14 November 2008

Neuburg

Last weekend I traveled to the city of Neuburg, which lies due south of Eichstätt by about 13 miles. The story, though, is not in the fact that I visited this city, rather how I arrived to it. A train connection to Neuburg does exist, but I opted to reach the city in a more self-accomplishing way: by bike.

Immediately after publishing the last post in the university's computer lab on Saturday morning, I mounted my bike and began pedalling out of town. Bike routes are well marked throughout Germany, and bike touring is a popular activity; therefore, I was not concerned with getting lost or being directed onto a major highway. In any event, I did bring a map with me. The following picture was taken soon after leaving Eichstätt's urban area. Much of the route to Neuburg consisted of dedicated paved trails like this one.



After the tiring ride up and out of the valley in which Eichstätt lies, the land opened up and the forests gave way to farm fields. In the next picture you can see a portion of the route that shared the path with a country road.



As the route twisted over the Bavarian landscape I passed through several small villages and communities. The following is a view of one of the larger communities through which I rode. The church steeple remained slightly concealed by some of the late morning fog.


The next photograh is a view of the same town, but from the other side, and was taken as I was leaving.


A little ways past that town I saw a small solar power plant to my left.



Soon after I came across an abandoned fortress with crumbling walls and overgrown courtyards. If you closely at the yellow sign before the bridge you'll notice that two speed limits are given--one for trucks and one for tanks.



The rolling landscape then continued and spread to the horizon. Every now and then another village would appear in the distance.




Most of the time while I rode on the roads I felt safe, as there was little passing traffic. In one instance though, as I was pedalling up a steep hill, I was overtaken by a medium-sized freight truck. It didn't help in this instance when I realized, a moment after I could hear the truck approaching, that my handle bars were slowly coming out of the bike's frame. I swerved onto a narrow shoulder of the road, which was conveniently placed where it was for a farmer on his tractor to reach his field, and heard the truck roar by. After tightening my handle bars in place, I continued on my way.
With only a few kilometers to go before I reached Neuburg, I passed through a couple denser communities. Here's a view from one of them.



On the edge of the small town the paved road ended, but the bike route continued onto a dirt trail through a forest. The trail led me past a couple lakes and meadows, and then turned onto a ridge overlooking the Danube River. From here, the trail hugged the ridge and stayed parallel to the river. I knew I was close to my destination because the full name of the city is, after all, Neuburg an der Donau, Neuburg on the Danube.


After the trail took a bend, the trees seemed to part and I finally glimpsed my first view of Neuburg.


In all, the ride to Neuburg lasted about two and a half hours. I think I could have easily shaved an hour off had I already known the route and not stopped so much to take pictures and check the map.

Even though it is a name, and names are normally not translated, the meaning of Neuburg in English is New Castle. The picture above probably lends you an idea as to the origins of that name. Neuburg is larger than Eichstätt with about 27,000 residents, but with its Baroque architecture strongly resembles its northern neighbor. Here are some additional views in Neuburg's old town center.




