The Voice: Fall 2002
Heart of Europe tour brings alums together
Eleven alumni, including escorts Howard and Vicki Hall, met at Schiphol International Airport on June 23, having flown overnight from various U.S. departure cities. We were transported to the Steile Bank barge docked in the Amsterdam harbor and moved into our compact cabins, home for the next five nights.
After a get-acquainted evening and orientation, we learned the daily routine quickly: wake-up call at 7:30 a.m., breakfast in the dining room at 8:00, pack our own lunches from the delicious food provided by the captains wife, and on our bikes by 9:00.
With our Dutch guide leading the way, we biked an average of thirty miles a day and enjoyed a view of Holland not often explored by the average tourist. Highlights included biking on top of the dikes where sailboats to our right were sitting higher than the cows to our left, riding on cobble-stoned streets of small villages, seeing numerous canals, touring windmills, learning the history of towns and people, and making morning and afternoon stops for koffie. While we biked, our barge was making its way through inland waterways to the evenings destination where we would again board it and enjoy an evening of dinner and relaxation.
On June 28 we were once again back in Amsterdam, where we said goodbye to the barge and its crew. From there we journeyed to Tiel, the Netherlands, to join the Heart of Europe tour and eighteen additional alumni and friends. For the next two weeks we toured seven western European countries by motor coach and also had the option of taking several daytime excursions.
Exploring more of the Netherlands, including the Hague and Amsterdam, and visiting the Margraten American Military Cemetery were especially meaningful for those with Dutch roots, which included almost all of us.
In Belgium we toured the city of Antwerp and ate Belgian waffles for lunch!
Some of the highlights in Germany were a cruise down the Rhine River with picturesque views of dozens of old castles and a visit to the city of Heidelberg with a stop in the Church of the Holy Ghost, where the catechism was written in 1563. We also spent time in the well-preserved medieval city of Rothen-burg, still surrounded with its fortressed brick wall, and Munich, with its famed glockenspiel.
Austria and the Bavarian Alps afforded many opportunities for picture taking, and a number in our group took advantage of the optional Bavarian Castle tour. And then it was on to northern Italy, where we first toured Romeo and Juliets city of Verona and then Venice, the city of islands and canals. St. Marks Square, the Rialto Bridge spanning the Grand Canal, and a gondola ride were some of the memorable experiences there.
Crossing into Switzerland, we were once again in the Alps and could take a cogwheel rail and cable car to the summit of Mt. Stanserhorn, where we had a 360 degree view of the mountaintops. The jumble of bells we heard up there echoed from the cows in the meadows below, and we enjoyed watching the hang-gliders soaring above us.
The final city on our itinerary was Paris, France, and after a boat tour on the River Seine, we climbed up into the Eiffel Tower for impressive views of the city. Our Evening in Paris included dinner at a French restaurant and then a night tour of the city, with stops at the Louvre Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Arc de Triomphe. The next day we said farewell to our fellow alumni, now all good friends, and flew back to our respective destinations in the U.S., thankful for the blessings of safety, good weather, and the opportunity to experience so much more of the world.