Last time I wrote, I had mentioned that we were travelling to Trier, and what a wonderful experience that was! Trier is actually the oldest city in Germany. It was originally founded by the Celts in the 4th century BCE, and later conquered by the Romans around 300 years later. The Porta Nigra, also known as the “Black Gate” (not to be confused with the Black Gate of Mordor), was a gate built by the Romans, and it still stands today.
I visited Trier when I was in 4th grade; if I remember correctly, we took a school field trip to the Toy Museum there. However, it was wonderful to revisit the city with an appreciation for its history that I did not have back in the day.
I discovered that Karl Marx lived in Trier as well, and the house he used to live in is now a museum. When I was a junior, I took a history class on poverty. Once component of the class was to complete 21 hours of service at the Hospitality House of Boone, but as a class we also read and discussed Marx’s theories on poverty in the first volume of his text Capital. It was incredibly neat to walk the halls of his childhood home and learn more about Marx’s life and how his theories impacted political and economic systems throughout history and around the globe.
We spent the night in a city at a hostel that Kristen recommended because she had stayed there during a study abroad trip. We got quite the deal! A room with two bunk beds to share among the four of us, with breakfast included. And only €27 for the night! For my first time staying in a hostel, it was a positive experience.
The next day, after eating a large breakfast, Chris and I explored the city. We hiked up a hill full of vineyards and had an incredible view of Trier and the surrounding landscape.
A couple days after our visit to Trier, Chris, Kristen, and I visited Strasbourg for a day. Strasbourg is also an old city of incredible history. The same semester I took the course on Marx and poverty, I also took a class on Medieval Warfare. One of the first battles we learned about was the battle of Strasbourg (also known as the Battle of Argentoratum), on the banks of the Rhine River, between the Romans and the Allamani in 357 CE.
While there, the three of us visited a museum on the history of Strasbourg, spanning from pre-history to modern history. As I walked through the museum, I pondered the complicated history and cultural identity of the inhabitants of Strasbourg. Because Strasbourg is on the border of France, control of the territory has often been disputed between Germany and France. My students in my American II class back in North Carolina might remember our discussion about the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles after World War One. One of the provisions determined the status of the Alsace-Lorraine territory. Germany had control of the territory since the Franco-Prussian war, but was forced to return it to France. Currently, Strasbourg is the official home to the European Parliament, the legislative body of the European Union.
After our adventure to Strasbourg, I relaxed at “home” for a couple of days. All of us parted ways to spend the Easter holiday in different areas in Europe. Chris decided to backpack in the Norwegian wilderness, Kristen is currently visiting Paris and London, and Carly is traveling to Rome, Paris, and Prague with her family. I took the time to visit my German relatives. I rode a train to Nördlingen, where my mother’s cousin, Inge, picked me up. She showed me around the city, which was also full of history!
Nördlingen is about 1100 years old. The city is surrounded by wall, which was built in the 14th century, and is one of the few cities in Germany that still has a medieval wall completely intact. Inge and I climbed up around three hundred steps to the top of “Daniel,” the steeple of Saint George’s church, where we had an amazing view of the little city. We also visited the Ries Crater Museum. Nördlingen is located within the Ries crater, which was formed after a meteor impact around 15 million years ago. Because of the area’s similarities to a moon crater, the Apollo 14 astronauts used the location to train for their mission to the moon. The museum is home to a rock from the moon.
On Easter Sunday, I went to a German Catholic Church service and later visited my Great Aunt and Uncle, Tante Louise and Onkel Albert. Even though it has been eleven years since I last saw them, they were more than happy to welcome me back and include me in their holiday celebrations. I was so moved by everyone’s hospitality, even though I felt somewhat like a stranger. The last time they saw me, I was only ten years old! I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to spend Easter with them.
My German family does not really speak much English, so I had to communicate in German for the weekend. Although I have a pretty good understanding of the language, I can only speak in short sentences and phrases, and my grammar is terrible. It was a neat experience, however, because by the end of the weekend, I was simultaneously thinking in both German and English.
Learning another language is incredibly difficult. That being said, I am incredibly proud of the students I met last week at Gutenbergschule. Even though I only spent four days observing and teaching, I noticed within many of the students a drive and desire to learn the language. When I was going over homework answers with them, many students willingly volunteered to read their answers out loud, even at the risk of having an incorrect answer. For me personally, speech has always been the hardest part of learning a language. Even though the only way to improve is through practice, I struggle with feeling a sense of embarrassment at the risk of being wrong. It’s inspiring to have students who are willing to speak up, practice, and ask questions. Although having two weeks off for Easter is nice, I can’t wait to return to the classroom and help the students at Gutenbergschule grow as English-speakers!