Editors Note: A group of W&L Law students are currently in Germany for an intensive week-long exploration of German law and legal culture. The German Comparative Law Academy, organized by Prof. Russ Miller, brings together American and German law students for a scholarly exchange on both countries’ legal systems, with an emphasis on Constitutional Law.
by David Pelletier
Class began today at a reasonable 1000 as we all seem to have recovered from the long flights and getting settled in. Our hosts provided a gracious spread of German delicacies for us to enjoy as we engaged in our academic endeavor. We are being hosted by the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy here at the University of Erfurt. The international contingent of students covered the globe with participants from Germany, Brazil, Sudan, India, and Pakistan to name a few. The material today served to orientate us for the discussions that lay ahead. We engaged in learning the vocabulary of, and discussing the potential purposes behind, comparative constitutional law.
Academics behind us we broke for lunch at the University Cafeteria and then took to the city for a walking tour. Led by one of our hosts here at the University we walked a small portion of a city first mentioned in 742. The University itself was founded in 1392 and able to claim Martin Luther of Protestant Reformation fame as a student in the early 1500s. Although Professor Miller was struggling from the cold we pressed on during the tour getting to see many of the plazas that once served as markets and the unique homes that were built on a bridge to avoid taxes (apparently the off-shore concept is not a new one.) Having walked through a little of the old city we called the tour to an end to grab some hot chocolate and allow Professor Miller to thaw out.
The evening was spent in the nearby city of Weimar after a quick train ride through the country side. Sensitive to Professor Miller’s inability to handle the somewhat frigid temperature our walk through the town was brief before settling in to a German restaurant connected to a theater called Shakespeare’s. Here I ordered a specialty of the State of Thuringia, the bratwursts, which is definitely a must try should you ever find yourself in the area. The meal was paired with lively conversation of German politics and comparisons to our more familiar American system. We were joined by an American Expat who attended the Brandt school and is now a member of the staff there. She and Professor Miller were able to provide a rather in depth analysis as to some of the cultural differences and how they manifest themselves not only in politics and law, but also every day interactions.
After dinner we moved on to the cultural event of the evening. Although we had some difficulty finding the venue we were able to find our seats (in the second row) before the orchestra took the stage. We were treated by multiple pieces by Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. We had the additional pleasure of experiencing the talents of Olga Scheps, a young German-Russian pianist who in 2010 earned the ECHO Klassik Award as Newcomer of the Year. (Trust me, this is impressive.) She accompanied the orchestra as well as performing two solo pieces as an encore.
The amazing experience at the concert was quickly tempered by the realization that we had 15 minutes to get to the station or it was an hour wait for the next train. We pressed Professor Miller to his physical limits, but we were able to get to the station in time to catch our train just before it pulled away. As this day settles behind us and it closes in on 1130 and with tomorrow beginning at a less reasonable 0830, it is time for some reading review and preparations for tomorrow.