Women's Basketball in Europe: Days 4-5

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Muhlenberg women’s basketball team continues its tour of Europe with stops in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Day 4 - by Colleen Caldwell
seniors on the Rhine We woke up to a sunny morning in Valkenburg. After a good breakfast at the hotel, we boarded the bus and made our way to Cologne, Germany.

Our first visit was to the cathedral. It was beautiful. We learned that it is the tallest Gothic structure in the world, and it took over 800 years to completely finish the masterpiece. In fact, it is so impressive that when the Allied forces were bombing the city of Cologne during World War II they were given strict instructions not to bomb the cathedral. During the rest of our time in Cologne, we were given free time to eat lunch, shop and explore the city of Cologne.

Our next stop was Konigswinter. We explored Konigswinter a little differently than our visits to the other cities. We toured the city via the Rhine River on a cruiser. It was a good time hanging out and enjoying the weather as well as the gorgeous view of Rhineland shores. While on the cruise, our tour guide, Corrie pointed out a few historical structures. She showed us a hotel built on top of a large mountain and she explained that it was used to hold secret meetings for the world leaders to plan the war with Afghanistan.

winery tour Corrie also showed us the bridge of Remagen, which was the last bridge standing for troops and tanks to cross the Rhine during the allied invasion of Germany (made famous by the book and movie “The Bridge at Remagen”). While the German effort to blow up the bridge failed, the total weight of so many tanks and troops crossing the bridge finally caused the bridge to collapse. It was awesome to see that there was an American flag still waving on the bridge as a sign of respect.

Our cruise eventually came to an end when we reached Remagen, Germany. We boarded our bus and headed to our third destination, the Mayschoss Winery.

We knew we were close to the winery when we drove through endless mountains of vineyards, such a gorgeous view! Once we arrived at the winery we went on a short tour through the history of Mayschoss Winery, the famous house of the Riesling grape. Our very handsome tour guide, Lewis, explained some history and guided us through the wine aging and bottling process. However, I think many of my teammates paid more attention to Lewis than the tour.

winery band Before dinner, we did a little wine tasting while a group of older German gentlemen serenaded us a song in German welcoming us to their country. (At right, sophomore Christina Santone takes a turn on the accordion.)

We finished our tour of the winery with a delicious catered dinner at the Restaurant Winzergenossenschaft Mayschoss. What made the meal even more special was that the setting for the dinner was below ground in wine cellar that was several hundred years old. It was sad to leave such friendly and pretty area, but we had to rest up for our next day in Maastricht as well as our first game!

Day 5 - by Katy Mitton
Today was our lightest day of the trip so far. It consisted of visiting the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten, lunch in the college town of Maastricht and playing our first game.

The cemetery was interesting especially because it was all American soldiers that were buried there, and for the group of 50-plus Muhlenberg folk it was a lot more meaningful. The first part of the guided tour consisted of a little history lesson about World War II, and all the different battles that were fought during that time in Germany. It was especially cool because there was a map with all different marks and pictures to get a better visual of what actually happened in Europe.

Margraten map It was a very somber morning because this was the first day that it had rained. There are a total of 8,301 headstones in the cemetery. Out of those 8,301 headstones, 8,122 are Latin crosses and 179 are Stars of David. There are 1,722 soldiers still missing in action.

One of the neatest facts that we learned was that every single headstone has a caretaker. The American soldiers were based in the Margraten area for nearly nine months, so the town people knew the names and faces of soldiers that were being killed at the front. Many had become familiar friends and others like family. It hit them hard when these bodies were returned back as casualties. To this day there is still a long waiting list of a few hundred local people waiting their turn to be the caretaker of one of the graves.

Afterward we made a brief lunch stop in the city of Maastricht, home of the University that many Muhlenberg students attend when studying abroad in the Netherlands. As a special surprise, Laura Gregory met up with her Muhlenberg roommate Katie Seeman (and member of the women’s golf team) for a brief chat. She was one of several Mules who had just arrived for the fall semester abroad.

jump ball vs. Schelle The second half of our trip was traveling to the city of Schelle to play BCC Schelle on their home court. After five days of being tourists and traveling, playing basketball was one of the last things on our mind. Although once we arrived everyone’s adrenaline started to pick up a little bit, and we were ready to play.

It was exciting to be able to play together again as a Lady Mule basketball family. For me, it was weird playing with this year’s upcoming team knowing that I was going to be one of the four senior captains. The score (a 59-48 loss) did not turn out the way we would have wanted, but after all the food we have been eating it was sure nice to get a nice sweat going. It was pretty evident that we had not played or practiced together since last March, but we gave it a good Muhlenberg effort.

It was the interaction with our Belgian opponents afterward that was more memorable than any final score. After the game both of our teams exchanged gifts. We gave the Belgium girls t-shirts, sunglasses and towels from our Scotty Wood Tournament. In return, we received some Belgian beer. After, we took pictures of both teams together at a social hosted by their basketball club. We sat and talked with the Belgium girls, shared some pastries, and had some very good conversation. It was great to be able to sit down and learn about their culture and what their lives were like away from basketball. Certainly an experience we will never forget.