N. Shinder

Hamburg Exchange 2006

On a Friday morning in October, 10 UCS students and 5 SHHS students met at Heathrow airport. We had all met our exchange partners already when they came to London 2 weeks earlier. This did not stop everyone in our group being nervous as we didn’t really know what to expect. When we got through to arrivals at Hamburg airport we met the families who we would be staying with for the next 5 days. Whether we liked it or not, we knew we had a whole weekend to look forward to with them. On my way back I was doing my very best to make conversation in the car and when I couldn’t think of anything to say I looked out of the window and took in the sights and sounds of Hamburg.

When I got back to the house, we had a quick dinner of 5 different types of bread and about 20 types of meat, and then we rushed out to the tallest building in the city, St. Michel. This was a huge cathedral that had an observation deck at the top. We made our way up on the lift where we had an amazing view of the city and especially the port which was lit up beautifully. We went back home and I collapsed onto my bed in my room full of England flags which my family had put up in honour of my stay.

I was reluctantly woken up on Saturday morning to have a quick breakfast, which was mainly made up of the leftovers from dinner, and to shoot out with my exchange partner, Melanie, to Jacob’s exchange partner’s house via Mike’s exchange partner’s house. When we got there we went down to the back of the garden, which backed onto the River Erste, and all six of us got onto two canoes. We started off at a leisurely pace as we got to terms with how to navigate our boats away from the rocky banks of the river. We gradually sped up as we worked our way down the river and eventually we stopped at a park where we had a packed lunch and played some football. After a couple of ours we packed up and made our way back. We made it a race which finished with about half a metre left in it. I got home and watched the Bundesliga highlights with Melanie’s dad and told him everything I knew about English football, and in particular Charlton. After another big dinner I went to bed, ready to wake up early again on Sunday morning.

On Sunday morning, we went out to the fish market at the port. As soon as we arrived, I was hit by the noise that contrasted the quiet suburbs where I was staying. Right next to where we came in, there was someone who was chucking packs of pasta into the crowd and a bit further on there was someone selling three eels, four pieces of salmon and a piece of cod for 10 Euros. After we had walked through the hundreds of stalls in the market, we headed off to a place nearby called dialogue in the darkness. This was a place where you get a walking stick and you have to make your way through a park, a street and order drinks at a bar, all in complete darkness. It was an amazing experience but also very trick as I almost fell off a small bridge and got separated from the group twice. On our way back we stopped off for lunch before going off to see the sights in Hamburg. We returned to St. Michel to see it in the day time and another tower, Tele Michel which was a more modern version. We also went to the town hall, Lake Auster, which is separated into two parts, the planetarium, and the Hamburg equivalent of Kew Gardens. We arrived back in time for dinner and then I went to bed early knowing there was another early start the next day.

Monday was the first official day that all the students could meet up together for an expedition. We were going to Lübeck, a small town near Hamburg, which is known for its marzipan. Everyone met at the same station, nearest where we were staying, and chatted about the weekend we had had with our exchange partners and their families. We took the train to the Hamburg main station where we took another train on to Lübeck. When we got there we met a guide to show us around the town underneath the Holsten Gate, which is right opposite the station. We were shown around until we got to the Kohlmarkt where we were told to buy lunch and meet back in half an hour. Most people pulled out the packed lunches that they had taken from home but Adrien, Will and I decided to try currywurst from a stand nearby. We let Mr. Underwood take a picture and then dug in. We were then allowed to go for a bit of a shop on Breite Strasse. We all spread out and went off in twos but every single person visited the Niederegger café, which is famous for its marzipan. We all met back at the Kohlmarkt again and we were split into groups of three and we were given sheets of paper with German words on them. We were told to find the things on our card and meet back at quarter to four to catch our train back. I was in a group with Alex and Nat and we were struggling to understand what two of our words meant. We had already fetched a newspaper and our second word was an ice cream cone but we didn’t know that at the time. We ended up asking people on the street and in the end we came to the conclusion that it meant a “fork”. We ran to the huge shopping centre down the road and spent ages looking but eventually found and bought a fork. We looked at the last item on our list and we didn’t have a clue what it was. We asked people on the street and most people said that it was a name of a painting. We asked where we could buy a picture of it and we spent ages looking until Alex picked up his phone and when he put it down he looked shell-shocked as Mr. Underwood had just informed him that it was quarter to four already. We told Nat but he decided to go back via a back street where he thought we could buy a picture of the painting. Alex and I said we weren’t going to go but he had already run off and so we had to run back to Mr. Underwood to tell him. It was a nervous few moments waiting for Nat to come back while we looked at our watches as we saw the chance of missing our train becoming more realistic. Nat arrived at around ten to four and we promptly sprinted back to the train station. Miraculously we caught are train with two minutes to spare. It was a long journey back to Hamburg after collapsing into our seats with exhaustion but it was still a great day out.

Tuesday morning was another early start as all the students and their exchanges met at the same station to go to the Hamburg main station and then on to Berlin. When we arrived we all walked out towards the town hall where we took a lot of photos. We then went on into the centre of town to see the remainders of the Berlin Wall. We went back the other direction after a few more photos, towards a museum about the Second World War. We moved on after that to a nuclear war shelter that was really amazing to see. We went on after that to a shopping centre where we could buy souvenirs and something to eat. After about an hour we decided to head back to the station where we took a train back to Hamburg.

On Wednesday we went to the school in the morning. We had no idea what to expect as it had been a surprise project we were going to be working on. When we got there, we were split into groups of six. We were then told that we had three hours to go wherever we wanted in Hamburg and we had to take 8 pictures and make a story of a “German – English encounter”. This was always going to be a tricky task and it was hard to know where to start. We started off, in the end, by going to the shopping centre and took a few pictures. Eventually we settled on the idea of using Schnappi, a toy dinosaur, and a soft dog that we named Rover. We took a few pictures and went back. We were allowed an hour to do any editing that was required and then we had to do our presenting. It was a nervous experience seeing our pictures going up on the screen but it all turned out well. After we had all finished we had a quick look around the school and then we went off towards a Greek restaurant for dinner. It was a really tasty dinner and then we went off to one of the exchange partner’s houses where we enjoyed our last night together.

Thursday morning was the day we had to leave Germany. We turned up to the airport and waited to see everyone else turning up. E-mail addresses and phone numbers were taken and then we said goodbye. While we were waiting to board, Mr. Underwood handed out wristbands to us all and gave us a vocabulary test! It was a really fun trip that everyone enjoyed and I’m sure everyone’s German benefited as well.