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Monthly Archive for May, 2014

Brugge

Evan DuVall
Saturday, May 31, 2014

Today began with our last breakfast in Brussels before heading off to our final destination, Paris!  But before heading to France, we would make one more pit stop in Belgium.  After loading our new bus and a short 2 hour drive, UW-Oshkosh was now in the city of Bruges.  Bruges is a beautiful, historical city located in the north western region of Belgium.  When we arrived, the entrance to the city was packed with hundreds of other tourists seeking to see the sights and wonders within Bruges.

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Along with our original tour guide, Paolo, we met up with Dirk, who would show us around Bruges and go over its many facts and history.  Dirk began the tour with explaining how the city of Bruges is considered a medieval city with most of its buildings and landmarks dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries.  Dirk told the group about how there were seven gates that were located around Bruges and four are still standing today which is very rare for older cities.  And what is most interesting is that the majority of the city looks the way it did back in those centuries.  The city appears as if you are walking back in time.

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Not only is Bruges known for its historical establishments, but the canals that run throughout the whole city.  Like Amsterdam, all the canals intertwine which makes Bruges very popular for tourists to take guided boat tours.  All the canals lead to the main harbor or port which is what gave Bruges is economic importance.  The port is one of the largest in Europe.  This harbor was open for international trade and it gave the city much wealth back in the early 15th-16th centuries.  But late in the 18th and 19th centuries, Bruges became less economically stable due to not having a specific industry to offer.  The city was not able to compete economically with other cities in Belgium.  But Bruges soon found its niche, tourism.  The tourism industry is Bruges main source of income with 3-4 million tourists that visit annually.

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After our tour ended, we picked up something quick for lunch before heading off to France.  Although it was sad leaving Belgium and saying farewell to Prof. McGee and Paolo, you could tell everyone was getting pumped for our final destination to Paris!

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Kara Fameree
Friday, May 30, 2014

​Today was the 12th day on our European Business Travel Seminar. We have spent the last three days in Brussels, Belgium and sadly tomorrow we will be leaving this lively and vivacious city. Since it was our last day to explore the capital of Belgium, the group tried to fit as many activities as we still could. We had a late wake up call, which was nice and had another delicious breakfast downstairs in our hotel’s dinning area.

The transportation that the class took today was the subway, which is always an experience. After a little difficultly with some students not being able to use their public transportation cards we all finally and successfully got on the subway to get to our first museum. We were in luck today and the two museums that the group was touring were right next to each other, so that cut down on travel time. The museums were connected with a huge archway, which we learned about during our first tour, was created with only one arch but the people of Belgium didn’t like so it was blown up and three arches were built in its place. The museum was called the Royal Museum of Armed Forces and Military History, and it consisted of more than 10 centuries of Belgium and worldwide history. The exhibition can be explained in stages, first it showed how Belgium came to be and how they gained their independence as well as how they helped others gain independence. Second would be Belgium during the Second World War and the invasion of the country, it showed what would be the fate of the population and also covered what the war was like outside the borders of Belgium. Third would be the four years of daily suffering, as well as the waiting and boredom for the soldiers. Fourth was the four years after that, which included famine and denial of liberty with absence of news. And finally the exhibit showed the birth of the 20th century, which included political, social and economic consequences of the conflict. The museum consisted of remarkable objects such as well-preserved uniforms, suits of armor, firearms, crafted swords, vehicles and airplanes. Our knowledgeable tour guide took us through the exhibition and answered all of our questions; the fact that I found most interesting was what the colors represent on the Belgium flag. The three colors are red, yellow, and black. The red shows the blood of all the soldiers that lost their lives fighting for Belgium’s independence. The yellow represents the wealth that they Belgium people had. And the black represents the mourning of their dead.

After our very informational tour we had a quick hour break for lunch and socializing. We then began our tour at AutoWorld, which is a vintage car museum. We didn’t have a tour guide for this museum but got the privilege to listen to an audio guide, where we learned that the museum holds around 350 vintage European and American vehicles. The ages of the cars range from the 19th century to the seventies. It was interesting to see what an old automobile looked back then because it much different than how they look now. To see the 1930 version of the Bugatti was so fascinating, today I would consider it to be a timeless car and back then it was even more beautiful. Our time at AutoWorld was short but educational; we then headed back to the subway that took us to the main square in Belgium where we shopped for there famous chocolate and from there called it a day.

I grabbed some dinner with friends and packed! We travel to Paris tomorrow, which is our last stop on the Travel Seminar.

