Two thousand years ago, the Roman statesman and philosopher Seneca recognized that "travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind." We at MISP couldn’t agree more. In setting itineraries, we take into consideration the educational value of the city or attraction, its historical and cultural significance, and the advice of local experts in the travel industry. Here is just a sampling of likely destinations, along with possible sights of interest:
- Leipzig—home to the St. Thomas Church, where J. S. Bach was organist (2010 marked the 325th anniversary of his birth); site of the monument to the Battle of the Nations, where an alliance of European armies soundly defeated Napoleon’s forces in the largest battle in Europe prior to World War I; and the birthplace of the non-violent demonstrations that led to the collapse of the Soviet-backed East German dictatorship in 1989
- Bad Frankenhausen—one of the centers of the peasant rebellions that emerged in the wake of Martin Luther’s protest against the Catholic church in the early sixteenth century and home of the Panorama Museum, which contains a massive, allegorical mural on the events of that protest and their meaning through subsequent centuries; nearby is the Kyffhäuser monument, one of the three sites claiming to be the burial place of Friedrich Barbarossa and a focal point of German national identity since its construction in the late nineteenth century
- Weimar—the heart of German classicism, where the great German poets Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller lived and wrote; the birthplace of the Bauhaus artistic movement in 1919, which greatly influenced twentieth-century design and architecture; and the site, on a hill just north of the town, of the Buchenwald concentration camp
- Harz mountains—a region important to German history and lore, among which charming towns such as Wernigerode, Quedlinburg, and Halberstadt are nestled, and home to the Brocken, one of the most legendary peaks in Germany
- Dresden—the great Saxon cultural capital only recently recovering from its destruction in World War II and home of the Semper opera house, the Church of Our Lady, and the Zwinger palace and museum
- Potsdam—location of Frederick the Great’s imposing palace Sanssouci and its magnificent grounds, birthplace of the German film industry at the Babelsberg Studios in the 1920s, and site of Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and Harry Truman’s famous meeting to plan the post-war organization of Europe
- Berlin—long regarded as one of the most exciting cities in Europe, capital of a reunited Germany, and home to numerous museums, such as the Pergamon; to numerous palaces, such as Charlottenburg; to the largest department store on the European continent, the KaDeWe; and to almost countless points of historical interest, such as the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Kurfürstendamm, the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche, the Brandenburg Gate, Potsdamer Platz, Unter den Linden avenue, and the Reichstag, the German Parliament
We at MISP take seriously both aspects of our role as a study-and-travel program. We believe strongly in the quality and benefits of our courses. We also recognize that seeing things firsthand, meeting new people, and encountering new sights, sounds, and smells are an important part of a stay abroad. Not only that, for young people they contribute greatly to the development of a mature and respectful individual. In addition, time spent visiting sites of historical and cultural interest provides an undoubtedly welcome respite from the rigors of reading and study, from rehearsals, and from the daily routine.
Whether visiting the places listed here or others equally noteworthy and intriguing, participants will find their preconceptions challenged, their awareness broadened, and their understanding deepened. And when they return home at the end of the program, we hope they can say, along with the American poet James Baldwin, "I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself."