This year marked the 25th anniversary of the exchange between Lee’s Summit R-7 schools and Walram Gymnasium in Menden, Germany. Fifteen students and three teachers spent nine days with host families in Menden before embarking on an adventure through central Europe.
The student travelers consisted of Jake Nippert (Lee’s Summit High School), Kristin Powell (LSHS), Matthew Morawski (LSHS), Matthew Johnson (Lee’s Summit North High School), Geena Conrad (Lee’s Summit West High School), Cale Harms (LSN), Emma Johnson (LSW), Logan Steele (LSHS), Rabin Poudel (LSW), Jesslyn Jakobe (LSW), Alexander Stangohr (LSW), Julia Munsell (LSW), Amy Liu (LSHS), Shayla Smith (LSW) and Jerrica Patterson (LSHS). German teachers Rachel Benson (LSHS) and Julie Hume (LSW) were accompanied by Kendall Mellem, who founded the exchange program 25 years ago.
While in Menden, the group went on many excursion to surrounding cities. In Cologne, students climbed to the top of the famous cathedral and ate lunch at cafes along the Rhine River. The group toured the Borussia Dortmund soccer stadium, home to one of the top national teams in Germany. In Muenster, the bicycle capital of Germany, students quickly learned that pedestrians do not always have the right-of-way. The group wandered through a maze of vendors at a local market and tasted some of the best strawberries and asparagus that can be had in Europe.
Students spent an entire day visiting the “must-sees” of Berlin, including Potsdamer Platz, the Berlin Wall, Check Point Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate, the Jewish Memorial and the Memory Church. On the way to Prague, the group made a short stop in Dresden, where they walked the city center and soaked in the Baroque style of the royal palace, opera house and the Frauenkirche, a Protestant church. After exploring the city center of Prague, the group crossed the Charles Bridge into the Old Town, Franz Kafka’s home which towers over the city.
Next, students and teachers had the unique chance to visit both Auschwitz I and II, which was both sobering and eye-opening. In Krakow, the group visited Oscar Schindler’s factory, which saved the lives of many who had been sent to the Auschwitz camps. The last stop was in Budapest, and departing the bus, students and teachers were greeted by the warm sun, the serenity of the Danube and the smell of Linden flowers. There is a World War II memorial to the Hungarian Jews, featuring cast iron molds of actual shoes of victims. Half of a day was spent in hustle and bustle of the New Town, Pest, followed by a quick bus ride across the river to the top of Buda, the historical city center. Atop the bluff, a quick visit to the Matthias Church was followed by a scenic stroll to the Liberty Statue, where visitors get a panoramic view of the whole city.
Preparing for a long journey home, the final afternoon in Budapest was spent at the world-renowned Gellert Bath House followed by a boat ride down the Danube.
The trip to Germany was paid for by the students’ families.
Teachers from Lee’s Summit and Germany are pictured (from left) Reinhardt Fringes, Kendall Mellem, Julie Hume, Michael Lein, Rachel Benson and Petra Rohlaender. Reinhard, Michael and Petra are teachers from Menden who often come to Lee’s Summit with their students.
The Lee’s Summit group in front of the Cologne Cathedral.
Students in front of Wawel Castle in Krakow.