo meat for the first time. We than took the subway to our hotel so we could get some rest for another strenuous day tomorrow. All and all another great day!

(Written by Hardy M.)

Walking Tour of Berlin

“Checkpoint Charlie,” Berlin

Bandy’s Currywurst, Berlin

Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz, Berlin

Berlin Update

We’ve had two more days of sightseeing and culture in Berlin. Currently, Hugh and Niles are working on a blog about Day 9, our second day in Berlin. On the plane ride home, Zara will write a blog about Day 10, our third and final day in Berlin. Both blogs will be published upon our return to the States. In the meantime, below is a quick synopsis of some sites we’ve visited and activities we’ve enjoyed during our stay in Berlin.

Our second day in Berlin began with a three-hour walking tour of the city. Our tour guide, Sebastian, showed us all of the major highlights (Checkpoint Charlie, remnants of the Berlin Wall, the Holocaust Memorial, the Brandenburg Gate, etc.) and some lesser-known, but equally exciting, sites (Museum Island, Humboldt University, a memorial dedicated to the 1953 uprising in East Germany, etc.). We stopped for a rainy lunch at Bandy’s Currywurst before heading to our scheduled tour of the DDR Museum. Before the trip, we had discussed life in the GDR and watched Goodbye, Lenin in preparation for this tour. The museum did not disappoint. The simulation “drive” in an East German trabant car was certainly a highlight for most students. To escape the rain, we next watched a movie (in English with German subtitles) in the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz. The film focused on cultural exchanges between India and Ireland and touched on many of the themes of this trip. Afterwards, we ate dinner at an Australian restaurant, where many kids tasted kangaroo for the first time. I’d say most enjoyed it!

We started our final day in Berlin with a tour of the Reichstag parliamentary building. Students remarked on the very modern interior, which was designed to showcase the transparency between the government and the people. After our audio tour, we headed to the Topography of Terror museum to learn more about the rise and consequences of Nazi terror. The museum helped everyone place the Holocaust Memorial we saw yesterday into context. We then headed to a newly gentrified, “hip” section of Berlin called Neukölln. The neighborhood is known for its large immigrant population. There were many Turkish restaurants and bakeries. We stopped at Imren Grill for lunch to try the famous “döner kebab,” which is a Turkish-German specialty. We then headed to a playful rooftop biergarten (don’t worry, no alcohol was consumed!). Students enjoyed taking photos of the beautiful views and exotic decorations. Afterwards, we had some time to shop and explore the neighborhood in small groups. Next up was our cooking class taught by Syrian refugees. Together, we whipped up some delicious hummus tabboulé laban, ouzi, and kneffeh. We learned how this cooking company, Über den Tellerand, is helping refugees get on their feet in Berlin, greater Germany, and all around Western Europe. We were all inspired!

(Written by Ms. Decatur)

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

DDR Museum, Berlin

Interior of the Reichstag Dome, Berlin

Klunkerkranich Biergarten, Neukölln, Berlin

Über den Tellerrand, Syrian Cooking Class, Berlin

Day 8: Our First Day in Berlin (by Olivia H.)

Today started off with a very sad goodbye. A little bit of our hearts were left in Hanau as we got on the train to Berlin. Overall the train ride to Berlin was very smooth and we were treated to a nice German style lunch. Once we got to Berlin we made our way to the hotel. With a little bit of help from Google maps we eventually made it. We checked our bags into our room and headed out to our first adventure. We walked around an area of Berlin for a little bit and then we headed to the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) for lunch. At the Fernsehturm we headed all the way to the top and enjoyed a really, really cool and interesting lunch. Inside the tower where we sat we were slowly turning so we could get a view of the whole city. It was absolutely incredible. Then after that we made our way to a play. This play was about a German exchange student going to India and falling in love with his exchange partner. The play was in German so for some of us it was hard to understand but we made our best effort’s to comprehend what it was about. The play overall was very funny and interesting and made our day have a fun twist. Following the play we made our way to the East Side Gallery. This is basically the remanence of the Berlin wall in which has murals painted on it. The murals were very powerful and cool to look at and take pictures in front of. It was a very nice end to our day.

(Written by Olivia H.)

East Side Gallery, Berlin

Day 7: Our last day in Hanau (by Hugh Z.)

Today concluded our stay in Hanau with our host families. It was a wonderful way to end the first portion of our trip, and it was an eventful day.