After roaming the old streets of Neuburg for a sufficient amount of time, I found my way to the city's train station and waited for the next connection to Ingolstadt. In Germany, where public transit is a way of life, bringing one's bike on an inter-city train is no hassle at all. I arrived back in Eichstätt in the early evening. For the rest of the weekend I relaxed and prepared for my courses.
All of my classes are going very well, at least in my opinion. My Monday courses are fairly easy to prepare for. In U.S. Current Events we simply discuss topics and, whenever possible, I try to find group work for the students to do. Each student must also give one 15-minute presentation in the semester. Last week one student gave his presentation on the financial crisis. This coming Monday a girl from France will talk about holidays in America, a refreshing topic after last week. After she finishes I plan to cover anything that I feel is important and ask how some of the same holidays are celebrated in the students' home countries. Then I will break the class into groups, give each group a large sheet of butcher paper, and instruct them to draw images associated with a certain American holiday. Before class ends they will have to present their drawings and explain why they drew what they did. I've found that the less the the course feels like a lecture from me, the more enjoyable it is for the students.
On Monday afternoon I have Debate and Discussion. I'm excited for the up-coming class because it will be our first group debate. I have divided the class into two teams and, following the Lincoln-Douglas debate format, they will hold an one-hour long debate. On one hand I am interested to see how well they perform because I'm not certain how well I've taught them what to do, but on the other hand it seems like a fairly basic concept to me and I think they will do okay. The negative team will take on the affirmative team's resolution of, "Public surveillance is an unacceptable abuse of personal freedom." The second group debate, to come in two weeks, will deal with the topic of environmental protection.
On Thursday, in American Culture, we discussed education and religion in America. I was very pleased by the positive response I received from the students over my presentation. Especially interesting to them was the social hierarchy in high school and the several stereotypical high school social groups, like jocks, nerds, and emo kids (I'm trying to keep the information as up-to-date as possible, so if you don't know what that last group is then you probably haven't been in high school in the last ten years).
One other thing they found very interesting was that Ameican school students always begin the day with reciting the pledge of allegiance. Because German class was my first class of the day for two years in high school, our teacher required us to learn how to say the pledge in German. When I said it out loud to my class, in German, they were very amused.
For the remainder of the class we talked about religion in America, and covered topics such as the Bible Belt, God in everyday life (for example, "In God We Trust" on our currency), and even tent revivals.
A half hour later came U.S. Current Affairs. This class went well except for one incident in which a student almost launched into a full argument with me. The topic for the day was the war in Afghanistan. I had made a comment over the production of poppy in the country, the resulting drug trafficking, America's policy on destroying the poppy fields, and how this hinders the relationship between the American troops and the locals, who look to the poppy production as a major source of income. One student, who must be close to 30 years old if not over and who seems to have an anger management problem, interrupted me and started to say how I was wrong. Fortunately, the rest of the class was on my side and the man stopped trying to push his point. I was very relieved by this, especially because I was beginning to wonder if, perhaps, he was in fact somewhat correct. Either way, after that incident I was ready for the class to end.
I had plans to visit Dylan this weekend, but those were canceled when he fell ill. Hopefully I'll find some other activities.
One more important part to this post, I need your help. Next Thursday in American Culture we are going to discuss American traditions and customs. We will discuss holidays as a separate topic, so I need to find several traditions and customs not connected to any holiday. So far, I'm coming up short. The best one I've thought of is the tooth fairy tradition, I'm fairly certain that doesn't exist in Germany, but I need several more. What are your ideas? Remember, just because it is something that seems normal and commonplace to you, as an American, does not mean it won't be received as strange and exotic to Germans and other Europeans. They can be small customs from everyday life or complicated traditions. Please leave your ideas in a comment on this post, and I thank you in advance for your input.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Nick,

I'm just now getting around to reading your blog entries. I read the most recent one, and I'll get to the previous ones soon. I'm enjoying traveling with you.

I don't know if the following will work as examples of American traditions, but how about the standing for and singing of the national anthem before the start of sporting events and mascots at American universities? Do European universities have mascots? Any Native American mascots in Germany? :-)

I'll think about more examples and send them if I come up with any.

Regards,
Uncle Herb

Nick O. said...

Uncle Herb: Great to hear that you are enjoying my posts, and thanks for reading them. Singing the national anthem was something I thought of early today actually, and yes, I think I can use that. Mascots for universities don't really exist over here; maybe I can work that in too somehow. Thanks for the help.

Uncle Herb said...

Nick,

Here's another sports-related American "tradition": tailgate parties. Take a look at Wikipedia's entry for "tailgate party". I thought these things were sports related only, but take a look at the Santa Fe Opera 2007 Opening Night tailgate party video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMe0-59HdfU

or

http://tinyurl.com/6hmdwh

It's my understanding that opera is big in Germany. If so, your students might enjoy this video, too.

Regards,
Uncle Herb

Anonymous said...

Nicholas,

I know I'm late getting these to you, hopefully you can use them.
* making a wish and pulling on the wish bone of the turkey or chicken
* the hanging of mistle-toe
* prayer before meals
* bosses day etc etc
* dirt stock car races
if I can think of anymore, I'll email them to you.

Lieben sie sie
Vati-O