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!

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!



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