Since my last post, my class took a trip to Berlin. There were about 25 students and then 2 teachers on the trip. We had to meet up at school at like 4:45 in the morning. Needless to say we were all half asleep. We took a bus from Neckartenzlingen all the way to Berlin (about 8 hours in total). Not that many people ended up sleeping though. Probably because they knew the dangers of falling asleep on a bus full of bored teenagers.
On the first day, we went into a museum of Germany. It covered basically anything you could ever want to know about Germany. It explained everything from Germany during the Roman era to World War 2 to the reunification of Germany. We even got to go into a real Nuclear Bunker from the Cold War. After that, the teachers went home and we had free time to do whatever we wanted in the city. I think most people went to either a bar or club and hung out there. We ended up at some beach bar in the middle of Alexanderplatz. "Alex" is the Time Square of Berlin. It's kind of like the city center. They brought in sand and turned one of the corners of Alexanderplatz into a little beach. Eventually we hopped on the Straßenbahn and went back to our hotel.
The next day was the Bundestag and sightseeing. AFS also did a day with the Bundestag when we went to Berlin with AFS but this was completely different. With AFS, we just sat in on a meeting of the German Parliament and listened to the German government discuss military reforms. With my class, we got a tour of the whole building and got to go up into the dome of the Reichstag. Going up into the dome is definitely something to do in Berlin. You can see the whole city of Berlin from there. After that we had more free time. We went and got lunch on our own and then explored the city in groups. We saw the Brandenburg Gate and then just walked around. Then (much to the night manager's dismay) we all hung out in the hotel lobby for a little while.
The next day was our sightseeing tour around Berlin. It was a three and a half hour walking tour of Berlin. It was like 85 degrees that day so a three hour walk through Berlin was borderline torture. The rest of the day was spent both hanging out at the hotel and seeing the parts of Berlin that we hadn't seen yet. That night we went out again. We went to a different bar this time. This time it was an actual beach bar on the river.
The next day was our river cruise on the Spree. The Spree is a river that runs right through Berlin so another way to see the city is to take a boat through the heart of it. That lasted for a few hours and then we just hung out in the city for the rest of the day. We just hung out at the hotel that night.
The bus ride home was so much wore than the one there. The traffic was terrible. For all you Germans, it took us about 2 hours to get from Berlin to Potsdam. Normally that takes less then 40 minutes. I think it took us about 12 and a half hours to get home. The cool part about that was that when I got home, my host sister Verena was there. Verena just got home from her year in Kentucky. It's kind of cool because we can speak English with each other (we rarely do though). My host parents don't exactly like it when we speak English in front of them so we usually stick to German. Philipp did a year in the US too (so his English is basically perfect too) but I haven't spoken English with him since September.
On the topic of speaking English, I have gotten pretty good about lying about my nationality here. It's not that I don't want to be American or anything. I just don't feel like speaking English with people here. I also hate the ensuing political debate that happens when you tell people you are from the USA. It's always awkward because when they find out I am from the US, they always try to speak English me. I can never tell if they are speaking English because they want to or because they think I can't speak German. Not to mention, they always insist on debating American politics with me. So now I just tell people I am from Iceland, The Faroe Islands or Armenia. It actually works out pretty well because no one speaks any of those languages nor do they know much about their politics. Of course I don't tell everyone that, just the check out lady at the market or the worker at Media Markt. It just makes things easier.
On Thursday, we went back to The Black Forest. The Black Forest is by far my favorite part of Germany. It is still very traditional and nature-oriented. The little villages and the dialect are really what makes it great though. The best village is Schiltach. The last time we were there was December. It was cool because it's right in the middle of a valley and the hills are lined with trees.
Here is a picture of Schiltach
The point of going to the Black Forest on Thursday was for Verena to see her grandparents after her year in the US but also so I could buy a traditional Black Forest Cuckoo clock. They're basically what the Black Forest is known for.
Here is the Cuckoo Clock I bought
After we got home, I started the worst part of the exchange year. I started to organize my things from this year into what I want to take home and what I am leaving here. It's the first step of packing up and leaving Germany. Im going on vacation for a while before I leave so I thought I'd better get started now.
Here is everything I plan on taking home
Yesterday was Philipp's graduation ceremony at school. First there was a ceremony in the Auditorium where they all got there "diploma" type things. Unfortunately they don't wear the graduations gowns and caps like we do. After the ceremony, we all went to some banquet hall and had what might have been the biggest buffet I have ever seen. The graduating class then puts on a show with pictures, videos, games and dancing for everyone to see. We stayed there until like 1 and then came home.
Today is the Kinderfest in Neckartailfingen. It's basically a festival for the entire village. I don't really know what there is to do there but it's supposed to be good.
Tomorrow we are leaving for a week in northern Germany. We are going to visit my host mom's sister in Hattingen for a few days then going to Berlin. From Berlin we are going to Hamburg, Poland and Wallmow/Bergholz. I'll talk more about that when I come home.
As I said in the beginning of the post, I have only 25 more days in this country. It's weird because it feels like I have almost no time left here at all. The next two weeks are school vacation (for the Ascension) and after that, I have like 5 more days of school. It's weird saying goodbye to people here. Like last night at Philipp's graduation, everyone was saying "Goodbye and have a safe trip home". It's weird because I probably won't see these people at all before I leave. To be completely honest, I don't want to leave. If staying here another year was an option, I'd take it without hesitating. I definitely want to do another exchange year though. With this year, I knew I wanted to go to Germany. I don't really know where I want to go next time but I narrowed it down to a few choices. You can vote on the side as to where you think I should go.
I guess that's all for this post. I will post again after we come home.