Partners were established without problems, and all went to their respective homes to settle in and become accustomed to the German way of life.
The first real chance to meet the other German people came with the excursion to Tübingen, an old town about 30km from Stuttgart. Here came the point where those of us with male partners met the girls in the group, something which was not present in Essen. From here onwards, friendships between Germans and English people, who were not partners, were made, boy and girl, boy and boy, friendships which were to last the entire duration of the exchange and beyond.
The Thursday of the same week proved windy and very wet, and the excursion into Stuttgart was mercifully short, the view of dense fog from the top of the television tower very much a reflection of the consensus of opinion in the group.
The final excursion was to a very old town called Rothenburg, about two hours’ drive by coach. After we had been allowed to explore the town for a few hours, there was a guided tour which took us to some of the things we had in all probability already seen during our roam.
The following Thursday we returned to England, this time via the ferry from Dunkerque to Ramsgate. The channel crossing was very rough and there were several green faces in the group. We returned to Bolton in the dark, while the English slept and the Germans complained interminably about driving on the left side of the road.
The first English excursion was in London, a week after we arrived back. We took the train from Piccadilly to Euston, and were promptly let loose around London for seven hours in groups. Here the biggest catastrophe of the exchange occurred. On counting, it was discovered that two Germans were missing. Their partners were forced to stay behind, as the return train to Manchester ran to schedule. Fortunately, after the missing boy and girl were found, all four were allowed on the next train home.
The second and final excursion was to York, where we were taken to the Viking Museum before being allowed to wander round the city on our own. This was the last time we were together as a group, save for the Wednesday when the German party had to leave. Never to be forgotten.
On Wednesday we brought our partners to School, and uniform immediately became the subject for mockery due to its absence in German schools. At 1.30pm they boarded the coach, after the inevitable goodbyes, which left several of the girls in tears. For us it was an experience never to be forgotten. The German Exchange friendships still survive to this day, and undoubtedly letters and telephone calls will be sent continually as they already are.
Gary Bent 3D