On Saturday, April 6, we took a trip to a small town called Tangermünde with our guide Sally. We met Sally at 11:00 to go into Stendal for shopping before going on the train from Stendal to Tangermünde. We looked in a couple of the shops, bought stamps for our postcards to send home, and then mailed them to go home. After shopping, we had time to stop for lunch at the Koffee Inn and then proceeded to make our way to the train station by our favorite form of transportation: walking. It took 15 minutes by train to travel from Stendal to Tangermünde where we met Michael our guide for the city tour. He was a good guide because he was excited about the town and knowledgeable of the surrounding history. We began our journey by walking through the town and just taking in the small town’s sights before the tour began. The town celebrated its thousand-year anniversary in 2009. Its name derives from the German word: mündung meaning mouth and the Tanger tributary of the river Elbe. Hence, Tangermünde was formed.
The city tour started at the Neustädter Tor Gate where Michael described the significance of the gate and how it would greet people allowing them to enter from the surrounding towns. On the gate, there were five eagles that represented (left to right) the Prussian King, the Empire, Tangermünde, the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, and that of Brandenburg. The black and white squares on the shield of the Empire eagle represent the death or conquer of the city (black) and its rebirth when they overthrew their conquerors (white). Behind the gate and off to the side was a restaurant that is set up as it would appear a thousand years ago. There was a “throne” seat, with wooden benches for seats at long wooden tables, they displayed several old artifacts from the medieval times, not just the decorations were medieval because Michael explained that sometimes they don’t give utensils when serving the food so you have to eat with your hands.
In 1617, a historic fire took place and out of the fire began a tall tale about a woman who was accused of setting the town on fire. Standing next to the Town Hall there is a statue of the woman called Grete Minde who supposedly set the town on fire because she was a witch. There was no proof either way of her innocence or guilt. The town hall was another landmark of Tangermünde it looked like a church but was nothing more than a town hall, and we were lucky because on the day we went there were several weddings. Tradition is that after leaving the town hall, the guests or well-wishers come and throw flower petals, rice, and seed at the happy couple. From what we have observed, the majority of Germans do not go to church on a regular basis so getting married in a church is culturally optional.
However, we were able to witness the beginning of a wedding ceremony at St. Stephen’s Church, which is directly across from the town hall. After watching the wedding procession into the church, and realizing that Michael could not show us the inside, we made a trip to an old school that was converted into a restaurant. We learned that children used to go to school on their sixth birthday regardless of when their birthday took place. There was a huge celebration for the first day of school and the children would receive a cone full of candy and school supplies as part of the festivities. The tradition still carries on today but the difference now (at least in Stendal) is they go to school in September even if it is not their sixth birthday. We then proceeded to walk toward the fortress protecting the city the riverside, and Michael showed us the prison tower as walked to the top of the wall that used surround city. The fortress helped to protect the city’s defenses and flooding from the Elbe River. The last significant building that Michael showed us was a building where the upper level was bigger than the lower. This seems insignificant but he further explain by saying that the lower level has to pay more taxes that the upper levels. So in order to avoid paying higher taxes the owners built the building with a smaller first level, a medium second level, and a large third level.
On the way back to the hotel, we all stepped out of our comfort zone when it came to trying the German fast food “döner”. We had the chicken döner, which contains chicken, salad (similar to cole slaw), tomato, pickles, and onions inside of a bread roll. It was similar to a gyro but the flavors and seasoning were different. Speaking of food, we have tried several different types of food to embrace the German culture. We had currywurst at the Mensa (college cafeteria), and a true bratwurst on bread roll from a street vendor.
Tomorrow the plan is to having a relaxing day before our first day in the school. We know that we are all in the same school and two of us will be in a classroom together. However, we still have not learned who our teachers are or our respective grade levels. We are all a little nervous and apprehensive about our “first” day of school.