Students in Year 10 and the Lower Sixth have not long returned from this year’s German Exchange trip to Tübingen. Having played host to pupils from our partner school, Geschwister-Scholl-Schule, in June, the Birkenhead students could not wait to visit their exchange partners in the quaint university town just south of Stuttgart.
As always, an exciting and varied programme had been planned for us by our hosts, beginning with a thrilling basketball game with local top-flight team, the Walter Tigers, Tübingen. We were given a taste of life at a German school, attending English and Economics lessons on Monday, and we were given a guided tour of the School by the Headteacher, Herr Schall, followed by a scavenger hunt in the city centre.
Tuesday was a packed day, starting with a drive onto the edge of the Swabian Jura plateau for a tour of Lichtenstein Castle, still part of the estate of the Duke of Württemberg. In 1519, the castle’s owner, Duke Ulrich, was exiled from his land, and legend has it that he hid in the limestone caverns of the Nebelhöhle, the next stop on our tour. The final visit of the day was to the Ritter Sport chocolate factory where our students learned how chocolate was made, created their own chocolate bar recipe, designed the packaging and, of course, sampled the chocolate!
On Wednesday, we visited the ethnology museum at Schloss Hohentübingen for a look at the role of sport in antiquity. The fantastic weather we had all week allowed us to eat lunch outside on the banks of the Neckar, with Flammkuchen, Käsespätzle and Schnitzel proving popular choices. The afternoon was spent learning how to form and bake the Swabian-style pretzel at Bäckerei Gehr. Thursday saw us take the train to Stuttgart where we visited the Mercedes-Benz-Museum, followed by lunch and souvenir shopping in the city centre.
On our final day in Tübingen, we were taken punting on the Neckar and learned a little about how Germany respectfully remembers the darker days of its past, looking at monuments in the city centre and in the main cemetery. There was time for some final purchases – and ice cream – before we headed back to the school to say ‘auf Wiedersehen’ to our hosts. Thanks to our enthusiastic host families and expert organisation by Frau Brauer from the Geschwister-Scholl-Schule, everyone arrived home with stories to tell, new friendships made and cultural experiences to remember for years to come.
By Mr M A Turner - UCAS Coordinator and German Coordinator at Birkenhead School