Posted on Jun 21, 2016 in Alumni News and News
The Flying Jayhawks trip to Belgium and Holland began with a wonderful tour of Brussels. Although it was rainy, we were able to see the beauty of a city that had been through so much in the weeks leading up to our arrival. After a few hours in Brussels, we boarded the bus to Antwerp where we settled on the ship. The ship cruised from Antwerp to Middleburg/Bruges where we had three options for tours: Belgian beer, Belgian chocolate or a cultural tour of Bruges. A handful of our passengers took the Belgian Beer tour, where we learned that no other country on earth produces more beers than Belgium: around seven hundred and counting! There are strong, dark brews from a handful of Trappist monasteries, light wheat beers perfect for a hot summer’s day, fruit beers bottled and corked like champagne, and unusual concoctions that date back to medieval times. Every good Belgian bar has a beer menu, some with several hundred beers and the glasses specific to each one!
Next, we traveled along the Zeeland coast to the artificial island of Neeltje Jans and its Delta Expo. We learned about the Delta Works, a series of massive dams and storm surge barriers, conceived after the 1953 North Seal flood and built over a period of 30 years. The 65 enormous gates can be slammed shut on the North Sea when power storms strike—an engineering masterpiece that now protects the third of the landmass of the Netherlands that sits below sea level. We were able to explore the Expo, which illustrates the delicate balance of the Netherland’s relationship with the ever-encroaching sea.
Over the next few days, our Flying Jayhawks explored Delft, known for hand painted porcelain, and The Hague, considered the most worldly and elegant town in the Netherlands. While in The Hague, passengers visited the Mauritshuis, a recently renovated storied museum that is home to Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. The tour also included a stop at the Peace Palace. Kampen was a beautiful village laced with footpaths and narrow canals traversed by wooden and arched bridges. The whimsical car-free village of Giethoorn seems to have materialized out of a fairy tale. We toured the four miles of picturesque canals by boat in the town that has been nicknamed “Venice of the North.” Cars have never been allowed in the town itself, so everything is very pristine and clean. The only way you can get around the town is by canal boat or bike.
Everyone boarded the ship and we made our way to Amsterdam. We docked late at night, so many passengers were up early to start exploring! We boarded an open-air canal boat and toured the canals of Amsterdam. Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is the center of the country’s culture and commerce. Named after the city’s origin as a dam in the river Amstel, today Amsterdam is known the world over for its more than 60 miles of tree-lined canals and waterways that make this romantic city truly unforgettable. The three main canals were dug during the Golden Age of the 17th century, and that central area is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. While on the canal tour, we learned that during morning rush hour, there are more bikes then cars on the road (1.75 million) and 84% of the population own one or more bikes! Around 2,000 of those bikes somehow end up in the canals each year. Passengers had the rest of the day at leisure and many took the time to go inside the Rijksmuseum, one of Holland’s most famous museums and home to Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” and other treasures. Passengers also visited the Anne Frank Museum as well as her childhood home.
On our last day, we journeyed through Dutch flower fields to the renowned Keukenhof Gardens, an 80-acre paradise of tulips, hyacinths and other beautiful flowers. Keukenhof is webbed with more than nine miles of foothpaths, and the grounds also feature Europe’s largest fountain, a vast sculpture garden and a 700-tree labyrinth. We were able to walk the grounds with an expert guide and learn the story of these magnificent gardens. The gardens are open for only eight weeks out of the year and over 1.1 million people visit within that time.
We ended the trip with a graduation ceremony and farewell reception and dinner. It was a truly unforgettable trip!
—Kelsey Hill, assistant director of Kansas City and Wichita programs, hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip “Waterways and Canals of Holland and Belgium” from April 28-May 6. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the 2017 schedule, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.
Watch our slideshow below to see more pictures from this trip, or view them on Flickr.