During Thanksgiving Break, when many Hotchkiss students return home to feast and spend time with family, 12 members of the boys varsity basketball team traveled to Germany for a week of athletic and cultural exchange.
The trip was supported by the school and organized by head coach Yassine Talhaoui and German Program Director Marc Dittmer, with special assistance from Director of International Programs David Thompson.
The boys wrote blog posts each day about their visit. Here are excerpts from their blog entries:
Day One – Tavien Kemp '18 and C.J. Mitchell '21
Excited to be here in Germany. Everyone is definitely struggling with the jet lag, but it was a good first day. We checked into the hostel and within 10 minutes half of the team was asleep in the lobby just waiting for our rooms to be cleaned.
Then we headed out to DoyDoy, a Turkish restaurant, for lunch. I think everyone tried some sort of new food. A couple of us tried Ayran (a cold and salty yoghurt beverage) because Adria suggested it. That's probably the last time we listen to Adria.
We took the German subway to the hockey game which was pretty cool except for when Souleman almost didn't get on. During the first period of the game almost everyone fell asleep because we were so tired from the flight. The game got really exciting, especially once Souleman figured out the patterns of the cheers and got us all to go along when the home team scored. The atmosphere in the arena was amazing. There was never a dull moment. Always someone cheering, clapping, or banging on a drum.
Everyone was ready to crash as soon as we returned from the game.
Day Two – Miles Brewster '20 and Adria Amabilino Perez '18
Dear Family and Friends,
Today was our first full day in Germany. After a long night's sleep, we woke up at 7:00 am and went for a three-mile jog along the river. It was pretty cold but after a little bit we warmed.
After running and eating our breakfast buffet, we went to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) where we got some more snacks and got on a bullet train to head to Cologne (at a speed of approx. 180 mph). When we arrived in Cologne, we had some free time to eat and walk around. The center had lots of shops so we enjoyed looking around.
At 3:00 we met at the cathedral. We were all very impressed by its size and structure. We were amazed that it took 600 years to build. Then, after an introductory video, we visited the inside. It was really amazing and beautiful, with incredible windows and statues. We were a bit let down that we couldn't climb it (533 stairs to the top of the "Dom"), but it was an awesome visit nevertheless.
After that, we ate at a traditional brewery which served amazing food! (Important note from Mr. Talhaoui and Mr. Dittmer - we are NOT drinking real beer (instead, we are drinking a popular drink, called Malzbier - a very sweet non-alcoholic soft drink that is brewed similarly as beer but with minimal fermentation).
Day Three – Max Grossman '21 and Szilveszter Palvolgyi '19
Dear friends and family,
Today was a really fun day. After breakfast we got into the van and headed to our first practice in Germany. We hadn't touched a ball in a few days so we were all a bit rusty, but we got what we needed to get done to prepare us for the game.
After practice we went to the city center of Frankfurt for lunch. We We had bratwurst or curry wurst with fries which were very good.
After lunch, we had the opportunity to explore the city freely for a couple of hours. Nearly the whole team stayed together, and due to the fact that the weather was quite chilly we spent most of our free time at a large mall. There were several stores which we were able to check out, one of the highlights was the official store of the Eintracht Frankfurt soccer team.
After our free time, we were ready to depart for our first game. We played TV Lich, an Under-18 club basketball Team. Their court was about an hour away from our hostel. The team was really hyped up for the game and luckily the momentum and energy came through the whole game. After a slow start we took control of the game towards the end of the first quarter and we never handed the lead back afterwards. The final score was 92-63.
However, our day was not over here. We were invited to dinner by the home team and enjoyed a traditional German dish named Wiener Schnitzel with some French Fries.
The whole team is very excited and looking forward to the upcoming days.
Day Four – Souleman Toure '19 and Elijah Stone '20
Dear Family and Friends,
To start off the day, we all ate breakfast and drove to the school in Bad Homburg. We attended a gym class for 7th and 9th graders and ran some fun basketball games for the kids. Then, we showed the kids what our practices normally look like. Despite shooting poorly, the alley-oop dunks and Souleman's through the legs layup made up for it.
After gym class, we split up into three groups and attended English classes. We told them about our life at Hotchkiss and got educated about Germany and Germans' preexisting ideas about the US (including excessive supersizing and Target).
We had lunch at the school and then went on a walking tour of Bad Homburg. Our tour guide brought us to the springs that the city is famous for and we tried the water. After all the hype, we certainly expected it to taste better. We explored Bad Homburg on our own a bit more and then made our way to the gym for our game.
We got a good win in front of an excited crowd of over 250 members of the school community. After, we visited an Italian restaurant that was inside of the complex where we also played, convenient and delicious. We ate with the team we played, and it was interesting to talk to them about basketball and how their lives in Germany compare to ours in the United States.
Day Five – Kyle Jenkins '20 and Ryan O'Neill '18
Dear Family and Friends,
Our day started at 7:15 with a team breakfast before our departure to the train station. Our train traveled from Frankfurt to Weimar which took about two and a half hours. We utilized this time wisely to catch up on some sleep as at one point each member had fallen asleep.
After arriving, we walked to a Turkish restaurant called Munzur Kebap Haus. We all ate Döner sandwiches and fries. The sandwich consists of kebab meat, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and a garlic yogurt sauce.
