Our last week was extremely busy, filled with trips to Frankfurt to visit different financial offices, the ROLF BENZ production facility and showroom, and finally the Maulbronn Monastery.
In Frankfurt, we had a busy schedule which started off at the European Central Bank with an assembly of students from near and far. It was an interesting presentation which gave the history of the Euro, the current conditions of the economic crisis, as well as some other information about the central banking system. This particular stop during our trip interested me because I am interested in different types of currency from around the world. I started to collect coins when I visited Germany three years ago. The gift shop at the ECB had a lot of coins which were no longer in circulation due to the Euro. I took this opportunity to find as many interesting coins from around Europe and add them to my collection.
We then had a brief break for lunch, so I grabbed a bite to eat. Our next appointment was at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. We arrived, went through the security check, and headed to a conference room where we were given another presentation about the history, procedure, and current conditions of the market. Once we were finished with the presentation, we then had the opportunity to view the trading room. It is much different from the NYSE. It doesn't have much commotion and there are only a few employees monitoring the system.
Our trip to Frankfurt ended with a visit to a firm specializing in current economic conditions. We had a great presentation from a specialist who spoke about the Euro crisis, when and how it happened, as well as answering any questions our group had regarding the future of the Euro. Very interesting remarks.
The following day, Tuesday, I had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with a very special person. She had taught me German in high school and had kept in contact with me throughout my years at Penn State. Pretty much a neighbor, Frau Taylor had yet again traveled with the Tamaqua students, as I had three years prior, to Landau for an exchange program with the local school. Before heading to Germany for the summer, I made an appearance at my former high school, Tamaqua, to give the fourth years German students an idea of what I had been up to the last 3 years.
Mostly speaking about college interests and my upcoming trip to Germany, we had a great discussion that lasted the duration of the period. So needless to say, it was great to see a familiar face so far away from home! It was at this point in my trip that a little homesickness had started to really set in, but after spending the day with Frau, I felt a lot better. She arrived at the train station around two o'clock in the afternoon. I wanted to give her an idea of what Pforzheim was like, so we decided to talk a walk around the city. After Frau insisted, we took the long walk to my apartment so she could catch a glimpse of what my living conditions were like during my time in Pforzheim. I told her, "It's quite a long way," but she remarked, "Aaron, I walked the Great Wall of China, I think I can handle a few blocks." So, we took the trek up to my apartment and then circled back along the river back to the center of town where we ended up getting a late lunch. It was really great to see her and to discuss all sorts of things that have been rolling around in my head since I had been in Germany. It was definitely a highlight of the trip, and Frau if you are reading this, I will be coming back to the school to talk about my trip with the students!
The next day was my first exam, so I spent the previous night studying for my European Integration course final. Following the test, we had a field trip to the Maulbraunn Monastery located just a few miles outside Pforzheim. If your interested in reading more about the monastery, the website is http://www.maulbronn.de/relaunch/e_800/html/kloster.php - From the images and information I gathered from our tour, it is the best preserved medieval monastery complex in Europe. It is situated on the outskirts of Maulbronn, Baden-Württemberg, Germany and is separated from the town by fortifications.
The monastery was founded in 1147 by the first Cistercian pope, Eugenius III. The main church, built during a transitional period from Romanesque to Gothic, was consecrated in 1178. Along with the church were other buildings such as the infirmary, refectory, cellar, auditorium, porch, south cloister, hall, another refectory, forge, inn, cooperage, mill, and chapel. After our tour, we had an opportunity to enjoy a traditional meal of the monks,Maultaschen, which are Pockets of noodle dough that are stuffed with various fillings such as spinach, meat or cheese. While Maultaschen appear to be an imitation of Italian ravioli, there are many legends surrounding their origin. It is said that in the 17th century, monks from the Maulbronn monastery were looking for a way to to hide meat from God during Lent, when they were supposed to be fasting, so they mixed the meat with spinach and herbs and hid the mixture in dough pockets, thus creating the “Maultaschen. It was an excellent meal!
The next portion of my post will consist of our visit to ROLF BENZ the following day. It was one of my favorite places to visit because we got to see the production facility and the showroom which consisted of a light lunch before we had the chance to view the finished products. The pictures speak for themselves. Top notch quality product that lasts decades when well kept. The price for their standard couch is also top notch at around 2,000 Euros.
I will follow up with my overall thoughts regarding my first 7 weeks here in Germany as well as the Pforzheim program and experiences I enjoyed.