Students Offer Viewpoint On Overseas Journey
By MARG JACKSON
Karli Flood, Justin Camara and Anastassya Zack saw plenty of castles, historic sites and met new friends on their Spring Break trip. Accompanying them, along with Mr. Megenney, were parents Theresa Langum, Karen Camara and Mr. Megenney’s wife, Debbie Megenney.
For the students, it was a chance to learn more about what they have so far only seen in history books.
“I like to learn about different cultures, how life is different in different parts of the world,” said Camara, a senior.
Flood, a veteran traveler with the EHS Travel Club, said students should join in.
“They should go, it’s different and new,” she said, adding that much of the cost can be offset through a variety of fundraisers done throughout the year.
Personally, she liked a previous trip to Portugal and Spain the best, as she got to learn more about her Portuguese heritage.
“I was really surprised about the cold weather,” added Camara. “It was snow in April.”
Flood, a senior, said sightseeing is always a highlight, getting to marvel over the beauty to be found. This trip, though, Camara said the stop at a concentration camp was the most “eye-opening” part, to learn what conditions Jews were forced to live in during the Nazi occupation.
“My favorite part of the trip was seeing the variety of architecture … the styles from different time periods everywhere you look,” said Zack.
This was the first trip for the junior, who definitely would like to go on another overseas journey.
“I wanted to go because I’d never left the country before and I was really interested in the amazing amount of history everywhere in Europe,” she said. “I think that this type of experience can really open your eyes to the way of the world and the ability to see new cultures and places is just amazing.”
All three felt safe traveling and said they were glad to be able to give a good representation of American teens on their trip. They also made friends with many in their group.
Some unusual notes, there was no ice in Germany and they had snow every day of the journey.
There are already six people signed up for the next excursion, and the three travelers from this year said it is well worth the money and effort put into getting there.
Over the course of the past five years George Megenney, Spanish Teacher, Academic Decathlon Coach and Travel Club advisor, has organized five educational trips to Europe for Escalon High School students. This year’s sixth consecutive spring break trip saw EHS students Karli Flood, Justin Camara and Anastassya Zack journey to Austria, Germany, Switzerland and the small principality of Lichtenstein over the course of 12 days of travel. Following is a ‘diary’ of sorts from the trip, provided by Mr. Megenney. A look at the trip through the students’ eyes can be found in related story.
After catching our flight from San Francisco to Austria our tour began right away and we found ourselves walking on the snow covered streets of Vienna, the former capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire ruled by the mighty Hapsburg family until the end of the First World War. Students were able to see impressive Schönbrunn Schloß, or castle/palace, former home of the royal family. They walked the ancient city streets and saw the buildings where Mozart and Beethoven composed music.
From Vienna the group traveled on to the Austrian town of Salzburg where salt mining helped to give the town importance. In fact, very near Salzburg there is still an operational salt mine which students visited. After suiting up in special gear, adults and students climbed on board mining transport carts and traveled deep into the interior of the mountains in Berchtesgaden, Germany, very near the Austrian border, where they learned how both modern and 19thcentury salt mining techniques operated. Floating on a small flatboat in an underground salt lake was an amazing experience for everyone as was sliding down several specially designed shafts.
Upon entering Germany EHS students made their way to the city of Munich, where a local expert walked them through both some of Munich’s medieval history, some of its 19th century history as well as some of its more notorious early 20th century history since it was the location where Adolf Hitler unsuccessfully attempted to begin a revolution in 1923 and where he later staged massive Nazi party rallies.
This was something that became utterly obvious when the group was taken to the former Nazi concentration camp in the town of Dachau where thousands of prisoners were held and killed during the Nazi era. Another expert local guide explained precisely how the camp operated and gave detailed explanations to students who were quiet and respectful in what amounts to a graveyard. The educational value of being in a place like Dachau, and learning the history of the Holocaust in one of the places where it actually took place is nothing short of astonishing in comparison to being in a classroom and looking at a textbook or watching a film.
After the sobering experience of Dachau the group made its way to what is perhaps the most beautiful castle in the world, the impressive Neuschwannstein Schloß in the snow covered hills of Bavaria. A long climb up mountain hills took students to the late 19th century castle built by the orders of King Ludwig II of Bavaria (known in the U.S. as the “Mad King” but in Germany as “the Fairy Tale King). After traveling to the quaint Austrian town of Innsbruck students made their way through the Alps and into both Switzerland as well as a quick stop into the small country of Lichtenstein where students had the opportunity to run up the side of an impressive alpine hill in order to get a better look at the palace of the royal family of Lichtenstein or opt for the easier walk to the city office responsible for distributing Lichtenstein passport stamps.
Once in the German speaking portion of Switzerland students were taken to the ancient city of Lucerne, home to a famous medieval covered bridge called the Kappelbrüke originally constructed in 1333, towers, castles and a beautiful lion carved into the rock on the side of hill. Swiss Army knives and Swiss chocolate were also quite popular attractions there.
As the tour began its final days, students wrapped up their time in Switzerland and once again entered into Germany through the famous Schwarzwald or Black Forest where they were given a lesson on the history and manufacturing techniques involved in making kuku-clocks. We made our way through the cities of Heidelberg and then Koblenz, took a cruise on the Rhine River where students saw numerous castles of all shapes and sizes, and then toured through the quaint town of Speyer. One of the benefits of accompanying these educational tours is that EHS students are also permitted to interact with other students who join the tour from across the United States upon arrival in Europe. On this particular trip, we toured with school groups from Pennsylvania, Illinois and Southern California.
The final day of the tour was no less interesting or exciting than the first. Our groups were taken to the former capital of West Germany, the city of Bonn, where students visited the Museum of Modern German History and were given a 90 minute guided tour by a Ph.D. in German history. The visit began with a detailed description of Germany’s postwar circumstances in 1945 and ended with its place in Europe in the present day. It’s too bad that students can’t learn about history and culture in this way every day as they were notably intrigued and interested in the things that they were hearing and seeing in the museum. After learning about the recent past students visited the birthplace of Beethoven and saw some of the instruments he played as well as the devices he used to aid in his hearing as his deafness progressed from bad to worse.
The final stop on the tour was the ancient city of Cologne where students saw the magnificent cathedral there. Our guide was quick to point out that most of ancient Cologne can no longer be seen because 95 percent of the city was blasted into rubble during the Second World War. The only remaining structure worthy of note left standing was the cathedral, which some energetic students saw fit to climb to the top, all 500-plus steps!
Escalon High School students and parents who are interested in coming along on similar future educational trips with Mr. Megenney are encouraged to visit the Escalon High School Travel Club website by going to escalonhigh.org, then clicking on “staff,” then on Mr. Megenney’s name and finally on “Overseas Trips.” Next year’s trip during Spring Break of 2014 has already been scheduled and will see students and parents interested in coming along travel to the lands “down under;” Australia and New Zealand. Megenney welcomes any questions or comments via his e-mail address at email@example.com.