Today would mark a big day for the group. We were about to experience the full power and might of the German train system and hope to survive it. In an effort to make things a little less chaotic for us, we ended avoiding the train right away and departed with a coach bus to Karlsruhe to visit the Industrie- und Handelskammer (IHK) Karlsruhe, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Karlsruhe. We made it faster than anticipated and were able to take some pictures infant of the mammoth yellow Karlsruhe Palace. Unfortunately it was under construction and we had only limited time to view it. This building has the task of representing general interests of businesses located in their district to promote industry and trade. They give proposals, expert opinions and reports, and working to maintain the principles of decent and ethical business practice. They prided themselves on their relationship with the school systems and businesses, i.e. the dual system. Afterwards, we boarded our coach bus and made our way to the nearby translation. This would be the first real time we would have to travel with all of our belongings. Not realizing how much room my souvenirs from Heidelberg would take, they now caused me to not only drag around my suitcase and wear my backpack, but I also had to now carry my camera bag on my shoulder. It definitely was not going to be easy. At this point we said so long to Alexander and Asterid and waited for our train. We were coached on doing a bucket brigade with our suitcases, which 5 guys including myself volunteered for. We had two minutes to do this. Eventually we squeezed through the hallway and somehow found our luggage. They reserved for us three separate rooms. I was with Laura, Kris, Amanda, Jeff, Christina, and Kris. Arriving at next stop, as soon as we departed from the train, we were greeted by a voice who said, “Hello Matthew”. Who was this who already knew me I wondered. It was Katarina, our new guide, accompanied by Jörge. Both of them were much younger than the previous guides, but both with their own sense of style. Katrina immediately showed her lively spirit and Jörge was more in the background, wearing all black. They took us through the train station to the coach bus, which would take us to the next city, Fulda. Along the way Jörge mentioned that he thinks it’s interesting that Americans are so obsessed with taking care of the American flag; how we have to fold it a certain way and burn it when we no longer need it. Walking through the train station, we saw a man wearing a sombrero, Hawaiian shirt, sunglasses, and a wig, accompanied by his buddies. He can pandering for some money in a jovial way, which we all were in shock and I’m sure a little bit scared what the crazy man wanted. I mentioned to Jörge that he thinks we are strange with the flags… he smirked and said, “Good point”. The coach bus took us through the countryside of Germany, further into what seemed like a much more remote area. Arriving in the small city of Fulda, adorned with more cobblestone roads and flanked by quant German style homes, unique in architecture compared to Heidelberg, we pulled in to the castle which was to be our residency for the night. A castle, seriously, how cool is that?! Entering in the spacious lobby, you could see far into the countryside and the small town beyond. Walking down the renovated castle corridor, the large open lobby in my floor’s entrance was a unique feature I’ve never seen at a “hotel”. My room had the similar setup where in order to have the electricity on, you needed to have your checkin card in the door. I think this is an amazing feature that subtly helps the environment. Inside my room was a large ceiling, a modern bathroom, a twin bed tucked perfectly into the wall, plenty of space, and a huge window with white drapes, over looking the parking lot. After spending the required 15 minutes to get ready, I headed down to the lobby to wait. The bakery on the outside looked like a welcoming ma’ and pa’ store. We were immediately ushered through to the back of the store where there were tables placed in the concealed outside patio. The bakery workers made us wear plastic hair nets and a plastic apron, all the style you can imagine. Entering in the part of the bakery where the bread is made, it was dimly lit, with large steel ovens, three large mixing bowls, and a couple of props for the head baker use. Jörge translated for her. She was so animated and proud of her work and her family’s story. The bakery is one of the oldest bakeries in all of Germany, continuing through the Cold War in East Germany. She did mention that she is struggling with the increase of large supermarkets and that working at the bakery takes a lot of work. She said that unfortunately the centuries old bakery will most likely close in a couple of years unless her daughter finds a husband willing to take on the bakery with her. Once we finished listening to the presentation, we went to the tables in the court yard and were given a plate of marshmallow like cheesecake, a brownie, and some salami with bread. We ended up walking down the nearby hill into a beer garden. We were told dinner was on us, so I got a bratwurst and french fries. Before eating, we were treated to some men playing large horns, similar to the Riccola commercial. My naivety made me feel like every song sounded like Amazing Grace. It was just the 18 of us at dinner and the five horn players sitting nearby, in what could be mistaken for someone’s back yard. It was very peaceful to eat and socialize at the restaurant. I went with Jenny to take some pictures of these goats at the nearby fence. I kept getting better and better shots as I moved closer to the goats, especially a baby goat. As soon as I got the best picture of the group, ZAPPP, I go flying backwards. No one told me this was an electric fence. I immediately looked at my hand, no scars, just a heavily beating heart. The look on Jenny’s face was of fear, but I was able to laugh it off. I finally had a rush of energy and felt like I finally got over any remaining jet lag. Back at the table, I sat next to Kimberly and easily made her laugh the whole night and started referencing her covering her face with her sweatshirt as a “Ninjaface”. Awesomely, even Jörge went along with the action. Finally, I headed back to the castle, laughing my way up with Michelle and Kimberly. It was another great night in Germany.
About Matthew Cottone
Experience the World! This is my creed I bring to my classroom and my life. I'm a World Studies teacher at Van Hoosen Middle School and I have a passion for learning and experiencing the world.