Brussels

Mark Chevremont
Thursday, May 29, 2014

After a good night of sleep, everyone was ready to go and explore Brussels. We had breakfast at our hotel and everyone seemed to be excited that our hotel offered Belgian Waffles. After breakfast, we started with our first of three stops: the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate, also known as the Musee Du Cacao Et Du Chocolat. We were able to learn about the history of chocolate, where cocoa beans are harvested, the process of how chocolate is formed from the cocoa bean and of course some samples of chocolate. We were then given a demonstration from a chocolatier on how to create a Belgian Praline and other chocolate flavored molds. After watching him create the Pralines we were able to sample some and everyone wanted to go straight to a chocolate shop and buy some Belgian Chocolate! Unfortunately for them, chocolate would have to wait because we had to go to our next stop: The Atomium.

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Taking the subway (or as they call it in Europe, “the metro”) we arrived at The Atomium. Once we saw The Atomium we all forgot our desire to go and buy some chocolate. The Atomium is a structure based on the model of a metal crystalline molecule. It was constructed to be the main pavilion for the 1958 World’s Fair hosted by Brussels. It was meant to symbolize faith in prosperity and progress in Belgium. Once completed it became a national symbol for Belgium and is seen as Belgium’s Eiffel Tower. We were also able to learn about architecture in the 1950’s while in The Atomium and how architects controlled everything of the project, even the furniture that went into the building. Eventually people became more specialized and the architects were able to just focus on the design of the buildings. We had to wait to 30 minutes to take the elevator to the top of The Atomium, but the wait was worth it because we were given a beautiful view of Brussels at the top! Coming back down we enjoyed a quick lunch at the foot of The Atomium, and then went off to our last stop for the day: Mini-Europe.

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The Mini-Europe Park is located right next to The Atomium. Mini-Europe is a park where they have scale models of some of the most historic sites around the European Union. We saw Big Ben, The Eiffel Tower, The Leaning Tower of Pisa, and Seville all in one day! We learned more about the countries and industries that make up the European Union. We wrapped up our day by having a group dinner at a restaurant by the suggestion of our tour guide Paolo.

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Brussels

Olivia Johnson
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

After leaving the European Commission we walked back to our hotel to meet our tour guide for the evening, Joe. During the first few stops of our walking tour Joe gave us an expedited education about Belgium. He stressed to us that Belgium does not have one language, but three different languages dictated by geographic region. In the northern part, Flanders, the citizens speak Flemish which is the same as Dutch. Although the two are the same grammatically the pronunciation of some Flemish words and phrases are different than Dutch spoken in the Netherlands. In the southern portion of the country French is spoken. Lastly, in the eastern part, German is spoken. The city of Brussels itself is bilingual. On nearly everything, including signs, advertisements, and even uniforms, Flemish and French are represented. The city is separated into lower and upper sections due to the 40 meter elevation difference in the city. The lower part consists of merchants and traders while the upper part is banks, insurance, palaces, and government buildings.

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The next stop on our tour was the Grand Place where there were many lavish buildings with gold trimmings. The entire square was constructed in the 5 year period between 1695 and 1700. The older homes in the city have a crests above the doorway which represents the family that lives in the home.

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Directly off the Grand Place was a glass covered walking street. Inside were chocolate, hand bag, and jewelry stores. The structure was constructed in 1847 and originally was used by the wealthy people of town to walk from their residential area to the Grand Place so they didn’t have to be exposed to the weather or the poor parts of town.

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We then walked through the train station to get to the upper portion of the city. The train station itself was very nice and clean compared to other train and public transportation stations we have traveled through. Once out of the train station we saw beautiful views of the city from a balcony. We then began our journey back toward our hotel, stopping at various shops and locations to view the culture of the city. Our tour guide was not only very informative about the history of the city and country, but also told us of common faux pas and gave general tourist advice.

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Visit to European Commission

Haley Lindstrom
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

This morning, we boarded the bus and made way towards Belgium. While we really enjoyed our time spent in Germany and its lovely cities, we were ready to conquer yet another country. Once we arrived in Brussels, we had a quick lunch and then proceeded to our visit to the European Commission.

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We began our visit with the completion of a security check of all of our bags. Gladly, we passed the test and moved forward with the adventure! Next, we were taken into a room that displayed a massive timeline of the European Parliament events throughout history. Our tour guide, who was incredibly knowledgeable in the subject, led us into a small classroom where we would be given a short lecture.

