The Hofbräuhaus brewery is located in Munich Germany and was originally built in 1589, it was however not opened to the public until 1828. The building was completely renovated in 1897 when the brewery moved to the suburbs of Munich, however during World War 2 the brewery was destroyed from bombing, all that remained was the historic beer hall. The Hofbräuhaus was then reopened in 1958 to and has been open to the public ever since.

The Hofbräuhaus originates from Wilhelm V. duke of Bavaria, he found the beer in Munich so  bad that he imported beer from Saxony. Wilhelm eventually asked his royal court to find a solution and thus they built their own brewery in Munich.

Other then Oktoberfest the Hofbräuhaus is Munich’s largest attraction. As a whole we were lucky enough to have dinner there. The meal we had consisted of pretzels, bread with cheese dips, two types of pork, potato balls, and mixed berries on top whipped creme for dessert.

The Hofbräuhaus has stein lockers for the local members, they are able to leave their steins in their locked locker until they next return for drinks. The Hofbräuhaus  also has assigned tables for these members, the only way you’re able to sit at the members table is to be invited to the table by the members.

Back to the Netherlands

Today, we left Bremen, Germany and headed to the Netherlands.  Our first stop was for lunch at the city of Arnhem.  The city has a nice downtown area that has plenty of restaurants and stores.  This was the last chance for students to do any shopping before returning to the airport.

After lunch, the group drove to the Operation Market-Garden Museum which is very close to Arnhem.  Operation Market-Garden was an allied offensive operation in WWII with the goal of re-taking some key bridges across the Rhine River.  Doing so would give the allies an easy way to move equipment into Germany itself.  The bridge they wanted was the main bridge of the city of Arnhem.  It was a significant battle, but in the end, the operation failed to hold the bridge.  Many were lost or taken prisoner during the battle.  The basement of the museum tried to recreate the conditions the soldiers experienced in the battle.

After the museum, we headed to the town of Nuspeet for our final night in Europe.  After dinner and class discussion, students had time to swim in the pool and hang out for one last evening.

My time in Dachau

The main thing the group did today was go to the concentration camp, Dachau. Some of the feelings I experienced were expected, others not. I expected to feel heartache for what had happened to the people imprison, I did not expect to feel as angry as I did. I expected to feel relieved that the horrible things done by the Nazis are over, I did not expect to feel like humanity hasn’t come very far.

Not to downplay the autrocities done by the Nazi regime, but I started wondering why Western society seems to ignore the other terrible things humans have done to each other, not just in the past but in the present day. I think we often would like to believe that *our* family would be one of the families to hide Jewish people, but at the same time we ignore the needy in our own city. Oftentimes for me it circles around to slavery; many people don’t think human trafficking is a big problem, or if they do they assume it’s an “over there” type of problem that they cannot do anything about. The fact is that in our country, in our state, even in Grand Rapids, tragedies like sex trafficking occur regularly.

I think to truly have a changed heart by seeing what the Jewish people went through in the Nazi Holocaust, we cannot look past the injustices when they happen right in front of us. I’m not sure how, but I truly believe this is a call for me to try to do something to change the world I’m in, even if it’s only in a small way.

Phew, We’re Almost There

Oh boy. Do you ever get tired – like really tired. The type of tired that doesn’t go away after getting a good night of sleep. That’s the kind of tired I am. That being said, I can chalk this exhaustion up to one thing: fun. This trip across Western Europe has been anything but unenjoyable, but I can only hang out with the Dutch locals in their pubs for so long, ya’ know? 😉

In all seriousness, I am beyond thankful for the opportunity I was given to visit such beautiful countries and beautiful peoples. In our visit to the Dacha, I was humbled. Growing up, American children learn a great deal about the Holocaust, but it always seems so far away. I’m only 22 years old, so WWII might as well have been a thousand years ago. But it wasn’t. Concentration camp survivors still live to tell their horrifying past.

