Friday, July 28, 2017

A Laughing Eye and A Crying Eye

In Germany, when people make a big change, like moving to a new job or a new city, they often say they do it "with a laughing eye and a crying eye," meaning they're looking forward to the new thing coming but will miss what they're leaving behind.

Today is the last day of the school year here in Bavaria (I know, I know, so late!). For us, it's an even bigger "last"—it's the last day any of our kids will be in elementary school. *sniff*
Class T-shirt

I've written before about aspects of the educational system here in Germany I don't like (the sorting of kids after fourth grade). And I've written about parts I think are absolutely wonderful, like the rite of passage of starting first grade.

For the most part, we've been really happy with the elementary school. And now we're facing another milestone: the end of elementary school.

After fourth grade, kids are split into tracks: college prep, vocational and a middle route that could lead to either one. That means the kids--friends and neighbors--are more or less torn apart and sent to different schools. *sniff*

So on to "the end." There was a school assembly, to which parents are invited. The kids put on two plays, sang songs, danced. The fourth graders received little presents made by the first graders they'd mentored this year (another idea I love!).

Like every year on the last day, the tall, soft-spoken, less-than-one-year-until-retirement principal assigned the kids three important pieces of homework for summer break:
  1. Play, every day!
  2. Sleep in, every day!
  3. See your friends, every day!
The kids cheered like it was a rock concert, and my heart swelled, knowing we'd never be there for that again.

And then the assembly ended with everyone waving and singing a goodbye/good luck song to the fourth graders. 

Some kids cried.
Some parents cried (stop looking at me).
Some teachers cried.

If that's not a sign of the wonderful community in our elementary school, I don't know what is.

I'm sure next year will be great, but I know from experience that things in the upper schools are a bit different. The student bodies are bigger and more anonymous; there's less involvement by the families.

But nothing can take the mostly lovely elementary school memories from my kids or from me. I'm so glad I got the chance to be a part of this community.

All pictures taken by me.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Felsenlabyrinth (The Rock Labyrinth)

On Friday afternoon, one of my kids and I took a spur-of-the-moment jaunt with some neighbors out to Wunsiedel to the Felsenlabyrinth (Rock Labyrinth). 

It's basically a hike through a labyrinth of immense boulders. We weaved around them, climbed over them, and sometimes even crouch-walked under piles of them that would crush us in a second with the slightest shift of the ground.

The boulders are made of granite, formed by erosion. The locals recognized the uniqueness of the area and began setting up paths to turn it into a tourist attraction in the late 1700s. Goethe, for example, visited in 1785.

Many boulders are carved with quotes from the early 1800s. This rock, as big as a two-story house, had a longer text. I only photographed the last couple of lines, carved in August 1817.

"Lebe recht, Wanderer! Träume glücklich und stirb ruhig. Du verlierst deinen Traum, und gewinnst Ruhe!" – Live well, wayfarer! Have good dreams and die peacefully. You lose your dream, and gain tranquility*.

The entire area is now a nature reserve. One surprise was the rare bioluminescent moss we happened upon.

In some spots, it felt like we'd stumbled onto a movie set. Lord of The Rings, anyone?

This is clearly an Ent bending over to shove the boulder, right?
I'd highly recommend a hike through the Felsenlabyrinth if you're ever out that way.

There's also an amphiheater for the Luisenburg Festspiele right next to the Felsenlabyrinth, and they incorporated the landscape into the stage. We got to see Cats, and my ten-year-old has been humming the songs ever since.

Luisenburg Festspiele stage
For more professional pictures of the Felsenlabyrinth, see this link.

Had to prove I was there, didn't I?

*Translation by me. Feel free to comment if you think I translated incorrectly. ;-)
All pictures by me.