The group learned that the European Commission is comprised of a Commission President and 27 commissioners, each representing a European state and focusing on a given area of policy. The commission is responsible for the following: initiating new legislation, guarding of the treaty (defending the European interest), politically implementing strategic goals, and negotiating international trade policy. We learned that the European Union includes 27 countries, those in total creating a population of 510 million citizens.

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We all agreed that learning this information about Europe’s parliament was highly interesting and beneficial to our studies as business students. We felt as though the visit to the commission provided us with a greater sense of global awareness, as most of this trip has, that will only prepare us for successful careers in the world of business.

Moselle

Pete Johnson
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Waking up this morning in Cochem, Germany was different than the past few mornings.  The Hotel Zehnthof is a quaint and somewhat romantically elegant establishment located on a small hill with the typical German narrow alley-like street.  The friendly staff, possibly the owner(s), was quick to assist with any needs that arose.  In addition to very nice and clean rooms, they provided us with a wonderful breakfast to send us off on a good day.

We boarded the bus with our belongings and travelled about 1km to the other side of the Mosel River where we exited the bus and walked steadily and tirelessly uphill about 1.6km to the amazing Reichsburg Cochem Castle.

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While at the castle, we learned some great history and viewed many fantastic exhibits that were designed and/or built in the past four centuries.  Some include: furniture, paintings, and knight armor.

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Due to the French invasion in the 17th century (1689), portions of the castle were destroyed.  In the 19th century (about 180 years after King Louis XIV caused the destruction), a wealthy Berlin businessman, Louis Ravené, decided to buy the ruins and rebuild the castle in 1868.  However, he decided not to restore it to its original Romanesque style and condition. He instead decided to hire architects to create a Gothic type theme for the castle that could serve as a summer vacation home for his family.  He originally purchased the damaged fortress (for about €500) and the rebuilding of the structure had cost millions of €.

The tour guide was very pleasant and spoke very good English.  At one point, she pointed out a “secret” door that led to a passage way.  Indicating to the group, she explained how to open the door by “rubbing” or “stroking” the engraved portion of the door depicting a picture of a woman.  Doing so released the lock mechanism to the door allowing for an individual to use their fingers to grasp the side corner of the door and pull it open.  To the amazement of the group, it worked.  However, the tour guide was just having some fun.  She actually staged the fictitious door opening and was doing so by activating a secret pedal-shaped lever towards the bottom of the door near the floor (sort of out of sight from most people in the room).  I was able to maintain a less than revealing look while she did this.
How funny!

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After walking downhill a shorter route (about .8km), we boarded our bus and headed down the highway towards Bernastel-Kaus, Germany.  While traveling, we noticed many more mountainous hills with lots of remarkable vineyards.

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The beauty and elegance of the land is certainly inviting in this land of wine-making.  As we continued, two more castles could be observed in the distance.  Additionally, a “double-bridge” was seen as we passed nearby.  Trains travel across it on the top while motor vehicle traffic utilized the lower portion.  According to our trip coordinator, Sven, this type of bridge is one of only three in all of Germany.

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We then continued our bus journey through several more wine villages that portrayed romanticism with its river and scenic landscapes.

We also passed what appears to be one of the most “steepest” mountainous hills in the country, possibly the world, according to Sven.

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Once we arrived in Bernastel-Kaus, we walked through a portion of the village that housed many shops that were located in traditional German-style designed buildings.  Also, many of us searched for a restaurant to our liking.  Seven of us settled on the Kelterhaus Wien-Pils Stuben restaurant.  We enjoyed five of the Flammkuchen (four original and one vegetarian) which were very delicious.  White wine, soda, and beer accompanied our food choices.

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After a little relaxation time, we visited some shops and then enjoyed ice cream.  Shortly thereafter, we retreated to our rendezvous point to meet the rest of the group for a boat ride along the infamous Mosel River.  Here, we viewed the various villages from the water while enjoying drinks and camaraderie with our new friends.    Additionally, we had experienced sailing though the locks (a waterized elevator, if you will), a new experience for several within the group.

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Once the boat reached its destination, we met up with the bus and traveled to Trier, the oldest city in Germany, to check into the Penta Hotel.  Shortly thereafter, we split up into several groups and toured various parts of the city including the old Cathedral and the Gate.

After a sit-down dinner at the Wiestube Kesselstatt, we casually strolled back to the Penta Hotel for the night.

Burg Eltz

Curtis Langacker
Monday, May 26, 2014

After checking out bright and early this morning, we said goodbye to Osnabrück and boarded a charter bus headed south. Our first stop was on the Rhine River. Cologne (or Köln as the Germans call it) was founded as a Roman outpost in the first century AD. Our bus pulled right into the downtown area where we disembarked and met our new host, Sven, who will travel with us for the next few days.

