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.)

Ms. Decatur’s Weekend

I am staying with one of the English teachers at our partner school, Mr. Nimbler.  On Saturday, we explored the vibrant medieval city of Nürnberg (or Nuremberg, as we say in America), which is located two hours from Hanau. Our first stop was the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände, or the documentation center for the National Socialist (Nazi) Party rallying grounds. We learned about the conditions that led to the rise of National Socialism and Adolf Hitler in the 1920s and 1930s, as well as the consequences of Nazi Germany. The museum is located within the unfinished and formidable remains of the Congress Hall of the former rallies. The architecture of the Congress Hall is similar to that of the Colosseum in Rome. I learned that the National Socialists were big fans of monumental, classical architecture, using it as another intimidation tool. After touring the exhibits, we climbed the steps of the stadium (located behind the museum) and looked out onto the vast field where hundreds of thousands of people once stood to hear Hitler’s speeches. Standing on the balcony where Hitler once stood, looking out onto the vast field, I could imagine what it must have been like to be there in 1934. Although it was certainly eerie to stand in Hitler’s footsteps, I now have a better understanding of why and how many of the German people got swept up in Nazi-branded fascism. Many of the World History 10 teachers, including myself, show clips from Leni Riefenstahl’s famous propaganda film, Triumph of the Will, to introduce our unit on totalitarian regimes. The film captured the 1934 party rally in Nuremberg, including footage of the Congress Hall  and stadium that I saw today. I look forward to implementing some of what I learned into our World History 10 curriculum.

Afterwards, we hopped on a quick bus ride to the medieval city center of Nuremberg. We toured a fortified imperial castle of the Holy Roman Empire. On our way to the top of the tower, we passed through exhibits on the history of German kings and admired suits of armor and medieval weapons. At the top, we took in breathtaking views of the city. I hope to use some of the photos I took in my World History 9 lessons on Medieval Europe and the Renaissance.  After our tour, we ate a traditional German lunch, including Nuremberg’s famous sausages, which are much smaller than the sausages we had in Frankfurt on Friday. We walked around the old center and popped into some impressive cathedrals filled with more medieval and Renaissance art. The trip to Nuremberg concluded with some delicious German-Italian gelato.

On Saturday evening, we attended the Abiturball, which is a graduation celebration. The event was lively. Students, teachers, parents, and siblings danced the night away to a live band made up of former students. In between songs, advisory groups went on stage to thank their advisors. Many groups wrote poems or included funny videos and pictures about their advisories. A few of the male teachers, including Mr. Nimbler, performed a choreographed dance to the Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, and Britney Spears. It was a hit!

After a late evening the night before, we spent the morning relaxing and making both a homemade German breakfast and lunch (croissants, brezels, boiled eggs, potato noodles, and sauerkraut). After lunch, we attended a Volksfest in Aschaffenburg, which is a seasonal fair with carnival rides, games, and treats. I went on two rides and ate some delicious Bavarian gingerbread. Next, we drove to Hanau-Steinheim to watch Germany take on Mexico in a traditional Biergarten setting. We met up with most of the Pingry students and their exchange partners (all but Nicki and her partner Livia), as well as Mr. Niehues and Mr. Schumacher. Everyone was decked out in the colors of the German flag. Even though Germany lost, we all had a great time!

(Written by Ms. Decatur)

Documentation Center, Nürnberg

Documentation Center, Nürnberg

View from Nürnberg Castle

Volksfest in Aschaffenburg

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.

Zara’s Weekend

After a delicious meal of schnitzel, a classic German dish, we kicked off the weekend with a fun late night walk in the Hof und Gassenfest, a street fair in Brunchköbel. On the way to the street fair, I enjoyed a pleasant conversation about American politics with the family, as we discussed how the man who coined the phrase “You’re fired!” on a TV show was now living in the White House. I could sense that everyone was hesitant to discuss this with an American, as her mother later told me, but I welcomed the discussion and was eager to voice my opinions and hear how this was talked about internationally. We enjoyed reminiscing on some of Trump’s infamous tweets and also talked about the American voting system of electoral college and popular vote. We maintained a good balance of humor and maturity in the conversation, and I was grateful to take part in it. To end the night, Hans, Charlotte’s brother, introduced us to an…interesting… show called “Rick and Morty.” I tried to find the words to somehow describe this show, but “Rick and Morty” is  something you need to experience for yourself as describing it is an impossible feat. It will definitely be one of the highlights to my trip.

The next morning we had a long road trip to Heidelberg, but it was worth it. Heidelberg was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. It was like walking through one of the Mac screensaver photos, no exaggeration. The minute I stepped onto the small cobblestone street I felt like a world traveler (even though this is my first time in Europe). We had the pleasure of a local tour guide who let us in on the secrets, and showed us not only the beautiful tourist places but the sketchy pubs on the street adjacent to the main one. The brilliant castle at the top of the hill, the charming cobblestone streets, and gorgeous greenery at every corner just takes your breath away. We walked for about a mile to get to a bridge crossing over the Neckar river, and then proceeded to go to the castle. With breathtaking views and Instagram-ready backdrops at every corner of the castle, Callie and I went full-on tourist with our cameras clicking every second.

