6th HHS Cousins Trip to Europe a Success!!!
The twenty-four Heymann relatives who embarked on the 6th Heymann Historical Society tour of Europe in 2014 returned safely from an unforgettable trip to Italy, Austria, and Germany! Below is a brief summary of their experience.
Tuesday, August 5th - The majority of our group departed from Detroit Metropolitan Airport on a direct flight to Rome, Italy.
Day 1 – Wednesday, August 6th
We landed in Rome, the capital of Italy. The arrivals of our cousins were timed well. We gathered our luggage from our respective baggage carousels and proceeded to exit the airport. We were met by Karl Schlederer, Tour Guide Extraordinaire. Karl led us on a short walk to our Mercedes Coach, driven by Roberto. Luggage and cousins were loaded onto the bus, and we began the drive into Rome. Karl welcomed the group and presented us with specially labeled luggage tags as well as slips of paper with his phone number on them in case we got separated from the group.
We drove through the E.U.R. district (a modern commercial area of Rome started by Mussolini) on our way into the more scenic parts of the city. Karl pointed out various points of interest and familiarized us with some cultural idiosyncrasies of the area. For example, we were advised to observe the mobile organ donors (motor scooter riders) who darted to and fro seemingly unaware of local traffic laws. We were assured that, despite the apparent erratic and dangerous course of all motorized vehicles in Rome, that most vehicles would, in fact, stop for pedestrians, after said pedestrians had inserted themselves a fair distance into walkways.
After dropping off our hand luggage at the hotel (Mediterraneo), we boarded the coach briefly to meet Amelia, our local guide in Rome, and drive to where we would begin our walking tour of the city. On the drive, we passed ancient Roman baths, the Circus Maximus, and the Piazza Venezia featuring the National Monument of Victor Emmanel II. On the walking tour we saw the Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish steps, found that the famous Trevi Fountain was under construction, and got our first taste of Italian gelato! Amelia was quick to warn us against settling for any gelato purveyors, and directed us to a reputable and delicious vendor. We saw the column of Marcus Aurelius, toured the ancient Pantheon, and took in the feel of the busy city.
Amelia informed us that nearly three million people live in Rome, and that there are 65 McDonalds restaurants in the city! After the walking tour we returned, by coach, to our hotel where we had approximately two hours to shower, rest, and change for dinner.
Our driver, Roberto, took us to Gladiatore, a lovely restaurant just across the street from the Colosseum where we feasted on bread, antipasta of bruschetta and various Italian meata, pasta and, of course, pizza. We were serenaded by a trio of Italians who led us in a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” for Karl. When we were finished, we were taken back to our hotel at around 8:30 PM for a much-needed rest.
Day 2 – Thursday, August 7th
We were up by 6:30 for breakfast in the hotel. Our local guide, Amelia, gave us a tour of the Vatican this morning. We had to rent “Whisper” systems from the Vatican for our tour. We walked through the Vatican museum which featured excellent statues and intricate tapestries. We silently proceeded into the Sistine Chapel. Built as a replica in size of Solomon's temple, it was less ornate than many expected, but the frescos by Michelangelo were awe-inspiring. There was certainly not enough time to fully study and appreciate each panel. Additionally, the walls were adorned with famous works of art, including an especially avant-garde piece by Botticelli which was one of the best examples of the use of perspective in Renaissance art.
From the Sistine Chapel, we walked to St. Peter's Basilica. Here was the ornate church many were hoping to see. Originally designed by Michelangelo to mimic the Pantheon, it was changed by architects Bernini, Maderno, and Bramante who chose to reflect different architectural styles. This was one of the few places where photography was permitted, as there were no canvases on the walls. The large pieces of art which resembled paintings were actually intricately pieced mosaics of gigantic scale. Michelangelo’s first Pieta was displayed behind glass, as were several embalmed popes. There was a beautiful alabaster window located behind the Cathedra featuring the dove of the Holy Spirit.
After touring St. Peter's we took a short bus ride to the Coliseum, or Flavian Amphitheater. Here, Karl had arranged for a professional photographer to take a group picture of the Heymann cousins. Sweltering heat, but thankfully we had pre-booked tickets (like we did at the Vatican) to get in quickly and avoid the long lines. The Coliseum was astonishing. It's almost inconceivable that they could have built such a structure in just 8 years! And then to think for 100 years they flooded it to stage naval battles! According to our guide, it took just 6 minutes to fill it from the aqueducts.
