Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An American in Germany / Part # 5 / Mühldorf

GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
Mühldorf Barbecue and Football

The Market Square of Mühldorf
One of the things that became more than obvious soon after our arrival was the country's love of soccer... or "football" if you're living in the Eastern Hemisphere.  It was a time for celebration because the German team was still in contention for the Euro Cup, a tournament that only takes place every two years.  For most people, it is an opportunity to throw a party, whether you are a soccer fan or not. Tonight was the highly anticipated match between Germany and Greece, which had strong political overtones from the current ongoing European debt crisis.  Germany has the strongest economy on the continent and Greece by far has the weakest and was in danger of defaulting on their national debt.  The financial future of Greece was much in the hands of the German government, who had the power to shore up the overwhelming debts of their struggling neighbor to the south.  To date, the Greek people were resisting the severe austerity measures imposed by the central banking system, led by the German government.  Who would win out and get their way on both fronts?  It was game time and everyone was planning a get together to watch the match.  Some villages put the games on a large movie theater sized screen in the center of town, where the whole community could watch the game together.  I had been invited to join Andy and Angela to watch the game at the home of a friend of the family who was hosting a barbecue.  Sounds like a great time... Sign me up!

Colorful Shops of Mühldorf
The backyard barbecue has become a very popular pastime in Germany and is very similar to its American counterpart across the pond in the United States.  However, one major difference is the custom of bringing your own meats to grill, which requires a stop at the local butcher shop.  When everyone brings their own items to the party, it takes much of the financial burden off the shoulders of the host, who often provides the beverages.  The host often has no idea how many people will actually show up and this practice prevents them from getting stuck with a lot of left over food.  The other plus, is everyone gets to eat what they are really hungry for that evening.   So a trip to the butcher was on the schedule this afternoon and Andy knew just the place... a small family owned shop, who made all their own meat delicacies with pride, located in the nearby village of Mühldorf.  Wendy came along for the ride in search of ice cream at one of her favorite cafes.  We entered the village through a single lane arched entryway below a tower that resembled a townhouse.  Cars and even buses took turns carefully navigating their way through the narrow passageway into the large open market square.  Mühldorf gave me the true feeling of being in Old World Europe, an atmosphere that has mainly remained unchanged over time, despite the slow drum of modernity. 

Historic Public Library of Mueldorf
The most apparent reality when touring Europe is that some things you encounter on any given street could be extremely old.  Spaces were conceived, constructed, and brought to life before the New World was even known to exist.  Walking through the side streets of Mühldorf on our way toward the butcher shop, Andy was pointing out specific buildings and their relation to history.  One amazing place we visited during our stroll through history was the town's public library.  This was no ordinary library, since it was located within a building that had first been constructed during the Late Middle Ages.  The interior woodwork was all original, including the supporting roof trusses, which had been preserved during the building's transformation into an asset the entire community could enjoy.  It was very impressive and surreal to touch something created by guild craftsman from over 500 years ago.  The structure was first built during the first half of the 15th century and was used by the Bishops of Salzburg in Austria as a granary and storage facility for over 300 years.  In 1981 the storehouse space was converted into the town's public library known as the Stadtbücherei im Kornkasten.  The former warehouse now stores 42,000 books spread out over four floors and has over 200,000 publications checked out annually.  We explored all four floors, taking time to appreciate the merging of the historical past and modern present, contained within the same walls.  

