Visit to Jena and Weimar, Germany, August 2007
As part of my Open University degree I spent a week in the Friedrich Schiller Universität in Jena, Germany. I could say that this was the high point in the four years of studying.
I arrived in Jena about five in the evening of Saturday the 4th August 2007. I then went to the Hotel Steigenberger to check into my room. It was a very nice hotel and my room was quite luxurious. Not what I expected as accommodation for the summer school. Then I went to the Schwarzer Bär Hotel (Black Bear) which is directly opposite the university to check in with the Open University people and find out which group I would be in. I returned to my hotel to get ready for the evening meal which was in the Schwarzer Bär. The people from the university in Jena were there to greet us and then we had a very delicious buffet meal and the opportunity to get to know some of the other people attending the week's school.
At about 10 pm I went back to my hotel with a few others as I had been travelling since 3 am from Stansted Airport and was very tired. We had to be at lessons at 9 am next morning, Sunday. Every morning in my hotel there was a breakfast buffet with every imaginable kind of food. It was so tasty and I am afraid I put on a little weight during the week. It would not be a good thing to be near so much temptation on a regular basis!
The hotel was by a shopping centre, the Goethe Galerie. http://www.steigenberger.com/en/Jena
Each day was filled with lessons in the mornings and outings in the afternoons. We also could pick tutorials for whichever part of German we felt we needed help. One evening we had a lecture about East and West Germany that was very interesting. Another afternoon we visited a newspaper office, the Ostthüringer Zeitung. On Sunday evening, our first day, we went on a walk around the city, we were in small groups and the weather was so pleasant and warm.
One evening I went with some others up the Jen Tower. It is about 24 stories high and at the top there is a viewing platform and we were able to see the whole of Jena. I have included some photos from the top of the tower.
On Wednesday we spent the whole day in Weimar. This is the city where Goethe lived. First we went on a walk around the city centre looking at interesting buildings, including the original Bauhaus which is now a museum. We also had a tour of Goethe's house but we were not allowed to take photographs and after we came out I was talking to the guide and forgot to take some pictures of the outside of the house to at least have something. Goethe was a traveller as well as a poet and writer. He brought the first Gingko tree back from the Orient which we saw.
After lunch we were free to go wherever we chose in Weimar. Some decided to visit the Concentration camp at Buchenwald but I did not want to go because I know all about the horrors and did not want to personally experience a camp.
I went with a small group of others to the Bauhaus Museum in the middle of the town and saw an exhibition there. Then we had coffee and cake in a cafe, sitting outside watching the life of Weimar. The day was damp after having 3 glorious days but it did not dampen our spirits. We wandered around looking at the shops until it was time to go and get the train back to Jena.
The next day, Thursday, after our classes, in the afternoon we visited the Schott Glasmuseum in the Schott Villa in Jena. The museum is in what was the private house of Otto Schott. Part of it still shows his private rooms and the rest is the museum. There are many innovative displays which show the uses that glass has been put to over the years.
An evening of entertainment had been planned for our last evening in the Schwarzer Bär and then on Friday morning we had our last lesson and took leave of everyone, exchanging emails and phone numbers with those we had befriended. I made a very good friend in Jena and we have kept in contact since then. As a parting gesture we were given a very generous packed lunch to take on our journey home.
Every minute of our week had been planned and many of us felt that we had been there for ever because we packed so many things into the time. I felt quite sad saying goodbye because in that short time I had become attached to the place but all good things must come to an end. I still look back on it as one of the best weeks of my life. I am certainly glad I got the opportunity.