Wednesday, July 25, 2012

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu!

...and here it is: the last evening, the last blog entry, time to come home and tell everyone what a great time we had! Tomorrow we will be on the plane, on the way home - but yesterday evening we said good-bye to the friends we have made here: host parents, host siblings, and friends of the program. We gathered again at the Museumsscheune at Burg Linn, where we also celebrated 4th of July. And how long ago that was - and, paradoxically, how little time seems to have passed!

We had worked diligently on perfecting our program: The theater group on their three sketches by Loriot (, the choir and the musicians on their songs, the dance group on their choreography. And, as we proud teachers knew anyway, the show was a great success. We enjoyed a lovely evening together and made the crowd laugh and smile - and what more could any artist want! Here are two pictures showing the choir and the theater group:

Our last evening together ended with three surprises: A flower bouquet for our onsite-coordinator Barbara, an "Abschiedsbuch" (fare-well book) for the host families with texts and poems written by the group, and t-shirts for the students (with a design inspired by our experience here), which they all then signed.

We will miss Germany - it is not just a nice place to visit for a few weeks anymore; it has become a home away from home. But we are also looking forward to being back home again and together with our families, friends and pets. We had a great time, and would like to say thank you to everyone who has been following this blog. We hope we gave you a good enough impression of how we enjoyed our time in Germany through this blog. In the name of the IUHPFL program and the three teachers, all that remains for me to say is: So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu!

Until very soon, your


Sunday, July 22, 2012


Our third city trip lead us to Aachen. I am tempted to write "All roads lead to Aachen", and for good reason: Charlemagne ("Karl der Große" for Germans), the famous 8th century King of the Franks and leader of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation saw himself as the ambassador of Christianity, and this link to Rome is still very perceptible in the city.
After arriving at the train station, we went to the Aachen Cathedral, a building that mirrors the different architectural fashions through the centuries in its various additions to the original church (around 5 additional chapels within over 1200 years) and reflects on Aachen's importance in Europe's history. The Cathedral museum shows impressive and ancient golden artifacts, which often include relics from saints and also Charlemagne himself. And even if the authenticity of the relics may be questionable according to modern scientific standards, their religious function is not, and has been important for a very long time.
Aachen, with its many stories and legends, is a wonderful place to take a tour through European history. The wolf's gate - the entrance to the cathedral - is linked to a story of the devil helping the city of Aachen to build their cathedral, if he receives the first soul that enters the building (greedy as he was, he was hoping it would be the bishop himself). The people from Aachen, smart as they were, lead a wolf through the gate. The devil was not too pleased and - one would have expected worse! - slammed the door so hard, that his thumb remained stuck in the door, where it still is today (we checked, so you can trust the story!).
Here is a picture of the kids in front of the door...

... and here is one of some wolves in front of the wolf's gate:

Afterwards, we walked up to the Lousberg, where we met with one of the host-fathers who added other legends to the one we had already heard. From the hill, one has an excellent view of the city - which was topped by the view from the Drehturm, a tall tower on the hill which has a restaurant on a moving platform.

Finally, we chose two different museums to go to: The International Newspaper Museum and the Ludwig Forum for International Contemporary Art. While the first group found out lots of interesting facts about the world of newspaper, its past, present and future ( including some fascinating fake photographs, the second group clearly had fun discovering modern art (

We had some time before the train left for Krefeld, so the students explored Aachen and its famous "Printen", a type of gingerbread typical for that region. But I am sure you will hear more details about what that tasted like from them yourself - and soon!


Sunday, July 15, 2012


Hello everybody!

Despite the constant rain, the intrepid adventurers (us, that is) visited Cologne (Köln) last Friday. Cologne is very good at WOWing visitors, because the first thing one sees on leaving the train station is the gigantic, beautiful Cologne Cathedral. Its architecture is Gothic, and it is a Roman Catholic Church consecrated to St. Peter and Mary, with regular services throughout the day. (Details can be found here: Before we entered the Cathedral, we got a tour through Cologne's historic downtown, including touching the nose of a sculpture for good luck! There are two sculptures, Tünnes and Schäl, two fictitious Cologne characters - just make sure you touch the right nose, because if you touch Schäl's nose, you will never return to Cologne. The teachers made sure all the kids got it right - we definitely didn't want to hinder potential future visits!

