STW 1996 Bericht – Report

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zweiter Teil: Deutschland

Highlights: eine Woche Zeltlager direkt am Bodensee — Mehrtages Hike in den Alpen — Schloß Neuschwanstein — München, Übernachtung in “The Tent” 300 Personen, Hofbräuhaus — Nachtfahrt nach Dresden — Dresden, Jugendstil Jugendherberge, Zwinger, Frauenkirche — Berlin, CVJM Haus, Metropol- TechnoNacht, KZ Sachsenhausen, Baustellen

Mike Corey hat nach seiner Rückkehr in die Staaten einen Artikel über diese Reise für eine lokale Zeitung in Eau Claire geschrieben. Er ist äußerst interessant und gut erzählt. Wenn wir wieder einmal mehr Zeit habe, werden wir ihn auch übersetzen! 🙂 Auf der rechten Seite siehst Du unseren Patch für diese Aktion.

 

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second part: Germany

Highlights: a week camp-out at Lake Constanz — multiday hike in the alps — Neuschwanstein castle — Munich, accomodation in “The Tent” 300 Personen, Hofbräuhaus — Dresden, youth hostel in Art Nouveau, Zwinger, Frauenkirche — Berlin, YMCA hostel, Metropol- Techno night, KZ Sachsenhausen, construction sites

Back in the states Mike Corey wrote a article about the trip for a local news paper. It’s quite interesting and well written. Here you can see the patch for this event.

The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land;
it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.

G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
English author
If you ever feel like being American is the best and only way to be, take a trip to Europe. As soon as possible.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the value of this country and how lucky we are as Americans. But have you ever looked at how anyone else lives?Every week on the national news we see another McDonald’s opening in yet another foreign country. Yes, capitalism flourishes abroad, and while that’s great for America, the TV cameras never quite capture what may be next door to the new McDonald’s.If you look a little closer you might see the majestic fourteenth century Gothic cathedral. Next to Ronald McDonald’s statue, you miss the likeness of Ludwig I, first king of Bavaria. Worst of all, you might miss the great restaurants that don’t serve Mcnuggets, but Schnitzel and Almdüdler. Most of these things may seem insignificant to an average middle or high school student, but I think differently because I’ve visited all of these sights.On July 26, 1996, nineteen Explorer Scouts including me flew from Minneapolis to Frankfurt, Germany. The experience will be with me for a lifetime, and the people I met, even if they live on the banks of the Rhine instead of the Chippewa River, have become very close friends.How does one go about getting to Germany? Well, it took about two years of work, and one man’s dream. That man is Tim Scott, an attorney in New Richmond, WI. I met him when he lived in Eau Claire, where he was active both in Scouting and in my Church. He had studied in Germany and in early 1994 he approached me about helping raise money to host several German Scouts coming in the summer. I worked one brat stand in November with some friends, made a few bucks for the mystery Germans, and considered myself a good deed doer.That year at summer camp, a van load of German Pfadfinder (the word means “Pathfinder”, and is the name of German scouts) stopped at the Administration building and I just kept walking past. Two or three of them stayed in my campsite, and the names Fritz, Daniel, Steffi, and Florian stayed in the back of my mind. I became interested in getting to know about their trip, and when Tim asked me if I wanted to get a group together to go to Germany, I jumped at the chance.We chartered an organization called an Explorer Post. It’s like a Boy Scout Troop, except girls are allowed to be Explorers, and the leadership is more oriented toward the youth. We had a short meeting in a back room of the Boy Scout office, and we were off. We had several more short meetings to get kids to come who were interested, and one night we elected some officers. To my surprise, I was elected President.About two weeks later, my fellow officers and I found out just what we were getting into. And, to skip all of the gory details, after two years of hastily organized brat stands, freezing our butts off at Christmas tree sales, selling mugs, washing cars, bake sales, a dunk tank, not to mention our own personal part-time jobs, we figured something out. The key to successfully balancing all these things perfectly is to not even try. As a leader, you have to realize that not everyone will always be happy with what’s going on, and that one of the most important aspects of being a successful leader is learning the art of damage control. But, somehow, all of us managed not to step on too many toes.Another thing we learned was that being a youth leader in an organization with both youth and adults requires one to stand up as an equal to any adult in the group. Unfortunately, this practice tends to go against the grain of most of what we are taught about respect for our elders. Although in most cases, we tended to find that the problem lies in the adults being taught that children should look up to them. This is not necessarily their fault, and we were lucky that the adults we worked with were willing to remedy this attitude. My advice would be to be patient when working with adults. You may know that you are competent for a job. You need to give them time to let you prove it. You can gain respect this way, as frustrating as it may sometimes seem.The trip began anything but smoothly. After all of our careful preparation and fundraising, we first had to tackle the Hubert H. Humphrey Minneapolis-St. Paul air terminal. You may think you have heard airport delay horror stories before. We spent seventeen hours sitting in one terminal, after waiting in line for three hours, and then were checked in to a hotel for three more hours. Another piece of travel advice: never fly charter airlines. Don’t worry, though. The airline we flew (or for the most part, didn’t fly) has now been grounded.Finally, we did arrive in Frankfurt, Germany on July 27. My first impression of a foreign country was “my, what strange police officers they have here!” Across the airfield from us there was an armored truck with the word “police” in German painted on it. The man standing next to it was dressed in camouflaged fatigues, and carrying an Uzi submachine gun.After we got out of the airport, we met Jens (Yéns) Katemann, who accompanied our group on the bus trip down to our campsite. In seven hours, we drove from Frankfurt in the north, all the way to the Bodensee (Lake Constance), at the far southern tip of the country. The drive was comparable to driving from Superior to Janesville, and Germany is remarkably close in size to Wisconsin. During the drive, we noticed that even the land is remarkably similar in places to the farmland of Wisconsin. The only difference was that on the whole, corn was replaced with grapes.We met the group of about 20 Pfadfinders at their campsite, which was actually a field on the lakefront that the scouts had rented. The site was within walking distance of the small town of Konstanz, which was fairly unremarkable except for a few things. First, none of the cars were larger than a Geo Metro. Second, all of the people were extremely friendly. Finally, outside of town there was about an acre of marijuana growing. Now, while in the United States this would be front page news, in Germany, it is apparently common. When we asked our hosts about it, they explained that the cannabis was grown commercially for rope and cloth (comparable to cotton). Furthermore, the weather in that part of Europe was too cool for the leaves to produce THC, the hallucinogen in marijuana, so there was no problem with people stealing or using any of it. But for us, it was a novelty.

