Arnhem and Amsterdam with photos

We had another full day of traveling today.  Our first stop was a rest area at the border of Germany and The Netherlands.  We then traveled on to the city of Arnhem which is well knows as the location of the biggest paratrooper assault in WWII.  We first had time to find some lunch.  Today was the big market day in the city square and so some found some fresh fish (but fried).  Others headed into town to find a local restaurant for lunch.

Out next stop was the museum that covers the battle in September of 1944 called Operation Market Garden.  It was an attempt by the allies to get around the backside of the fortified Siegfried Line that the Germans had established.  If successful, it could have shortened the war by several months.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t successful and many lives were lost.  The museum had some outstanding displays and simulated battle scenes.

Our next stop was our hotel in Amsterdam.  After getting checked in, we walked to the Haesje Claes restaurant which featured traditional Dutch food.  The food was excellent!  After that, we walked around a bit before returning to the hotel.

Tomorrow we visit the Museum of our Lord in the Attic and the Rijksmuseum.

Hamburg and Bremen

Today was a bit of driving for us.  We left Berlin fairly early and had almost 4 hours of driving to reach our lunch stop of Hamburg, one of a few Hanseatic League cities from the early days of ship-based trading.  Hamburg is one of the largest shipping ports in Europe today.  We had time to explore a little and find some lunch.

After a couple of hours of driving, we arrived at a much anticipated visit to the Mercedes-Benz factory in Bremen, Germany, another one of the Hanseatic League cities.  We started at the Customer Center and our guide, “John the Legend,” met us and showed us a film.  We then were able to walk through their new robotic body assembly plant and their final assembly plant.  Unfortunately, no pictures allowed!  It was an amazing visit!   After checking into our hotel in Bremen, we walked to the Schuttinger restaurant which is close to the old city square.  The meal was excellent and the place was filled with local patrons.  After dinner, we walked around town, seeing the Schnoor area (old fishing village in the city), the Brementown Musician statue, and the city square with its city hall.  It is a beautiful old downtown area.

Tomorrow we leave Germany and head to Amsterdam.  On the way, we will stop at a museum in Arnhem, NL, which will tell us about Operation MarketGarden during World War II.

The Hanseatic League

This morning, on our way to Hamburg, we were instructed to pull the bus over to get an inspection to validate the papers. This was strange because we never left Germany and in the US it is not often at all that there are random paper checks like the one we saw today. After 20 or so minutes we were cleared and back on the road.

Today we entered an area in Northern German that was part of the Hanseatic League. The league was formed in the 13th century. It was an alliance of trading guilds that established and maintained a trade monopoly along the coast of Germany and Northern Europe. It was a powerful economic and defensive alliance during its time. Still today there are cities in concordance with the league. We were in two main ones today, Hamburg and Bremen. On the locals license plates it will have a HH or HB for Hanseatic League of Hamburg or Hanseatic League of Bremen.

If we had more time we would have loved to stay in Hamburg a little longer to visit the massive port in the area and to see how they managed the vast amount of inflow and outflow of goods. It seemed like a place that had more to offer than we had time.

The language barrier here in northern Germany is not too difficult, many people still speak English and it was easy to get around Hamburg as well as order drinks at dinner. We had a great meal of Weiner Snitzel at this very cool restaurant called Schuttinger which is a popular place around here.

– Darin Blocker and Justin Thalmayer

Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz is a global automobile manufacturer known for luxury vehicles, buses, coaches, and trucks. They are a division of the German company Daimler AG. Their name first appeared in 1926 under Daimler-Benz. It originates from Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft’s 1901 Mercedes and Karl Benz’s 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen.

We met at the customer service building, where we were enthusiastically greeted by John, who gave a tour of the rest of the facility after gathering us together to watch a brief video about the company. Before watching the video, John talked to us about the company. He mentioned their slogan, “the best or nothing,” along with the meaning behind their logo. It symbolizes Daimler’s aims for motorization on land, water, and air. After this, he talked a little more and then brought us around the factory.

John described the robots in their factory as some of the greatest, fastest, etc. robots in the world. They recently built a new factory for production that cost more than $400 million. In this factory, they have 2,000 robots, each doing their own job. We got to tour the entire factory, and let’s just say that it made many of us want to buy a Mercedes.

