Students visit the Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam. Photo: Molly Shapiro

On Saturday, Jan. 6, while most students spent the day sleeping off an exhausting Spirit Week, eleven seniors and one sophomore boarded a flight from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport to Germany. A little over a week’s worth of picturesque travels lay ahead of them, but for the time being, the students could only think about sleep. Despite the students’ exhaustion, there was no downtime in Deutschland. From the moment the students landed, their schedule was filled with art exhibits, museum tours and lots of snacking.

For 10 days, the students trekked through freezing temperatures as they explored the cultural and artistic history of Germany after World War II. Many of the students were able to apply their knowledge from 10th grade AP European History or Western Civilization to the trip. Similarly, AP Art History students saw much of the art they studied firsthand. For these students, the trip was especially meaningful because their teacher for both courses was the trip leader and history department chair Tim Hornor.

To Mr. Hornor, Germany’s history is central to the history of both the West and the world. “Germany demonstrates several things at once:  it represents the best in Western Civilization but also the worst, including the Holocaust,” said Mr. Hornor. “These are experiences so much more powerful and vivid as compared to reading about them in the textbook.”

Senior Morgan McCullough has been a student of Mr. Hornor’s in both AP European History and AP Art History. In class, she studied the Kylix of Dionysus, the Ishtar Gate and the bust of Nefertiti, all of which she was able to admire during the trip. “It was really cool being able to see all of the art we had studied in class,” said McCullough. “Mr. Hornor knew the museums extremely well and made sure we saw our favorite pieces from AP Art History. [Senior] Khaki [Loughran] and I even got to buy souvenirs from the gift shops of our favorite pieces of art.” Site visits included Marianplatz, the Neue Residenz, the Munich Frauenkirche, Hofbräukeller Biergarten, Neuschwanstein Castle, the Jewish Museum, the Neue Synagogue, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall and the Berlin Philharmonic.

Along with the historic monuments and palaces, the students also toured Dachau, a German concentration camp. For senior Aly Satisky, the trip to Dachau was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. Having come from an Atlanta Jewish day school, Aly had a profound background in Holocaust education. She had always imagined what it would be like to visit a concentration camp, but nothing could prepare her for “standing in the same spot that Hitler started his regime and strolling through the same grounds where thousands of people were murdered.”

Satisky felt especially impacted by Germany’s modern-day progressiveness. “I was moved by the fact that only 60 years later I could visit Germany without facing any discrimination,” said Satisky. “It is evident how much guilt the country has for its past and instead of forgetting, they honor and remember the victims.”

The ICGL trip to Germany is unique because it is one of the few trips that occurs annually. Faculty sponsor Mr. Hornor has run the trip for eight years with math teacher Jason Smith as chaperone, and this year, math teacher Heather McClosky chaperoned as well. Although the trip is geared towards seniors, it is open to students in other grades. This year, sophomore Jason Rosenbloum traveled with the senior class and became social media famous at Pace Academy for his role as paparazzo, posting photos of the senior girls. “At first, I was kind of shy and quiet,” said Rosenbloum. “But the seniors were friendly and made me feel like part of the group.” Mr. Hornor joked that the trip was Jason’s “peak.”

Now back in Atlanta, the group is stuck in similar freezing temperatures without any oversized salted pretzels in hand. While they may be done snacking and touring in Germany, they have come home with valuable lessons and experiences to share. Overall the trip was a successful celebration of life, culture and history.