Walking through the uninviting camp through equally inviting weather gives one a meager fragment of what life there may have been like for some, and even that was too much for me. Me in my warm puffy coat, wool socks, and longjohns. It wasn’t until I looked at the camp’s creamatorium that I realized how close I was to this tragedy. It wasn’t the ovens themselves, but the ash. The ashes of thousands of innocent people coating the insides of these ovens. In that moment I found myself utterly humbled, questions without answers forming in my head. As I go forward I suspect some may be answered and others not.

As our trip winds down to its inevitable end, I can say with the utmost honesty that I have seen more cathedrals than I hoped, walked more kilometers than I hoped, learned more than I hoped, and grew closer with God and many of my wonderful classmates more than I hoped.

The Fearless Bus Driver

Bold. Daring. Informative.
These words all describe the greatest tour guide and bus driver who ever lived. Born in the Netherlands, Joop (pronounced like “hope” but with a Y) grew up driving a backhoe to install pipe. After ten years he took this precision driving and became a bus driver. Joop has been leading tours all over Europe for 35 years, and has been working with Calvin for 21 of those. He speaks at least 4 languages fluently and knows the best local food stands. When he’s not home with his wife, he likes to build elaborate remote controlled model trucks. He loves listening to 70s and 80s American music, and travels to the USA once a year. He has been to 33 states, and lately enjoys the warm weather in Florida. He introduces us to every city we visit and fills us in on the local history and legends. He is a joyful soul and waves at every tour bus he passes. However, he is not afraid to squeeze though narrow side streets with only an inch of clearance on each side, or cut across 5 lanes of traffic in the Arc de Triomphe circle. In to these capable hands, we entrust our lives.

A Day in Bremen

We have been going at a hectic pace for the past two weeks.  Today was a chance to have a breather and really explore a city.  The city of Bremen has a lot of history, amazing architecture, and a lot of  shopping, all within walking distance.  The students (and profs) got to sleep in a bit today.  We met in the hotel lobby around 10:30am and went for a walk to see some of the city in the daylight as it was dark when we were walking around last night.  There was a farmer’s market in a couple of the city squares that was nice to walk around.  We were able to walk through St. Petri Dom, one of the catholic churches in the center of the town.  After our short walking tour, the students were on their own for lunch and the rest of the day.


We began Friday morning with traveling to Wittenberg. Wittenberg is a town in East Germany where the town charter was granted in 1293. This town is famous for being the place where Martin Luther lived. This is also the place where Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Castle Church doors on Octover 31, 1517. As a group we walked around the city for a short time.
The first stop in the town was at Martin Luther’s house. His house is now a museum that can be toured but we arrived before it had opened. The next stop was at the Town Church. The Town Church was behind the market square and is known for the two towers it has. At this church was where Martin Luther would preach as well as where he married his wife, Katharina Von Bora. The church was also significant to Martin Luther because that is where his children were baptized.
Lastly, we stopped by Castle Church, the place where Martin Luther nailed his Theses. Martin Luther would only sometimes preach at Castle Church. Martin Luther is also buried at Castle church under the pulpit where he would do his preaching. The original doors that Martin Luther nailed his theses burnt down but now there are 2 bronze doors that have all 95 theses in Latin engraved on the door. The church was also closed so our viewing was from outside of the church.
After we saw the town of Wittenberg we began our travel toward the Mercedes-Benz factory tour.