We began the day in PE class at KRS. We learned a variety of handball games, first beginning with simple coordination drills. We developed our skills slowly into a game that was much like actual handball. Everyone had tons of fun, and we were all sweaty and exhausted by the end of the class, even though it was only 9:00. We then went to classes to present the presentations that we had prepared before coming to Germany. Each group had a different topic to present to the classes, whether it be sports, politics, daily life, or entertainment. Each group presented to two classes, and some classes were very eager and anxious to ask questions, and some were more shy. Nonetheless, it felt good to show the Germans our way to life, and it was inspiring to see a class full of students immersed in American culture and lifestyle. We then got to meet some Syrian refugees, or those that had immigrated from countries in the Middle East like Syria. Each of us got in to groups to talk to an individual and get to know them and share stories. For me, I had some particularly memorable conversations. I got to talk to someone whose mother immigrated from Morocco, and it was fascinating listening to her stories, lessons, and perspectives on the current events around the world. She told us about growing up in Germany but maintaining a part of Moroccan culture, and the differences and contrasts between the two countries. It was a very eye opening experience. I also had a very interesting conversation with a Syrian teenager who came to Germany just 3 years ago, and had to basically start a new life in a new country. We connected very well and easily because of our mutual interest in tennis. It turns out that he was one of the best juniors in Germany, and he played tournaments on a very high level that I really resonated with because we have the same deal in the United States. It was a very memorable conversation. As the others talked and had similar conversations, we had pizza with varieties of toppings.

After many of us were wrapping up our conversations, we were given some free time before we had laser tag at 3:00 PM. We got to walk around the city for the last time on this trip and all of us did something fun, whether it be shopping, eating, or just walking around and taking in the city. At 3, we went to a laser tag place and enjoyed four rounds of laser tag, the first two being team vs. team, and the other two being free for all. It was fun and exhilarating, trying to stay alive or shoot the enemy team as much as we could. By the end of the four rounds, we were all burnt out and sweaty. After laser tag, some stayed in Hanau and some went home to catch some rest before the farewell party at 7:00. It was a busy day for everyone, and this was a good time to rest for a few hours.

We then went to the farewell party. It was fun and an amazing way to end the day and conclude our stay in Hanau. We had a variety of amazing food from pasta to salad and drinks. Speeches were made, and countless photos were shown. We talked and laughed as we recounted all the memories that we made over the course of a week. We then continued the fun outside. We played soccer, badminton, frisbee, and conversed with those who we may not see again for a long time. Pictures were taken and the night slowly came to an end. Some went home to rest, but some went to play some basketball or continue the fun in the city. It was an end to an amazing week, but I think that everyone is excited for Berlin and what’s to come.

(Written by Hugh Z.)

Meeting with Refugees @ KRS

Giving Presentations on American Life @ KRS

Headmaster of KRS

Playing Outside @ KRS

Day 6: Sightseeing & Shopping in Frankfurt, Oh My! (Ariel & Callie)

This morning we met at the Hanau Central Train Station to take the train to Frankfurt. When we got off the train at the Frankfurt Central Station we split into groups of three. Teodora, Oliva, and Nicki were in one group. Hardy, Hugh, and Niles were in another. Lastly, Zara, Callie, and I formed a group. However, that was not the end to our train-riding adventure. We had to take a tram for a few minutes before we got off and began to walk along the river Main. We took a group picture along the river with the the tall buildings of Frankfurt as a backdrop. We crossed the Eiserner Steg bridge. It had many clusters of love locks and names written in pen on the railing. Callie was surprised that people had written the names of the members of her favorite band on the bridge. Overall we seemed to like the bridge and taking nice pictures on it. We took another group picture there too.

We continued walking to the Römer. At this point Mr. Niehues stopped leading the group and wanted each group of three to lead the big group to one place. We needed to go to the Kleinmarkthalle, a market which was number 10 on the map. Mr. Niehues asked us to find it on the map first. He then chose Zara, Callie, and I to lead the group to the market. We had to go straight past Berliner Street and then make a right. Easy, right? Well that’s what we thought until we were walking for ten minutes and still hadn’t seen the building. It turns out that we had walked way too far and walked past the actual building so we had to make a turn and go back until we found the Kleinmarkthalle. When we finally got there, each group was given euros to buy breakfast. The market was quite big. It was packed with booths selling everything from meats to dried fruits. Zara, Callie, and I bought pastries and raspberries. We sat on the upper level of the market to eat.

After breakfast, we headed to the Main Tower. The building has 54 floors and two viewing decks. We all rode the tightly packed elevator to the 54th floor and climbed the stairs up to the second viewing deck. The view from the Main Tower was amazing. We could see the airport, train station, and even the skate park from Day 3. On the top of the tower we all took yet another group picture as well as many individual ones. We left the Main Tower and headed towards the Römer. Sadly, the Imperial Hall was closed today and we could not go inside to see the many portraits in the hall. We did, however, go inside the Paulskirche, the church where the German Parliament first met during the Revolution of 1848. We watched a video about the history of the church in the museum portion on the lower level and then sat on the upper level assembly room while we waited for everyone to finish watching the video. After, we went to a restaurant right across from the Römer and had lunch.

(Written by Ariel L.)

