On the plane and heading home. How refreshing right now it is to say this. I've loved Germany and the memories I've gained, but I'm ready to go home. It's been an unforgettable experience. Only now as I sit on the plane heading home do I have a my first few moments to try and digest what I've experienced over the past two weeks. It's been an incredible journey. A country that has always been associated with a dark past has shed a refreshing, forward thinking glaze over my eyes. Germany stands at the forefront of conservation and economic advancement. They celebrate their rich history while recognizing the brutal mistakes of the past. They aren't stuck in the atrocities as they've turned the page since the World Wars and the Cold War, yet take these dark times to remember the past and learn from the mistakes. Yesterday, I asked our guide Jörge about what the German dream is (as the American Dream is to have a family, nice house, car, etc). His answer was meant as a joke, but I honestly believe their is a sense of honesty hidden. “The German dream is to not mess up, get anyone mad, or do something wrong like we did in the past… and the dual system”. Funny last remark, but I do believe Germans can't hide the past, but in order to move forward they continue to acknowledge the atrocities. When we met with Dennis from our home visit two days ago in Berlin, he was very forward and upfront with bringing up the Holocaust and the stupidity of Neo-Nazism. I could never question the integrity of my grandparents as we are brought up to believe they are “The Greatest Generation” (though I somewhat question this, but I digress). To even question the morals of my elders is unfathomable. Without reservation, Dennis said his Grandparents most likely were involved in some fashion in the horrors of WWII, just no one would ever admit or discuss what happened. Germany has also laid memorials which we saw along the trip regarding these events, like Buchenwald, several in Berlin like the East Side Gallery, the random pieces of the wall, the WWII memorials, and Pointe Alpha Memorial. Learning about Germany's rich history was my most anticipated part of this trip, but since I only teach from 3500 BCE to 600 CE and 1900 to present, their has been a whole gap in time in German and European history I never knew much about. I saw the castles I never knew Germany had. When we arrived at the beginning of the trip in Heidelberg, I couldn't believe the buildings. For someone like myself who cares more about nature's beauty, architecture has never been something I would take much notice of when traveling. When our tour guide told us that Heidelberg was a rather new city at being 500 years old, I was aghast at the rich culture and tradition inherent in seemingly every building. We would constantly hear of some seemingly random building actually has a rich story. Perhaps the buildings, much to my surprise were the real highlight throughout the trip. The buildings varied throughout each city we visited, seemingly getting more modern the closer we headed to Berlin. Heidelberg felt like another world, from years and years ago, while Berlin seemed like it was ruled by a bunch of hipsters in an old city.
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.