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

Hardy’s Weekend

A trip that began with an organized schedule quickly flowed into a weekend of leisure. Host families could take their American Students to notable sites in the area.

I was lucky to enough to see the old city Heidelberg. Heidelberg is located about an hour away from Hanau and it possess many of the same qualities. A small city environment enriched by its foreign population and unity throughout the whole community. We started off our tour with a walking tour guide. He introduced us to the local flavor of the area through a pedestrian walking zone with shops and restaurants as well as a walk across a bridge. The bridge set up a panoramic view of the surrounding mountainous landscape in the area. After this, we took a train up a small mountains to an old castle. The old castle had burned down, but it still maintained its structural integrity. The elevation change provided another amazing view, and the wonderful sunny weather allowed us to see far into the distance. We then entered the old castle and took a brief walk around and looking at all the remains that were perfectly intact. We were able to see a wine storage system as well as old stone architecture. After seeing the inside of the castle we walked to the Apoteke Museum. This museum was dedicated to old medicine and medical techniques. After the conclusion of a small self guided tour through that museum, we stopped for drinks and sat down to enjoy the wonderful weather the day had to offer. We then took a stroll around the surrounding area and through a nice park with another amazing panoramic view of the surrounding area. After this, we walked down steps to ground level and stopped for a late lunch. We enjoyed some traditional German food and drinks. After our late lunch we took a tram to our car and headed for home. All and all, a great day filled with lots of memories and interesting sites

After returning home from a great day of sightseeing I was greeted with a wonderful German barbecue dinner that consisted of sausages and different types of meat. The perfect end to a great day.

After a busy day on Saturday I was finally able to catch up on some sleep on Sunday. I woke up with no alarm and was greeted with a great breakfast waiting for me- a perfect start to the day. Following breakfast my host family decided to take me to Seligenstadt, a small city nearby. The city was full of old German architecture and breathtaking views of the Main river. We decided to walk along the river for a little while before stopping at a home made gelato shop to enjoy some gelato and cool off. We then walked through the city and I got see a large garden as well as a church from the year 830. After seeing the church and large garden we walked along the river again and took some pictures of the amazing view. We than made it back to the car and headed for home. At home we decided to relax for a bit before the big soccer game between Germany and Mexico.

After relaxing we went to a traditional German restaurant to watch the game with our school group. I really enjoyed seeing all of the passionate fans rooting for their team. After the game, we took a short walk home and we got ready for a night out at another traditional German restaurant. I really enjoyed the local cuisine, especially the weiner schnitzel. After our dinner we returned home. We than played some basketball at a nearby park with some locals. After this we returned home and relaxed and prepared for bed. All and all, another great day to end off a wonderful weekend.

(Written by Hardy M.)

Nicki’s Weekend

On Saturday, I was able to spend time with my grandma, who I call Oma. My Oma lives in Schwäbisch Hall and drove for nearly three hours to visit me in Hanau, which I greatly appreciate. Following her arrival in the morning, she drove Livia, my German exhange partner, and me into the city center of Hanau. Livia then acted as our tour guide and she showed my Oma and me some of the interesting parts of the city, which includes the Brother Grimm Statue, the Rathaus, and more. After walking through town, we decided to stop at Klaras, a traditional German restaurant, to eat lunch. I had Schnitzel with fries and it was delicious. We then drove to the River Main and walked along it for a few kilometers The flowing river was really peaceful and as a result, the atmosphere was relaxing and serene. Along the way, we came upon a beautiful castle called Schloss Phillipsruhe. After spending time together for a few hours, my Oma dropped Livia and I back home and she headed back to Schwäbisch Hall. Livia and I then biked nearly 10km to a get together with her friends. After a few hours, we biked back to her house. Overall, it was a nice day spending time with my grandmother and getting to know more of Livia´s friends.

Today was a very relaxed day and I was able to sleep in. Livia and I hung out at her house until the afternoon when we took a train to her brothers apartment in Mainz to watch Germany´s World Cup match. We had a nice barbecue and then we began watching the match. We are currently watching it and it has been an emotional roller coaster with many missed chances. Hopefully the rest of the match will go well!

(Written by Nicki K.)