After visiting the Coliseum, we boarded the bus to go to the Domatilla catacombs, which are the largest (17 kilometers) of all of the catacombs yet explored in Rome. These particular catacombs also contain the only basilica of the catacombs. It was much cooler under the earth, and most of the graves we passed had been robbed. The catacombs were carved out of a volcanic ash rock that hardens when exposed to the elements, and they were dug in four levels. There were horizontal graves and larger, “pizza oven”, ones to hold entire families. Our guide, Nick, who was from South Bend, Indiana, said that families would come down to the graves on the anniversary of their loved ones’ deaths to have a picnic. They would carry clay oil lamps to illuminate the depths. Many of these have been found in the catacombs. We did see some human bones in an area of the catacombs (which were built around the site of the graves of two martyrs) that are usually not on the public tour, but we got to see them because they rerouted our trip due to the over 50,000 German altar helpers who were in Rome to see the pope.
We then returned to the hotel to rest and clean up before dinner. We bade Roberto Ciao because we would have a new coach and a new driver for the remainder of the trip. Dinner was not far from our hotel. We walked to Mino where we had the typical Italian meal of at least four courses! We were again serenaded by Italian musicians playing the flute and guitar. Several of the women also received roses and a kiss from an amorous waiter! Back at the Mediterraneo some of the cousins rode the elevator to the top floor to enjoy some refreshments and a beautiful view of Rome at night just as others had done on the previous evening.
Day 3 – Friday, August 8th
Our new driver, Frank, took us from Rome to Pompeii. Once there, we met our local guide, Esther. After being harassed by a local policeman (carabinieri), Esther led us down into the excavated city. We were all astonished by the vastness of Pompeii. We didn't have enough time to fully explore the site, and the heat was scorching, but it was such an impressive area. We admired 2000 year old frescoes, marveled at the beautiful mosaics, and wondered how such a “primitive” people could have such advanced systems.
We ate lunch in Pompeii at the hotel Victoria, and then travelled on to Sorrento. We were surprised to find that our hotel had a swimming pool. Several members of the group swan before dinner, while others relaxed poolside.
The drive to dinner proved to be exhilarating… for various reasons! We had to divide into several cars to go to the restaurant. Once again, we were unprepared for the Italian rules of the road! The streets were narrow, and the traffic seemed totally chaotic, but we all arrived safely. One particular driver, who later turned out to be our dinner entertainment, made quite an impression on our family with his crazy looks, chicken impersonations, and claims to be the brother of Michael Bolton! Dinner was very good at Zi Antonio Mare. We sat by the water with stunning views of the cliffs and boats along the harbor. We departed via the various cars again and turned in for the night.
Day 4 – Saturday, August 9th
We woke up early and boarded the bus for our early departure. We drove to the harbor to ride the ferry to Capri! The boat was smooth on the water, and the trip was a quick one. We arrived at the island and found that it was incredibly beautiful. It was another warm, sunny day. We took a funicular up the hillside to the upper level of the island. The view was spectacular from there. Esther took us on a walking tour through some of the narrow winding streets and into a very beautiful garden with a breathtaking view of the water. On the way, several people purchased some locally produced perfume. Others purchased lemon slushes from vendors along the way. The lemons on Capri have a very thick skin and a delicious taste. We had a little free time (enough for several group members to get some gelato) and then half of us took the funicular down to catch a small boat for a cruise around the island. The grottos were breathtaking and the water was so clean and colorful. We gained a real appreciation for the island and understood its place among the top vacation destinations in the world for the rich and famous! After the cruise around Capri, we all took the ferry back to the mainland and then a bus back to our hotel where we had about 40 minutes to freshen up before heading back out.
We were headed to the village of Positano. We drove along the Amalfi Coast to get there. The roads were winding and a little harrowing for some, but the scenery was simply gorgeous! Karl had our driver stop at a lookout point along the roadside to get some beautiful pictures of Positano and the water. He also directed us to a little stand owned by some friends of his. They were selling spices to add to pasta, pasta, and fruit. Many of us purchased the spices. We drove on to the town and walked around for about an hour. The streets were so narrow and winding that it is hard to believe that people (especially truck drivers) can drive there. Most of the group took a little nap on the way back to the hotel. We had an hour and a half before dinner. Most people showered and/or napped.