Hohenester Metzger / Butcher Shop
We continued down the street and entered the butcher shop that was teeming with activity.  The shop reminded me of when I was a kid and my mother used to take me along during her weekly visit to Markley's Meats, a butcher shop in Brunnerville, Pennsylvania.  The Markley brothers seemed a hundred years old way back in the day but were very friendly and always greeted you with a slice of cheese or sweet bologna.  The only other employee was named Butch... You can't even make this stuff up!  Hohenester Metzger shop had cases overflowing with luncheon meats, sausages, cheeses, cured hams, and marinated steaks.  I love meat and I think they could tell I was a purebred carnivore!  I recently discovered that my great-great grandfather, Simon Binser on my father's side of the family, worked as a butcher on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia during the turn of the last century.  Meat is in my blood and I was drawn inside the metzger like a moth to a flame!  The lady at the counter was a little curious as to why this guy inside her shop was taking photographs and Andy explained I was visiting from America.  She instantly wanted to show off the meats of their labor, encouraging me to sample some of their creations.  I was suddenly a star but poor Wendy was completely ignored by the staff.  We later concluded that Wendy was so thin and fit, they probably assumed she must be a vegetarian and paid her no mind.  Butchers have a keen sense about such things... 

   My Grandfather Simon Binser at Far Left
Rittenhouse Brothers / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
As I surveyed the meat case, Andy acted as interpreter and we selected several choices for the evening barbeque.  We exited the shop with some marinated steaks, bratwurst, various luncheon meats for other meals, some sausage meat sticks for snacking, and a surprise invitation for me to return for a full day of taste testing of all their creations!  Wow, I somehow made quite an impression!  I think poor Wendy was feeling left out!  Although tempted, I never had the time to take them up on their generous offer but was able to return for another brief visit before leaving Germany...  I printed out the picture above and gave it to my new butcher friend Mrs. Hohenester, and had Wendy translate my grandfather's story.  She was very appreciative and possibly hung it up somewhere inside the shop.  She wished us well and gave me some more freebies in a snack bag to go... She said it was to prevent me from starving to death before lunchtime.  Poor Wendy got stiffed again!  Later that day, while eating our lunch, we met up with my new friend Mrs. Hohenester again who was on her way home from work.  She sat down with us and we exchanged pleasant conversation (in German) for a few minutes.  Although I couldn't understand a word, it was one more example of how warm and friendly the Bavarian people are to visitors.  The great people I met along the way throughout my travels and the friendships that developed were the greatest souvenir I could ever have hoped to take home!      

 Barbecue / Bavarian Style
Later that evening, we headed off to the home of friends of Andy and Angela for the barbecue and much anticipated soccer match between Germany and Greece in the Euro Cup Tournament.  We were greeted with friendship as I made my way around the backyard circle of introductions.  Long wooden tables and accompanying benches that appeared to be the traditional biergaten (beer garden) variety were filled with soccer fans devouring their grilled favorites and drinking the local brew in old style glass bottles with porcelain stopper tops.  We went over to the charcoal fired barbecue grill and handed off our meats to the grillmeister (grill master) who would prepare the meats to our liking.  I took a seat at the table and talked with several of the guests who spoke English well.  I learned that many in attendance were mostly teachers who worked with Angela at Gymnasium Waldkraiburg, a school located close to Mühldorf.  Many of the teachers I met at the barbecue taught the subject of English.  It is customary for teachers in Germany to be certified in several subjects and teach multiple preps every day.  Instead of having two teachers that both teach the English language all day long, they might have ten English teachers that all teach a period or two of the language, as well as possibly two other additional subjects.  The Bavarian school system rarely uses substitute teachers, even for long term absences due to prolonged illness or maternity leave.  Other teachers must fill in for staff members who are absent, one of the reasons they check the daily schedule so closely each morning on the faculty room monitor.  Having a staff so diverse in what subjects they can teach, helps this fill-in policy work effectively.  Enough of small talk about school policy... Let's Eat!  A huge plate of meat and accompanying noodle salad was set before me... It was delicious!