Tessa Zoetewey and Shay DeVries

Berlin

Although we saw some of Berlin yesterday, today was a day to dig a little deeper.  However, unlike yesterday with lots of pictures, today we were in places that didn’t allow cameras or were not as appropriate for photos..

The bus dropped us off near the Reichstag, the central governmental office building.  We then walked over to the Brandenburg Gate for a closer look and some pictures.  Not too far away was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews.  The students took their time walking through this memorial, reading about the history of Jewish oppression and then lots of stories of individuals and families that mostly didn’t survive the holocaust.  It was very moving!

We then drove to Checkpoint Charley, the third border crossing between East and West Berlin and the one managed by the US.  There was an interesting museum about the coming of the cold war and the various ways that East Berliners attempted to get to the free West.

After the museum, the students had the rest of the day to explore various places around Berlin.

Tomorrow we will leave early so that we can get to Hamburg for lunch and then make our appointment at the Mercedes-Benz factory in Bremen, Germany.  Lots of time in the bus!

Berlin

After arriving in Berlin, by bus, Wednesday afternoon from Wittenburg, we were given a short bus tour of the city by our guide, Joop. We saw a few different things such as the Victory Column, Russian War Monument, Brandenburg Gate, and stopped at the Berliner Dom along with the Berlin Wall.

Tuesday afternoon:
Our first stop of the evening in Berlin was at the Berliner Dom. We entered into this magnificent cathedral and were immediately overwhelmed as we entered a very large and tall sanctuary. It was different to see a sanctuary filled with sculptures and covered in paintings. There were four or five different sections within the sanctuary that were filled with sculptures such as the nativity scene as well as different saints and monks. After our time in the sanctuary, we headed down to the basement into a place called the Hohenzollerngruft, which was filled with tombstones of many kings and queens from German history. It has been very different seeing tombstones and burials located within multiple cathedrals than what we are used to back in the States. We were informed early on that we would be able to go to the top of this amazing structure, and after many steps and a fairly confusing and narrow staircase, we finally reached the top and were rewarded with some amazing views of the city. After our time at the Berliner Dom we then headed for a short stop at a stretch of the Berlin Wall that is still standing. This was a important stretch because after the wall was torn down artists were hired to come and paint on the different pieces of the wall. After hearing so much about the Berlin Wall and knowing the amount of significance it played throughout history, even for the U.S., it was very cool and moving to be able to see the stucture in person. It was very interesting to see the different murals on the walls and to try and figure out what each of them was trying to depict. Some of the murals were very touching. Honestly, neither of us had expected the wall to be completly covered in murals and graffiti and that was very interesting to see. After a short stay at the wall, we headed to our hotel and eventually went for dinner. Tomorrow our plans consist of visiting the Brandenburg Gate, Jewish memorial, and Checkpoint Charlie.

Wednesday morning:
This morning we were able to make a couple stops and learn a little more about a couple of the places we saw on yesterday’s bus tour. The first stop that we made was the Brandenburg Gate. The Brandenburg gate was originally built in the late seventeen hundreds, and was the gate that the soldiers would triumphantly walk under as they returned from a victory. Today, the gate is more just a symbol of European unity, and a tourist attraction. We then proceeded to go to the Jewish memorial. The Jewish memorial was very cool to see from the outside, howerever, when we went under the memorial to read personal stories from the jewish victims, it became a lot more meaningful. A story that struck us the most was a letter written by a 12-year-old girl, who was in a concentration camp, to her father. The letter read, “Dear father! I am saying goodbye to you before I die. We would love to live, but they wont let us and we will die. I am so scared of this death, because the small children are thrown alive into the pit. Goodbye forever. I kiss you tenderly.” This quote stood out to us because it was a very young girl who had to write to her father to let him know that she was about to die, and then a few days after she wrote the letter, she was killed. Overall, the Jewish memorial was a very somber experience, but definitely one that was worth doing. After spending a couple of hours at the memorial, we went to Checkpoint Charlie. This was the point at which there was an opening in the Berlin Wall during the Cold War. American soldiers were placed on one side and Soviet soldiers on the other. Often times these “stand-offs” would be very intense and it was crazy to see the location first-hand. We walked through the Checkpoint Charlie museum and were able to read about the issues that were going on between the US and USSR and how that diectly affected Berlin. There was multiple stories that were intersting to read about civilians who tried to East Berlin(USSR) for West Berlin(US).
Overall, Berlin a great experience. We head to Bremen tomorrow and on the way will be stopping at the Mercedes-Benz plant in which we all are very excited for.