That first week was spent getting settled into life in a foreign country. The first thing to adjust to is hearing a different language most of the time. I have never studied German, but even after a few days of total immersion in the culture, even I started to pick up a few useful phrases. It did not really even matter, though, because all German students take a second language most of them take English and speak it very well. I know you have probably heard this before, but why do we not do something like this in American schools? Most of our tours and almost all of our conversations with the Germans were conducted in English. Translating everything for two different groups takes awhile, but it was most appreciated.

The other thing that occupied our minds that first week was learning about Scouting in Germany. The differences are fundamental. First of all, all of German Scouting is co-ed. In my opinion, this adds a lot to the education Scouting provides. In America, Explorer Scouting is co-ed, but this is only for those older than fourteen. Interacting with both sexes seems more like the real world to me. Second, there is much less of an emphasis on uniforms. In America, proper uniforms and military drill protocol are stressed at meetings. Germany is a much different story. After World War II, the German people wanted nothing to do with anything that vaguely reminded anyone of the Nazi regime. To them, wearing uniforms is reminiscent of the Hitler Youth. The Scouts do have a reason to be careful about this as well. There have been problems recently with groups of neo-Nazis that claim to be Scouting groups in order to receive federal grants and discounts. The result is that uniforms are not worn very often.

We were also introduced to German food. It really was not too much different from eating in America, except for the names. My personal favorite is Schnitzel, generally made from veal. Second, though, is a breakfast we had one morning that consisted of a type of pancake topped with raisins, powdered sugar, and muesli, which is like granola.

After a week of camping we toured the area for a day. The surrounding terrain was mostly pine forest, but the area directly around the lake was rural farmland. That is, as rural as one gets in most of Germany. With the exception of the Alps, Germany is very densely populated, and even in rural areas, farmland is squeezed in an acre at a time. Within a mile, you can see grapes, wheat, cabbage, and many other types of vegetables growing. Lake Constance itself is very large. There is heavy traffic, but very few motorized boats are allowed on the water besides the ferries.

That day we visited one of the oldest churches in Germany, complete with walls and ceilings bearing ancient fresco paintings. On the other side of the lake, we toured a Baroque church, heavily adorned in gold. The effect is overwhelming. This contrast represents several centuries of artistic and cultural development. We finished out the day touring one of the oldest castles in Germany. This experience is one unique to Europe, basically because America is not that old compared with Europe.

The next day we broke camp and divided into three groups. Before I explain this, I really should put in something about German busses. They are amazing! They are big, comfortable, and they serve food. They beat anything I have even ridden on in America. Anyway, we all boarded busses, and after several more hours on the bus, each group stopped at their next destination.