After lunch we headed to an Eis Cafe for delicious gelato! We had a combination of amazing dishes, including the very interesting ‘Spaghetti Eis’! From there we walked to the Zeil, Frankfurt’s famous street full of shops. We split into groups for two hours of shopping, which I spent with Ariel and Zara. We first went into a stationary store, then watched a legendary street performer do a seemingly impossibly low limbo under a flaming stick! We walked on, visiting Primark and then entered ‘My Zeil,’ a gigantic mall situated in the middle of the Zeil. With over five floors to choose from, we spent forever browsing the macarons that Zara just had to have, Adidas sweatshirts that tempted Ariel, overpriced perfumes I simply needed to smell, and the Crocs we couldn’t leave without admiring. When we were finished there, we headed to Karstadt, another large department store on the Zeil where Ariel and Zara spent a long time debating over which was the best chocolate to purchase, before venturing upstairs to see the rest of the store. It was only as we were leaving that we found some gorgeous animal print sheet masks in the skin care aisle that called to us. Since there were only two, it was a mad dash in the last fifteen minutes to go to Primark again and find more there, but we succeeded! It’s sure to say our nights in Berlin will be crazy ones with our cat, butterfly, galaxy and narwhal print sheet masks in tow.

Around 4 o’ clock, feet aching, we took the train back to Hanau Hauptbahnhof, where we all met up with our German buddies. Ariel, Niles, and Hugh accompanied me and Paula to a nearby castle in Hanau Park, Wilhemsbad. After that we parted ways and I went on to another nearby park with my host mom and Paula to have a lovely picnic dinner by the Main river. We ate a spread of bread, cheese, sausage, cherries, veggies, and melon all while keeping a watchful eye on the curious duck who kept wandering a little too close to our blanket. We ended the day with a quick stop to Philippsruhe for me to take a picture on my outdated Polaroid Spectra AF, and then went home.

(Written by Callie M.)

Eiserner Steg (Iron Bridge), Frankfurt

Top of the Main Tower, Frankfurt

Top of the Main Tower, Frankfurt

Callie’s Weekend

Das Wochende!

Like Rebecca Black’s ever-so-popular song ‘Friday’ suggested, “I don’t want this weekend to end!” Two days of exciting adventures, what more could you ask for?

Beginning early on Saturday morning, I ventured to Heidelberg with my host family (after a breakfast of oats, apples, and peaches with milk along with German pastries). Only a 90 minute drive (in which I fell asleep) and we were there! We had a family friend who spoke amazing English as our tour guide and met up with Zara, Hugh, and Hardy, as well as their host families and buddies. First, we took the Heidelberg tram over a bridge to get our first glimpses of the beautiful town before arriving at the beginning of Heidelberg’s Altstadt. Blended in with the campus of Heidelberg University, we walked along the mile long street and gazed into shops and stores, marveling at the picture perfect houses. We stopped to take pictures of Heidelberg Bridge as well. Eventually we reached the train station to go up the mountain to reach the famous ‘Heidelberg Schloss’, or Heidelberg Castle. When we got there, the views took our breath away. Although rebuilt and still being renovated, the castle was beautiful! And perhaps even more stunning were the sights from the top of the castle down onto the town. It’s modest to say we spent a while here taking pictures! From there we explored more of the castle, including the largest wine barrel in the world and the German apotheke museum. We walked around the grounds and then descended the 400 steps back to Heidelberg itself after about an hour and a half for lunch. We dined in a ‘traditional’ German restaurant and all of the kids including myself ordered Schnitzel (the classic, not daring the ever appealing ‘Schnitzel mit Nutella’). After that, we returned home again. That night my buddy Paula had ‘Prom’ at the same dance school we visited, and while she had invited me to come along, I possessed neither the beautiful gown and high heels she wore nor the dancing prowess she possessed. So instead I went over to Leonie and Ariel’s where we had dinner and talked for a long time with Leonie’s parents. For dinner we had many different types of Bratwurst, fresh bread, salad, and seasoned french fries – a barbecue! And to finish the night, ice cream.

Sunday morning I slept blissfully late as Paula had horse-back riding lessons and I cautioned her of my less than subpar horse riding skills. So it was at 12:30 I was awakened, just in time for lunch! Again we had barbecue, consisting of different types of Bratwurst, bread, salad, and a ‘Hesse’ specialty: Handkäse mit Musik – cheese rounds and onions. Shortly after that we drove to Leonie’s and then to Adventure Mini Golf, which Paula and I played with Ariel and Zara, as well as their buddies. With a nice score of 80 after 18 holes, I came in third. From there we drove to the house of a German student who lived close to where we would watch the game. We walked to a local cafe to see the match and had dinner annd snacks there with many other students and the teachers as well. Afterwards we drove home but not before ice cream!

(Written by Callie M.)

Hugh’s Weekend