Who: Fellows of a foundation based near Bonn. Basically, a bunch of academics from various fields and their spouses/partners. Our bus had over 30 people on it, and there were 11 buses in total.
What: A two-week Germany tour on a bus. Each of the 11 different buses had a different itinerary, though we did run into other groups now and again, especially when staying in the larger cities.
When: August 13-25, day in, day out!
Where: Our itinerary took us through the following: Bonn (one night), Muenster (quick stop only), Hamburg (two nights), Boltenhagen (quick stop only), Wismar (one night), Potsdam (quick stop only), Berlin (two nights), Weimar/Buchenwald (one night), Bamberg (two nights), Nuernberg (quick stop only), Muenchen (two nights), and Mittenwald (one night). Of course a lot of time was spent asleep on the Autobahn! Most groups followed a similar itinerary. Interestingly, no group's itinerary, not even that of those living in the northeast, included any stops in the entire southwest of Germany. This whole section of the country (which I am a little partial to myself) is ignored! It's okay for us because we live down here anyway and can easily get to places around here, but what a loss for the people coming from more distant parts of Germany. I'm surprised that nothing down here is considered worthwhile.
Why: I think the foundation provides the trip because they are afraid people will just stay in their labs without getting out to see Germany, part of the point of the fellowship, so they force everyone to do it! They hope everyone will learn some German culture on the way.
How: Every group gets a bus, driver, and a guide who is neither affiliated with the foundation nor a professional tour guide. Then we just have to travel like mad.
Our group met in Frankfurt and consisted of people working in Frankfurt, Mainz, Heidelberg, Marburg, Giessen, and Kaiserslautern. The fellowships are for foreign academics, so every person there was an expatriate living in Germany. Levels of adjustment among this group of expats were even more widely varied than I might have expected, from those considering staying here to those trying already to leave. English was the common language though only three of us were native speakers. Some people didn't even know enough German to order in a restaurant. Others preferred German to English. Countries represented included the US, Canada, Spain, Poland, Brazil, Tunisia, Armenia, Italy, India, China, Nepal, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Japan, Jordan, and Thailand!
Our first stop was Bonn to wine and dine with the foundation. We had about an hour and a half to run out from our hotel into the town center to see a few things before being whisked off to dinner and wine tasting in the Ahr valley, so the photos are limited, but I think we did pretty well in the short time we had!
|Bonn Aug 2007|
Bonn is the former West German capitol and nowadays is primarily just a business center, and not touristy at all. We visited Beethoven's birthplace, which is now a museum including original music he wrote, family information, instruments he played, and his life and death masks. I didn't realize that photos weren't allowed until the very end, when I accidentally used flash and one of the employees came running from three rooms away. So, there are some photos from inside the museum up! We also stopped briefly in the Muenster, which has some cool paintings inside and like many of the Romanesque cathedrals around here, ridiculously old (11th to 13th centuries). The squares of the town were very busy for a Monday afternoon and it was a generally pleasant place.
More soon! Unfortunately I must go make my glorious return to work now....honestly I can't even remember what I was doing before I left...it's Sunday night dread multiplied hundreds of times. Boo!