GAPP Exchange in Calw, Germany
In 2018 Herr Antrim took some of his students to Calw, Germany as the first ever German American Partnership Program (GAPP) exchange. This post highlights the time they spent in Calw.
On June 2nd my journey to Calw, Baden-Württemberg with 9 high school students and another teacher from Edwardsville High School began. Traveling to Calw from the St. Louis area took almost 24 hours in total. At almost 11 pm we took off from St. Louis’s Lambert International Airport. We landed in Iceland around 11 am local time and took off for Frankfurt less than an hour later. Because I am who I am, I made a short video from the take off and landing of the first flight.
WOW Airlines: Room to Spare
On the first flight there was no one else in my row, which meant I could lay down in the row and no one cared. On the second flight we were given a free upgrade to the seats with extra space. The second flight only lasted a few hours, but it did give me a bit of an opportunity to film Frankfurt from above, which you can see below.
Arrival in Calw
The next day we went to our new school, the Hermann Hesse Gymnasium. Named after the famous author, who was born in the city, this school contains grades 5 through 12. It is one of two Gymnasiums in Calw. When we first arrived at the school, we were given a tour by two of our host students. The showed us around the school and pointed out the important things to know.
The school is split into two parts. One is older than the other, but because the new one was renovated more recently it looks newer than the older part. The part that I thought was interesting is that despite being built in the 1920s, this school has WiFi for the staff. Edwardsville High School was built in 1998 and won’t have WiFi access for the staff until at least next year even though it has been planned for at least 5 years.
Meeting the Oberbürgermeister of Calw
After our tour of the school, we were introduced to the Schulleiter (similar to a principal or a headmaster). He welcomed us to the school and introduced us to the Oberbürgermeister (mayor). The mayor then welcomed us as well and gave us a tote bag full of gifts from Calw and brochures.
A Walk Around Calw
After school I had a bit of time to orient myself with the city of Calw on my own. I wandered the streets taking photos and video of anything I thought was interesting. I didn’t find out what the things were until the next day when we had our official city tour, also lead by two of the students from the Hermann Hesse Gymnasium. Of course, that didn’t stop me from making a video out of that experience.
Hermann Hesse Museum
Our guided tour of Calw took us through Hermann Hesse‘s home town and explored his life. We started at the Hermann Hesse Museum where there are many artifacts of his life as well as an extensive collection of his works and their translations into many different languages. The museum is also home to a collection of art from local and area artists.
City Tour of Calw
After visiting the museum, we took a walk through the city’s historic center. This included many beautiful sights including the local church, the Evangelische Stadtkirche (Evangelic City Church). Below you can see the 3D city map in front of the church, which shows the city center from a bird’s-eye view.
In the evening after our city tour, my hosts decided to take us to Zavelstein, which is a smaller town on top of a mountain. First, we drove over the mountain to see where we would be eating dinner and made our reservation. We stopped near a very expensive resort just to park and then walked to the castle ruins nearby. Along the way I dropped my phone and cracked the screen in order to take the picture below. It wasn’t really worth it, but I feel required to post this photo, since my phone made the ultimate sacrifice for it.
After a quick stop at the castle ruins we went back to the top of the mountain for a quiet dinner at Wanderheim Zavelstein. The food was excellent and the atmosphere was very casual. We sat outside on the patio where the regulars enjoyed their evening meal.
On Wednesday after the usual classes and things that go with a school exchange trip, one of the teachers from the school took us (my colleague and I) to Baden-Baden. A city known for its spas and resorts, it is also home to a lot of rich people and places I can’t afford to visit. The city itself, however, is full of beautiful sites and I had a bit of time, so I compiled the best parts into a video.
On Thursday, we took the day off of school to head north to Heidelberg. This medieval city is famous for its university and the castle ruins overlooking the city, but what really sells this city, in my opinion, is the river and the view from above. I decided not to do the castle tour this time (I’ve done it twice before) and opted instead to film outside of the castle ruins and see more of the city. The results were put into a video and are below, as well.
