The German Trip

Forty-five young people are saying goodbye to their parents and setting off in a bus for a week in the Rhineland. Heather is new to the school and isn’t at all sure she wants to go on the trip. She is after all small and insignificant so that only the bullies will notice her. Or is she? She may be small, but perhaps she is also beautiful and clever, as well as gifted in caring for others – when the need arises. As events swing between comedy and drama – through the errors and shortcomings of others – scope is provided for Heather’s strengths to be revealed.

six-day residential visit

The novel covers the six days of a residential school visit to the Rhineland, opening with the boarding of the bus and closing with disembarkation upon return. The central character, Heather Lawrence, who has only recently joined the school, previously having lived in Hong Kong, has been accustomed to adult company and has an outlook beyond her years. As the bus sets out with 45 school students and six adults plus driver, she feels — and is — out of place alongside her new classmates, whose behaviour is clearly deficient but quite typical for an English comprehensive school.

getting to know everybody

Initially, Heather knows only eight classmates; by the end of the trip she will know more or less everyone. Subsequent episodes introduce many more of the trip's participants and reveal the distinct personalities of the individuals, which are portrayed with realism and sympathy distilled from the author's close observation of teachers and students over a lengthy period.

Being together with forty-something other people twenty-four hours a day, often in a confined space, all week, was very good for you in some ways — brilliant for getting to know everybody — but was terribly claustrophobic, and made you very inward-looking… and could make you lose your sense of proportion…

bereavement and lost home

Heather wishes she could get off the bus, not least because she is concerned about leaving her mother, who has been ill following bereavement earlier that year. As the bus speeds through the night heading for the channel port and beyond it France, Belgium and Germany, Heather thinks nostalgically of the home they have lost in Hong Kong.

no iPods

The German Trip is based on a series of experiences which took place in the 1980s and 1990s. You will observe that the pupils have no mobile phones and certainly no iPods and — horror of horrors — that they need ‘films’ for their cameras! Today's fashion-conscious young people may find this too much to bear, but we're not going to put these latter-day gadgets in just for the sake of it, not merely because it would wreak havoc with the plot: if they all had mobiles, how could the hero and the heroine hope to get ‘lost’ together, even for five minutes?

a time warp

The German Trip is as locked in a time warp as Tom Sawyer or Jane Eyre (and nobody's saying they should be given mobile phones). But it's not just about technology. The German Trip is set in a different era, an age when teachers were rather more inclined to take children on trips abroad, when they did still as a matter of routine attempt to involve children in activities such as the ‘Mister Koblenz’ and ‘Miss Koblenz’ competitions, and would still expect them to listen attentively to a guide with imperfect English during a long visit.


Although The German Trip was conceived essentially as an exciting novel for young people, there is no doubt that reading it would provide a stunning piece of nostalgia for many adults: it can be enjoyed by all who are young at heart.

anecdotes from real life

The plot is fictitious; some important events had to be made up. Nonetheless, The German Trip abounds with real-life anecdotes: outstanding incidents (amazing, shocking, humorous, pathetic) have been sifted from a dozen or more foreign trips accompanied by the author. These many ‘stories within a story’ serve to illustrate character and further the plot, and yet the course of events is ultimately driven by the characters. Documentary, farce, love story or tale of intrigue and adventure? The German Trip is all of these. And more.

fictitious people

What about the characters? All of the young people, with the one exception of the central character, are entirely imaginary. So, unless you have been told that you are that one person who initially provided inspiration for the story (identity withheld), you won't be able to find yourself. Concerning the adults, there is however some borrowing from real life. There really is a German lady called Beate, long-term friend of the writer, and she really did get up very early to travel from Darmstadt to the Rhineland, arriving before 8am, to spend the day with the group. In addition, Mr and Mrs Smith also bear some resemblance to people we know (the story about the European Cup is true) but all the other teachers are fictitious.


The book is the product of copious experience: the ubiquitous Margaret Swift took part in many school trips to Germany, accompanying numerous groups to Düsseldorf, the Rhineland or Gedling's twin town of Rotenburg an der Fulda, as well as setting up exchanges for college students from Derby with Alsfeld in Hessen and Schmalkalden in Thuringia. This is the same Margaret Swift who taught at Carlton Girls' School and Redhill School in Nottingham, Derby College Wilmorton and elsewhere (including Kingston-upon-Hull). And yes, Margaret Swift has been to Hong Kong.

What people have said about The German Trip :

No one is likely to trump this piece of writing by Margaret Swift. In this novel, she is on her home patch. She was a teacher for many years and co-led a goodly number of school trips. Coupled with knowledge of the subject matter is her polished writing, born of study and painstaking work on a number of carefully crafted texts.

- Graham Huxstep, Wimbledon

Congratulations! I couldn't stop reading till the end and I liked your story very much. You wrote on your webpage that the characters seem to be similar to people the reader might know. I must say I liked the way you presented Mr Smith. It's totally what I know about A----- and how he reacts in special situations as far as I see him!! The topic ‘bullying’ your main character had to fight against is one that is of common interest also for our pupils. That's the reason why I think it would be interesting for them to read at least some chapters of your book. Presenting the author reading out of the book is the best way to make them curious. I would be very glad if you came to us and presented your book to our pupils

- Monika P., Brotterode, Thüringen, Germany

My favourite book has to be the German Trip. I have read it at least 20 times! I love it because as a teenager I can totally relate to it. All her books are amazing though. Love love love 5 stars minimum

- Sasha, Ruddington, Notts (Age 15)

I really enjoyed reading The German Trip, Its about a girl (Heather) who goes on a trip to Germany and falls in love . I am reading Tom Gibbons now and I think it's very interesting, same as The German Trip.

- Colleen. Co Mayo, Ireland

Purchase this book now with PayPal
Price : £7.99 (Uk Delivery £1.49)


Book Details

The German Trip

Margaret Swift


Age Range
14 Years +


(Uk Delivery : £1.49)