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The First Trip of A Lifetime - Germany: Chelsie Beck, Wildlife and Fisheries Science

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Posted: July 20, 2012

I have never been on a plane, let alone, overseas. I took this opportunity to go on this trip because of the endless possibilities, to experience a different culture and explore where my ancestors have originated from.

Day 1: Monday May, 7
The Three Penn State Altoona Groups met at the Altoona Campus to load up the bus and say our last good-byes to family members, significant others, and fellow employees. The bus took us straight to Washington Dulles Airport, where we linked up to United Airlines 902 to Munich, Germany. First was check in where our passports were verified and our checked luggage was weighed. Next was another passport variation that led us into security. Security was a fast paced check where all loose clothing, jewelry, electronic devices, carry-ons, and shoes were placed in bins and sent through an x-ray machine. They either let you pass or not; some people in our agriculture group were held back because some electronic devices like lap tops and iPads where more thoroughly checked over. After making it through security I was relieved since it was the first time I went through it, especially with how tense everyone was worrying they would miss their flight. It was an hour before we would board the plane and I was busy eating and trying to stay calm. We loaded the plane was through poorly structured tunnels connecting to the side of the plane, and as soon as I stepped onto the plane carpet I automatically was anxious and felt like I was hovering in mid-air. I found my seat (end seat in back of plane) and loaded the overhead bin with my carry-on. The plane was huge and had personal touch televisions implanted in the back of each seat. Ten minutes until take-off, I was more anxious than ever in my life. Although, take-off was not so worrisome, many that have flown before said its smoother than landing. Take-off happened to just be a gradually strong push back into your seat and a slowly lifting, butterflies in the stomach, feeling. Once I was in the air I felt more at ease, looking out the window was astonishing and will be something that I will never forget. I watched movies and listened to music most of the eight hour flight. The flight attendants served drinks, dinner and breakfast snack. The dinners where worse than high school food, probably even worse than prison food! But I guess it had to do, I was hungry and was hoping to settle my stomach from the major altitude change. I tried sleeping but that was impossible with the lack of leg room, limited reclining capabilities, and loudness of the plane.  Six to seven hours into the flight we happened to be overcome with some turbulence, and this was like riding in a truck on a rough dirt road, but three times worse.

Day 2: Tuesday May, 8
Getting ready for landing, your seat had to be upright, televisions stowed, and you in your seat with your seatbelt on. Each drop in altitude made my face blush and made me more nervous. At this time I could not look out the window and I sat firmly back in my seat. When landing it was smoother than I thought but I could still tell when the wheels touched the ground. I looked out the window and saw we were finally on the ground again and safe. I felt an overwhelming pressure in my stomach, and while everyone was starting to get out of their seats; I ran to the bathroom and ended up very sick. I believe it had to do with the sudden altitude change, the quality of the food and lack of ginger tablets before landing. I disembarked from the plane as fast as I could with my carry-ons to the airport bathroom in Munich, Germany. After that was luggage pickup and finding our tour guide, Jan. Jan guided us out of Franz Josef Strauss Airport to our private bus, which took us to a late breakfast at a traditional Bavarian restaurant. They served us veal sausage, breads, pretzels with mustard, and sparkling apple juice. The water that they served was sparkling/carbonated water, which was the worst thing I have ever drunk! I unfortunately was not feeling up to par to try some of the veal sausage but most of us liked it. At 1pm-2:30pm (13-14:30), a walking tour was given by Jan and Dr. Lotter and they explained the importance of various things in Munich. We all went into the bell tower and the whole way to the top. The structure of the bell tower was brick, wood, and stone, with a caged top to gaze at the view. After this, we went into some churches and learned about the significance of each one and who preached there. Also, we passed a famous wedding clock and saw wedding traditions, jousting, dancing, and brew tasting. This clock only displays figures moving at 11am, 12pm, 3pm each day, but the song plays each hour. Passing by the lion statue, Jan said if you rub his nose it brings you luck in life. So everyone rubbed his nose, but I later regretted not getting a picture of me and the lucky lion statue. Jan and Dr. Lotter took us to important historic locations as well as popular places like courtyards, beer gardens, churches, buildings, and of course an ice cream shop. The ice cream shop had my last name in it (…beck). The Watsinger bus company then drove us to Rosenheim, Germany (which was an hour and 15 minutes away from Munich) where the Hotel Golden Hirsch Rosenheim was located (Rosenheim was named after roses, the City of Roses). The hotel was nice, an older style and the Alps where close to our hotel. Over the Alps was Italy! The Rosenheim Orientation Session was held in a park near our hotel, Jan handed us maps and ideas of things to do during our two day stay here, and I found a four-leaf clover in this park! We explored the town taking pictures and shopping until we met for dinner. Jan took us all to dinner at Hotel-Gasthaus Flotzinger Brau, where we ate a three course meal, which was delicious. The traditional pancake soup was like our beef broth with herbs and sliced pancakes in the form of noodles. The main course was tender pork with dumpling and potato balls including red sweet cabbage. For dessert, we had sour sugar plums in ice cream with nuts. After dinner, we all headed back to the hotel for some well needed sleep.

