Sixteen Notre Dame College faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of the College traveled eight hours across the Atlantic for eight days in Belgium, the Netherlands—where they were hosted by an international alum—and Germany as part of the 2015 academic educational travel program.
Members of the campus community unable to make this most recent trip can still enjoy the journey, reading the hashtags, Hans but no Franz and name-those-blondes entries in the lighter side travel blog by Elizabeth Presley, instructor of education and reading specialist at the College.
In her prose, Presley also conveys her profound observations of the feel—not just the look—of the World War II historical sites and even shares an uplifting prayer of St. Michael.
Along with a slideshow of photos, courtesy mostly of student Courtney Chambers, this, albeit, retrospective truly makes for a Dutch—and then some— treat.
In their two days in Brussels, three in Amsterdam, one in Hamburg and two in Berlin, the Notre Dame travelers experienced historic highlights, ranging from the Waterloo battle site of Emperor Napoleon’s defeat in 1815 to the Atomium, a monument of an atom at one million times the actual size, made for the World’s Fair in 1958. Both are in Belgium.
Somber sites for the group included The Anne Frank Haus & Museum; the Holocaust Memorial, officially called the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe; and memorials to the Homosexuals and Roma murdered by the Nazi regime.
The group also viewed the Checkpoint Charlie crossing point and had the opportunity to stand where the Berlin Wall once stood.
Spiritual stops included landmark churches, cathedrals and chapels throughout the neighboring countries. In Brussels, the College contingent revered a relic, a scrap of cloth said to be stained with the blood of Jesus, at the Church of the Holy Blood. They visited the Church of Our Lady, which featured a stop at the only statue of Michelangelo’s to leave Italy during his lifetime.
Their Amsterdam agenda also featured the arts. They viewed paintings and sculptures in the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, which houses the largest collection of Dutch masterpieces, including Rembrandt’s masterpiece, “De Nachtwacht,” or The Nightwatch.
The travelers also admired the architecture. In Hamburg alone, structures varied from the Viennese style of the Rathous, or town hall, to the baroque of the Protestant church of St. Michael the Archangel and to the circular Beatles Platz, which actually means Beatles Square, named after the Fab Four who played the club circuit there in the ’60s.
In Berlin they also saw and scaled the Reichstag, which houses the German Parliament. This modern marvel features an open-air glass dome with 360-degree sights of the city and mirrors and solar panels for sustainable energy.
Also in Berlin, the group stopped at the construction site of the newly rebuilt royal palace, which will house various art galleries, and learned Hamburg is still home to the largest group of millionaires in the country. Even the taxis there are made by Mercedes!
Culture included attention to the palate. From the chocolate and waffles of Belgium to the rijsttafel “rice table” and stamm-pott mashed potatoes, pork, sausage and greens in the Netherlands to the sauerkraut and strudel of Germany, the team shared many meals together.
In the Netherlands, in a village called Groenekan near Amsterdam, they were welcomed into the home of a Notre Dame alumna for lunch. Marilyn van Doesburg-Zele, former chair of the art department at the College, and her husband, Cor, treated the group to a visit to a working windmill and a neighbor’s fabulous private art collection.
The comprehensive educational travel experience included an unexpected tour, too. The group ventured to the red light district in Amsterdam and came close to the Reeperbahn, or the most sinful mile, in Hamburg.
The trip featured some other pop culture, as well. The group saw the sites of where three movies were filmed on location: Tom Cruise’s “Valkyrie” in Berlin; James “Pierce Brosnan” Bond in “Tomorrow Never Dies” in Hamburg; and Colin Farrell’s “In Bruges” in, well, Brussels.