Germany's Philipp Lahm Celebrates a Goal
(Photo Source / Getty Images 2012) 
I will admit that I am not much of a soccer fan, in fact... I'm not a fan at all.  Two years earlier, a group of my students, including a boy named Caleb, were all excited over the World Cup Tournament.  They were trying to get me into it by encouraging me to watch a match.  They even unsuccessfully tried to figure out how to broadcast a live match onto my classroom's Smartboard during a study hall.  So, I decided to give in and watch USA play some European team the next evening at my home.  The match was very long and the ball went back and forth the whole game without finding the net.  In the end, the final score was 0-0 and settled into penalty kicks on the lone goalkeeper to determine the winner.  That was four hours of my life that I was never going to get back!  I can't even remember who won, not enough scoring to keep my interest.  That was the beginning and end of my participation as a soccer spectator and fan of the most popular sport in the world... until now!   Ironically, one of those soccer crazy students was now along on the trip with me...  I'm sure Caleb was in his element, enjoying the energetic festive atmosphere of the Euro Cup in a nation that lives, breathes, and bleeds soccer.  Suddenly, an announcement was made that it was game time and most people quickly scrambled from the table and lawn chairs to head to an upstairs apartment to watch the game.  Go Deutschland!

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a Fan!
(Photo Source / Getty Images 2012)
We headed upstairs to the living room where seating was at a premium on the couch, chairs, and floor.  The game was being projected onto the far wall, giving the room a theater-like environment.  Beverages and snacks were easily at hand and with everyone's essential needs satisfied, all eyes were free to follow the ball as it ping-ponged around the field.  Every time the German players successfully maneuvered the ball within scoring distance, all sat up straight in their seats.  A shot on goal resulted in outbursts of despair or cheers depending on the trajectory of the ball.  The crowded room was like an equalizer of the German language plugged into the game play on the screen.  Angela was still sitting outside talking with friends but could follow the progress of the game by the rise and fall of the collective voices from above.  The small crowd in the room was far more entertaining for me than the game itself...  It was amazing!  However, I discovered a new found respect for the game of soccer and couldn't help but get pulled into the positive fan energy within the room.  It was awesome and I found myself jumping out of my seat along with my German brothers to celebrate the first German goal of the game.  It was also interesting to observe the constant pans of the camera to the government leaders of both Greece and Germany in attendance while they followed the action on the field.  The normally reserved Angela Merkel, who is arguably the most powerful leader in Europe as the Chancellor of Germany, couldn't help but join the German fans in celebrating each goal.  The leadership of Greece was far less enthusiastic. 

One Brave Fan at Berlin's Public Viewing
(Photo Source / Getty Images 2012)
The game was exciting and Germany dominated with most of the play focused on Greece's end of the field, where they were forced to frequently defend their goal.  The final score was 4-2 and Germany would now face Italy in a few days to decide what two teams would face off in the European Cup Championship Final.  I was already looking forward cheering on Deutschland with my Bavarian brothers at the next game... It was fun, one of the most enjoyable sporting events I have ever attended.  Unfortunately for Greece, they were now defeated economically and athletically.  However, within a few days, elections were held where the people of Greece voted for candidates that signaled they would accept the austerity measures imposed by the European Union, an important first step to hopeful recovery.  The World Cup will take place in two years... Maybe now, I'll give soccer another chance!

My New Friend Mrs. Hohenester the Butcher
Please stayed tuned for the next installment of our adventure!



Friday, August 17, 2012

An American in Germany / Part # 4 / KKG School

GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
Life at König-Karlmann-Gymnasium

 Lightning Strike Outside my Window
My first night in Tüßling was a little rough...  Despite being awake for almost 24 hours straight and feeling exhausted, it was difficult to settle in for a night of restful sleep.  I usually run a fan on for white noise, it was a strange bed, unfamiliar pillows, there was a severe thunderstorm, and then there was the freight and passenger trains that rushed past my open window every few hours... They sound a lot more loud and scary in the middle of the night when you are half asleep... Twice, I thought we were under attack.  Andy's wife Angela later told me it took her three months until she could get a good night's sleep after moving in due to the passing of the loud trains at night.  However... I was up, showered in my slanted bathroom, bumped my head three times, dressed, packed my backpack, bumped my head once more, and headed downstairs for breakfast.  The whole family was assembled around the table to share a meal before the hectic day began.  It would be a pleasant ritual each morning that I enjoyed sharing with my host family.  Breakfast was a sit down meal that consisted of various fresh breads from a local bakery, sliced luncheon meats, small sausages, sliced fruits, butter, jam, and freshly brewed coffee.  Every morning we all watched little one year old Amelie eat and eat and eat... Her favorite activity at any time of day.  It was a joy to watch and a wonder where she could put it all!  Breakfast was delicious, especially the fresh baked breads, including Bavarian pretzels called brezels.  They resembled a soft pretzel at room temperature made from scratch each morning that had a settling effect on your stomach.  Like many people in Bavaria, I ate at least one everyday!

