Exploring Germany with Bach, Mendelssohn and Alexis Mattison ’19

Exploring Germany with Bach, Mendelssohn and Alexis Mattison ’19

Bicyclists in front of a church

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During the 2018 January study-travel trip to Germany, Music History and German Studies students explored cultural, historical and political sites. Dr. Mirko Hall and Dr. Siegwart Reichwald explored politics and music, respectively, with this diverse group of Converse students. Their travels took them to Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden where they discussed composers Johann Sebastian Bach and Felix Mendelssohn, as well as exploring sites associated with the Cold War.

Music Education student Alexis Mattison ’19 shared her first-hand experience on this life-changing trip; discussing everything from her fear of flying, to the incomparable food to walking the streets where Felix Mendelssohn once walked.

Learning to FlyStreet in Germany

“This past January, there were two study abroad trips offered: one going to Paris and London, and the other going to Germany. I already faced a huge dilemma: which one would I choose? I had always wanted to go to Paris but the Germany trip focused mainly on the music of two of the greatest composers: Johann Sebastian Bach and Felix Mendelssohn, and the political situation Germany experienced during the Cold War. The choice was extremely difficult, and I changed my mind multiple times. But, the Germany trip won out and I am so glad it did. As a music major, being able to walk the same ground as some of the most famous musicians, of the composers whose pieces I play, was unbelievable.

Traveling to Germany was my first major trip outside of the United States and it would be my first time on an airplane, something I was terribly afraid of. Even though I was excited about finally going to Europe, I was also dreading it. I even had nightmares about it.

The day ultimately came when it was time for us to go to Atlanta to catch our plane. When we arrived, I saw a plane take off and started bawling because I was so scared. But I was determined to not let my fear ruin such a great experience.

I was determined to not let my fear ruin such a great experience.

Fast forward ten plus hours and we arrive in Germany! The view as we landed was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. We traveled to many places while we were in Germany, including Leipzig, Dresden, and Berlin. The days included walking tours of the city and multiple music performances, which I thoroughly enjoyed and was always impressed by. We had lots of free time, where we were able to explore Germany on our own. Some local friends of students on our trip showed us some of their favorite spots as well.”

Walking Through Culture

“Three things that I loved about Germany: the cathedrals, the food, and the architecture. On just about every corner there was a cathedral or some sort of beautiful building that had so much detail, even the restaurants! I would sometimes ask our tour guides if they ever got used to seeing such amazing architecture on a daily basis. I know I wouldn’t. The cathedrals were breathtaking, both inside and outside. Alexis Mattison and Siegwart ReichwaldYou could tell how long a cathedral had been in existence based on the color it had turned (oxidation at its finest), but once you stepped inside it was a whole other story. The interiors were amazing shape and the paintings on the ceilings were bright — not dull like I expected. Every single corner of all the cathedrals we visited had detail, whether it be a painting, design, or a sculpture. Pictures do it absolutely zero justice. It’s something you have to physically go see.

The food was to die for. Since I came back from the trip nothing has satisfied me. I always compare the food I have here to what I had in Germany. Even the street vendors had such amazing food, and it was cheap. I felt adventurous. I tried every single thing I was offered and tried other people’s food as well.

Our professors planned everything so that the major assignments, like presentations, would be due before the trip. They wanted us to fully experience the German culture and be able to explore freely, without having to worry about assignments. Because we were able to explore and given some free time, I was able to meet up with my family member in Berlin. My cousin, Emily, was born and raised in Berlin; she took me around to her favorite places, and showed me places that one might not see on a guided tour.

I am so very thankful for the opportunity I was given. Going to Germany was the start of what I hope to be many, many more travel experiences to come.”