As my exchange began, the promise of the Eurotour remained as a tantalizing hint of what was to come, along with fluency, friends and not missing home all the time. The Eurotour is looked forward to and common for almost all European exchange students. Divided by Rotary district, groups of exchange students and Rotarians travel for several weeks by bus throughout Europe. My parents and I paid the fee, I went on with my exchange, and occasionally a look at my calendar reminded me that I had 18 days at the end of May and beginning of June already booked.
The sun began to shine, and as I spoke fluent German, spent time with friends, and seldom thought about the United States, I remembered the Eurotour. Suddenly, the anticipation that had been simmering since October jumped to a rolling boil. The German 'Pfingstferien' began, I packed my suitcase full of anything I envisioned myself needing in the next 18 days, debated bringing seven pairs of shoes but ended up with only six, and hopped on a train.
The 29 exchange students from the two Rotary districts of Baden-Württemberg met in Ulm on May 21. After an evening of soccer, music, bad jokes and laughter, we boarded a bus at 8.00 the next morning, driving in the direction of Prague.
Punctually back at the bus at 1pm, we drove away from Prague after less than 24 hours. The entire time was a whirlwind of information, sightseeing and people; I was soon to figure out that the entire tour would be the same way.
On the way to our next stop, we made a detour to the Elbsandsteingebirge, a formation of sandstone overlooking the Elbe River.
After seeing the sun (which we had missed in Prague) we climbed back into the bus, napping all the way to Dresden.
The city of Dresden was greatly destroyed in WWII by the Allies, and since the reunification of Germany great steps have been taken to restore the city, both historically and aesthetically.
|Frauenkirche, completely destroyed and rebuilt with some original stones|
In Weimar, we visited the house of Friedrich Schiller, which is still in perfect condition and filled with original furniture, art and books.
Our next stop was the concentration camp Buchenwald, open from 1932-45. The camp was mostly destroyed by American troops after the war and was then used as a Soviet prison, but since the reunification has been transformed into a memorial and museum. The tour throughout the grounds was very moving for all of us, and I think a very important stop for us to make on the trip.
We got to Berlin, our next destination, late that evening. It had been a physically and emotionally draining day, but there was still more to come: the European Champions League final, between German teams Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern-München. Almost all of the exchange students had adopted the German love of the teams and the sport, and we watched the game together with other people in the restaurant. After FC Bayern-München scored the winning goal, we cheered and danced about before falling into bed.
To hear about more of our trip (Berlin! Hamburg! The North Sea!), check back in the next few days!