Tree-lined Road to Altötting
Now it was time to depart for school, including Leo, whom we would drop off at his preschool located near the König-Karlmann-Gymnasium where Andy teaches and I would be assisting Wendy with our students in the exchange.  We loaded Leo and our belongings into the car and headed out of Tüßling toward Altötting.  As we sped toward our destination through the narrow twisting roadways of the Bavarian countryside, I couldn't help but notice the large robust trees bordering the road on both sides.  I asked Andy why they would plant trees in a location that would seem to be an obvious driving hazard to motorists.  He said it was ingrained in history, like everything else in Germany.  Apparently long ago, the Count of Tüßling frequently traveled the road to Altötting in his carriage and wanted to be shaded during his trip.  So the community planted shade trees along the road's edge and within a few years, the Count was cool and comfortable.  Since they traditionally had always been there, they would remain despite the potential danger.  It made sense when you were traveling six kilometers per hour in a horse drawn carriage but seemed to be a different story in a modern automobile going eighty.   Incredibly, accidents are rare.  It is a major undertaking to get a driver's license in Germany, requiring a minimum age of eighteen and a long training protocol that can cost over two thousand dollars.  Sounds like a good idea to me!   

 Have a Great Day at School Leo!
After arriving in Altötting, we dropped Leo off in an older section of town where a long line of interconnected buildings ran along the right hand side of the street, which appeared to predate World War II.  It seems everything that exists in Germany is connected in some way to the most significant period of time in the country's history as either in existence before or constructed after the Second World War.  We walked Leo to his classroom and then drove a short distance to the KKG teacher's parking lot and then entered the building through a side entrance.  Immediately, I noticed the lack of security measures with outside doors not only unlocked but propped open.  Teachers and students flowed freely in and out of the building in multiple directions at will.  We entered into the large lobby-foyer that was open to the second floor ceiling and seemed to serve the school as the nerve center of the building.  We then went into the teacher's lounge nearby that was a beehive of activity.  It was a large room with every teacher having a personal station of space at one of about a half dozen large tables.  This was where the teaching staff started their day, checked their mail, and received their schedule for the day from an overhead monitor that slowly scrolled downward. Their schedule changed everyday as each teacher did not have his or her own classroom but rotated to whatever room was assigned to their class each period.  The students converged in the lobby-foyer to watch a much larger version of the schedule monitor to know what room number they would be assigned today for each class period.  In the faculty room we met up with Wendy and were introduced to several friendly faculty members and then it was off to meet up with our students.
 Our Host School / KKG Entrance
As we walked up to the classroom that would be designated our academic home base for the next three weeks, we passed by several colorful signs welcoming Warwick to KKG and Bavaria.  The school building was broken up into two separate sections that appeared modern in design.  We passed by many large orange windows, some of which opened onto well maintained courtyards with green trees and colorful plants.  The school was three stories tall and our classroom would be centrally located in a room at the end of a hallway on the second floor.  This is where Wendy and I would meet with the students each morning during first period for what we would call an extended homeroom.  It would be a time for us to discuss how things were going with our kids, concerning their host families, foreign language questions, and working through assigned activities.  Andy started things off by delivering another friendly welcome to our group and handed out a bag of informative maps, brochures, and chocolate!  The candy was instantly devoured by all and with everyone's sugar fix satisfied for the next few minutes, we could all concentrate on Andy's introduction.  Everyone, except me of course, because Andy's speech was in German... So I looked in my bag again to see if I missed any stray chocolates! 

