(An Englishman in Amoeneburg)
It is 40 years – I can’t believe it, 40 years! – since I visited Amoeneburg high school. I was
on an exchange visit from England, staying with Arnd Köpcke and his family. I was 17
years old, I could speak and understand enough German to survive, but everything around
me was new. It was comfortable and relaxing in the home with Arnd’s family, but the big
challenge for me was going with Arnd to high school – the only English person amongst
hundreds of German students.
So we set off for school early next morning, with me riding pillion on the back of Arnd’s
motorcycle. This was also a new experience for me. And German roads were new for me –
everyone travelled much quicker than in England! So I held on as Arnd drove the
motorcycle along the winding roads. After a while I could see a large hill up ahead – like a
Transylvanian mountain looming up out of the morning mist, and with a building like
Dracula’s castle on top. ‘Willkommen to Amoeneburg’!
After 40 years, I cannot remember details of the time I spent in the school. But I know I had
a good time and was made to feel welcome. The atmosphere was more relaxed and
easy-going than my school in England. I expected things to be more formal with stricter
discipline in German culture, but the opposite was true. This was a positive surprise. And
we met up with Arnd’s friends outside school hours, and went to discos at the weekend. I
remember Moni (who later became his wife) and other school friends – and of course I had
good times with his parents and younger sisters Astrid and Uta.
I am grateful that I had the opportunity to visit Arnd’s family and experience another
country and culture when I was 17. Sadly I forgot a lot of my German – I learnt Spanish
later instead because I lived in Spain for 15 years. But I still have a soft heart for Germany
and German people. And I always like Germany to win at football (except when they are
playing against England, of course!).
An Englishman, an Englishman in Amoeneburg…