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.

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.

Wittenberg and Bremen Germany

Today was one of our biggest travel days.  We left Leipzig fairly early and drove to Wittenberg, Luther’s hometown.  We had a chance to see the city, Luther’s home, and the two churches that Luther worked in.  Unfortunately, none of them were open when we were there, but we did see them from the outside, including the doors with the 95 theses.

From Wittenberg, we traveled for several hours to arrive in Bremen, Germany.  Our progress was slowed by a major traffic jam which was caused by an accident involving a car and two trucks.  The cab on the second truck looked to be completely crushed and looked very serious for the driver.  We arrived at Mercedes-Benz in Bremen for our tour of the plant, including walking through the robotic body assembly plant and the final assembly plant.  Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures in the assembly buildings.  It was an amazing tour!

After that, we arrived at our hotel and then walked to the Schuttinger Restaurant for our group dinner.  After dinner, we were able to walk around the old city of Bremen at night.  It is a beautiful city!

Dachau, Nurnberg, Leipzig Germany

We covered a lot of miles today, but we did make stops at three significant places.  The first place was the Dachau Concentration Camp which is just north of Munich.  Visiting the camp is a very sobering experience when you realize how horribly some humans treated other humans.  Unfortunately, some atrocities are still committed today.  We were able to walk around, seeing several original buildings and some re-built buildings.

After leaving Dachau, we drove north to the city of Nurnberg.  The city is infamous for being Hitler’s “home” city and for the war crimes trials after WWII.  Much of the city is rebuilt and is now a vibrant/modern city.  Outside the city we stopped at the Zepplin-platz or the grand stands where Hitler held many rallies for his supporters.  It is currently used for watching car races.  We had some time in the center of the city to find some lunch.

Our final stop was Leipzig, Germany, where we are staying for the night.  Leipzig is known as Bach’s home town and as the place were protests about the Berlin Wall began several years before the wall came down.  After checking into the hotel, we had supper at the Ratskeller restaurant.  It was an excellent meal.  We then went on a short walking tour past Bach’s church and much of the center of the city.

Neuwschwanstein Castle and Munich

Today we left the hotel, loaded up with some sack lunches.  Our travel on the highways and side roads was very challenging as we had times  of heavy snow, wind, icy roads, and drifting snow over the roads.  Our first stop was the Neuwschwanstein castle in southern Bavaria.  After getting our tickets, we then had a 25 minute climb up a mountain road to get to the castle.  When we got to the castle, it was snowing heavily with strong winds and it was difficult to see the castle.  The tour was excellent. Afterwards, we came down from the mountain and then climbed on the bus with our sack lunch.

Our next brief stop is know as Wieskirche or the church in the meadow.  It was a beautiful example of baroque architecture.  The outside was plain but the inside was amazingly ornate in white, gold, and marble.

We then headed to Munich with our first stop at the Steelcase Learning+Innovation Center.  This is a working showcase of effective ways to configure an office environment.  Klaus and Helmut walked us around and explained what we were seeing.  It was an excellent look at up and coming office environments.

Our final stop was downtown Munich.  We stopped at the Marionplatz and the students had a short time to explore before we had a huge meal at the Hoffbrauhaus.

Gentex and Ulm, Germany

Today was a little bit more relaxed than some of the other day.  We had three goals:  1) visit the company Gentex, 2)  get lunch and explore Ulm, and 3) arrive at our hotel in Landsberg am Lech.  After a short drive on the autobahn, we arrived in Erlenbach, the location of the German facility of the Gentex Corporation.  The home of Gentex is Zeeland, MI and the company specializes in  mirror and vision systems for automobiles, windows for aircraft, and smoke alarms.  The facility in Erlanbach provided Gentex a localized presence with the major German automakers, allowing them to work closely with them on new designs.  We had a brief introduction to the company and then the class was divided into 3 groups, one to hear about future product ideas, one to see how the distribution of parts from Zeeland happens, and one to test drive some of the new concepts.  It was a great visit!