 Welcome Signs in the Lobby / Foyer
Following first period, our students would attend classes with their host students, learning about the routine life of someone their age living in Germany.  But first, Andy led our students on a tour of the school building and accompanying grounds.  After fourth period the entire building takes a break known as the pausa (pause) where they could sit in common areas or go outside.  Students do not have a lunch period and are often finished with school by one o'clock.  As a result, the pausa is a time to grab a bite to eat, something packed by mom earlier that morning or bought from a food kiosk located just off the lobby.  The students were very well behaved and mature during this free time, as there were no teachers officially supervising.  Even our students were impressed, admitting that American students back home could never handle this level of freedom at school.  There were 800 students roaming in, out, and around the building and to our surprise, there was no one chasing someone else, no screaming or yelling at the top of their lungs, food was not flying through the air, no fights broke out, no mean girls dissed anyone, and no one warranted disciplinary action of any kind.  How could this be?  In general, the Warwick consensus was that overall, German kids have a lot more freedom than their American counterparts and most appear mature enough to handle the responsibility of that freedom.  I'm sure there are exceptions but it was just a general observation shared by Wendy and I and most of the Warwick students with whom I discussed the topic.  Freedom!

Hallway Student Seating Area
The public school system in Germany is mainly controlled by the individual states with the Bavarian Educational Ministry centered in nearby Munich.  The Bavarian system is a complex model offering a variety of choice and career paths.  In fact, there are thirteen different types of schools depending on each student's interests and ability level.  All students enter elementary school and complete grades one through four together.  At that point, they are evaluated by the teaching staff and along with the input of the individual student and parents, one of four school types are considered.  Students who struggle academically may enter fifth grade at a remedial level school to receive instruction focusing on improving their basic reading and math skills.  Middle level students may attend hauptschule / mittelschule who are interested in vocational, industrial, or even various apprenticeships.  Students interested in attending university may opt for a more challenging academic setting known as realschule and the top academic students attend the highest level school known as the gymnasium.  Students wanting to achieve gymnasium status must meet minimum requirements based on a point system.  Students have the freedom to move from one school type to another, if they have the academic record and the support of educator recommendations to back up their request.  König-Karlmann-Gymnasium is classified at the top level of the Bavarian school system pyramid structure.   

  Warwick Student's Homeroom Period
Our classroom, like most in the school building, had an entire wall of windows that could be opened to let in the fresh air from outside.  One thing that became immediately apparent to a lot of us... especially me... was the lack of air conditioning in Germany.  Ironically, we were visiting during the warmest 2-3 weeks of the year... meaning, two hot weeks in a year does not equate the practical need for air conditioning.  In fact, there was no mechanical air ventilation systems in any building I encountered during my entire visit.  It seemed our German friends naturally adjusted to the warm temperatures but it was a stark difference for many of the Warwick crowd.  Andy told me that he always gets sick from the cold temperatures of air conditioning when he visits America and his students comment about it as well, especially inside stores, like the frigid mall.  We also soon noticed that there were no water fountains in the school.  German students bring a beverage from home, most commonly carbonated seltzer water, a very popular drink in Bavaria.   Many of our students yearned for plain old boring tap water but Apfelsaftschorle was a nice compromise of apple juice combined with seltzer water, equating to apple flavored soda.  I shared my trick with the kids of saving a plastic bottle and filling at the tap in our classroom or at home... I was adapting to my new environment.  