I left early with Charlotte because we needed to get ready to go to the Abitur ceremony for Hans’s graduation. In Germany, rather than having graduation and prom as separate events, it all happens in one night and the family and friends of the senior join them for the dancing part of the event, unlike prom which is only for seniors. Although the hours of listening to a completely different language unaware of what exactly was going was a bit difficult to get through, I can now say I attended a high school graduation ceremony in Germany. Unlike America, there are no hats and gowns, but rather attire similar to our prom. The girls were wearing long gowns and the boys wore suits. With speeches from the headmaster and teachers, a comedic speech from the students, and the presentation of your high school degree, the first part of the evening came to an end. Next, was the student-organized Abiball. Walking in, I saw multiple teens (16+) sipping glasses of champagne next to parents and friends which was shocking at first, but then I realized that this in fact was the norm. After dinner was served and a yummy chocolate mousse for dessert, the program began. The seniors formed their own band and performed a variety of songs, like “Billionaire.”  Each senior is part of a group of students who take the same subject, and each of these groups presented their teachers with a gift. Hans, who is part of the physics group, gifted the teacher with a scrapbook of puns using the teacher’s name “Bahr,” as this is a common root for many German words. Later, the professional band came on and the party started to resemble an American prom. Parents, siblings, and seniors alike were singing and dancing to Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You” (I am using the clean title, but the song performed was definitely not the clean version). Lastly, the night ended with incredible performance from teachers, including Mr. Nimbler, and the high school senior boys. The teachers danced to “Everybody” by the Backstreet Boys, “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls, and “Hit Me Baby One More Time’ by Britney Spears. The boys danced to various high school musical songs, one famous German song, and the wii music. Note that all of this happened over the course of the night until 1:00 AM. I loved every minute from the beauties of Heidelberg to the exceptional dance moves at Abiball. It was a night to remember.

With a late breakfast at 11:30, Sunday was a relaxing day to top off the weekend. I enjoyed a round of mini golf with Charlotte, Callie,´Paula, and Ariel (and found out that Callie is not the best at mini golf). We went to a public viewing of a soccer match of Germany vs. Mexico. The atmosphere at the conclusion of the game was depressing to say the least. Germany lost 🙁

(Written by Zara J.)

Ariel’s Weekend

Friday night, after the planned group activities of the day, I went back to my host family’s house in Langenselbold. That night there was a town festival in the older part of town which was only a few minutes away from the house. Leonie and I went to the festival. There was a small stage with a band and many tables full of people. The band was singing many American songs such as the “YMCA” and “Stand By Me.” Lining the street, there were food stands and some games. Though there were a few children there, most of the festival attendees were adults. We decided to leave after half an hour. Leonie’s dad drove us to the supermarket so I could buy candy. The entire store was full of German flags. There were flags hanging on the ceiling over every aisle. There were flags hanging on the shelves themselves and small ones taped onto the cash register. Leonie looked just as shocked and told me that it doesn’t always look like this and that the store was decorated for the World Cup. We made our way to the candy aisle and headed straight for the chocolate. We chose three pretty large Milka bars. Afterwards we moved to the gummy section, skipping over the licorice because both of us think that it’s gross. Most of the gummy section was Haribo, but there was also another brand that I’d never heard of called Katjies. We bought 3 bags of Haribo and one bag of Katjies. After the trip to the supermarket we went home and went to bed.

Saturday morning we left the house around 10 to go to Rüdesheim, a town on the Rhein river. The whole town was beautiful. It was located right next to the river and surrounded by vineyards. The streets were mostly cobblestone and used by pedestrians. While we stood in line for the cable car I noticed that most of the pedestrians were actually tourists. The cable car seated two people and took us over the vineyards to the top of a hill. Leonie and I shared a car while her parents took the one after us. The view from the cable car was absolutely amazing. You could see Rüdesheim getting smaller behind us, other towns scattered along the river, and the seemingly endless fields of grape vines. One we got off the cable car we walked past the Niederwalddenkmal, a Germania monument overlooking the valley. We continued walking along the trails in the forest until we reached another cable car area. We had a picnic on the grass in front of an enclosure with deer. People would buy deer food from the vending machine and feed the deer that seemed to be quite friendly and not afraid of people. We then took the cable car down. This one also seated two people but was more like a ski lift than a cable car. After we got off the cable car, we took a boat back to Rüdesheim. On the boat I was really surprised that I could see at least three castles just along the river. We made it back to Rüdesheim and walked along the town until we got to Drosselgasse, a famous narrow, pedestrian-only alley. The alley was packed with people and had many cafes. We had ice cream right outside of the alley and then went back home. Later that night, Callie came over because Paula had her prom night for her dance school. We had dinner together and talked with Leonie until she had to leave.