Sven took us on a brief walking tour of the old city. We saw the town hall, which is the oldest government building still in use in Europe. We were told a story about the medieval struggle between the church
and the city government. One day the bishop invited the mayor to come and discuss their differences, but was instead locked in a room with a lion. Having suspected a trap, the mayor brought a knife and was able to slay the beast. This made the mayor a hero among the people, shifting the balance of power from the church to the city.

Other highlights on the tour included the old town square, a bridge covered in padlocks, a monument to the holocaust, and the main attraction; the city cathedral. Begun in 1248, this massive building was not completed until 1880, whereupon renovations immediately began and continue to this day. Sven told us that the locals have a saying that the cathedral will be finished only when the apocalypse arrives. Also, because it took over 600 years to build, the final portion of the Cologne cathedral was actually constructed using steel. This fact saved it from the allied air raids in World War II, when 96% of the city was destroyed and 70 bombs fell on the church itself.

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After a quick bite, we were on the road again, heading yet further south, this time to Münstermaifeld to visit the ancient castle of Burg Eltz. This castle was built in the late 12th century by the Eltz family. It is notable for being one of the few castles of the era to not only survive intact (it was attacked only once, in the 14th century), but still be owned by the same family, now in their 33rd generation.

It was a 1.2km hike from the parking lot down to the castle on a beautiful hiking path through the woods. Because the Burg is built on a small hill in a valley surrounded by larger hills, the walk in was
all downhill. We had a guided tour which gave us a good sampling of the rooms and life inside the castle through the many centuries it was inhabited. In fact, the family still comes back nearly every Friday
from their home in Frankfurt to spend the weekend at the castle. Our tour guide, Felix, was a little nervous because this was his first tour in English. He needn’t have worried though, because he did a very nice
job and handled everyone’s questions with ease. Following the tour, it was time to climb back up the mountain. We took the road this time, which was much steeper but offered spectacular views of the castle from above. After stopping for some pictures, it was back to the bus and on to Cochem.

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In Cochem, a tiny town of 5,000 people, we stopped for our last visit in this busy day: a local winery. The Weingut Rademacher has been family-owned and run since 1882. The owner, Hermann, gave us a personal tour which was very thorough. He started behind the house with the vineyards, which are built into the face of a very steep hill lining the river Mosel. There are many wineries in the Mosel region, around one-third of which are built into hills, which is supposed to provide better growing conditions resulting in better tasting grapes. Hermann walked us through the entire process, from the methods used to properly plant the vines, to their cultivation, their storage, fermentation, bottling, and labeling. The wine is kept in barrels in a stone cellar under the house as well as in a rock cellar cut into the face of the mountain.

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We also learned some of the marketing side of the business that faces a small family-owned winery. In the Rademacher case, they produce 20,000 bottles of wine per year, and sell directly to local consumers. They do not sell to grocers or distributers. Although they have the land available to add a good bit more capacity to their production of wine, the family has found that increasing their market in the past has led to greater uncertainty in demand as well as losing some control over their operations to the demands of their distributors. Both of these combined to reduce the actual profit margin of the company while leading to more headaches. They have decided to remain small and exclusive.

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After the tour we had a wine tasting, which allowed us to sample up to ten different flavors of the specialties offered. We then checked into our hotel for the night and set off on our own to explore Cochem, get some dinner, and some rest.

Hamburg

Katie Menning
Sunday, May 25, 2014

Today we took a train to Hamburg Germany. We started off our day in Hamburg by walking to the Ratthaus, also known as city hall. From there we hopped on a double decker bus that toured the city. We learned that the Port of Hamburg and some of the town was destroyed during World War Two. This required Hamburg to rebuild the entire port after the war. We were able to take an hour boat tour of the port. The Port of Hamburg is the largest port in Germany and home for many container ships. We were able to see many of the container ships being loaded and unloaded. Our guide only spoke German but by the looks of it, millions of dollars of goods are loaded and unloaded here.

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Combining what we saw and what I’ve learned in my classes; one container ship takes a tremendous amount of work and coordination to load/unload. We saw at least eight container ships in the port and there were still many docks empty. Not only did the port house container ships but it also housed cruise ships and had dry docks for boat repairs. This brings a large amount of jobs and money into the city.