Day 3: Wednesday May, 9:

7am-8:45am Breakfast was served at the hotel. The lunch meats and typical breakfast foods were laid out as a buffet, but warm milk was served instead of cold. Also, the trash cans were mini and on the table. At 9 am we took the Watzinger Bus to Glonn to tour Herrmannsdorfer, an organic farm complex, bakery, brewery, butcher, dairy and shops.
 
BeckGermany2.pngI learn about the significance of the May Pole on the farm and the regulations to operate and be certified organically. The May Pole ensures fertility in the animals, plants and even people. It also shows the policies and what the farm has to offer to the public. Later, we sampled breads, meats, cheeses and their self-brewed beer. I purchased several gifts for family members as well as myself, including an organic sunflower snack bar, mac and cheese and beer. At 1:15pm we left for the Aying Brewery to learn about the process from growing to brewing. Aying Brewery does not just make beer but also good fruit sodas. I learned that Americans typically have a longer working day than Germans. At 5pm I ate at the Nord See, “North Sea”. This is a main location that supplies Germany with seafood. I was impressed how well the server knew English as well as how they served the fish cold.

Day 4: Thursday May, 10
7-7:45am breakfast in the hotel, then we moved to the Hotel Cardhotel Munchen in Munich. At 10 am Jan met with us for an orientation about public transportation, followed by a walking tour with Dr. Lotter to the Vikrualien Market. The market has a number of products including flowers, crafts, produce, meats, beer garden and all other types of foods. Experiencing the Vikrualien market reminded me of the Bellville Sale at home. In the afternoon, we had a special speaker from the Landesvereinigung fur den okologischen Landbau in Bayerne. He presented about the agricultural issues of Germany. He talked about the organic market being one of the first in Europe to become organic. Also, the high cost if inputs when running a farm in Germany sometimes does not weigh-out the output profit. His presentation was very detailed and useful for our study abroad program. After the presentation, a group of us explored the Palace in Munich. The Palace was an incredible sight to see, it was constructed on a center axis where the architecture is identical around this axis. For dinner, a few of us went to the Hard Rock Café in Munich to experience their atmosphere compared to this chain in the United States. Their menus where in English and their food was as good as at home. Headed back to the hotel we realized we needed a good night’s sleep.

Day 5: Friday May, 11
At 6am a boxed breakfast was supplied from the hotel because we were headed to a new destination today, Waldenbuch. Waldenbuch was not very big, but it is the home to Ritter Sport. Ritter Sport is a German chocolate manufacturer, like our Hershey chocolate manufacturer. At Ritter Sport we learned about the machinery that makes different types of chocolates and the procedures it goes through before being shipped. Next, we saw a chocolate exhibit learned about the history of Ritter Sport (100 years in the making!) and the types of advancements made. At 1pm, we visited Eselsmuhle in Musberg; to learn more about ecological products and their organization and marketing. They have been in production for 600 years with the use of a water mill energy system (now mainly electricity). Their bakery had many stoves in one room, on top of one another, to make bread which is sold to local businesses. We learned that donkeys have traditionally settled in this village and cane still be seen today. Lunch was at the Eselsmuhle Village, and this food was also very appetizing. Meat Lasagna, sweet scalloped potatoes and a salad was served. They told us they “hide” the meat in the lasagna to hide it from “God’s eyes.” It is interesting how they have traditions and reasons behind those traditions that make sense to us.
 
At 2:30pm we headed to Heidelberg to the Hotel Ibis Heidelberg. At this point, Jan our tour guide left us and our new tour guide Sven took over. At 6:30pm, Dinner was served at a traditional German restaurant with Sven and the whole group. He taught us a German song sung at Oktoberfest and shared stories about when he was a guide for other groups. The stories consisted of tourists and the ghost, Malone. Ashley and I chose to share a white, thin, flakey pizza with salmon, shrimp, ham, and mushrooms (this was another amazing food in Germany). After dinner a group of us went to the Irish Pub because a Pittsburgh Steelers flag caught our eye. The waitress explained that her boss is infatuated with the Steelers and shows all their football games there. She also stated she did not understand the game but will never tell her boss that. The Irish Pub had a massive Steelers shrine, along with their soccer teams’ shrines. This was a very relatable place because of reminders from home.

