Day 12: Rothenburg and wrapping up 

It was our last real day in Europe and we had been prepping students for our return: “Don’t take too much (or any more!) money out so you don’t get stuck with Euros.” “Stop buying things if you’ve run out of room in your luggage.” It’s been quite a learning experience to watch and talk and interact with young travelers. There are those who are fearless and seem to experience the most of each city (even if their rambunctious behavior usually has them easily targeted as a tourist). And there are those who you wonder if they could tell you the name of the town we are in. 

It’s made me think about how I would have been as an international traveler at 13 or 14. I vaguely remember taking an 8th grand band trip to Washington DC., but basically I only remember visiting the Holocaust museum and some (what I’m sure I considered riskè at the time) bus games. My memories and impact of a trip I made to Venezuela with a high school Spanish class only a couple years later are much greater. The difference between travel at 14 and 16 seems small but significant.

Either way, I’m proud of the students for expanding their horizons, maybe being put in some uncomfortable situations, and hopefully learning either more about the world around them or themselves.

The difference of style in chaperones was really interesting also. For example, one teacher felt horrible when a student tried to exchange money in the Czech Republic (where we were only going to be for two days) but then reported that the employee had told her the minimum she could take out was about half of her spending money for the entire two weeks. She didn’t know better to say no, or walk away or find one of us for help, and so she just did it. In the scheme of things, money that could be traded back in the next country for appropriate currency, didn’t seem like an emergency to me, but more like an unfortunate (resolvable) learning experience. The other teacher really anguished over the student being taken advantage of, which is of course awful, but all I could think was, it’s not like she was or pick pocketed or in danger or anything…? It’s just been a very reflective experience: on both my teaching and traveling style, and figuring out how and when they merge. 

We headed into Rothenburg for the last day, retracing some of our steps the night watchmen had taken us the evening before and seeing new sights along the way. We walked up the ramparts of the medieval fortress and all around the perimeter. 

  
At the main gate of the original town, there is a “one man hole” for when the gates were closed and locked at night to keep out strangers. If you made it back after curfew you were in trouble. 

  
You had to a) get the night watch and attention somehow from where ever he was patrolling, b) convince him you were a local of the town and c) pay a hefty fine. Then he would open the small one man gate that you would have to climb up through and over.
We also saw a famous cathedral (I forget the name) that they’d been building but then needed more room, except it was already up against a main street into town. They just solved their problem by building over it and it’s now jokingly referred to as the only “drive through church in Europe.” 😉 

  
It really was an amazingly living example of a medieval town (a unit we had just studied in social studies this year). I knew that people had lived like this, but I didn’t connect that there would be towns still with such well preserved evidence. People unable to read in medieval times had to look on the buildings for signs and sculptures depicting the services they would find. Want a butcher? You’re on the right corner! 

  
Interested in music making? This would be your area of town. 

  
We walked along the cobble stone streets (only paved for an emperor’s visit in 1300, and even then it was only one main street because stone was so expensive) to the central fountain 

  
where we were released for free time and lunch. After a morning of strolling side streets and a “second breakfast” of coffee and the local treat “schneeballs” (think fried pie dough and powdered sugar),

  

  
I met up with the other teachers for lunch for the last time , and then we drove out of town a ways back near our hotel in the country as yesterday, the lead teacher had announced a change of plans and that we were taking the students to a water park for the afternoon. 

Some of the chaperones (🙋🏻 oh hi) initially were less than thrilled with the idea of an afternoon of 40 students at the hot water park when the change of itinerary was announced the day before, but it all worked out. It turns out the “water park” was a 5-10 minute walk for our hotel and it was lovely. It included a  large grass area with a beach volleyball court, snack kiosk, toddler splash area and a large swimming pool with a big slide on one end and diving boards on the other. Oh, and a “day pass” cost $3 euros! 

  
Several of the teachers weren’t interested in swimming so we camped out in the shade, watched students’ bags, and reflecte about the trip. I even was able to run back to the hotel to square away some of the next part of my solo trip and come back. The kids had a great time and we returned for our last meal together. Their flight out was at 10am the next day, but the airport was about two hours away. To get there by 7-7:30am (to then get 40 kids checked in, luggage checked and through security and settled at the gate) Nadia said she wanted to leave by 4:30am. Needless to say, we would not be sitting down for breakfast, but the hotel was given us “breakfast boxes” to go. 

We had an early dinner and sent the students all up to shower and pack, as well as ourselves! 3:30 wake ups would come really early. 

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