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  Von: Reading Eagle: Jeremy Drey

Reading Liederkranz serves up free meal for stranded German students


Joseph C. Pettyjohn Jr., second vice president of the Reading Liederkranz, serves goulash Wednesday to German exchange students.

Outside, the sign greeted them: "Willkommen."

Inside, a great big pot of goulash was simmering, and bratwursts, sauerkraut and German potato salad were on deck.

It's not unusual for German fare to be eaten and German to be spoken inside the Reading Liederkranz, a German club in Lower Alsace Township.

But Wednesday was a different occasion.

Just a day after media outlets reported that German exchange students were stranded in Berks County, members of the Liederkranz did some last-minute food shopping to offer the German visitors a complimentary taste of home.

Eighteen students and two chaperones participating in a three-week exchange program with Exeter High School had hoped to fly home to Germany on Monday.

But their travel has been delayed by the ash of an erupting Icelandic volcano that has disrupted air travel across Europe.

Now, the group is nearing the end of its fourth week in Berks County.

"Since they're kind of homesick, it was nice to know someone was trying to give them part of home, so to speak," said Christiane Rabl, one of the two German chaperones.

"We're very, very grateful and we're surprised at this generous offer," she said as dinner was served. "We had not expected this. Everybody is really trying to make the best out of this for us."

It wasn't long after he saw the media reports that Joseph C. Pettyjohn Jr., second vice president of the Liederkranz, checked with other club members to see what they could do for the exchange group.

There was no time for food orders, so volunteers went shopping.

"I thought it'd be nice," Pettyjohn said. "We are the German club in Reading, and these are students from Germany stuck here."

More than 40 people, including host families and Exeter students, depleted the goulash within minutes.

Christopher Walters, 17, who lives in a small village outside Munich, was impressed.

"It tastes good, definitely," said Walters, who said he's happy to have extra time in America. "I actually expected it (the goulash) to be a bit worse. 'It's so far away from Germany, it can't be as good as it was.' That's what I thought."

Walters said he hadn't realized that a country as far away as America keeps the Bavarian tradition alive. He said he appreciated Wednesday's free meal.

"I think it's really great of them," he said of the Liederkranz members. "It just shows us again how polite the people here are."

The German students and teachers hope to begin their nine-hour flight home Monday, but whether they do will depend on the weather, Rabl said.

In its 125th year, the Liederkranz has more than 1,300 members, including participants in its German soccer league, and dancing and singing clubs.

Quelle:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=214578

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