We then left for Ulm, the home of the tallest cathedral in the world.  It was a bit rainy and so students could only climb up part of the way to the top.  Ulm was also a place to get lunch and do a little shopping.  We arrived at our hotel in Landsberg am Lech where we were treated to a wonderful buffet of German food.  We then had time to discuss our experiences of the past several days.

Koblenz, Heidelberg, and Hockenheim Germany

Today was an exploration of the Rhine River region of Germany, especially the area known for its castles.  We left the city of Trier in the morning and arrived at the city of Koblenz.  Koblenz is know for many things, but what we were most interested in was the Deutsches Eck, also known as the German Corner.  Koblenz is located where the Mosel River joins with the Rhine River.  At that intersection, a humongous statue has been erected to William I, the one who unified Germany in the 1800s.  We were also hoping to use public restrooms nearby, but they were closed, so we continued along the Rhine River until we arrived at the town of St. Boar which had public restrooms open.

We then headed to Heidelberg, the location of the ruins of the Heidelberg Castle and the location of the Holy Ghost Church.  The writers of the Heidelberg Catechism served the ruler in the castle and worshiped in the Holy Ghost Church.   Since 2013, a set of commemorative plaques have been on display inside the church about the catechism.  After figuring out our way around town, the students headed off for a brief lunch.  Then, we spent a few minutes inside the church before going up to the castle on a guided tour.  After our time in Heidelberg, we headed to the town of Hockenheim where we checked into our hotel and went to a restaurant for supper.

Reims France, Luxembourg, and Trier Germany

Today was a big travel day for the group.  We left Paris early in the morning and traveled to the city of Reims.  Our goal was to worship in the Reims cathedral and see where the kings of France had been crowned through the centuries.  The service was a Catholic Church service, was all in French, and was held in the cathedral with a temperature close to freezing.  When we sang, we could see our breath!

After finding lunch in Reims, we traveled on the the country of Luxembourg to visit the American military cemetery from WWII.  This is the place where General Patton is buried.  Jennifer was our guide in the cemetery and told us about the cemetery and stories of several people that were buried there.  At the end of our visit, our group was granted the privilege of bringing down the US flag and folding it up for the night.  That was very special.

From there, we traveled into Germany and stopped at the border city of Trier, known as one of the earliest Roman settlements in the region.  An ancient Roman gate still stands today and we visited it after we checked into the hotel and ate a delicious Italian dinner.

Paris – Day 2

Today we began by heading to Notre Dame Cathedral by way of the subway system.  The cathedral sits on an island in the middle of the Seine River.  After walking through the cathedral, the group split up with some climbing the cathedral towers, some visiting Sainte Chapelle (a small but beautiful chapel), and some just walking around the island.  We then walked to the area of the Louvre museum and found a food court in a shopping area next to the museum.  Lunch was good, but not cheap!

Once we all got inside the museum, the students were off on their own (in small groups), seeing what interested them the most.  The museum is huge and you could never see it all in an afternoon.  After that, the students were on their own to explore more of Paris.

Several of us ended up touring the Palais Garnier (Paris opera house).  The building is beautiful, both inside and outside.  Some of us (4) decided to try and get tickets to the performance of Jephtha tonight.  Jephtha is an oratorio written by Handel and in a similar musical style  as the Messiah.  This one, was acted out more like an opera than an oratorio.  It was a great show and it was amazing to watch it for 10 Euros in one of the most beautiful performance halls in the world!

Paris – Day 1

Today started with a walk to the Eiffel Tower.  As you can see from the pictures, the top (summit) of the tower was shrouded in clouds today.  Sometimes, the summit is closed due to weather and visitors are only permitted to go up to the second level.  Even though cloudy, we wer able to go to the summit, so the students were excited.  The views from the second level were actually better than from the summit, but it was fun to get to the top.

After the Eiffel Tower, we took the subway to the area of the Paris Catacombs.  Before going into the catacombs, the students found some lunch in the area.  The catacombs are an old mine/quarry that became the home for the bones of bodies dug up from city cemeteries as the city cleared the land for more buildings to be built within the city.  It is a very unique experience to see the bones of more than 6 million people stacked carefully along underground passageways.

After the catacombs, the students were free to go off and explore the city in small groups.