On Sunday I woke up at 10 after sleeping through 3 alarms set for 9, but everything was okay because we hadn’t planned to leave the house until about 11. We visited Ronneburg, a castle that was only about 10 minutes away from home. I was amazed that there was literally a castle ten minutes away. We got to the castle and walked around the entire thing.The first room that we went into had the well. When you looked down into it when it was lit up the water at the bottom literally looked like a speck of grey. We filled a bucket with water and then dumped it into the well. The well was so deep that you can’t hear the sound of the water hitting the water at the bottom until after 10 entire seconds. After that we saw a peacock in the courtyard just roaming around and screaming at people. Then we made our way to the top of the tower. The view from the top was amazing. You could see the fields of the farms near the castle and several towns including Langenselbold. You could even see the Frankfurt skyline and the European Central Bank. From the tower we actually saw Niles and Valentine in the courtyard and later Teodora and Kim as well. Coincidentally, all of us decided to see the castle at the same time. After we climbed down the many many steps of the tower we saw all of the rooms of the castle, including the chapel that Leonie’s parents got married in. We left the castle around noon to go home and eat lunch. After lunch, at around two, Callie and Paula came over and we drove to Adventure Golf to play mini golf with Zara and Charlotte. We were all pretty terrible except Zara who plays golf at Pingry, but Callie and I like to tease her and say that golf isn’t a real sport. Zara ended up winning overall and I came in fourth (which was also third to last, but saying fourth makes it sound slightly better). We then met everyone at Valentine’s house before walking to the café to watch the soccer game. Everyone was dressed up in jerseys and had painted German flags on their cheeks. Teodora even had a cowboy hat in the colors of the German flag and an air horn. Callie had a poncho in the colors of the flag. I felt pretty underdressed, but at least I had face-paint on. Germany actually lost the match against Mexico (0-1) but I had fun anyway. When we were walking back, a group of us (Zara, Charlotte, Callie, Paula, Hugh, David, Leonie, and I) left the main group and sat on a stone wall near a river. We ate cake that Charlotte brought. Hugh and David left before Callie took a picture of us with her Polaroid camera. Zara and I also took pictures of us sitting on the wall. After maybe half an hour we went our separate ways and went home.

(Written by Ariel L.)

Niles’ Weekend

I had a pretty fun weekend here in Germany. It’s crazy how similar and different America and Germany are. On Saturday, my buddy Valentin and I went to Frankfurt. We got there by train and did a lot of shopping. There were a lot of designer stores like Gucci and Prada but also stores like H&M. I also met Valentin’s friend from Spain, Hakim. He was pretty cool. We also went in the Main Tower where we could see all of Frankfurt and the surrounding towns and fields. It was beautiful. There was also a festival for respecting other people and accepting different cultures. It was nice to see how everyone wanted to support one another. I also got to try out some German candy and chocolate.

On Sunday, I visited one of Germany’s castles. It was made before North and South America were even discovered . There were some paintings on the walls and a really deep well. So deep that when you dropped water into it, it took around 8 seconds until you heard a splash. The architecture, the breathtaking view of the rich green fields, the kind people, and my amazing host family made it a great experience. At the end I bought a cool little knight statuette to take home. Then to finish off a great weekend, I got to see a World Cup match in a Biergarten with my exchange student friends. Even though Germany lost to Mexico it was an exciting match. This trip has been a lot of fun so far and I can’t wait to go to Frankfurt tomorrow with my class. Tchüss.

(Written by Niles L.)

Olivia’s Weekend

Ever since our plane landed in Germany my excitement for this trip has only gone up. Thanks to my partner, Melina, and her family, I have been exposed to so much German culture it is overwhelmingly incredible. To begin my weekend, I woke up and enjoyed a feast of a breakfast. It included toast, rolls, croissants, what seemed like 20 other types of bread, and eggs. Throughout this breakfast i realized that Germans eat A LOT of bread. Every meal has bread. Which i’m not complaining about. Also, I’d like to talk about the eggs. Previously in a class back home Herr Niehues showed the class a picture of a soft boiled egg and I thought it look gross. But then i found myself eating one for breakfast and enjoying it! Later that day we all drove to Frankfurt and we went to the Hessen Center and then into the main part of Frankfurt which is like NYC. While there we did some shopping and ate some classic German Eis. We also went to the top of a clock tower and got to see a view of the whole city. We ended up getting tired so we left and headed home. We then had dinner which reminded me of a classic American outdoor dinner. If was nice to eat something that reminded me of home. Then we left to go to a fest in Bruchköbel and we stayed there for about three hours and walked around and met up with one of Melina’s friends, Sarah. We then left the fest because it got boring and went to bed. Then, on Sunday morning we woke up pretty late and enjoyed a classic German breakfast. It is served with a sweet mustard. At first I was a little hesitant to trying it, but i’m glad i did because it was really good! Then we went to this historic castle and got to see another really beautiful view of the countryside part of Germany. Then we came home and had a late lunch and then came to watch the big soccer game!!! So far my stay has been absolutely amazing and I’m hoping that in the future I can come and visit Melina and her family again.

(Written by Olivia H.)