For dinner, we took two small buses to the home of Pasquale and Marisa Sannino. They were a lovely Italian couple who fed us in their home overlooking their gardens and the bay of Naples (Napoli). We had lasagna, eggplant parmasiana, a dish of red peppers and sausage, mozzarella, caprese, and wine and coke. Dessert was a shortbread with fresh figs and limoncello for those who wanted it. Pasquale talked o us about his family after dinner and gave us the history of his homestead. After dinner, several of us bought cookbooks from Marisa. It was a lovely evening with some very friendly people. Pasquale was obviously so proud of his heritage and family. We returned to the hotel for some rest before an early wake up call.
Day 5- Sunday, August 10th
We left Sorrento to head to Florence. We made a couple of rest stops on the way before arriving at Orvieto in Umbria. It was another hot day (35 degrees Celsius)! Orvieto was a beautiful ancient city founded by the Etruscans. Around 264 BC the Romans took the city. About 30,000 live there. It is quaint and beautiful. Every corner was worthy of a postcard. And, in the center of town was the most beautiful cathedral covered in intricate mosaics. We stopped for some delicious gelato around the corner before wandering down the winding streets to catch the funicular to the parking lot. We continued the drive to Florence.
When we arrived, we were swept to the Academy to meet our local guide Ricardo. Since the museums close on Mondays, this was an opportunity for us to see some of Michelangelo’s works while in the city. Ricardo was an excellent guide, and his love of history and the city was evident. We saw the unfinished works of Michelangelo as well as the David. Ricardo managed to bring the statues to life with his descriptive narrative of the life of Michelangelo.
At the Hotel Roma before dinner, we were met by Ulrike and her sister Dagmar. It was so good to see Ulrike again. They planned to travel with us until Friday when they (and Duane, Laurel, and Paula) head to Kaltenholzhausen to make preparations for our arrival. Dinner was very good at Ostaria Centopoveri.
Day 6 – Monday, August 11th
In the morning we were again met by Ricardo. He took us to the church of Sante Croce. This lovely church was the final resting place of Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante, and others. Inside, there were magnificent frescos. Much restoration had to be done after the Arno River flooded in 1966. At that time there was 17 feet of water in Santa Croce square! We took a walking tour of Florence. We admired lovely architecture and the elite shopping areas. After saying goodbye to Ricardo, Karl led us to a gold store and a leather store (Misuri) where we would have to opportunity to shop for some of Florence’s specialty goods. In the leather store, John, Deb, Harvey, and Caci modeled some fine leather jackets. The store clerk taught us how to identify real leather from imitation leather. We also got to see one of their most famous products which is the Grace Kelly handbag.
Lunch was on our own before climbing back onto the bus for a special stop. We had the chance to tour the American WW2 cemetery outside of Florence. It was incredibly well manicured. Two men and their families care for it, and they do a wonderful job. One of the men came and spoke to us about the fighting around Florence during the war. He was very informative and helped us grasp the importance of the fighting that took place in that area.
On the way to our dinner location, we stopped at a medieval village, San Gimignano, for a little gelato and shopping.
Dinner was at a restaurant called Il Mulinaccio. It was a beautiful, sprawling property where receptions are often held. We sat outside to enjoy drinks and hors d’oeuvres before having our dinner. Several toasts were made, and everyone was content. Karl presented Luke with a red remote control “Italian” racecar! Luke was thrilled and demonstrated his new toy for the group. Dinner consisted of many delicious courses and a superb chocolate soufflé. We returned to the Hotel Roma with wonderful memories of the day.