Group Portrait of our Kids and KKG Partner Staff
The most stressful time for senior students about to graduate at KKG is when they have to face the difficult final examinations known as the Abitur or Abi, which have the power to make or break a student's academic experience at the gymnasium level.  The exams are notoriously difficult and must be passed to receive the highest educational certificate available in the German school system.  The exams are in essay and oral format and each may take several hours to complete.  Students who do not pass the Abi may choose to complete a thirteenth year and attempt the exams again or they can decide to stop their formal education to seek an apprenticeship or enter the workforce.  The Abi is seen as a distinguished achievement of academic success and a fast track to acceptance at the university level of education.  Following Abi exams in early June, the graduating students celebrate the end of testing by having a relaxing school day of fun, music, and pranks known as the Abistreich.  A few days later when the Abistreich took place, it was a little nerve racking as we attempted to walk into the school building flanked by students throwing buckets of water on everyone.  I stuck close to Andy, who seemed confident they would hold their fire against him... Was it time for the American teacher to be initiated into the faculty?  Thankfully, we were both spared!  Following the test, the senior students are finished with school, while the younger grades continue until the end of July.  German students have a shorter summer but have longer holiday breaks throughout the school year.

 König-Karlmann-Gymnasium Abistreich 2012
Finally, a semi-formal dance called the Abi Ball is held, similar to our prom in America, to celebrate the end of their secondary education.  The legal drinking age in Germany is 16 and since most students graduate between ages 18-20, alcohol was served at the dance.  A sight that was very foreign to the Americans in attendance.  All Warwick students were required to sign a pledge not to drink alcohol during our trip.  We wanted them to experience the German culture... but not completely!  Please continue to follow and respect the American legal system despite your present surroundings!  The Abi ball was held in a new banquet hall, which of course, didn't have air conditioning or a ventilation system.  It was a hot night and even the Germans were minding the high temperature inside.  Several staff members commented that it was an oversight not to install ceiling fans in the new banquet hall. Most vacated the ball room to seek relief outside on the veranda, some taking their shoes off to cool off by standing in the outdoor fountain.  I was thinking to myself, if I could open a retail store selling fans over here, I could retire in a month!
Cooling off in the Fountain at the Abi Ball
Please stayed tuned for the next installment of our adventure!



Sunday, August 5, 2012

An American in Germany / Part # 3 / Arrival

GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
My First Evening in Bavaria

 Taking in the Bavarian Countryside
As we pulled out of the airport parking lot and headed out onto the roadway, it suddenly dawned on me that I was in a foreign country on the other side of the world.  Everything was different, from the road surface, accompanying signage, and picturesque landscape.  It was surreal and almost imaginary.  I kept thinking to myself over and over... I can't believe that I am here!  It repeatedly resonated in my head throughout the entire trip.  It would take time to sink in... The guy who lived on the same street as he did as a kid was over 4,000 miles from home.  I was humbled and blown away by the thought.  I was absorbing it all through the bus window.  The kids were relatively quiet, exhausted from traveling, and were also gazing out the windows in wonder.  The land was rich and green, filled with crops that stood out in stark contrast to the bright white stucco homes with red/orange terracotta roofs atop every visible structure.  As we passed through towns, pavement gave way to historical cobblestone streets.  The town centers we passed through appeared to be a series of interconnected buildings, all colored with a light shade of pastel paint.  Traditional flower boxes adorned many windows spilling over with brilliant colorful flowers that seemed illuminated by the bright sunlight overhead.  I was now seeing things in person that I had only previously read about in books.  It was beautiful

Arriving at König-Karlmann-Gymnasium
Finally the bus entered the town of Altötting, our final destination and home-base for the next three weeks.  We pulled around a sharp turn and there before us was a small crowd of students and parents cheering, holding up welcome signs.  The teacher in charge on the German side, Andy (Andreas) Galneder, was all decked out in a black Warwick Warriors t-shirt!  He first got involved with the GAPP program when he was a high school student and traveled to Lititz for three weeks to stay with a host family in America.  That was about fifteen years ago and the exchange between the two schools is currently celebrating a 25 year partnership.  Andy gave the official welcome playing the Master of Ceremonies role and soon began conducting introductions between our American students from Warwick and their hosting KKG students from Altötting.  Within a short time, everyone scattered in different directions toward vehicles that would carry them to the home of their host families.  Some would be located close by, directly in Altötting, while others were dispersed in various towns and villages located in the surrounding countryside.  I would be staying with Andy and his young family in a small village a short distance away called Tüßling or Tussing.  