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The city also has one of the large train stations in Germany. It appeared that many people traveled to the city for the weekend. It is the biggest we saw in Germany and seemed to have the most diverse culture. In the train station and throughout the city we saw many American-based company’s such as: McDonalds, Claire’s, Apple, Pizza Hut, Subway, Delmonte, Dole, Starbucks, H&M, Adidas, Nike, and Exon Mobil. On the boat tour we saw million dollar houses along the lake as well as many homeless people. The city has at least seven old churches and cathedrals in the inner city (with spires visible from just about anywhere in the city) and very modern architecture by the water. Our bus tour guide mentioned how many visitors to the city spent less than 24 hours there and on average spend 100€ a person.  The city appears to benefit very much from tourism.  For many of the students, this was the first port we’ve ever seen. It has helped us see how much work goes into importing and transporting goods. I would image that only a small amount of the goods that come into the port stay in Hamburg, many get transported to other cities in Germany and around the world.

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Overall it was a very educational trip. We also were able to enjoy the beautiful weather and sights of the city.

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Cloppenburg – Bremen

Rebecca Lamb
Saturday, May 24, 2014

To complete the Planes, Trains, and Automobiles portion of our trip, we boarded a train early this morning for a visit to the city of Cloppenburg, Germany. Cloppenburg is a fairly small city, however it is home to the Cloppenburg museum: an outdoor collection of historic buildings from the nearby area, reassembled within the city. The museum has over 50 buildings, including a few windmills and a bakery building that makes and sells fresh bread throughout the day.

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After our time in Cloppenburg, we hopped back on the train and made our way to Bremen. Many people may recognize the name of the city as part of “The Town Musicians of Bremen,” a fairy tale about a traveling donkey, dog, cat, and rooster made famous by the Grimm brothers. The city highlights the story by including a statue of the animals and visitors are encouraged to rub the donkey’s nose or feet for good luck.

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The city center of Bremen is truly a sight to be seen, with a gothic style cathedral, beautiful town hall, and numerous outdoor cafés and shops.

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After taking advantage of some photo opportunities and completing a brief tour of the city center, we broke into smaller groups to enjoy the attractions. The shopping area of Bremen is known for its small shops and even smaller alleyways. Although some of the alleyways were quite tight, we managed to make it through without any problems!

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In the end, the group successfully navigated an early departure, short train connections, and intermittent rain throughout the day, arriving back to the hotel around 10pm. We were all tired but pleased from an exciting day touring two of northern Germany’s picturesque towns.

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Claas

Liz Reybrock
Friday, May 23, 2014

Today we woke up early and were very excited about the breakfast in this hotel. We were told that it was a lot more exquisite than the one in Amsterdam. It definitely lived up to its expectation. There was an assortment of dark bread, cereals, fruits, drinks, eggs, and meat. It was very delicious.

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Next, we got on a bus and headed to Claas, a corporation specializing in manufacturing agricultural machines such as tractors and harvesters. The bus ride was about 40 minutes and we got to look at the German landscapes and the beautiful views.

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When we arrived at Claas, we were welcomed by a few gentlemen and one woman. We looked around at some of their products in the showroom and then were given safety vests, ear phones, and listening radios. After that, we were split up into two groups and given a tour of the plant. It was a massive facility of 600 meters with bicycles used by employees to navigate around the facility. It was very interesting to see the differences between U.S. companies and the companies here. For example, safety regulations are much different. In the facility there were very few workers wearing eye protection and none were wearing ear plugs. We asked our guides many questions about Human Resources related materials, and this was also a difference. Germany has a law of a 35 hour work week, while Claas allows a 35 hour work week with an option of 15 hours per week unpaid but which can be used later for paid holidays.  We learned that German workers, unlike those in the U.S., are entitled to workers’ compensation only if it is found that the employer was at fault.  The last interesting fact about the plant was that there was designated smoking facilities for employees to go during their shift and smoke. It seemed like a hazard, but it must be okay here as they see smoking differently.

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After the walk through the plant, we were brought to a room to watch a short video and listen to a presentation by a gentlemen who worked for Claas in Omaha, Nebraska. When we left the company, we were given a gift bag with gummy tractors, energizing candy, and some information about the company.

Following the company tour, we drove the bus to Hocgschule Osnabruck, the University of Applied Sciences. We ate lunch and then went into a classroom and had presentations. We listened to a few hours of information on the recent Europe crisis and how Europe is integrating to become a union.

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We walked back to our hotel and took some pictures with the beautiful buildings and scenery in the city of Osnabruck. This evening, we are invited to go out to dinner with some of the German students.


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