After our tour, we finally entered the Cathedral. It is an amazing building, with many statues, altars, altar pieces, colored window glass with bible motives, and an awe-inspiring architecture. We also got a tour through the church, marveling at the builders' feats over the centuries.
Afterwards, we decided to walk up to the top of the steeple - 533 steps up and down a winding staircase! But it was a worthwhile effort, because the view from up there is breathtaking. And of course, we did something for our fitness (the President's physical fitness test is nothing against that).

Finally, we went to the Chocolate museum, found out about the history and production of chocolate, and even got a taste of the famous Lindt chocolate. What a perfect way to end our visit in Cologne! Our next trip: Aachen!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July!!!

Dear Family and Friends,

we wish you a Happy 4th of July from the old world!

We spent a lovely afternoon on the grounds of the Castle Linn in Krefeld (here is a link:, visiting the castle and celebrating the day by dressing in blue, white and red (including many of the host-parents and host-siblings), eating a gigantic buffet with lots of German and American dishes, playing football, and generally having a lot of fun. We had our big, one-time-only exception to rule #1 (Don't Speak English!) by singing the national anthem of the United States of America, and I must say, we did a pretty good job at it, too! One of our host-mothers took great pictures, and so here it is: Happy 4th of July!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Ick bin ein Berliner

What a whirlwind week we've had!
Everybody had to get up really early on Tuesday to leave for Berlin. Nevertheless, the teachers were met by an excited, if somewhat sleepy-eyed crowd of students at the Krefeld train station. Going by train with these kids is never boring! We played games, laughed and talked a lot, and got to Berlin in next to no time. On the first day, we visited the Deutsche Bundestag, sat in the assembly hall (Angela Merkel unfortunately was busy elsewhere), and met with a member of the German parliament. The students got to ask questions and took pictures, and then we had lunch at the parliament cafeteria. The first picture shows them in front of the Bundestag (in their defense, they normally don't look like that - we did ask them to stick their tongues out and act goofy!).

On the next day, we went to the castle Sanssouci in Potsdam, a town very close to Berlin. The castle grounds include an impressive array of other castles, a Chinese house and an orangery (what some of us jokingly called "our little breakfast room").
Here is a link to the castle:
The photo was taken in front of the back of (oh, spatial prepositions!) the castle.

Afterwards, we took the S-Bahn into Berlin, visited the Berliner Dom and chose from a selection of museums. In the evening, we went to a show of the Blue Man Group. We had so much fun at this show that it would warrant a separate blog entry - there was music, percussion, theater, lots of paint, and a clever and witty script to tie it all together.
Here is a link to their international website; the kids will tell you that it is worth a trip:
On our last day we visited Checkpoint Charlie (the most famous border crossing between East and West Berlin), the KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens - a famous department store built in 1907), and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. We spent lunch in the Tiergarten, a big park in the middle of Berlin, and saw the victory column there. Finally, before we headed for the train station, we took the S-Bahn to Ostbahnhof, where we saw one of the only remaining intact sections of the Berlin Wall. As is custom for people visiting the wall from all over the world, the students wrote their names and date of their visit on the back side of the wall.

On the train ride back home, we whiled away the time by listening to German music, talking, sleeping and playing games (I am still not so sure I know how to play Kemps, but after a couple hours, everybody definitely got the hang of German hangman!). All in all, a very successful trip!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Meet the mayor!

On Friday, June 22nd, we met one of the mayors of Krefeld (their system involves multiple mayors), who invited us for breakfast and told us plenty of interesting things about Krefeld, its art and theater scene, wresting and underwater rugby (which none of us knew existed but all are dying to watch now). Our crowd of extremely well-dressed students had prepared questions for the mayor and - after some initial shyness - interacted on Krefeld's political scene as if they had never done anything else. We teachers were pretty impressed, and, admittedly, quite a bit proud of them! At the end of our visit we got a lovely book about the city, took a picture of the students with the mayor and signed the city's guest book.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rheinfahrt - boat tour on the river Rhine

On Sunday the 17th of June we went on our "Rheinfahrt", a short boat trip on the river Rhine. The slow cruise took us through a breathtakingly beautiful valley with hills covered in wine that grows mostly on slate and is renown for its excellent taste, a landscape dotted (yes, dotted) with castles and ruins. Despite the fact that this sounds very much like a tourist information's advertisement, this is exactly what we saw! After idly cruising on the river for a while we climbed up to the Marksburg, the only castle along the Rhine that has never been destroyed. Here is a link to their website:
After a tour through the castle (complete with a visit to its torture chamber), we managed to not only get a great picture of our students, but also one with (almost all) the host parents. We are still impressed by their patience, since it took quite a while to get everyone into the picture!