After five hours we were now in the Alps. Each group represented a different skill level of high adventure. My group, the middle group, hiked for two days at over 1800 meters above sea level. The scenery is incredible. Imagine hiking through the opening scene of the Sound of Music. The camaraderie was even better. Staying in mountain huts each night, the group grew very close to each other, and we spent most nights singing until about 1:00 am in the dining area. This is the one area of Germany that is not densely populated. The only real inhabitants are farmers and huge cows. On this excursion, the only thing that went seriously wrong happened on the way back to civilization. We missed our bus and had to walk twenty or thirty kilometers to our Youth hostel.

When we met up with the other groups, we traveled by train to München, more commonly known as Munich. We stayed in “The Tent”, a place for sleeping that was essentially a large tent that we shared with about three hundred other people. It cost only DM 10 (roughly eight dollars) to spend the night. The showers allegedly had hot water, but by the time we got there, the temperature was about forty degrees. Plus, you have to share a shower with 300 people. But I count the entire experience as a positive one.

While in Munich, we visited the Glockenspiel and the Hofbräuhaus as a group. We also had the option to tour several of the other attractions of the city as a smaller group, such as the Olympic Village (next to the BMW factory), the German Museum (Smithsonian of Europe), the Nymphenburg Palace, the English Garden, and several cathedrals. We also managed to shop. We even found a Pizza Hut, which the Germans insisted we visit. My observation: no pepperoni is available in Germany.

Next we traveled to Dresden, in the former East Germany. The difference between West and East is remarkable. Whereas West Germany is a booming economic area with exceptionally clean cities, East Germany is still a sad reminder of Communist influence. Most everything is under construction. Dresden is also unique for its role in the Second World War. For five days, American and British bombers pounded the city with incendiary bombs, designed to start massive fires. Most of the city was reduced to rubble, and all surviving buildings have tops that are charred black. Most horribly, Dresden was not even a significant military target. The city was full of refugees fleeing from the advancing Russian army, and casualty estimates run as high as 100,000 civilians. The place is depressing, especially the site of a great Gothic cathedral destroyed during the attack, which is currently being restored.

At this site, the group joined hands in prayer at the construction area.

The group then moved on to Berlin, future capital of Germany. Again, you are able to clearly see the evidence of a people divided. We visited remnants of the Wall and the museum at Checkpoint Charlie. The surrounding buildings on the East side still bear .50 caliber machine gun bullet holes. During our visit, we also toured the inner city. Highlights included the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Victory Column, and the U-Bahn, or subway.

My favorite site in Berlin, however, was Potsdamer Platz, an area filled with malls, restaurants, and discos. The disco we visited, the Metropol, is one of the largest in Europe and offered a full laser show. We also toured several of the pubs and beer gardens of the city. Berlin is famous for some of its locally brewed beers, and we were allowed to sample many of them (the legal beer drinking age is 16 in Germany).

The entire group also spent the better part of a day touring the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen outside of Berlin. This was the most compelling place we visited in the three weeks. We walked through the iron gate, and around the bunkers where Jews, political dissidents, priests, and people who “didn’t fit” awaited their fate. We walked past the gas chamber where thousands were methodically exterminated in the name of “racial purity”. The Germans have worked extremely hard to put this period behind them, but they are also dedicated to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.

We were most grateful that they were willing to share not only the beautiful parts of their past, but also this tragic period as well. Their insights in this area were definitely unique.

Finally, we said good-bye to Berlin and boarded another bus to Düsseldorf, where we each stayed with a host family. Düsseldorf is a city comparable in size to Minneapolis. During this week, side trips were offered to the Duisburg Harbor, the Roman ruins at Xanten, the Cathedral at Cologne, and Belgium. We also had a cookout and finally, a going-away party.

I have never really been someone who misses home, or one who gets emotional when leaving somewhere. But leaving Germany and getting on the plane was both the hardest and the easiest thing I have ever done.

On one hand, I did miss home and all of my friends. But in Germany, I made lifelong friends that I do not know when I will see again. Plus, there was a feeling of independence in Germany. Either way you look at it, the experience was something even more than “once in a lifetime”. Many people never leave their home state. I can only say to you: don’t be one of them. The experience can change your entire outlook on life.

Currently, we are in preparation to invite the Germans to come back to visit us in the summer of 1998, and hopefully we will return to Germany in 2000.

If anyone is interested in joining the group, please contact me. You do not need to have any background in Scouting, and can be a boy or girl. We would be happy to have you. I can be reached at (715)835-8756 at night or send an e-mail to corey@eau.net. Otherwise contact Tim Scott at (715)248-7269 or on e-mail at gr8scottnr@aol.com.

— Michael Corey

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