A Special Appearance

On the 6th January, "Epiphany" (Greek for "appearance") is celebrated in Italy, bringing the Christmas season to a close.

According to legend, Befana, a type of both scary and friendly witch, comes down the chimney - a symbol of the communication between heaven and earth - into houses on the night of the 5th to 6th January and brings the well-behaved children sweets as New Year's presents while naughty children receive coal, representing the "dark" aspects of the past year. On the eve of Epiphany, the children hang their stockings by the fireplace. They find them filled with sweets or coal the next morning.

With great anticipation, the ESM Kindergarten children welcomed the Befana on the 9th January 2015. First they heard the countdown of a rocket. Then, accompanied by the music of a Neapolitan tarantella, the kind-hearted Befana entered through the door. She was, as always, a little bit confused and started to dance with her magic broom, believing that she had reached Naples. Fortunately, the children cried out laughingly: "Munich, you're in Munich!"

After the witch Befana had realised where she actually was, she was greeted warmly by the young audience. The Italian "bambini" performed joyfully a song and a poem in their mother tongue. Thereafter, all Kindergarten children sang a witch song. As this year all children were very well-behaved, Befana gave them the popular "carbone" (coal), made from black-coloured sugar. In the end, everyone was excited to perform the dance "Il ballo del qua 'qua'" together with the good-hearted witch.

The exhausted but happy Befana then said goodbye to everyone and sat on her magic broom to fly back to Italy. Let's hope that she did not get lost and then accidentally ended up in Paris. But even if she did, she would have brought children in France a lot of joy.

Primary School

Secondary School

Brussels, here we come!

As last year's ESM politics course excursion - supported by the "Verein zur Förderung politischen Handelns e.V." (Association for the Promotion of Political Activities) - had been a great success as a pilot project, some of the former participants said: "We'll be back!" and then boarded the bus to Brussels again together with the new s6 politics course students, accompanied by Mrs Rudschies (s7) and Mr Jerzewski (s6). This excursion was held from 10th to 14th December 2014.

After having been driven fast and safely to the EU capital by our coach Rudi, the owners of our accommodation, the monastery-conference venue "Notre-Dame du Chant d'Oiseau" welcomed us with open arms. Immediately after dinner the tired but interested students attended the introduction seminar, held by the two friendly and qualified guides Iris Weber and Charlotte Uhlig. This year's theme was "The EU and its neighbourhood policy", though, the events regarding Ukraine provided fodder for lively debates from the start.

The next morning the preparation began for the expert interviews and when we arrived at the European Parliament, the students were eager to pepper the first interview partner, Susanne Melior (SPD), with their questions. The member of the European parliament (MEP) answered all questions diplomatically and the focus of the discussion was on the difference between the EU Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy.

Next, we met Terry Reincke, MEP of the Green Party, who impressed the students by his uninhibited style of talking and by spontaneously agreeing to be questioned on sanctions and EU security in the poster-decorated corridor in lack of available meeting rooms. In front of a white cow, covered in signatures, the students then took a farewell photo.

The two other expert discussions, held in the European External Action Service (EEAS), were about a current as well as unsolved foreign policy problem, the Ukraine crisis. In addition, the Swedish diplomat Stefan Tressing from the "Europäischer Auswärtiger Dienst", gave us a lecture.

The following day, also in the EEAS, we met Lieutenant Colonel Harald Wegener from the EU Military Staff, who was trained at the Bundeswehr University in Hamburg and at the Military Academy in Paris. This conversation, us students, found particularly interesting as we got to see the EU from a completely new perspective and were able to ask very specific questions about the conflict and de-escalation strategies of the EU.

After the eating fish in the monastery hostel, the group went to the old city of Brussels to take part in the equally interesting and student tailored guided tour of Brussels, conducted by the university teacher Stefaan Debrabandere. The weather was not in our favour as "Billy", the low pressure area over the Atlantic, brought us continuous downpours and wind gusts. On the last evening, the students scattered in all directions of the old town to buy chocolates or other Christmas gifts or to admire the play of lights, accompanied by music on the Grand Place or treat themselves to delicious Belgian fries.

Conclusion: Neither politics nor fun was missed out, which meant that all ESM politics students agreed: "Brussels, we'll come again!"