Heimkehr (‘Coming Home’) 

Unfortunately our time in Vienna has been so packed full of excitement every day that there was hardly any time to write the follow-up entry to our adventures in the Gesäuse National Park. We went rafting, went geocaching, did a full day of team-building, and built a raft! The raft-building was unfortunately on a very rainy day, but all of the students worked together to build an amazing raft (complete with a blue flag, courtesy of Hayden’s quick thinking). The small break of being away from the hustle and bustle of the city, tucked safely as a group in the mountains, was just what we all needed to grow closer together and catch our breath before coming to Vienna.

Vienna has been busy, but full of high-culture and fun. On the first day (Thursday), we spent the whole day in the Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens. We walked through the state rooms of the Austrian Emperors and Empresses, viewed the older-than-America orangery, and spent an entire afternoon in the oldest zoo in the world!

The next day the students took us on a tour through the inner city of Vienna. In the Gesäuse all of the students were assigned a partner, with whom they put together a small presentation about the Johann Strauß memorial, the Karl Cathedral, the Hofburg Imperial Palace, the Viennese Secession Building, the Demel coffee house and confectionary, the Jewish Holocaust memorial, and the Anker clock. It was a great tour, and an even better learning opportunity for the students and us teachers. We even stopped for some cake and original Viennese coffee in Demel and in Cafe Central. After the tour, we went to the Prater Stern amusement park. We rode the big ferris wheel together as a group, then the students had some free time to roam around the park and ride rides.

The following days were full of museums and high-culture experiences, including the Imperial Crypt, the Albertina art collection (including original paintings by Monet, Picasso and Warhol), the Hofburg Imperial Palace, and the Belvedere art museum (where we saw the most famous kiss in the world, Gustav Klimt’s painting ‘The Kiss’). This afternoon, the students had the choice of visiting either the Mozart House or the house where Sigmund Freud both lived and worked. All in all, tons of walking, tons of learning, and tons of fun. Our last evening together was full of laughter and tears, signing each other’s program magazines and enjoying some pizza.
Tomorrow we leave the hostel at 7:00 AM local time. We’ll arrive in Chicago (if everything goes as planned!) at 1:25 PM Central Time. Please remember that it will take a bit of time before all of us have gathered our luggage and made it through customs, but we look forward to seeing you all on the other side! Despite our full program, the students have missed you all a great deal. It should be a great reunion.
In the case that you are late or in the case of an emergency (and please only in case of emergency), you can reach Catherine on her cell phone at 616-206-5800. Otherwise, if your student has their cell phone with them, please feel free to route any messages through them. Catherine and the students will stay together the whole time. Bis morgen!

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