After months of preparation and planning for our 40th anniversary exchange between KJS and Brüder Grimm Realschule in Bebra the KJS party finally set off on March 31. Sixteen students and four staff made their way down to Dover by coach and travelled through the night across northern France, Belgium, Holland and finally into Germany.
Arriving early in Bebra day one was spent getting to know host families and starting to explore the area. Then next day it was into school, with a tour followed by lessons in art and geography, and a chance for our students to learn a bit about German cities and regions.
A town tour was next on the agenda. Bebra is a small town, similar in size to Knaresborough, and the KJS party visited the ornate mosque and then met the newly-elected Bürgermeister (equivalent to the mayor) in the town hall buildings. A walk up numerous flights of stairs at the local church provided a fantastic photo opportunity. The evening was spent at the local bowling alley, a great chance to socialise with newly-made friends.
Thursday was a full day out in Erfurt, the capital city of Thuringia and the main city nearest to the geographical centre of modern Germany, with a stop en route at Philippsthal-Vacha, on the former border of East and West Germany. A part of the wall and the look-out towers are still standing, together with the former Hoßfeld print shop building, well-known when the country was divided as the border between ran straight through it. In Erfurt the group enjoyed an interesting and informative town tour, seeing the awe-inspiring Erfurt Cathedral, Krämerbrücke (a bridge lined with homes), and the 11th Century Erfurt Synagogue, the oldest standing synagogue in Europe.
The last full day in Bebra included a PE lesson and more local sightseeing. The evening saw a big celebration at school to which many notable people in Bebra, Hessen and all our host families and friends were invited. Mr Sugden flew out earlier that day and signed important documents relating to the exchange. The school band played and there was a look back over the 40 years of the exchange, set up by Mr Hemsworth, who was presented with a framed document declaring him an ‘honorary teacher’ at Brüder Grimm Realschule. Our German hosts had even arranged a balloon lift with postcards attached to spread the word about our long-running exchange.
The trip went by all too quickly and, as ever, our students had made new friends they were sorry to say goodbye to.