Day 7- Tuesday, August 12th
There was a lot of driving on this day, but it was divided by a stop in Pisa. We took the "McDonalds train" close to a flea market area outside of Miracle Square. The straw market was bustling with tourists, but was unremarkable. It was not until we walked through the gate leading to the church, baptistery, and bell tower, that we were amazed by how beautiful the structures were. It was worthy of its name, “Miracle Square.” There were many tourists. Most people wanted pictures with the tower in the background - making it look like they were holding it upright. Karl showed us the best spot to take these photographs, and then assisted many of the cousins by snapping their photos for them. Then, many of the group explored the flea market which contained a McDonald’s restaurant. After a little shopping, we caught the train for the coach parking area. We were driven back to our hotel outside of Venice. Dinner was at our hotel. No one was overwhelmed by the food, but we were glad to get a little extra rest at the end of the day.
Day 8- Wednesday, August 13th
We boarded the bus this morning for a short ride to the docks where we boarded a boat for Venice. What a beautiful place! Most of the group took pictures as we crossed the lagoon bound for Venice. The island itself was crowded with tourists, and the temperature was almost 90 degrees. However, we were thankful for the sun because the weather forecast had predicted rain, so we were thankful for "Heymann weather." We met our local guide, Sergio, and did a short walking tour to St. Mark's Square, passing the Grand Canal and the Bridge of Sighs along the way. Gorgeous mosaics decorated the façade of the church and depicted the transportation of the remains of St. Mark from Egypt to Venice. Shoulders had to be covered inside the church, and Karl held the larger bags which were not allowed inside. We were all impressed by the interior of the beautiful, breathtaking church. There was something especially outstanding and awe-inspiring about St. Mark's. The floors were inlaid with tiles in complex geometric patterns. During high tide it floods in there, but the floors were one of the most beautiful and intricate parts of the structure. It was originally built in 828 as a small wooden structure and added to over the years before an overhaul during the Renaissance made it look like it does today. Frescoes, gilding, and magnificent stonework adorned every surface. Back outside, we admired the clock in the square which noted the time with Roman numerals. We were then given some free time to explore Venice. Eleven members of our group met Karl in front of the Daniele hotel to take a gondola ride. We were divided between two gondolas before beginning our tour of the canals of Venice. Afterwards, we took another boat to a nearby island to tour a Murano glass factory. We saw a glass blowing demonstration by a glass master who created two pieces (a vase and a horse) for us in a fascinating demonstration. We then went inside to see the many creations of the artists who work for the company. One of the managers showed us several styles of dinner glasses and the many color varieties they use. We then had time to look around and shop for glass pieces if we wanted to. Many members of the family bought jewelry. We then boarded the boat for a trip around the lagoon and over to Burano island.
Burano! Our group fell in love with that little treasure! The little island with the colorful houses and scenic canals was picturesque. It was much less congested than Venice had been. It rained quite hard while we enjoyed our seafood lunch at Raspo d Uva, but when we emerged, quite full from the meal, the sun was again peeking out from behind the clouds. We walked around for awhile after dinner to explore the streets and shops. Then, we got back on the boat to return to the area where our bus had been parked before we toured Venice. What a memorable day!
Day 9- Thursday, August 14th
This day was a travel day. We left Venice in the morning and drove to Germany, stopping in Innsbruck briefly. In Innsbruck, we saw a gorgeous rococo basilica and then were on our own for lunch. The mountains were pristine and the weather was much cooler than it had been in Italy.
From Innsbruck, we drove on until we came to Munich. Karl made a pit stop to leave his laundry with Judith, and then we drove to the hotel Torbeau, which was built shortly before Columbus arrived in the New World. Before dinner, we took a walk to Marienplatz and then to our restaurant, Zum Duernbraeu. Judith joined our group for the evening meal which was delicious, and everyone enjoyed himself.
Day 10 - Friday, August 15th
Due to unexpected delays on the highway, this was a longer day of travel than we planned, but we made several stops for food and facilities. We arrived in Rothenburg in time for lunch. Most people managed to fit shopping into this lunch break as they enjoyed the sited of this Medieval town. Kathe Wolfahrt’s Christmas store was a group highlight.
From Rothenburg, we travelled to Idstein. We stayed at a small, family-owned hotel in this quaint little city once known for its “Witch Tower.” Dinner was at a local restaurant called Zu Pfeif. While at dinner, Karl presented each family with a copy of the group picture taken in Rome. They were so nice, and a lovely souvenir of our time there.
