Sunday, June 29, 2014

Post 8 the weekend!

This is a combined Saturday and Sunday post.  I can't believe we've been in Germany a week.   On Saturday, we woke up and were guided through the city's shopping areas and finally hitting the cathedral.  We were greeted by a tourism guide.  She was a very good speaker and had lived in the United States and Canada when she was younger.  However, she started by explaining the different features of the exterior of the cathedral and some of interior.  We went around to the side of the building and then approached different buildings along the river.  Cologne had been 90 percent destroyed in The War with minor damage to the cathedral.  We then went to the river and looked at some historical looking buildings that were built since the 1950s.  We encountered a wedding taking place at the historical City Hall and there are Roman ruins being prepared for exhibition.  Cologne is one of the oldest Roman cities and remains have been found since the rebuilding of the War.
We made our way back to the Cathedral.  I attended noon prayer with a few others in the group, then did a tour of the building.  We then ventured to climb 533 steps of the south tower,  the only warning there was was a sign stating there was no lift.  There should have been plenty others such as if you suffer fro vertigo or heart diseases, don't do this!  I went up and almost immediately felt how difficult it was to be.  There were tight spiral stairs with people going up and down at the same time.  If someone stops, everyone stops.  I did stop a couple of times in areas where there were doorways.  It was very stressful. Then I encountered the bell chamber and went around them.  Then I went further up the tower.  I almost didn't finish it, but I had the urging of others in the group.  I went to the top and worked my way back down.  It is said that 20,000 people take those steps everyday!
We had to meet the others and there was a downpour.  We waited a few minutes and then bolted to the underground train where we took a train a couple of stops to a local Biergarten that our guide usually goes to.  We sampled all kinds of dishes but my main dish was weinerschnitzel.  I then walked back to the hotel to rest.  I went out later to walk and went to an electronics store and went back to the cathedral.
On Sunday, three if us went to 9:00 mass at the cathedral.  It was held in a side chapel.  Interesting in German and the first time I left a mass bruised from the furnishings.  We then packed up and greeted our guides for the past week and said goodbye.  We took a three hour bus rude to Geisa with a food stop along the way.  I paid 70 cents to use the restroom but got a 50 cent voucher for food in the cafeteria.  I had a brat with fried potatoes.  We got to Geisa after the driver got lost a couple of times.  We were greeted by our new guides from Berlin.  We are staying in a former castle that has been renovated into Point Alpha Academy and guest houses.  Opened in 2011, these rooms are gorgeous and the whole town is picturesque.  I don't know how these small towns can do that!

Post 5 - Leaving Trier and onto Aachen

We packed up the bus and walked over to the Auguste-Viktoria-Gymnasium.  This is a grades 5-12 school in the heart of the city with about 2,000 students in several buildings.  We met with the director, Mr. Bernhard Hugle who described the program of the school and the training of teachers.  Participants in the program were grouped into 2-3 and went to classrooms.  I went with two other teachers to a 5th grade classroom for their English period.  In the lower grades, the students stay in the room and all teachers rotate to different classrooms.  It was just like any other classroom I have been in or observed.  Kids will be kids at that age.  We were asked about sports, where we were from and pets.  They had lessons in they're, there, and their and were reviewing for a test the next day.  For the next period I went to another building, in fact, modular portables as buildings were being renovated.  This was a 12th grade English class of 14 students reading a passage from Thomas More's Utopia.  Students had to find key words and they talked about utopian versus dystopian concepts.

We finished our visit at the school with a lunch if either chicken, fish nuggets, or fired mushrooms.  One problem I have here is that they serve carbonated water everywhere.  You have to specify "still water" if you want refreshing water!  We then went to the play area and discovered that there were students out there unsupervised.  This period last for an hour and a half and no supervision!  Crazy!

We then went to Ordensburg Vogelsong which was a National Socialist school opened by Hitler in the 1930s and had been in the hands of Britain after the war to 1950 and then as training rounds for Belgan Army from 1950 to 2006.  Much the facility is being renovated to improve its facilities to open next year.  We saw a statue with a quote that had been shot off of its man parts and inscription of Adolph Hitler's name had been removed by Allied troops.  This facility had been used as A school for Hitler's youth during the wAter.  Our guide stated that this is the place of the perpetrators and not a place to mourn like concentration camps.