Hirsau Abbey Mittelaltermarkt
On Fridays my host has a shorter day, as she only teaches one class. After that she picks up her grandson and hangs out with him until his mother picks him up in the afternoon. I spent a little bit of time working on some video projects and then spent the rest of my time playing in the sandbox with the little guy. After he left, we went to a nearby town called Hirsau. The town of Hirsau is known for its abbey, which is mostly ruins with the exception of the church. This makes it an ideal setting for a Mittelaltermarkt (medieval market). Taking a tour of the old abbey would have probably been really boring, but being there during the Mittelaltermarkt was awesome. We even got to see a couple of “knights” fight against each other.
Mittelaltermarkt Owl Demonstration
One of the highlights was the owl performance. I tried to film some, but I was told I can’t upload a video about him, because “who would come see the show if everything is already online”. While giving information about the owls, he handed them to people in the crowd. He allowed us to hold one for a while before he switched to a different owl and switched people. Almost everyone in the crowd had a chance to hold an owl for a bit. I took a few pictures from that, which I included below.
We spent our first Saturday in Germany in France. We took a car ride over to Strasbourg (not related to the village that made up the second half of my high school, Stewardson-Strasburg High School). This city belongs to a part of France that was taken and reclaimed by and from the Germans several times throughout history. For this reason, almost everything is labeled twice throughout the city. This includes street names, squares and more. The view from the top of the Notre Dame Cathedral is worth the 330 steps to the top. From there you can see almost the entire city of Strasbourg. I filmed so much in this city that I made two videos. One is dedicated to just the cathedral and one for the city.
On Sunday we went to Lake Constance (Bodensee). I remembered seeing a video from Sam Walton in his Life in Germany series and always wanted to go. When I mentioned it to our hosts and they agreed to take us. I was probably more excited than I should have been to go feed popcorn to monkeys, but it was fantastic. I would love to go back. If you don’t believe me, watch the video below.
Eventually we actually made it to Lake Constance. We stopped by a town called Meersburg along the lake for lunch. There we ate at a restaurant in a hotel called “Hotel Seehof“. We took a short walk around the marina and then continued on to Meersburg. We had an ice cream and took a walk along the pier. Then we took the ferry across the lake to Konstanz. I combined all of that into the video you see below.
After leaving Konstanz I took a short nap in the car and when I woke up we were in Switzerland. Our hosts had decided to take us to the Rheinfall, which is basically the Niagara Falls of the German speaking world. It is just over the boarder into Switzerland from Germany in one of the most confusing parts of the German boarder. Seriously, if you look at a map of this area, some parts of Germany are south of Switzerland. There is even an island of Germany completely surrounded by the Swiss Canton of Schaffhausen. Anyway the falls are pretty and I made a video for that, too.
Stuttgart Mercedes-Benz Museum
For the next few days we went to classes and did the usual school stuff in the beautiful city of Calw. On Wednesday we took a trip up to Stuttgart. It rained most of the day, so I didn’t do a lot of filming in the city. I made up for it with the filming I did inside of the Mercedes-Benz Museum. The museum is partly set up as a chronological series of rooms that display classic cars from each era and rooms for specialty vehicles of all kinds. At first I was concerned this might be a really boring museum, because some car museums are awful, but this was fantastic. All of the kids enjoyed it and some even had a hard time sticking to the time limit we set for them.
Baumwipfelpfad Bad Wildbad
We spent our final days at Hermann Hesse Gymnasium with our host families and enjoying the serenity of Calw. I enjoyed a few more dinners with new friends and the students enjoyed their time left in their host families. On Friday night we had a going-away party at the school. On Saturday my hosts and I made one last day trip, this time to a town called Bad Wildbad. It is a cute little town in the valley of the Enz river.
On the mountain above there is a treetop path (Baumwipfelpfad) that allows you to walk along the tree tops. There are informational plaques along the path as well as some obstacle courses for the kids… and me. At the end of the path there is a spiral that leads to an amazing view of the Black Forest and the area around Bad Wildbad. It was a perfect way to end our time in the Black Forest.