Songs, sisters, and schnitzel

After the cable-car trip to the top of the mountain, the Madrigals were able to take in the breathtaking views of the white Alps.
Courtesy of Mrs. Lori Wilson

After the cable-car trip to the top of the mountain, the Madrigals were able to take in the breathtaking views of the white Alps. Courtesy of Mrs. Lori Wilson

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Twenty-nine members of Convent of the Sacred Heart’s Madrigals embarked on a European excursion to Germany and Austria March 11 through 19. As a member of the Madrigals, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the German and Austrian culture through visits to historic European cities, free time in small towns, and bus tours through the countryside.
Chaperones Director of Campus Ministry, Upper School Community Service, and Summer Enrichment Mrs. Lori Wilson, Middle and Upper School Music Teacher and Upper School Music Director Ms. Annette Etheridge, and Middle and Upper School Drama Teacher Ms. Michaela Gorman enhanced our experience by providing us with opportunities throughout the trip to develop our spiritual lives and build meaningful relationships with our peers. We were able to silently pray while we visited churches and spend quality time with each other during our stays at the hotel and on the longer bus rides. 
Our first day included a driving and walking tour through Munich, Germany, or, München in German. Our tour guide led us through both older and newer regions of the city, and brought us to visit the Bavarian Motor Works (BMW) museum. Looking at the various models of motorcycles and cars made me curious as to how this historically German company became popular in the United States as well. 
At lunch, we were off on our own in Marienplatz Square. My friends and I made our way to one of the central marketplaces where we were able to try authentic German food such as bratwurst, wiener schnitzel, and soft pretzels.
For the first night, we stayed in a local hotel. The next morning, we sang during the mass at the beautiful St. Maximilian church and then we were off to our next destination: Austria.
During our drive, we stopped at Neuschwanstein Castle. It took us 20 minutes to walk up the steep road to the castle, but it was well worth it. Being in the German Alps was incredible and touring the castle was a unique way to enrich our knowledge of European history.
After seeing the castle, we drove to meet our host families from our Sacred Heart sister school in Austria, Sacré Coeur Riedenburg. My host, Susanna, was incredibly inviting and excited to house me for a few days. We would often stay up late at night comparing stories about our schools and lives in our respective countries. My host mom was nice enough to bake a cake for my friend who celebrated a birthday during the trip. The generosity and kindness of my host family proved how similar two Sacred Heart families living across the globe can be.
The next day, we toured the Bregenz Opera house in Austria, and the world’s largest floating stage on Lake Constance. Sacré Coeur Riedenburg’s choir director Mr. Hubert Herberger was helpful in arranging this visit and was welcoming to our choir during our entire trip to the school.
Later in the day, we visited the city of Lindau, Germany and sang for the residents of a nursing home. This was a touching experience for me and my peers, as we were able to give back to the community while building bonds with each other and the residents. Sacré Coeur Riedenburg was kind enough to provide us with the traditional lunch meal of wiener schnitzel, a treat all of us relished in trying.
On Tuesday, we went to Lech, Austria and took a cable-car up into the Alps. The views at the top were breathtaking and surreal. It was truly a “God moment” for all of us, and we felt privileged to be at the top of these white snowy mountains with one another. We were able to have a snack in the café at the top of the mountain and even sled down part of the hill.
The next morning, we took a tour of our sister school in Austria, where we engaged in a question and answer session with two students from the school. Here is a fun fact: Sacré Coeur Riedenburg doesn’t have Congé, but students have the option of entering its cooking school or hotel management school when they are 16-years-old.
I then visited a second-year English class and, to my surprise, each of the students spoke English very well. I also went to a history class where I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to talk to some of the students and answer their questions in English about life in America. I thought it was interesting that they were so curious to learn more about Sacred Heart in Greenwich, just as I was interested in learning about what life in Austria is like.
During our visit to their school, the students and faculty hung the American flag outside of the entrance to the building. This is significant because Austrian citizens typically do not fly their flag in order to promote unity and integration between the European nations. We felt honored that they were able to break that tradition for our sake.
Before lunch, we performed for the school and we felt quite accomplished when the students requested an encore. That night, we had a joint performance with two choirs from Sacré Coeur Riedenburg and a choir from a neighboring town. The Headmaster of our sister school, Mr. Gebhard Hinteregger, shared the message at the performance that even though our choirs spoke different languages, we are united through the language of music, a medium that does not have a race, gender, ethnic, or religious barrier. This was a powerful statement, especially after some of us had trouble communicating with the locals in the towns or students at the school.
We spent a majority of our next day traveling. We said goodbye to our host families and packed our bags for Salzburg. Along the way, we stopped at the Milka chocolate factory and visited the town of Innsbruck. Later that night, we participated in a mass and concert in a church in Faistenau.
Friday was our last full day of the trip. Many of us were disappointed that we would be leaving so soon, but our spirits rose when we went on a tour of Salzburg and the Mondsee Basilica, the church where Maria and Captain von Trapp married each other in The Sound of Music. During dinner, we were able to share our thoughts and feelings from the trip with one another, creating a night filled with laughter, tears, smiles, and applause.
This trip was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. I will always treasure the memories from the trip, the people I met, and the places I saw. Each host family was gracious in allowing us to stay with them, and we look forward to reciprocating the gesture when Sacré Coeur Riedenburg’s choir visits America in May. Our chaperones made the trip proceed smoothly and complemented our experience in Germany and Austria. So, thank you, to my peers, chaperones, and everyone who made this trip a reality. I, along with the other Madrigals, will forever be grateful for this experience.
– Morgan Johnson, Co-News Editor