Then, we took a bus to Buchenwald Concentration Camp. It was a very powerful experience for all of us and gave us a greater appreciation for what we have in our lives. After walking around the camp in smaller groups we came together as a team to discuss what our immediate reactions were. We all agreed it was an important experience that we can bring back to the United States and learn from. After waiting an hour for our bus to come, we headed back into Weimar for some free time to explore.
Around 5:45 we all met at Jagemann's for Thanksgiving Dinner. We shared what we were thankful for and enjoyed some traditional German dishes. The meal wrapped up an eventful day as we begin our journey back to the hostel. We are all looking forward to a good night's sleep as we prepare for our big game tomorrow night.
Day Six – Dubem Anwunah '20 and Tommy Lewis '19
Dear Family and Friends,
As this amazing week is coming to an end, we started our morning with a team breakfast at 8:45. At around 10:45 we began a tour of Römerberg with just a map and no coaches. Due to construction and the setting up of the Christmas Market, we ran into some navigating troubles early. After communicating with each other and some of the locals, with no one to translate, we were able to get back on track and finish the tour. Not only did the tour give us an insight into German culture and history, but it also served as a team chemistry building opportunity.
After the tour we met back up with the coaches, in order to receive our lunch money. From there we split into two groups. As we went our separate ways, 5 members of the team returned back to the Zeil shopping centers. While others went to Jamy's Burgers.
Those of us who went to Zeil made a return to Zeil 51 where we had currywurst with fries. After another delicious meal, we went to the restaurant next to Zeil 51 named Konstifood. We went to try their churros with chocolate dip. The churros were amazing which resulted in us purchasing two more baskets.
We then migrated to myZeil, which is a massive shopping mall complex in the shape of a vortex. We spent a large chunk of our time going in and out of stores, including an electronic store that occupied an entire floor. At the store, Saturn, Souleman was testing out a speaker by playing music with his phone. In result, he blasted music, which was heard by everyone in the near vicinity. On our way back to the hostel, we ran into Coach Talhaoui and ended up going to a nearby grocery store.
With everyone back in the hostel, we headed out to our game at 4:45. The NBBL team we played, Eintracht Frankfurt/Frankfurt Skyliners, was a well organized and fundamentally sound team. They played a competitive game which resulted in an 8 point halftime lead. In the second half we played a well-rounded game which spread the lead to 20. 65-42 was the final score and we were rewarded with pizza.
As the trip is wrapping up, everyone is reminiscing on the tremendous week we've had and is looking forward to enjoying one last full day in Germany.
Day Seven – Marc Dittmer
Viele Grüße aus Deutschland!
Unsere Zeit in Frankfurt und Umgebung kommt ihrem Ende zu. Our time in Frankfurt and the surrounding area is coming to an end. Tomorrow will bring our return journey and along with it a very, very early start.
Today was another eventful day. It began, as most days, with a solid team breakfast in the hostels dining room. Brötchen (always delicious, sometimes warm crispy bread rolls) have become popular among the boys. Topped with meat, cheese, or Nutella they are hard to beat. After breakfast, we piled into our VW people haulers and headed out to Gelnhausen to play against the local basketball club, BC Gelnhausen.
It turns out Gelnhausen was once host to a post war US military base, whose one-time commander was none other than Colin Powell. About 100 kilometers away from the form East German boarder the base at Gelnhausen and the approximately 10.000+ US troops once stationed there were part of the strategy that protected the west during the time of the cold war. All of that, only to say that we finally played in a gym with a real hardwood floor. It was the base gym adjacent to the old barracks, which have since been turned into medical offices, among other things.
The game went well and provided learning opportunities for both teams. All players collected solid time on the court. In the end the Bearcats prevailed with a score of 92-43. After the game, an opposing team parent, with connections to Springfield, Massachusetts, helped organize another round of Döners for lunch with a handful of players from the opposing team. The kids were great and engaged each other in conversation about the pursuit of life, liberty, and basketball.
From there we headed out to the Eintracht Frankfurt soccer game at the Commerzbank Arena. We arrived with time to spare and the kids found another opportunity to eat MORE food before we headed to our seats. The first half provided little excitement as both teams struggled to find offensive traction. The stadium cheers were loudest when scores from other games were announced and the BVB went up 4-0 against their opponent Schalke 04, an unpopular team in this neck of the woods.
The second half was not unlike the first with the notable exception that a goal was scored by the opposing team. The Eintracht Frankfurt team was unable to muster any solid chances and the game ended 0-1. The most interesting development during the second half was the comeback by the Schalke 04 team, which scored 4 goals in the second half to finish their game in a 4-4 tie. I guess we got tickets to the wrong game.
We returned to the bus and headed out to Klein-Gerau to enjoy dinner and some time with Coach Talhaoui's family. And what a dinner it was! Enough to feed two Hotchkiss teams. The boys and the coaches did their best to please our host, by eating as much as we could, but in the end, we only mustered up a JV performance. That being said, one member of the crew did take a liking to the cheese cake.
After dinner, we jumped into our busses and headed back to our Hostel. We met as a team, talked about highlights of the day and the trip and the logistics of the coming morning. We reminded the boys to be good, pack, and meet us in the lobby at 5 a.m. Yikes!