After a very long flight, that I sadly could not fall asleep on, we finally arrived to Germany bright and early at roughly 6 a.m. in Germany (which is midnight in Pittsburgh). This definitely messed with my body as I was fully prepared to go to bed but we had a whole day of fun activities ahead of us! Once exiting the plane we as a group went to get our luggage and then went to get on the bus to take us to our hotel in Augsburg.
Once arriving to the hotel we all got together in a small waiting room as our rooms where not ready yet, and then since our plane actually landed early we walked around the town for a little bit as we had time to kill. While walking around Dr. Feick pointed out the Königsplatz (which means “places of Kings” in English). This location was important to know as it is the tram and bus station, which are two of the main methods of transportation that we would be using to get around Augsburg. After visiting the Königsplatz we returned back to the hotel where we met Sonja, one of the organizers for the program from the University of Augsburg.
As a welcoming present Sonja gave us each a bag with helpful things inside, like bus tickets and a map that pointed out cool places to visit during the trip like the bowling alley. The bag given to us also had a little booklet that would soon become my lifeline through the trip. This booklet included the itinerary for the next two weeks along with contact information for all of the German student we would meet and basic phrases translated into German (along with how to pronounce them which became super helpful!).
Once getting all of our stuff together we then went on a city tour of Augsburg. On this tour we visited the Augsburg town hall. Inside the town hall was a hall decorated in gold. The hall was very beautiful and included beautiful detailed murals along ornate designs made of gold on the structure of the room. I found the hall to be very beautiful and inside the hall there was also a museum that described not only the hall but also the history of the town of Augsburg. Sadly all of the descriptions on the posters were written in German but I did find a plaque that was written in English. The plaque was written in English because it was actually from Dayton, Ohio and described how Augsburg, Germany was actually a sister city with Dayton, Ohio. I thought this was pretty cool and it was my first reminder of home and also my first reminder that I am actually out of the country and not in America currently.
After visiting the town hall we then headed to the Augsburg Cathedral and the statues outside of it. We found the statues outside of the Cathedral to be interesting as they were all acorns and that is when we learned that this is similar to a symbol of Augsburg and can also be found on the flag for Augsburg.
After visiting the Cathedral we didn’t have much time left so we visited a few more fountains and then headed to the Fuggerei. The Fuggerei was social housing complex founded by Jakob Fugger and allowed citizens of Augsburg to live there for a very small amount of rent as long as they followed the conditions. The conditions included being of Catholic faith which I found to be interested but made sense once we learned what rent meant for being able to stay in the Fuggerei. Rent for staying in the Fuggerei included a small payment of less than one euro every year, along with three daily prayers towards the living owners of the Fuggerei. The prayers were significant we learned as in the Catholic religion one can reduce their time spent in purgatory if there are prayer sent for them.
While the learning of the rent and conditions was very interesting I found the most interesting part of the Fuggerei to be their system to tell the houses apart. In the Fuggerei almost every house looks the same so as to tell them apart they had developed a system so that a black metal rod with a design at the bottom hung outside each house, and the design at the bottom of each rod was different. The difference in design was also significant as during the night, since electricity had not been invented, many could not always find their exact house so the designs at the bottom allowed those living in the Fuggerei to be able to feel out where they lived and get back home. I found this to be amazing to have come up with during this time period and a great solution to the problem in the Fuggerei. Also, another thing I felt surprising to learn about the Fuggerei was how its conditions to live there, rent, and structure had remained relatively the same throughout the over 480 years it has been around.
After visiting the Fuggerei we then headed to dinner where we got to meet more of the German students and get our first taste of traditional German food. At the dinner I had ordered the Jaeger Schnitzel which I found to be very delicious and it included Spaetzle which I had had before in Americana and which I found to taste even more delicious in Germany. Throughout the dinner we talked to the German students about their culture and I asked them about something I had noticed throughout the stay currently. I had noticed that there were many people that biked in Germany and the students confirmed to me that most of them use bikes or public transportation as their main method of transportation and that very few of them even own cars. This piece of information was shocking to me as my family owns three cars and we pretty much drive everywhere. After learning this and talking to the German students a bit more we left the restaurant and headed straight to be and most of, probably all of us, headed straight to bed after a having a very long, but eventful, day.