Teodora’s Weekend

Kim and I began our weekend adventure by walking around Hanau. Some light clothes shopping turned into a huge New Yorker haul and we may have visited every store in the mall. We visited the Wallonisch-Niederländische Kirche (church), which was restored in 1945 after falling victim to the destruction of the war. Only one section still remains hundreds of years old, and it still stands strong. We strolled around the market and walked past the city hall, and we even stopped by to shop for very patriotic articles of clothing for tomorrow’s soccer game. We had some time to rest before we visited Wilhelmsbad. We took a stroll in its historic and beautiful park and visited a doll museum. It featured hundreds of years of popular children’s toys, from stone carved animals to the modern day Barbie doll. It even features the largest miniature department store in the world. It is so large that it takes up an entire room! The level of intricacy and detail is unimaginable. After this, we went back home to set up for a garden party, since it was Kim’s grandfather’s 75th birthday. The party was catered by a traditional German restaurant and had foods such as potato salad, green sauce, and schnitzel. 13 of Kim’s closest friends and family were invited, and they were all such a delight to meet – more vibrant German personalities! It was a great experience to practice my German through conversing with them and learning more about their lives in Germany. The next day we had an early start – a quick breakfast on the patio and we were off to the Ronneburg. We traveled 30 minutes into the countryside to visit a beautiful castle called the Ronneburg. Knights lived here hundreds of years ago, but this is not the original castles. It was burned down in the 17th century and much of it was restored. There were so many rooms in the castle, some of which were a torturing chamber, a kitchen, a dining hall for the knights, and even a church. The best part was climbing very steep stairs to the top of one of the towers, which has a view for many miles. It was a stunning and breathtaking view, and very different from the views we see in the US. Rather than towering skyscrapers, you see vast green land and tiny villages. After that we went home and got ready for the Germany vs Mexico game, part of the FIFA World Cup series. Decked out in my eye black, wristbands, german colored cowboy hat, and whistle, I was quite the patriot. We watched the game in a public viewing area. Although the food was great and our outfits were better, Germany lost to Mexico 0-1. You could see the disappointment among the now not so vibrant German people, since Germany was the winner of the World Cup only a few years ago. They were definitely favored to win the match. Kim and I then returned home and finished the weekend with some delicious pasta.

(Written by Teodora K.)

Herr Niehues’s weekend

Ms. Decatur and I had asked the students to write a blog post about the weekend with their host families and we thought it would only be fair to post our impressions as well. I am staying with Mr. Schuhmacher, one of the English teacher of our partner school who had visited Pingry with 12 students in April. On Saturday morning, we went shopping on a huge outside farmer’s market in downtown Hanau. Every Saturday, fresh products from the region are offered here and many merchants invite shoppers to taste their offerings before committing to buy something. Currently, cherries are in season and I learned that the little town of Ockstadt (about 30 min away) has a great reputation for its sweet cherries. Later that morning I was able to meet with my mother as well as my brother and his family who had come from my hometown of Saarbrücken (about 2 hours drive) to Hanau. It was great to see my nephew who had just turned 5 and I could give him his birthday present in person. He still thinks I am the cool American uncle. 🙂 At 5pm, we went to the “Abiturfeier”, which is a graduation ceremony that is followed by the “Abiturball” (very similar to a Senior Prom). It was interesting to compare the graduation ceremonies on both sides of the Atlantic. The most striking difference is the fact that neither faculty nor students wear caps and gowns. However, the content of the many speeches seems to touch on similar themes. More than once were students praised for their achievements but also reminded to use their education and privilege in society for the common good. The headmaster gave the first speech and spoke with pride about the many exchange programs of his school. He took the opportunity to welcome once again the visitors from Pingry.

On Sunday, I went to downtown Frankfurt with Mr. Schuhmacher to fine-tune the preparation for our upcoming field trip. Tomorrow, only the Pingry group will visit Frankfurt and while I have been in Frankfurt many times, it was good to verify that things are still where they used to be. We watched the soccer game Germany vs. Mexico in the small town of Steinheim, which used to be a medieval city in its own right but is now part of Hanau. Steinheim was not destroyed during World War II and still features the picturesque brick-timbered houses that date back 500 or more years. Almost all students (Germans and Americans) watched the game, but all our black-red-gold decorations and cheer could not prevent the loss against a strong team from Mexico. I am looking forward to a great day in Frankfurt. We will keep you posted.

