Nearly ninety language students, parents and teachers from Clearfield High School returned recently from tours throughout western Europe. Students in Emily Zimdahl’s and Lauren Crisafulli’s Spanish classes traveled to Spain during the month of June.
Students in Barbara Simpson’s German classes toured through Germany and Switzerland at the same time. Both groups traveled on tours arranged by EF Educational Tours of Cambridge, Mass.
After several years of fundraising, students in Simpson’s German classes saw their hard work finally pay off this past June. Thirty-two students and 13 adults spent 10 days experiencing German history, culture and language. The trip began in Berlin, where students visited the Story of Berlin Museum, Checkpoint Charlie Museum and a section of the Berlin Wall, which still remains today.
They saw the Reichstag government building, and the Brandenburg Gate, where platforms and bleachers were being removed from U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit the previous day. “It’s kind of ironic”, said Simpson. “For some of these students, the closest they’ve ever come to their own President is when they traveled more than 4,000 miles to get to Germany.”
After leaving Berlin, the tour headed southwest to Eisenach, to the Wartburg Castle, built in 1068. Martin Luther spent the year 1521 here, translating the Bible from its original Greek into a standardized German language.
From Eisenach, students visited nearby Buchenwald Concentration Camp, the largest of such camps in Germany. Original artifacts and several buildings of the camp still remain today. “It was a very somber experience, but something that I believe every student should see as part of their education,” believes Simpson.
Next was the medieval walled city of Rothenburg along the Romantic Road, where students spent parts of two days, with plenty of free time for souvenir shopping. Several students attended a Lutheran church service conducted entirely in German.
Others visited the Kriminal Museum, one of the most renowned museums of law and order in Europe, containing more than 1,000 years of countless instruments of torture and punishment. That evening the group experienced Germany’s most famous beer hall, the Hofbräuhaus, established in 1589. With seating for more than 1,000 customers, it took quite some time for everyone to find a seat to enjoy the traditional Oktoberfest atmosphere.
The next day featured Munich, Germany’s third largest city. Students were able to tour the newly built Allianz Soccer Stadium, home of two clubs, FC Bayern München and TSV 1860 München. The stadium was built in 2005 in preparation for the 2006 World Cup games. After some free time in the afternoon, the group enjoyed a traditional Bavarian dinner of roast chicken at the Augustinerbräu, the oldest brewery in Bavaria.
King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s fairy tale castle Neuschwanstein was the next stop of the tour. Walt Disney traveled to Germany to see this castle, and then used it for the basis of the Cinderella Castle at Disney World.
The last two days of the trip were spent in Lucerne, in the Swiss Alps. “Our hotel was located high up above Lucerne, in a small village called “Seelisberg”, said Simpson. “From rooms on one side of the hotel, we could look out our windows and see cows grazing in a pasture, right in front of a small, village church. Rooms on the other side of the hotel overlooked beautiful Lake Lucerne and the snow-capped mountain peaks in the background. While eating dinner, we enjoyed traditional Swiss music, including an Alphorn demonstration. Several students in our group were permitted to have a try at the Alphorn. After dinner, many of the students (and one father) enjoyed a fierce game of soccer near the hotel.”
The last day in Switzerland was packed full of activity. The group crossed Lake Lucerne by boat, and then climbed to the top of Mt. Pilatus, using the steepest cog railway in the world. From the top, four different countries can be seen on a clear day, but most of the time the group was surrounded by clouds and mist. The group divided into two cable cars for the descent back to the valley below. Part way down, they stopped for a chance to ride Switzerland’s longest luge – 1,350 meters down the mountain, for more than a minute-and-a-half of excitement and speed.
Back down in Lucerne, the group visited a shop where Swiss Army knives could be engraved for a great souvenir of the trip. During their free time in the afternoon, some students chose to take paddle boats out on the lake, while others sought to spend their last few Swiss Franks before heading home.
“I was really proud of all the students”, stated Simpson. “Their behavior was exceptional at all times. Some of our hotels did not have elevators, so the boys willingly offered to carry suitcases for the women up all the stairs each day. I had more students using their German on this trip than ever before, and talking with the local people. They were really excited that they were able to communicate successfully after only a few years of German study.”
As far as her travel plans for the future, Simpson is taking a group of adults on a safari to Kenya in 2014 and to Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany in 2015. “My next student tour will be in 2015. As far as which specific destinations we will visit on that trip, it’s up in the air right now. I am always open for suggestions, but we’ll definitely want to spend some time in the Swiss Alps again.
“With Germany, Austria and Switzerland to choose from, my students will have plenty of opportunities to practice their language and see first-hand everything that I teach them in our classroom. It’s a big world out there, and EF Educational Tours is making it possible for students across the country to explore it.”