We then arrived to Aachen and got to our hotel.  It's a quaint little hotel with 5 floors of rooms with an elevator for 4 floors.  My room is up on the 5th floor.  Walking the stairs for one floor is the plan!  

We went to dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant called Magellan's (pronounced Mega-Lon).  I had Turkish meatballs!  Yummo!  It was a late night as we left the restaurant at 10:30!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Post 7 the German speaking community of Belguim and moving onto Cologne.

We left Aachen this morning and over the border.  We went to a location where we can step in three countries at the same time.  They are Germany, Belguim, and the Netherlands.  We then ventured onto a city in Belguim called Eupin.  This is a German speaking community in Belguim.  There are over 75,000 German speakers in Belguim.  The other spoken languages in Belguim are French and Dutch.  In the city we stopped off at the office of an inter regional agency that coordinates hundreds of programs and millions of Euros on a yearly basis by working with various countries.  The presentation was kind of week due to the language barrier, but we got the intent of the presentation.

We then had lunch at the Ratkeller in town.  I had weinerschnitzel and pomme fries.  We had a tour through the town with the town's history and status as the center of German speaking Belguim,  there was a great church and a textile industry there for a while.  We then went to a supermarket that is the parent company of Food Lion and they use the same logo.  Then off to Cologne.

I slept my way to Cologne as I was very tired.  We checked into a small hotel called Hotel Bristol.  We then walked around  a few blocks.  The area is known for nightclubs so we saw lines of young people lining to go into clubs.  I ended up eating a slice of pizza from a Middle Eastern joint.  1€ pizza is pretty good!  We met up at the hotel and we went to the restaurant/nightclub our guide is sometimes a DJ at.  It is on the 30th floor of the tallest building in the city and we went to the terrace.  It was cloudy but we could see almost everything to about 50 kilometers around including the sights of the city, industrial areas, and Bonn which is about 30 km away.  A few of us left and went downstairs and it absolutely poured down rain.  Fortunately our hotel was about 500 meters away and we were drenched.  I put newspapers in my shoes overnight so I'll see how they turned out!

Off to the cathedral tomorrow!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Post 6 Germany versus USA Thursday, June 26

Today we went to Paul-Julius-Reuter Berufskolleg to see the types of vocational programs that are offered in business and economics field.  A program they described is one that was like the former Distributive Cooperative Training programs in West Virginia.  The German program allows students schooling two days a week and work the rest of the time in works places and even earning wages while learning about a specific business.  Another program they had was training in other are was if the European Union.  We then went to a classroom where the was a student who talked about his program.  He was 33 years old and interning at a firm that specializes in a British motor car parts.   We also received a tour of a computer lab and chemistry lab.

We went to what was a hit spring in Aachen and had lunch ther.  I had a meal that reminded me of Spam, with a fried egg and fried potatoes.  We then took a tour of Aachen central city learning that Charlemagne had a cathedral built and is buried in it.  The cathedral was expanded in the 1400s with a gothic style additions.  This month, there are relics displayed that  were gifts from Jersusalem to Charlemagne and had been put on display every 7 years since 1349.    There was also another building that Chalremagne had built for his royal court.  This was a magnificent structure in itself but also has been rebuilt since Charlemagne's times and was partially destroyed in World War II.

Following the tour we had, we waited about 45 minutes in queue at the cathedral to view the relics.  There are pilgrims from Germany, and even Poland and Hungary.  In the line, I had a cloth placed on what is seen as the swaddling cloth of Jesus.  Other items include the John the Baptist's beheading cloths robe of Mary, and Jesus' loin cloth.

We returned to then hotel and left to watch the a Germany -USA World Cup game at a soccer stadium via velar be screen TV.  It was fun to watch but soccer isn't my game,  when we leftm people were celebrating by honking their horns on the streets.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Post 4 - Wine Country Tuesday 6/24

We travelled by bus for about an hour to Bernkastel-Kues to a vocational training school for viniculture, vintner, and coopers.  The students had a presentation prepared for us in German and English about their 2013 Vintage Riesling wine and explained the process of producing the wine.  They gave us a sample of the wine and then the students left.  The instructors stayed behind and talked about the school, which has been around for 110 years but was in a fairly new building.  They took us into the areas of oriduction.  I wasn't happy with the lack of interaction with students,   I thought the students would be demonstrating different things related to the wine industry.