Day 11 – Saturday, August 16th
We boarded our bus and headed to the famous Rhine River. There, we got on our vessel for a Rhine river cruise. We saw the famous Lorelei statue as well as many beautiful castles. Two of particular interest were the hostile brothers' castles with the quarreling wall between. We had lunch in Ruedesheim at Ruedesheimer Schloss. It was a lovely place where we enjoyed excellent food and trio of musicians. During the meal, a few raindrops started to fall. Then the awnings were rolled out and all were dry again. After lunch, we had a little time to shop before taking the bus to see the German Statue of Liberty commemorating German unification. We then proceeded back to hotel. Our evening was free to explore Idstein and have dinner at our leisure. Many of the family members enjoyed delicious ice cream at a local shop.
Day 12 – Sunday, August 17th
This morning we were driven from Idstein to our ancestral home of Kaltenholzhausen. We were welcomed by many relatives and friends. Soon, after our arrival at the church, we proceeded inside for the church service. The pastor was kind enough to give his sermon in both English and German. We were also fortunate to hear hymns sung by a local choir. While at the church, Ulrike Gapp presented David Hyman, President of the Heymann Historical Society with an historic picture of a German relative outside of the town nearly one hundred years ago. David thanked Ulrike and all of our German friends and relatives for making us feel so welcome and expressed gratitude for the Heymann brothers who crossed the Atlantic so many decades before to improve their religious, economic, and familial situations. The Reverend Kurt Zander then gave his sermon in German and in English for the guests who were visiting from the United States.
Upon exiting the church, we paused for a group photograph on the steps of the church before heading to the former home of the original Heymann brothers who came to the United States. Although we were unable to tour the home, we were quite pleased to see that the current owner is carefully restoring the home to its original beauty. We crossed the street to see the Friendship tree which had been planted on an earlier HHS trip. The tree was thriving, and it was beneath this symbol of familial affection that the mayor of Kaltenholzhausen, Rosalinde Zimmermann, welcomed us and gave a short speech. David Hyman presented her with a Heymann Genealogy book for their local library or town records.
For lunch, we were taken to Burgschwalbach where Ulrike had taken great pains to arrange a beautiful reception for us. We were seated in a lovely room with red, white, and blue table decorations and commemorative postcards. We were welcomed by local politicians including the mayor of Burgschwalbach, Ehrenfried Bastian, and the mayor of the area, Volker Satony. We then enjoyed a delicious meal and had an opportunity to socialize with our German relatives. Following the meal, we walked to the church which had undergone restoration work under the leadership of Pastor Heymann several hundred years ago. There, Annette Kitschke gave a talk describing the history and architecture of the church. We returned to the reception area for coffee and cake. Then, the majority of the group went on a walking tour of Burgschwalbach while the Board had a short meeting.
We returned to Idstein where we later had dinner on the second floor of former firehouse-turned-brewery (Brauhaus). The food was excellent, and we were happy to have more time with our German family. After the meal, Jackie Hyman presented Karl with some gifts and our heartfelt thanks for leading our trip. Everyone gave him a resounding round of applause. He is much beloved by our family, and we all felt safe and relaxed with him at the helm of our tour. Karl thanked Jackie as well for her efforts to make sure that this trip was possible for all of us. Jackie also presented our driver, Frank, with a token of our appreciation. Ulrike was recognized for her thoughtfulness and diligence in organizing the German cousins in welcoming us. Jackie also thanked Ulrike and her sister, Dagmar, for joining us on our tour. Finally, Rachel thanked Jackie (her mother) for her work to make this tour a reality. Jackie was presented with several gifts from the group. After dinner, many of the American family members walked to the local ice cream shop for a final taste of European dessert! When we arrived, we found that Karl had raced there ahead of us, and, knowing that we were looking forward to the treat, had convinced the employees to remain open past their regular hours to accommodate us. Once we had ordered, we also found that he had already arranged to pay for everyone’s ice cream and could not be prevailed upon to take any repayment!
Day 13 – Monday, August 18th
We were up quite early for the drive to the airport in Frankfurt. Our group was departing on several different flights, so we said goodbye before heading to our ticket counters. Karl came in with us to make sure we made it to the correct places. We were certainly happy to be going home, but sorry to bid Karl farewell. We left with so many wonderful memories.