shamefully, we are only now finding the time to write the thorough report of our whereabouts that you deserve. Please understand that we have been absolutely overwhelmed with wonderful activities - and with such a tightly organized schedule, there is little time for writing late at night.
We want to get straight to the good stuff. Last we left off, we were preparing for our journey to Berlin. You have seen the photos, so it is reduntant to say that we had an incredible time. The students were so excited on our four-hour journey to the capitol that they refused to sleep and the pounds of Gummybears and other candy made sure they couldn't. We arrived at Berlin central station (Europe's largest cross-roads - Indiana much?) and made our way straight to Potsdam to check in into our youth hostel and ready the rooms. The youth hostel was situated in a gorgous and quiet turn-of-the-century neighborhood that as well equipped with a rustic kitchen, play grounds, a movie room and beautiful, naturally lit rooms. Once we checked in, we quickly gathered to head on to our first point of interest, the palace compounds of Sanssouci in Potsdam. This was the former and favorite residence of Frederick the Great and was ecquipped with a beautiful Orangerie and New Palais all in the classical style. The students were quite taken by the style of the (former) rich and famous and were especially tickled when the street performer dressed in Prussian garb played the tune of Hogwarth in the Harry Potter series. On our stroll home, we explored parts of Potsdam, including the old Holland district, where the houses in red brick stone stood as symbols of the old trade relations in Europe. We returned hungry in our youth hostel, enjoyed a dinner and partook in a series games, finished off by a game of team basketball. When the fun concluded, we watched the Germany/France FIFA game in the recreational room and were glad to celebrate Germany's victory.
The following day, we had a culture filled day planned. We were off early and headed to Hohenschönhausen and visited the old Stasi prison compound (http://en.stiftung-hsh.de/). Maybe it was a reality check, but the students appeared contemplative. Many of the blatant truths were reminiscent of the life in a concentration camp - something no one could have imagined to have existed after the terrible World War. These young kids quickly had to realize that Berlin is saturated with beautiful and thought-provoking, not-always-so-easy history. When we concluded our tour, we headed to Alexanderplatz (in former East-Berlin) and did a walking tour past the famous landmarks, including Engels and Marx, Museum Island and the Berlin Cathedral, which is called the Berliner Dom in German. Oddly enough, the cathedral is not in fact a cathedral, which is by definition the seat of a catholic bishop, but a protestant Church, built as a grand church. Since our trip, this church has been named the most beautiful site by our students. They were really taken by it. Perhaps because, aside from the gorgeous interior, it also hosted a crypt underneath it. When we concluded our tour, we continued on foot, over to the Humboldt University, the site of the unfortunate book burnings during the Third Reich, all the way to the Gendarmen Markt (the former French district), where we hopped on a tour bus, to take in the sites from a more comfortable point. Most students were already exhausted, and were additionally inspired by the heat, to take an occasional quick snooze between the flurry of pictures. We ended the tour at Potsdamer Platz after visiting Check Point Charlie and remnats of the Berlin Wall. The students were left to their own to gather souvenirs and food for some time, until it was time to meet by the Sony Center for the Blue Man Group. We had first, second and third row tickets - so we were right in the action and several students were even included in the show's interactive program. Needless to say, the kids had a grand ole time.
Our final day in Berlin was reserved for politics. We visitd the Brandenburger Gate and the Holocaust Memorial before we finally made our way to the Bundestag. We had the fortune of joining a political debate - and it wasn't just any. It was our luck, that in the hour that we sat in on the debate, things were just coming to a head on Germany's most important political vote - here you can follow up on the debate, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preimplantation_genetic_diagnosis. It couldn't have been planned better, but Lady Luck ensured us that we saw Germany's most supreme politicians, including a grand finale by Mrs. Angela Merkel herself. It was exhilirating. When our hour was up, we were invited to meet with Krefeld's representative Mr. Heveling in one for the back rooms reserved for panel discussions. While he enlightened us on the political procedures of the German political system, the sirens reminded us of the gravity of the situation. We were wrapped up right in German politics. Our stay in Berlin was finally coming to an end, and so we made our way towards the central station to grab an early dinner and finally board the train. Some of the students were in exhausted deep sleep before the train even left the station. Happy kids sleep deeply. :)
Here we must take a break and reserve the next post for the next opportunity to write. We thank you for you patience and wish you a happy and quiet last week before the students' great return to the States.