Arrive at the Amsterdam Schiphol airport by noon. After clearing customs, we will meet our bus from Emile Weber and head to the Zaanse Schans, an open-air museum. Here we will see how wooden shoes are made, how windmills work, how cheese is made, and what village life in the 1920s looked like. After finding some lunch, we will go into Amsterdam to check into our hotel. Sleeping will be tempting, but try to stay up as long as possible to adjust to the new time.
Thursday, May 16
After a wonderful breakfast at the hotel, we will tour the Anne Frank house. This is where Anne, her family, and several family acquaintances hid during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Their hiding place was finally discovered, and her father was the only person to survive the war. After visiting the museum, we will go to the Singelkerk, at one time the largest Mennonite Church in the world. It is also a hidden church, built to look like the surrounding buildings. At the time, Mennonites were not allowed to build churches which would draw attention as a church. After some free time for lunch, we will head to Aalsmeer and prepare for our first concert! After our final bows, we will return to our hotel in Amsterdam.
Friday, May 17
The Rijksmuseum is the Netherland’s National Art Museum. Works by Rembrandt and Vermeer are just a few of the pieces we will see. Lunch in the park outside of the museum is a great place to relax. We will head to the town of Haarlem for the afternoon, first touring the Bavokerk (Cathedral of St. Bavo) and seeing one of the most famous organs in the world. W. A. Mozart played on it when he was a child! Then a short walk will lead us to the location of our next concert, the Doopsgezindekerk (Mennonite Church). This is also a hidden church with amazing acoustics. Professional recordings are often made in this space. Return to our hotel in Amsterdam after the concert.
Saturday, May 18
After a final breakfast at our hotel, we will head from the province of North Holland to the province of Friesland. To get there we will travel over the Afsluitdijk (cutting off dike), a 32 kilometer (20 miles) dike built between 1927 and 1932. Then on to Joure, a town which has been on every Hesston College choir tour of Europe since 1982! We will meet our hosts in the late afternoon. Details to come, but the hosts in Joure always have some fun surprises for the choir! Tonight will be the first of three nights in our first home stay.
Sunday, May 19
Today we will sing at an ecumenical worship service at the park in Joure. We will also perform an evening garden concert where the guests will arrive by boats or sit at the riverside.
Monday, May 20
Today we will travel to the small Friesian towns of Witmarsum and Pingjum. Outside of Witmarsum is where the Anabaptist reformer Menno Simons was born. In the town of Pingjum we will see a small hidden church where there will be a presentation about Menno’s life, and we will see the church where he served as a priest before leaving the Catholic church to join the Anabaptist movement. We will present an evening concert for our enthusiastic hosts at the Mennonite Church in Joure, and return to our host families for the final night of our stay in this community.
Tuesday, May 21
We say goodbye to our Joure hosts and head into Germany, arriving in Köln (Cologne) around noon. After lunch, we will visit Der Dom and the Basilica of the Holy Apostles. In the evening we will travel on to Neuwied to meet our hosts for overnight home stays.
Wednesday, May 22
Today we will enjoy a cruise on the magnificent Upper Middle Rhine River between Boppard and Bingen. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this section of the river is renowned for beautiful towns, terraced vineyards, and the ruins of medieval castles. The bus will meet us at Bingen for our return to Neuwied for an evening concert at the Mennonitengemeinde.
Thursday, May 23
Saying goodbye to Germany, we head to Switzerland! Our destination is Basel, a city known for its art, museums, and the 16th-century red-sandstone Marktplatz (Town Hall). We will perform an evening concert at the Evangelische Mennonitengemeinde Schänzli. Overnight in host homes.
Friday, May 24
Today we move on to the small village of Moron in the French-speaking part of Switzerland in the Jura Mountains. At just over 1,000 meters of elevation, the town has more cows than people, but the church will be full of people from the area coming to hear the Hesston College Choir once again. Like Joure in the Netherlands, this congregation has been on the itinerary of almost every HC Europe tour. Into the mountains for home stays tonight.
Saturday, May 25
Langnau im Emmental is today’s destination: home of great cheese, chocolate and apple juice! Evening concert in the oldest continuous Mennonite church in the world, dating back to 1530, followed by home stays.
Sunday, May 26
We will depart from Langnau in the morning, and take the short drive to Kambly Erlebnis in nearby Trubschachen. Following that, we will drive to Interlaken, and head south to Lauterbrunnen. Here is where we will park the bus and take the train up into the village of Wengen. A ski village in winter and center of hiking in the summer, this is the starting point for all things outside! Our home for the next two nights will be the Hotel Falken, one of the historic hotels in town, dating back to 1895. It is old-world charm at its best.
Monday, May 27
Get up early and go with Russell on SUPERHIKE for the full day or only part of the day. Or get up a bit later and follow Ken to Kleine Scheidegg for a spectacular view of the Jungfrau Mountain. If you want to spend the ca. $250 for the ticket, you can take the train to the Jungfraujoch, the highest train station in Europe, with the last hour going through the mountain. An amazing feat of engineering! Or sit, read a book and take in the views. It’s all your choice!
Tuesday, May 28
Today we must leave our mountain holiday and take the train back down to Lauterbrunnen where we will meet our bus again. We will head to Lucerne where we will eat lunch and take some time to explore the city. We return to the bus for the hour-long drive to Zurich, Switzerland. Here we will have an Anabaptist walking tour of the city. Tonight we will stay in a hotel near the airport where we will prepare for the flight home or to other destinations.
Wednesday, May 29
After breakfast in the hotel, our bus will drop us off at the airport. Our Hesston College Alumni and Friends tour is now concluded. What a great time of reconnecting with old friends and making new ones!