Meisenheim - August 1962

 Contents The Gallery College Trips Meisenheim 1962

"Interesting to see the 1963 magazine, especially Sue Cordle's article on the trip to Meisenheim. I'm absolutely sure Elaine must have told me the saga of the missed train, luggage and all, but I had no memory of it at all!  Anyway, attached is the only photo she had of it - I think the lady in the middle is the head teacher of the school they stayed at.

Tony Seymour

Susan Cordle, NK and Elaine Turvey

Susan's account:

Elaine Turvey and I set off for Meisenheim, Germany, at the end of August, to spend a month at a boarding school there. The journey was very pleasant as we travelled down the Rhine, and we eventually arrived at Meisenheim at about three o'clock in the afternoon, having had an all night journey.  Everything was new to us, for although it is a boarding school it is very different from ours. To start with it is very much smaller only just over twenty girls board, and over a hundred boys. The rest of the four hundred in the school are day pupils either living in Meisenheim or one of the many surrounding villages.

Meisenheim itself it not really much more than a picturesque village, typically German - smelly, with cobbled streets and friendly people.  German food is so different from ours, and at first we did not like it very much, but soon got used to the rye bread and other stodgy food, in fact everything except their famous "Wurst."  Something else we found unusual but soon got used to was school starting at eight in the morning - this meant getting up at a quarter to seven. Lessons were mostly quite interesting but we did not benefit much from the Greek! German boys and girls do not specialise in a few subjects as we do, but continue with all subjects up to the Abitur, which is the equivalent of our "A" level. And so they know a lot less about a lot more than we do. We were surprised that some people were still at school at the age of twenty-one, and that it was not at all unusual to be twenty when you left. School finished at half-past one, and from two o'clock onwards we had the day to ourselves, as did the senior pupils at the school. We found that as a boarding school it was much more free than ours, but this was probably because it was a lot smaller and there were pupils in the town who did not board.

Sport is not part of the school curriculum, but everyone is encouraged to do one afternoon's games a week. This included playing handball and other team games, and, while we were there, preparing for Sports Day. This, too, is very different from ours. Everyone takes part and has to run eighty metres, throw the " schleuderball " (a kind of netball on the end of a leather strap) and either long or high jump. Points are awarded not for the position you come but for the distance or time according to age. If you gain over a certain number of points you win a certificate, and we both succeeded in doing this.

Every year each form has a "Klassenfahrt" - an outing by the whole form, usually in the summer. The length of time varies between a day for the lower forms and a week for the Oberprima, which is usually spent in Berlin. These are good fun and it would be interesting to introduce them into English schools. We went to Frankfurt with the Obertertia, visited a stud-farm and then went on a typically German "Wanderung" for miles. We spent the night in a youth hostel in Frankfurt and the next day visited the zoo and airport.

When we were there they were still using the old school buildings. The new building, which was opened this Easter, was still being built, but we were shown round it. It is very modern and even has an observatory.  We were taken to Ider-Oberstein, the most famous town for precious stones in Europe, Anweiler and many other places. Everyone was very friendly, but always seemed to treat us more as guests than pupils.

We had quite an unforgettable experience on the way home - we missed the boat! We left Meisenheim in the morning, spent the afternoon in Koblenz and boarded the train at about six in the evening, thinking it would take us straight through to the Hook of Holland. At 11 p.m. we found ourselves in Amsterdam, only about fifty miles off course, and the train was not going any further! Our boat left the Hook in about three-quarters of an hour. It was then that we realised that someone had walked off with half of Elaine's luggage. So there we were in Amsterdam, with no Dutch money, having lost our luggage, nowhere to stay the night, and not able to speak a word of Dutch. We managed to explain to a railway official what had happened and he told us there was no hope of getting to the Hook that night. We did not really know what to do next, but managed to find a small hotel not far away where they spoke English. Our next step was to send a telegram home saying we would be arriving on the dayboat. However, it didn't turn out like that. The next morning we found that our tickets were only valid for the night-boat. And so we had the whole day to spend in Amsterdam. This sounds fine, but when you have very little money and still have not found your luggage, it is not a very bright prospect. However, we passed the time, mostly looking round book-shops, and that evening made sure we got on the night train! We spent a very uncomfortable night-half of the time on the stairs and the other half in the first-class lounge. Of course it was pouring with rain when we reached Harwich, but at least we were eventually there!

Susan Cordle

It is possible that the school was the Paul Schneider Gymnasium - Ed.