The other day we were able to visit Dachau concentration camp and tour the memorial that has been set up there. This was one of the most interesting and powerful visits on the tour. Out of respect for the thousands who had died there I did not take any photographs. We arrived at about 9am and started walking around the outside of the camp and read some of memorial plaques. We then went inside the camp and were allowed to freely wander the camp. Most the camp was demolished but some had been rebuilt or restored. Walking though these buildings, the gas chambers, the over crowded barracks, the crematorium, you were really able to get a feel for the atrocities that happened there. I think that being able to visit this camp had a really big effect on everyone in our group. I know for me, I’ve seen a fair amount of World War II movies and read a decent amount about it. Seeing a camp in person had so much more effect on me than seeing it in movies. Just being able to stand where the events happened really helped to put the events in perspective for us.
After leaving we had probably the most silent bus ride of the trip so far. Over the next few days we will begin to discuss and unpack all of the things that we have learned on this trip. I think that one of the core experiences that people will have benefited from will be from this trip will be the time we spent at Dachau concentration camp. I am excited to see exactly what everyone got out if it compared to myself.

Bremen: Mercedes-Benz

After leaving Wittenberg on Friday morning, we settled in for a four-hour drive to the Mercedes-Benz plant in Bremen, Germany. We passed the time playing games, listening to music, and reading; we also enjoyed a brief stop for lunch along the way. Unfortunately, traffic conditions resulted in us arriving at Bremen about one hour later than we had originally intended. Nevertheless, we received a wonderful tour upon arriving at the plant.
Formed in 1926, the Mercedes-Benz company is known for their luxury vehicles. Their motto is “the best or nothing”, and John “the Legend”, our tour guide, was sure to emphasize this point while he showed us the various stages of assembly for the cars. Much of the manufacturing process is automated, and it was exciting to watch the mechanical arms assemble the framework of the cars in what seemed to be an effortless manner. Free space in the plant is not to be wasted, so there were multiple times where the casual observer wondered whether the robots would crash into each other or accidentally damage the car parts as they moved them around; however, they were programmed to operate quickly and efficiently, and every movement was coordinated smoothly with the other robots nearby. John also explained that, far from relying too much on the computer and robots to do all of the work, a team of technicians is always on hand to monitor and repair the machines if necessary.
We moved from the assembly floor to the body shop, where the frame of each car is fitted with things like a windshield, seats, etc. John explained that this plant was operational around the clock, with multiple shifts of workers ensuring that the production line never stopped, night or day. With this work drive, the plant produces around 1,600 cars per day! As John put it, “time is money”, and it was clear from the efficiency and streamlined operation that we witnessed that Mercedes-Benz doesn’t plan to waste any of it.
Like every business we’ve had the opportunity to visit on this trip, Mercedes-Benz is committed to preparing for success in the future, and in addition to taking advantage of modern computer and robot technology they also plan to release a fully electric car in 2019. Overall, our class had a wonderful learning experience as we got to see firsthand why Mercedes-Benz is world-renowned and successful today, as well as how they are prepared to continue with that success tomorrow.

Steelcase and Munich


Steelcase and Munich

Upon our arrival to Munich, we went to the Steelcase learning and innovation center. This is a new building for them, which was built in 2017, and it is used to help create new ideas, help show their costumers how their business could look with their furniture, and to be an international location for customers overseas.

Our guide gave us a tour through this new building, and talked about their business. He was especially proud of how they do not have a traditional cube farm, but instead have desks that anyone can use. People are free to go where they want and work where they want. It was a very interesting idea and was good to see how some companies might have new or different ways of running their offices someday.

After the tour, we were dropped off in downtown Munich. We were able to go to the town square and explore on our own for a little while. Then it was time to go to the famous Hofbrauhaus for a group supper. This was a very cool experience. You walked in to the sound of a band playing some traditional Bavarian songs, and see long wooden tables and benches put together. We found our reserved section tucked away in the corner and enjoyed a pretzel before we had our meal. Meat(two types of pork I believe) and a kind of potato or dumpling were had for our meal. It was a very hearty meal and a neat experience to have.

Even though we only spent a little bit of time in Munich, I felt like we were able to see a bit into the specific culture of the region of Bavaria. While we traveled we could see the white and brown farmhouses, saw cuckoo clocks, and had a pretty traditional meal at a restaurant that has been there for a long time. It’s not everyday that you can say that.