 The Small Village of Tüßling, Germany
Wendy and I piled our luggage into Andy's car and headed out of town.  Wendy's host would pick her up at the Galneder home in about an hour.  The last leg of the journey to my final destination was a ten minute drive in a tiny Ford Festiva.  The whole country so far seemed an endless patchwork quilt of rural farms, green forests, and small quaint villages.  It was quickly evident that driving in a car in Germany was a foreign experience in itself.  It was fast and furious and not for the timid or meek of heart.  Andy managed to will his tiny car to ebb and weave through the twisting roadways dodging other competing race cars like a Formula One driver attempting to get pole position for Team Ferrari.  I was thankful for the quick trip because I was reaching my max of continuous travel and was teetering on completely losing it, where I would just start screaming.  Andy was a safe competent driver and I had no idea how fast we were actually going since the speedometer was in kilo-somethings per hour... whatever that means.  However, I could faintly hear my wife yelling at me to slow down... or was I just so tired I was simply hallucinating by this point.  I think we also passed by a pink unicorn with orange polka-dots and periwinkle colored wings... I think?

The Gallneder Family Home
As soon as we arrived at the Galneder Family home we were welcomed by Andy's parents who live on the first floor of the three story single house.  Our first order of business was to sit down to a delicious traditional meal of Wienerschnitzel prepared by Andy's mother.  She served the meal on their beautiful rear patio, which was surrounded by colorful flowers and gardens.  It was a nice treat since Wendy and I were now starving since ingesting our last meal of Lufthansa's version of breakfast.  It felt like it was a distant gazillion plus hours ago.  Andy's mother encouraged me to eat more and more... I could tell right away, we would get along famously!  Soon Wendy's host Rosi Mittermeier arrived just in time for raspberry ice-cream parfaits accented with delicate Pepperidge Farm style cookies.  Soon everyone was full and it was time for Wendy to depart with Rosie to her new temporary home in the nearby village of Garching/Alz about 11 miles south of Altötting.  I suddenly realized I had been wearing the same clothing for more than 24 straight hours.  Andy took me upstairs to the third floor attic flat that would be all mine during my stay.  I was very thankful to have my own space, including my own bathroom.  Time to unpack and collapse!  I had finally reached the end zone!  Touchdown!

My Attic Flat in Tüßling
I was warned as we went up the final flight of steps to the third floor to watch my head... Each floor's residence had a private entry from a common staircase off to one side; almost like a small apartment house with three separate units.  Andy and Angela lived on the second floor and were in the process of building their own house in a new neighborhood a short distance away.  My front door was about two feet shorter than a normal door, due to the sharp slanting angle of the roof.  I would have to remember to hunch over the whole way up the last flight of steps before passing through the doorway threshold of my flat. I hoped I would not be known as the Hunchback of Bavaria by the time I went home.  My room had beautiful views from every window... The house was located on the edge of town with rich farm fields as far as the eye could see all the way toward Altötting to the east.  The view to the west from my third floor observatory was an equally pleasant vista of the historic village of Tüßling, the place I would call home for the next three weeks.  The roof line of my living space had sharp slanting angles on both sides, some of which had large skylight windows that could be opened up like a hatch to the outside world.  It was spacious and even had an efficiency kitchen with a small refrigerator that was already preloaded with ice-cold beverages.  All that was missing was a mint on my pillow... first class all they way!    