Max Wierda and Trevor Nyeholt

Wittenberg and Berlin

Today we left our Best Western Hotel in Leipzig and headed to the city of Wittenberg, Luther’s home town.  Katja was our guide and she met us around 10am to walk us around the city and tell us about the history.  Since 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the 95 theses, a lot of work is wrapping up on getting the historical sites ready for the summer and fall tourist season.  Unfortunately, the Luther House was not open.

Our first stop was the castle church.  This is the church at which Luther posted his 95 theses on the door.  Unfortunately, both the door and the church have been rebuilt and we cannot see the original.  However, we could see Luther’s grave as well as his colleague Melanchthon’s grave.  There are statues or portraits of many other reformers like Huss and Calvin in the church.  We then walked to the town square, next to the city hall and statues of Luther and Melanchthon.

The other important church is known as the “city church” and it was our next stop.  Luther preached at least 200 sermons in that church as well as baptisms, etc,  The baptismal fount from the 1400s is still there and used.  The church features many pieces of artwork about Luther an other reformers.  On the outside of the church is an interesting stone facade that shows a figure of a pig.  This was done as a way to insult the Jewish people that had to walk past the church.  We continued on to see Melanchthon’s house and then Luther’s house, but only from the outside.

Our next stop was Berlin.  Joop gave us a driving tour of some of the city’s highlights and first made a stop at the Berliner Dom.  This is essentially the church of the royalty as many Prussian and earlier kings/queens are buried there in the crypt.  We also climbed up high near the dome to get great views of the city while the sun was setting.  Our next stop was the East Side Gallery where a good sized section of the Berlin Wall still stands.  Artists have been asked over the years to paint sections of the wall which we can see today.  After that, we checked into our hotel which is near AlexanderPlatz, North and East of the center of Berlin.

For dinner, the restaurant Der alte Fritz, a local restaurant with very good food.

Tomorrow we will walk around the Brandenburg Gate, visit the Holocaust Museum, and stop at Checkpoint Charlie.

Wittenberg

Good evening from here in Berlin!

This morning we took off from Leipzig and made a short drive to Wittenberg (pronounced Vit-in-berg in German). Once we arrived we met our tour guide Katja and began our tour of the historic town of Wittenberg. Our first stop was at the Castle Church where in 1517, exactly 500 years ago, professor of theology Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church. At that time, the church was also the home of the University of Wittenberg. Unfortunately the original door has been destroyed, but a beautiful bronze door with all of the 95 theses etched into it now stands in its place. It was almost an overwhelming feeling standing at the door where the Protestant Reformation started and changed the world forever.

We then entered the church which featured a beautiful pipe organ, two chandeliers, and Martin Luther’s grave. Our tour guide gave a very detailed description of the history of the church and how it changed the course of Christianity forever! Such a wonderful experience it was to be standing in the footsteps of Martin Luther himself. Something I was personally very surprised by was that even though the church had been destroyed several times, the original bronze on the top of Martin Luther’s grave still remains intact just as it did when the grave was put in place in the 16th century. I find it amazing that despite the bloody history of Europe, so many of these churches and buildings still remain intact at least partially.

We then made our way over to the church where Martin Luther gave thousands of sermons.  To see where Luther preached on the 500th Anniversary year of the Protestant Reformation was an incredible honor.  It was a beautiful church that seemed a bit more modern and English than the majority already visited.

After that visit we went to a side courtyard of the same church.  There, our energetic tour guide described various objects on the rear of the church that symbolized the antisemitism that was felt and relayed by the prestigious theologians of the Wittenberg region.  This startled me because in previous teachings throughout my education thus far, this side of the story was not covered.  I don’t understand how being a Christian and hating the Jews can coexist, especially in regards to the historically popular Luther.

We wrapped up our time in Wittenberg exploring the various town squares, cafes, and small shops.  Anticipation is brewing for the festivities come October, and what we experienced today should serve a large celebration well.  Wittenberg was a relaxing trip, filled with depth.  Martin Luther’s imprint was throughout.  Now it was off to Berlin.

