Do you have a favorite place in Germany? What are the must-dos for GAPP students and what do you think would rather be a waste of time? Plan your trip and share suggestions, advice and insider tips
If you go to Berlin - and you should! - try taking the students to the Matrix dance club in Friedrichshain. On Thursday nights, the club opens for a teen-oriented evening with stricter controls on alcohol, age-requirements, and chaperone requirements. The teachers can hang out in one area of the sprawling club while the rest of the kids can dance and experience some Berlin dance-club ambience. Getting to the club is part of the experience; the Warschauerstrasse S-Bahn station can be a little rough at night, but we never felt unsafe as a group.
Is this called something else other than Matrix? I tried to look for this before our trip last year but could not find anything.
Yes the teen night is called something different; it occured on Thursday night, but it was held at the Matrix. For the life of me I can't remember. The hotel staff gave me the recommendation.
Okay, I've found it. It's called D light. They organize this in München as well. Sounds interesting. My students are not allowed to drink on our exchanges. How do they control this...wrist bands? From what I read, students can only get a maximum of three drinks.
yep that's the one. Didn't realize they're elsewhere in Germany.
Thanks, Herr Kandah!
In Berlin I also like to take the students to the top of the Reichstag just before it closes (I think around 10 p.m.) It is a free elevator ride to the top and back down and a cool walk around the glass dome to the top. I have also taken the students to the Gedenkstätte Berlin-Hohenschönhausen. This was a Stasi prison and the German tours are given by people who were actually imprisoned there. Since my students will get more out of it, I always arrange for a tour in English. More information about this can be found at http://www.stiftung-hsh.de/document.php?cat_id=CAT_178&special=0 (Click on the British flag if you want it in English. I have emailed the besucherdienst before and had great service).
Another thing I like to do in Berlin and München is a bike tour (http://fattirebiketours.com/berlin in Berlin and http://www.mikesbiketours.com/munich/ in Munich). They are in English and I try to book half-day tours. If you have enough people, you can be on your own. Otherwise, you are together with others, but they are fun and students get a lot of history and then can go on their own back to places they want to see. (You don't have to be a biking enthusiast to do this. They go slowly and are geared toward people of all ages).
I do a "northern Tour" one year and a "southern Tour" the next, but I always include Berlin. A favorite northern city of my students is Lübeck. The architecture is nice and I make arrangements for a tour of the Niederegge Cafe (famous for marzipan) followed by "Kaffee und Kuchen". Last time I was able to find information about that online. http://www.niederegger.de/Cafe-Niederegger/Luebecks-Wahrzeichen The Reservierung is in German.
I like to vary the places I go to include metropolitan areas, smaller towns and at least one "nature" place. For the nature places I have been to Rügen (need to make reservations at that youth hostel at least a year in advance), The Black Forest (Villingen - and made a trip to the waterfalls by Triberg), and this year we will be at the Bodensee. It amazes me how much the students appreciate a place where they can enjoy nature and don't need to sightsee as much.
I also go to a concentration camp every time. On my southern tour it is usually Dachau. We make sure to watch the twenty-minute film and then I give students time to go through the museum or walk through the Gedenkstätte on their own.
My partner school is in Hann. Münden between Kassel and Göttingen. On our trip last year we had the following group excursions:
Berlin - 3 days/2 nights in youth hostel (We stayed at the HappyBed Hostel in the Steglitz section of Berlin. Although it was not very central, the price and accommodations were right and the neighborhood was much quieter than in the Mitte.)
Göttingen - guided tour of city and reception at the Landkreisverwaltung
Nordhausen - visited Dora-Mittelbau work camp and museum
Eisenach - visited Bachhaus and had tour of Wartburg Castle
Heide-Park - spent day at amusement park
I will probably not go to Heide-Park again. It is rather expensive and a long drive from where we are. We did not have a lot of time there. Instead, I am considering visiting the Autostadt in Wolfsburg. I have been there once before and the exhibition is easily accessible from the train station. Also, I will likely spend an additional day in Berlin (4 days/3 nights). Like Herr Kandah, I also believe that Berlin is a must. I am curious as to how many other groups organize overnight trips to multiple places during a GAPP Exchange (i.e. Berlin and Munich...etc.). Personally, I enjoy spending as much time with the host families as possible. Three weeks in Hann. Münden never seems like enough time! Students and the families always seem to make so many plans on their own. I think it gives each student a unique experience to talk about.
Since we are in the former East Germany and get a ton of wonderful culture- old mixed with new, I also take my kids to Munich to show them a different type of life, the countryside, a smaller "big" city and somewhere so many Americans have heard of and can relate to. We are still trying to "sell" German in my community in many ways. We stay in a youth hostel, rent bikes, etc, and many of my students come back saying that was their favorite part of the trip. It bums me out because I'd rather them want to see more of the Potsdam/ Berlin area, but I have to keep my kids and parents happy, too.
Our partner school is located in Mosbach, about 1.5 hours East of Heidelberg. We spend 3 weeks there with our host families and partner school but I also take 5 to 7 days at the beginning of the trip and show them various aspects of Germany. I do this for several reasons:
1) my students come from a small town and need to see more of the world
2) the airfare is the most expensive part. Most of the parents want their child to see more of Europe and have told me that they don't mind paying a little extra for hostels and train tickets
3) when we used to go directly to our host families, my students use to appear dumb and naive. They didn't know how to get on a subway or a public bus (we have none in our area). They didn't know how to use an ATM. They were in a jet lag fog and couldn't comprehend simple German. Taking them on a group trip before we meet the family gets them acclimated to a new country and they can ask me a bunch of questions before they meet their family.
4) Doing the "touristy trip" gives the students something to talk about when they meet their host families.
5) I don't mind organizing the extra trip.
We always go to Berlin. It is one of my students' favorite places.
I agree about spending most of the exchange with the partner school in the partner city, though I have always tried to take at least one longer excursion to show a little contrast between bigger "city" and "country" life. One thing my kids have really enjoyed is going to the local Schwimmbad or Hallenbad. That experience is so different in Germany, and it's especially relaxing, too.
I agree with others that Berlin should not be missed.
We also go to Munich before heading to our host families. In the old days, we would take a trip to Neuschwanstein because every body expected us to visit the famous castle. We don't go there anymore. Getting there with train and public bus takes too long and the tours have become very rushed. In my opinion it's not worth the time and money.
One of the more affordable options and well loved by my students is an evening swimming at the Olympic pool in Munich with a stop at BMW Welt right before that. Both are at the same U-Bahn station. Most of my students swim but for the few who don't I take them to the top of the Olympic Tower. If we end up at the Olympic Park on a nice Friday or Saturday night there is plenty of people watching. It's a fun evening, but we can't always plan our Munich trips to be there on the weekend.