For those looking for something a little less orthodox and outside of the classroom, I recommend taking an ‘Exkursion-Seminar’. This is basically a block seminar that is on sight at whatever location is relevant to the course-content. I think that it would be a good idea to take a Blok/Exkursion-seminar in any case, but the course that I attended was also good in particular. It is a great way to learn something about Germany and German in an immediate context. In my case, this meant going to Wiesbaden – an old ‘spa town’ almost twice the size of Heidelberg in the Rhine area near Frankfurt – for 2 days to learn about the history of modern religion (Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Russian Orthodox and Islamic) up to present religious diversity in Germany.
First, I will say something regarding the course generally. It was lead by Dr. Susanne Claußen. She is multi-lingual, an expert in her field and puts together a very interesting program for a seminar – vielen herzlichen Dank!
I would recommend taking it if it is offered. For the exact syllabus click here: Handout Vorbesprechung (in German); but to quickly mention the topics and course content, it included: media and secularization 1803/06 in the instance of Nassau, the Mennonite community as minority in and outside of Germany, Jewish emancipation in Nassau and Prussia, Prussian legislation (on religious freedoms, civil marriage, and corporate law), cultural struggle in the example of the diocese of Limburg, the Wiesbaden program in the church construction, legislation regarding associations in the NS period and the legal situation since 1949. The course requirements entailed doing a presentation/leading a session on one of the course topics. In my case I had to conduct research and present this material on the relation of Jewish emancipation in Germany to the events of 1848 – a very interesting era and a great opportunity to learn about something outside of my normal academic routine.
The course also consisted of a very well organized trip through the city and informative tour of the major historical and cultural-religious sites of the area. In particular, meetings and presentations were organized with key members of the diverse religious communities: we met with Herr Şahin, of the Turkish-Islamic Süleymaniye-Mosque and with Pfarrer Klaus Endter of Wiesbaden’s Ecumenical-Christian Organization. But we also met with Dr. Hans-Jörg Czech of the Wiesbaden Stadtmuseum, for a discussion and presentation on historical-cultural inheritance. These were all events that simply would not have been possible otherwise – a great perspective into a series of communities and histories that I had known very little of.
Just to say something quickly about the city and some of its more notable historical-cultural landmarks, I would like to highlight the following most notable aspects of the area:
1) The mineral-springs going back to ancient times, which are to be found throughout the city:
2) The Heidenmauer (the ‘Heathen-wall’), ruins dating back to the Roman presence in the area:
3) The Bonifatius Catholic Church:
4) The amazing Saint Elizabeth Russian Orthodox Church (there is a rather tragic story behind this…) and its adjacent traditional cemetery:
and 5) the incredible red-stone church towers on the Marktplatz of the city:
While I can inevitably not do justice to this course, the city’s history and everything that I left out in this space of this blog post, I hope to have at least given an idea of what a Exkursion-Seminar is and some interesting sights in Wiesbaden. It was a really rewarding time spent in Wiesbaden with an inter-disciplinary group of Religionswissenschaftler (‘Religion-Scientists’, roughly…), and a great chance to learn the about the historical religious context and background of Germany. I hope you get a chance to check it out!