We then walked across the bridge to a very picturesque town in the edge of the Mosel a River.  There we finally had our first German meal as an organized group.  I had "cordon blue" schnitzel.  It was quite tasty!  We then went to the slopes behind the town looking at details of the vineyards with one of the instructors from the morning.  It is awfully hard work and they use migrant workers such as Polish workers we saw.  One of them had a Steelers jacket in their van!  We returned to the town to look around and shop.  This is such a pretty post card town with all kinds of nooks and crannies!  Lots of cozy little restaurants, shops, and hotels in the the town.  This is a stop for one of those River cruises like Viking.  The William Shakespeare ship was docked and could hear British accents in the town.

We returned end back to Trier for one last evening and I w allied around the market and bought a book at a bookstore.  It was written by Mark Twain called "The Awful German Language."  It is a bilingual book so I can read it both in English and German.  I also discovered an Aldi store.  Looks just like in Ameirca.  Most of the stores close at 7 p.m. And they are closed on Sundays as are most retail establishments in Germany.

Part 3 - The School System in Germany Monday 6/23

Our first formal day of sessions started with a tour of the former Bishop's Palace which is now a government administrative building.  We sat in conference room where Mr. Martin Harz, a central office school administrator, explained the German educational system with the different options for vocational training and college.  Schooling is compulsory up to the age of 16 and no children are to be home schooled even for religious reasons.  This stirred up many opinions and thought among everyone in the group.

The second part of the morning consisted of Ms. Christiane Schonauer-Gregg who is the Head of Communcatin, Planning and Technolgiy in the Adminstrative Supervision and Service Authoirty.  I liken this agency to the West Virginia office of Educational Performance and Audits (OEPA) where evaluations of every school takes place every ten years and they produce reports with deficiencies and recommendations.  I didn't see it much different than what is happening in West Virginia.

I went to the market square in the city for a quick lunch and. I had a Trier Brat.  It was just a standard Brat, but it was quite tasty!

We had a river cruise of the Mosel river.  The dock it was located had a dock for Viking a River Cruises and we did see a ship like Viking but another company.  I would like to do that kind of cruise someday.  Anyways, I thought we would have seen vineyards along the way, but that was not the case.  It was some nice scenery though and we turned around before a lock and dam.

We went back into town after the cruise and went to a Greek restaurant.  Still no German food as an organized group!  It was quite good as well.  I haven't had any bad food yet!

We stayed outside talking until 9:30 this evening.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Post Two - Trier

After leaving Frankfurt Aurport, we head onto a small yellow bus (not a school bus) to Trier.  We passed many medium industrial areas, orchards, and wineries on our way to Trier.  Finally we get to Trier and our rooms are not ready at the PentaHotel.  So we piled our luggage into a room and head to lunch.  We go to an Italian restaurant on a street with outdoor seating.  I ordered pizza.  It was a substantial sized pizza and others ordered pizza.  They were substantial sized as well!

We get back to the hotel where some of the rooms where ready.  They were being prepared in alphabetical order.  Of course, mine would be last.  We waited until three o'clock by laying down on the couches of the lobby resting off our jet lag.  At 3, we met up with a tour guide who explained the sites (I may have misunderstood some of the details). We headed to the center part of town and finally down to the Petra Nigra.  This was a gate of the Roman times that surrounded the city almost 2,000 years ago.  This structure made it known that Trier is the oldest city in Germany and it had up to 80,000 people in an ancient times.  Diocletian separated the Roman Empire and Trier was the capital before moving to Constantinople.  We toured several other structures including the market square that was built as a result of the clash with merchants and the Bishop.  The Bishop built the square and merchants retaliated with building a church of their own.  We then toured the Dom, the Cathedral.  We headed down further and went to a large building that Emperor Constatnine had held royal court.  This building had been converted in recent years to a Protestant church.

I had no idea about Trier and it's history in Roman times.  I just assumed that most of the history of the time was in south around the Mediterranean.

I returned to the room at 5:00 and slept until 8:30 and went back out until 10:00 pm to take photos a in the city.  Ireally needed the sleep and it doesn't get dark until after 10 pm!