Day 6: Saturday May, 12
Breakfast was held at the Hotel which had a variety of choices, even American cereal! Today a scheduled tour was set for the Heidelberg Castle (9am). To get to the castle we had to take a train up a steep mountain. The castle was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. It was very romantic, old, and with astonishing architecture. I absolutely agreed that they should not fix up the castle or modernize it, because scars are beautiful too. Parts of the castle were destroyed in WW II, and there was no trace of the gardens anymore. The boys decided to walk down stairs from the castle to enjoy a more wide scale view of Heidelberg, but the rest of us took the mountain train back down. This evening was free time to explore the university town of Heidelberg. I needed more souvenirs so I shopped for a while and spent most of the night in the pedestrian streets. The Irish Pub was full of local soccer fans and there was not enough room for our group of 15. So we headed back to the hotel, managing to catch the wrong bus, and ended 30 minutes out of town! But, we found our way back and ended our night early.BeckGermany3.png
 
Day 7: Sunday May, 13
Breakfast was served at the hotel and a group of us discussed plans for the day. After thinking about a few options, we managed to agree on going to a German zoo in Heidelberg. The zoo had a strange assortment of animals. For instance: domestic animals, wild animals, aquatic animals and even insects. Although the selection of animals was different, one could get closer to the animals than at home. But the habitats where not as hygienic or well-constructed as those I’ve visited in the US. Also, to save space they combined foxes with brown bears and goats with monkeys. Overall this zoo was interesting and a good choice for a well spent day in Heidelberg. At 2:30pm, we took another bus to the Schriesheim Winery where we tasted their brands of wines and ate finger foods. They explained details about the types of wine from red wines, to ice wines, and white wines. The owner also stated that this is a family ran business for a few generations; it all started with his dad’s generation making barrels for wine. The types of barrels that store the wine are the main reason for a specific color and taste. Unfortunately, there was no further tour of the winery (because it was a Sunday, a day of no production). The tour ended a lot sooner than what we anticipated.

Day 8: Monday May, 14
Breakfast was supplied by the hotel, then we were bussed to BASF (10am). BASF is one of the world’s leading chemical companies in Ludwigshafen. The chemical company was user friendly and very informational with hands-on learning experiences. I was amazed how fun and useful chemistry could be; I could see myself being a tour guide there and actually enjoy it. The next visit of the day was to the John Deere production plant near Mannheim (2pm). At the production plant we learned about the history of John Deere, the name, and the types of products available. In the Germany production plant, the mid-sized machines where mass produced on an assembly line of workers, robots, and speed belts. An average of 13 John Deere products were assembled and checked over multiple times to be sent out per week. John Deere is very weary to ensure no manufacturing mistakes are made and all safety precautions are taken, which is why my father prefers them over any other company. Going through the production lines was a little hectic but seeing each step helped explain the jobs of each level of production. I could only wish my father, the biggest John Deere fan I know, could have been on this tour with me. I enjoyed these two tours today and was started to feel like I was ready to come home (one more day left). We traveled to our last hotel, Hotel Maingau. At 8pm we had a farewell dinner at the regional food restaurant, Café Hauptwache in Frankfurt. At this restaurant we tried German style ribs with mashed potatoes and a raspberry nut cake for dessert. I agree that all of the traditional food restaurants are very appetizing. After dinner, we explored the “love lock bridge,” which was astonishing to see, especially at dusk. The bridge had personal locks attached to the metal frames; the locks had names of couples and the date to ensure they would remain together forever. This was one of my favorite moments, which made me miss loved ones at home.
 
Day 9: Tuesday May, 15
Breakfast was supplied by the hotel then on to the Frankfurt International Airport. Our plane (UA 953) departed at 11am to Washington Dulles Airport, and I made sure I took the recommended amount of ginger tablets so I would have a more comfortable flight home. Landing was a lot smoother than last time (in my stomach) and I could not wait to get in the car and head home. Going through customs was difficult because of my packing (over lotion/liquid limit) and I got patted down. After customs, the walk to my parents was relieving and comforting. Sharing my experience with my family and friends was the biggest reward of them all.