Day 3: Hold on Tight…and Come to Your Senses (By Nicki)

Bright and early this Friday morning, all of the Pingry students and our German buddies met up at a train station, excited for the fun day ahead of us. The first activity on our agenda was the Klettergarten (climbing park). It is basically a huge elevated playground built into a forest and it consists of multiple courses ranging from easy to advanced (and at all times we had safety harnesses on). Although being 15 feet above the ground and being very balanced took some time getting used too, most of us felt comfortable really quickly. In fact, most of us ended up successfully climbing the most difficult courses at the climbing park! After a few hours of climbing, we took the train to Frankfurt, which is a really nice city with not a lot of commotion, quite different from New York City. Shortly after arriving in Frankfurt, we decided to eat lunch at Gref-Völsings, an iconic sausage shop known for their creation of Rindswurst, a sausage made out of beef. Appropriately, I, along with a few other students, decided to order the Rindswurst with a side of Käsespätzle, which is a type of noodle with cheese. Everyone really enjoyed their meals and thought it was delicious. However, an issue we had encountered during lunch was the water. In Germany, when you order water, they assume you mean sparkling water, which no one had known. As a result, when everyone drank the water for the first time, as Herr Niehues put it, „Everyone had a surprise party in their mouths.“ Following lunch, our next destination was the Dialogue Museum. The museum was pitch black and we had to rely on our other senses as well as a blind tour guide to get us through the museum during a 90 minute tour. Although the teachers recommended the American students to go on the English speaking tour, I decided to go with the German tour guide, which was quite challenging but it was also rewarding to get through the whole tour in German. The museum is a really eye opening experience as it is very interesting to understand the perspective of a blind person. We experienced crossing the street, going through town, and traveling in a boat, all in pitch black. All in all, today was a lot of fun and we are looking forward to spending time with our host families tomorrow! 🙂

(Written by Nicki K.)

Ropes Course in Offenbach

Ropes Course in Offenbach

Ropes Course in Offenbach

Skater Park in Frankfurt

Days 1 and 2: Pretzels and Waltzes or, Vibrant German Personalities (By Teodora)

What began as a long and grueling plane ride only continued into a equally strenuous first day. Whether it was trying to find that perfect sleeping position or attempting to identify what food was being served, it was safe to say that all of us were excited to be greeted by waving American flags and goodie bags at 3 AM ET. Well, maybe in theory. After months of communication over text and social media, the Pingry students were finally reunited with their German partners, and although it was difficult to show our excitement (we were tired), we were all ecstatic to experience their daily lives. We were quickly introduced to the German bussing and transportation system, which will absolutely not wait for you to even grab onto something to hold. We also discovered that speed limits are up for interpretation in Germany.

A partial day of school awaited us upon our arrival, beginning with a warm welcome from the headmaster of the Karl-Rehbein Schule and an interactive scavenger hunt to be completed in groups. It was the perfect opportunity to parade the town and discover many of its popular spots. An open market, the statue of the Brothers Grimm, and even a small yet sentimental coffee shop all make Hanau the quaint yet vibrant city it was described as. We then went to the homes of our host families and began the first challenge of immersing into the German culture: attempting to speak German with the host parents. It was no easy feat, but I imagine every student was able to articulate at least basic information. Even Ms. Decatur, who´s knowledge of German extends to Duolingo Level 2, has been making an applaudable effort at trying to speaking German and never shying away from a challenge. It’s a good thing we were all very eager to fall asleep that night, since a day full of adventures awaited us.

On Day 2, we all spent the first class with our host buddies – whether it was Zara and I struggling with ultimate frisbee or Hardy showing off his proficient skills in English, even the first part of the day was filled with action. Most of us parted from our German partners by 9:30 AM as we headed to a nearby vocational school that specialized with baking, butchering, and other craftsman professions. Unlike schools in America, students are divided into high schools that support the professions they would like to go into, rather than everyone having to fulfill the same nationwide school requirements. We were instructed on how to bake Brezeln (traditional German pretzels originating out of Bavaria) and chocolate buns. It was messy, but very worth it. Not to mention, our charismatic baking instructor and his less than appropriate jokes made it a very comedic experience for us all. We parted from German “Homer Simpson” with a basket of freshly baked bread and many memories. He may have taught us how to bake, but we taught him how to pronounce “flour” – a mutually beneficial relationship.

We had a bit of free time with our buddies until 3 PM, when we attended a dance class with a very energetic dancing instructor. By now, all of us have experienced the vibrant personalities of the German people. We began with a simple disco dance, leading into a line dance and then a few traditional waltzes. Not only did she teach us how to dance, but also gave the guys a crash course on how to properly court a woman. She was a woman of many talents, safe to say. Although her last exchange group was very hesitant to dance with the other gender, our group did far better on that note – for the most part. A huge lesson to take from this experience – some of us are rhythmically challenged. Also, sweaty hands become infinitely more off putting during a dance. But no matter what happens, always clap after a dance and NEVER reveal how good or bad your partner was. Common dance courtesy.

(Written by Teodora K.)

Baking Class in Hanau

Baking Class in Hanau

Baking Class in Hanau

Dance Class @ Berné, Hanau