Italian restaurant where we ate dinner on Sunday

Karl Marx had lived here as a child

Petra Nigra

Sunday, June 22, 2014

From Rosemont to Washington to Frankfurt!

On Friday morning, I left my house and travelled less than 10 minutes to my local airport that has a direct flight to Washington Dulles.  I got there and discovered that the flight was delayed from 10:28 to 11:35.  They didn't tell us there, we found out by emails from United Airlines.  It wasn't too bad of a wait for me since I didn't have a connecting flight, but others did and there was a former student of mine who was on that flight who had to make changes.

Different types of schools in Germany
Criteria for workshop when we return
I finally got into Dulles and I had arrangements to take a SuperShuttle to the Hampton Inn Convention Center in Washington D.C.  We had our first meeting at Geothe Institut at 4:30.   My room wasn't ready until 3:00.  I got my room and rested a few minutes and then walked a couple of blocks around Chinatown (not so Asian anymore), went to the National Portrait Museum, and made my way to the Institut.  There were met about 30 people who were participating in two groups and we had get to know you sessions and a basic vocabulary lesson.  I think we should had access to an online tutorial ahead if time and I'll put this in my feedback at the end of the tour.  We finished up the evening with dinner at Asian Spice restaurant where I had Bulgogi (Korean beef barbecue) that reminded me of my Korea study tour and I had coconut ice cream.  Yum!  We then had time on our own and I walked to the National Mall to the Washington Monument.  It was a beautiful evening.

Current Events
Diagram of different types of schools in Germany
Saturday morning we dragged our luggage a block to the Goethe Institut and had a rules presentation and the criteria of what we have to do after the study tour.  We have to lead a two hour workshop and write a lesson plan.  We also has a primer of German issues today and then a deli style lunch.  We left about 2:30 on a bus to get to Dulles by bus.  We already had boarding passes printed off before going to the airport and dropped off our luggage at the counter.  We got through TSA and didn't even have to take off our shoes!

We had a 747-8 jet for our flight with USB ports and Tv/movies/radio.  It was an 8 hour flight and I was one seat inboard on the center aisle.  Good meal of Mac and Cheese and a breakfast snack.  No problems with turbulence.  We landed and Frankfurt has a nice airport on the inside.  We go through the terminal and after a while finally get to a kiosk to get our passports stamped by the Federal Police.  Picked up our luggage and didn't have to deal with customs after that.  That was the easiest customs process I've ever experienced.  We them made our way to our separate groups to our busses and headed to the north to Trier!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

T minus 24 hours

The countdown is down to about 24 hours!  I have my bags packed, reviewing documents for the study tour, and most importantly I have my passport ready!  I'll be flying to Washington, DC tomorrow to meet with colleagues for the TOP study tour to Germany.  A year ago, I was in Charleston, WV celebrating the 150th birthday of the state and this year I will be in the nation's capitol.

In Washington, we will be having orientation sessions which include getting to know each, expectations, basic language, and reviewing our itinerary.  We will also have some time to wander around the city.

Then, we will be flying out for a 10 hour flight.  This shouldn't be a problem for me since I been on flights that were longer, but there is always the anxiety of thinking do I have everything I need.

Last evening, I contacted a friend who went on this study tour a few years ago and I was popping out questions.  So this morning I bought a compact travel iron and a power converter.  I didn't intend to bring either, but since I have to look somewhat decent, I shouldn't have wrinkled clothes.

I am also taking gifts for our hosts.  So I purchased some items at Tygart Lake State Park and some promotional items for West Virginia tourism.

I will try to update this blog over the next couple of weeks and add photos on Facebook.  I am not sure when I'll have access to wireless internet in Germany, but I'll make an effort to jot down notes and then post when I'm able to.

 Attached are photos from the orientation session in Washington, D.C. at the Goethe Institut.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Less than 3 weeks!

In a little more than 2 weeks, I will be traveling to Washington, D.C. to meet with my colleagues on the TOPS Germany Tour.  I am really looking forward to this as my travel arrangements have been made from North Central West Virginia Airport to Dulles and then in Washington for a couple of days.  We will make our 10 hour venture across the pond to Germany!

I am looking forward to the foods, the architecture, and witnessing history in Germany.

This is a short post, but this video should give you an idea what I am looking forward to!