Chad Beisel and Thomas Voskuil

Dresden and Leipzig

Today, we all loaded up the bus and said our farewells to Prague. It was time to go back to Germany. The first stop? Dresden. Dresden is the capital of the Free State of Saxony, in Germany, and the second largest city in the state. It is a city full of culture and business, and one that has a bit of controversy attached to it. Near the end of World War II, the allies flattened Dresden with bombs. What had happened is they flew up to bomb Berlin, but couldn’t see it due to the fog. Because of that, they decided to drop the bombs over Dresden on their way back. It’s a decision that is still controversial today. However, the city has been rebuilt and is once again a lively and economical place to live in and work.

I (Max) knew very little about Dresden before visiting it, so I was unaware of the part that it played in the war. I found it incredibly interesting how it was destroyed, as well as how they were able to rebuild it so well. If no one had told me it had been leveled a mere 70 years before, I wouldn’t have been able to tell. However, there was something that was very cool about the way they rebuilt some of their buildings. For those that still had bits and pieces of them standing, they used the old pieces and found out where their place was, and then added the new onto it. This was most evident in one of the churches we looked at. It was very easy to tell what was old and what was new, because the old parts of the church were made out of a blackish stone, while the new part.

We didn’t encounter too many cultural or language difficulties in our short time in Dresden, as the only Germans we spoke with was an English speaking waitress. However, Dresden is a place I’d like to visit again. It was a cool city, and we only got a couple of hours to spend there. I’d like to explore the shops, and see what some other food options are there.

After we left Dresden, we continued to Leipzig.  Leipzig, the largest city in the German state of Saxony, has some similarities with Dresden when it comes to the history.  It, too, was hit by bombs near the end of WWII although it was not as devastated as Dresden was.  Since that time, Leipzig has been one of Germany’s fastest growing cities and it has been voted as the most livable city in Germany.  It has come a long way since it was bombed.

One of the really cool things about Leipzig are the churches that it has.  We looked at two in particular shortly after we arrived, St. Thomas Church and St. Nicholas Church.  These two churches date back to the 12th century when they were founded as Roman Catholic churches.  Today they are Lutheran and Protestant respectively.  The biggest thing that we learned about these churches is that they both had their choirs led by the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach.  From 1723-1750, he led both choirs and lived right in the heart of the city.  The other thing that was cool to learn was the role that St. Nicholas Church played in ending communism in eastern Germany.  Although it was not the church’s idea, they helped house the Monday Demonstrations.  These demonstrations were peaceful protests that started in Leipzig in 1989 to push for more rights in eastern Germany.  They went on for two years and they eventually prompted other places to push back against communism and get rid of it.

The time we have spent in Leipzig has been very unique and the city almost seems like it was never affected by WWII.  It is full of life and lots of cool places that we didn’t have near enough time to check out.  Getting voted the most livable city in Germany has to bring with it some merit, but unfortunately we don’t have enough time to experience Leipzig to understand what makes this city so great.

Max Kuik, Reuben Huizenga

Prague to Dresden to Leipzig

After an extended weekend in Prague, it was time to move on.  After breakfast we boarded the bus and started off to the city of Dresden, Germany.  Dresden was essentially bombed flat during WWII and so there are a few of the original buildings that have been rebuilt, especially near the river, but further away you find a mix of modern and communist era buildings.  We were dropped off outside the Semper Opera which is a beautiful building now.  We next headed toward the Frauenkirche which is often considered the heard of the city, rebuilt from the rubble of the WWII bombing.  The dark stones are original and the lighter stones are new replacements so that the church could be rebuilt as it was.  The students had a couple of hours to find some lunch before we boarded the bus to our destination for the night, Leipzig, Germany.

We arrived in Leipzig early enough to get checked in and then have time to walk around the old city, which, like Dresden, has been rebuild from horrific bombing during WWII.  Our hotel is right next to the main train station, just outside the old center city.  Our walking tour included two churches and the local university.  The first church was Thomaskirche, Bach’s home church where he directed the music programs and the choirs.  He is buried inside the front of the church where the choir loft is found.  The church was destroyed in WWII but was rebuilt to look like it was prior to the war.  The second church was Nikolaikirche, another church where Bach was the choir director.  This church was also the place where the “Monday demonstrations” were organized, which became the catalyst for the coming down of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

After the short tour of the old city, the students had a couple of hours to explore.  We then met for a very nice dinner at the hotel.  It seemed like a good time to debrief the experiences of the past few days and so we met briefly after supper as a class.

Tomorrow we will be journeying on to Wittenberg and then Berlin for a stay of two nights.