My Window View of the Village of Tüßling
The flat reminded me of a small college apartment if I were still young and studying abroad.  It was very European of course, small and containing many angles with spaces created where Americans would never think of constructing areas of intended use.  There were support beams within the roof line that suddenly made the ceiling dip especially low where I would hit my head more times than I would like to admit.  My hope was that I did not suffer a concussion and forget half of the information and culture I was hoping to absorb during my stay.  I was so fortunate to have my own bath but it did come with consequences and challenges.  The most inconvenient characteristic was the large but low support beam that was only about two feet directly above my toilet!  When I was in a seated position "reading" the beam was only about two feet above my noggin and a quick rise could and would spell disaster!  Unfortunately, I am a slow learner, causing this to happen more times that I will admit and would undoubtedly continue to cause me pain and suffering with each passing day.  In addition to the low beam, the bathroom was squeezed into the space below the low part of the slanted roof.  Meaning the shower was a hand held device located a few feet above the tub that could only be used from a seated or kneeling position.  You basically had to be an award winning gymnast to shower within the confined space.  Plus, I learned the hard way that some German bathtubs are about a foot taller than their counterparts in the Western Hemisphere.  I discovered this slight difference when I tripped and fell to the bathroom floor, following my first morning shower / bath but somehow averted disaster, avoiding serious injury by some miracle.  I would need to adapt to my new environment!

 Amelie, Andy, Me, Leo, and Angela
My first evening in town, I was given a short walking tour of the Tüßling village by Andy who pointed out places of interest and explained the history of the region.  The curved streets were closely lined with tidy single homes of the traditional design with light colored stucco walls and red/orange terracotta roof tiles.  Each yard space was made extremely private by tall hedges and plantings that outlined each property line.  The windows often had traditional Alpine window boxes bursting with colorful plants and flowers.  It was obviously apparent that great care and personal pride went into the exterior presentation of each family's home.  In some sections of town several of the homes were new and construction was evident in many areas, mostly due to Germany's strong economy and accompanying low interest rates related to the current crisis with the Euro.  Andy and his growing family were in the process of building a new home on a vacant lot in a new neighborhood within Tüßling.  The process can be long and the house will not be completed for over a year due to legal paperwork, building plan approvals, and the backed up busy construction business.  Andy was very proud to show me his lot, which bordered a small tranquil stream that ran through town.  

The Tüßling Fairgrounds
Soon we were in the center of town where a small local fair was taking place for a few days similar to the Ephrata Fair back home on a much smaller scale.  There was traditional foods, games of chance, and a few carnival-like rides for the kids.  However, the biggest difference was this fair was partially a celebration of the local brew and the lucrative beer industry that has been ingrained in the culture for centuries.  There was an outdoor biergarten (beer garden) set up with a seating area consisting of wooden benches and tables covered by dark green sun umbrellas.  The festive scene was complimented by several couples wearing the traditional clothing associated with Southern Germany's past, a custom maintained for some events.  Several women wore colorful dirndl dresses, while a few men were all decked out in their leather lederhosen.  They were joined by traditionally dressed bar maids who carried gigantic liter sized glass beer mugs filled to the brim with the local brew to thirsty patrons by the armful.  The people I met were friendly and open to meeting the strange American with Andy and greeted me warmly.  The food was very good!  I wanted to try new dishes with every meal to get the real flavor of my German experience.  I could not read any of the menus myself but received assistance from Andy, his friends, and family members who were English speakers.  So far, everything was delicious but I will admit that I need to watch my level of sauerkraut consumption!

The Traditional Fair Fare
We were soon joined by Angela and the kids who had biked down to the fair.  Biking from place to place is a popular and convenient way to get around town for short trips, running errands, or just to get some exercise and fresh air.  Leo and Amelie were sitting in a bike buggy that was converted into a convenient stroller.  I thought it would be a great time to give them the presents I had brought for them from America and had been lugging around in my backpack.  I wanted to get the kids something that would symbolize American culture that they might enjoy.   I pulled out two plush dolls that had traveled 4,000 miles confined in my backpack.  What could be more American than Walt Disney's Mickey and Minnie Mouse?  I think it was a hit but Leo was soon more interested in the rides of the fair and I can't blame him...  In fact, I might have been tempted to join him if I wasn't so tired.  My lack of sleep was really starting to catch up with me as I faded in and out of a state of consciousness.  It was time to go home... After all, our first day of school at KKG was 8AM the next morning!  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Minnie, Amelie, Leo, and Mickey
Please stay tuned for the next installment of our adventure!



Total Pageviews