The two-week “Grand Danube Passage” journey featured eight countries and 13 towns, with a mix of land and river travel. Tegan Thormberry, assistant director of membership and business development, shares more about the trip in our latest Flying Jayhawks post.
When building the Flying Jayhawks schedule, there is usually a Danube River cruise on it. The trips offer interesting itineraries and get rave reviews. This year, I was fortunate to be able to experience it myself, and it did not disappoint: eight countries in 14 days with a mix of land travel and cruising the Danube River.
Czech Republic: We spent the first three nights in Prague, and our time in the city included visits to the Prague Castle, the Old Town Square, Clock Tower, Charles Bridge, and the Jewish Quarter, along with plenty of time for independent exploration. One day we made our way to the Dancing House designed by Frank Gehry. A fun dessert we saw on every block is called a trdelnik: it consists of dough roasted over hot coals, then covered in sugar. Eat it plain or fill it with a choice of toppings; I enjoyed it with gelato.
Germany: During the bus ride from Prague to Passau, we listened to an interesting talk given by one of our AHI travel directors. She grew up in Germany and gave a detailed account of her experience, the impact of communism and the economy afterward. Passau is a picturesque town with cobblestones painted in Jayhawk colors leading to local shops. We visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral, where we could see some of the mason’s marks on the stonework of the church.
Austria: Cities on our itinerary included Melk, Durnstein and Vienna. We were some of the first visitors of the day to the Melk’s Benedictine abbey. The baroque design and artifacts inside were impressive. We spent the afternoon on a walking tour of Durnstein with a stop at the magnificent Stiftskirche. We visited Vienna on a beautiful sunny day and enjoyed a walking tour in the morning and free time in the afternoon. A few of us went to the Sacher hotel for a lunch of goulash and the famous Sacher-torte for dessert! In the evening we had a nice get-together with the group and the ship captain stopped by to say hello.
Slovakia: In Bratislava, passengers had a choice of excursions. We learned about the Velvet Revolution and the end of communism in Czechoslovakia that lead to the split into two countries. A walking tour ended at a local café to sample local beers along with a delicious biscuit that is a cross between a biscuit and pretzel roll filled with bacon. It was the perfect pairing to go along with the beer.
Hungary: We toured Budapest, Pecs and Paprika. In Budapest the majority of our group chose the Living Local excursion, which began with a guided tour of the Great Market hall and ended with a sampling of strudel and palinka. The market was filled with cured meats, goose liver, palinka, and paprika! Before our strudel sampling, market staff demonstrated how the dough is stretched over a table and then rolled to get all the amazing layers. We primarily toured the Pest side of the city. I went out in the afternoon to see Buda up on the hill with amazing views of the Parliament building.
Serbia: The group enjoyed a tour of Belgrade and visited the fortress in Karadordev Park and the massive St. Sava cathedral. That evening we were treated to a local folk show on the ship.
Romania: We cruised through the Iron Gate Gorge and saw the rock sculpture of Decebalus. After a scenic drive to Orsova, we took in a live organ concert at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. John Lennon and Nadia Comaneci are depicted in scenes of the Stations of the Cross by the artist Gabriel Popa.
Bulgaria: In Vidin we disembarked the ship and took a quick rainy tour before transferring to Sofia. Along the way we stopped and had lunch at the Rocks restaurant and enjoyed the stunning views of the Belogradchik Rocks. As we continued on to Sofia, we drove past fields of sunflowers that reminded me of home. Our last full day in Sofia was spent checking out ancient ruins, St. George Rotunda, and the Cathedral of St. Alexander of Neva. The farewell dinner was held at a local restaurant high on the hill with traditional Bulgarian food and a folk show.
It was such an educational trip and an amazing way to see and experience different cultures with a group of Jayhawks. I couldn’t have asked for better company. I can’t wait for my next Traveling Tegs adventure!
—Tegan Thornberry, or “Traveling Tegs” as she’s affectionately known around the office, serves as assistant director of membership and co-hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip to the Grand Danube Passage in August. She also brings cookies every Tuesday. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the 2017 schedule, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.
I recently had the opportunity to host twelve Jayhawks on a Flying Jayhawks trip that featured the Holiday Markets in Germany and Paris. It was a trip of a lifetime for me!
Our group flew into Frankfurt, Germany, and took a bus tour of the city before boarding our cruise ship. We spent a week aboard the Amadeus Silver II, which is a brand new ship. We boarded the ship in Bernkastel, Germany, a quaint little town on the Mosel River.
From that port, we took a day trip via bus to Trier, Germany, and Luxembourg. Trier is one of the oldest towns in Germany with some things built as early as 17 AD. We saw a Roman Bath, castles and cathedrals, along with the holiday market. Luxembourg was much more modern and is a banking capital. The holiday market in Luxembourg was very festive and had a big Ferris Wheel! After returning from our excursions, we sailed overnight to Cochem, Germany. At Cochem, we enjoyed a tour of the Cochem Castle, situated atop a hill with a beautiful view, along with a smaller holiday market in the valley. Later that day, we set sail to Koblenz, Germany.
In Koblenz, we took a walking tour of the city which had an unforgettable memorial statue. We also saw a gorgeous cathedral and shopped at a large holiday market. After the walking tour, the ship set sail again, and it was a beautiful day to be sailing. Our Jayhawk flag flew on the front of the ship as we cruised down the Mosel and Rhine rivers. While cruising, we passed castles, vineyards and lovely towns. We also enjoyed a lecture entitled “Castles and Legends of the Rhine,” so we learned about the sights we saw. We ended up in Rudesheim that evening. Our evenings on the ship included amazing five-course meals served by an outstanding international staff.
After docking in Rudesheim for the night, we set sail for Mainz the next morning. In Mainz, we took a bus to Heidelburg—they call it “Romantic Heidelburg” for a reason. It is a magical place. We went to the castle atop the hill overlooking the city, where we visited another holiday market, and then another one down in the wonderful town. When the sun went down, the holiday views of Heidelburg were truly magical—like no other.
After our tour of Heidelburg we set sail for Worms, Germany, where we were treated to a rainy walking tour featuring more beautiful cathedrals along with another festive holiday market. After Worms, we set sail for Kehl, Germany, where we docked overnight. From Kehl, we took a bus into Strasbourg, France. What a lovely town, along a river. The holiday market in Strasbourg was huge! This concluded our time on the ship, and the next morning we took a train traveling up to 200 mph to Paris.
In Paris, we had quite a bit of time to explore on our own, but a few things were planned for the entire group. Our particular group of Jayhawk travelers had a special treat the first night in Paris: we held a reception at our hotel and invited a group of KU alumni who live in Paris. The Jayhawk connections we all made that night were very special.
Other planned adventures included an optional excursion to the Palace at Versailles, which was amazing, and a cruise on the Seine River which featured the main attractions of Paris. Although it was a bit rainy, the Eiffel Tower was gorgeous all lit up. Paris was wonderful to see, and the entire trip was a truly amazing experience.
Our Jayhawk group was a special bunch. We all thoroughly enjoyed each other and plan to stay in touch. I would highly recommend a Holiday Markets trip in your future!
—Paige Hofer, coordinator of student programs, hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip to Germany and France in December. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the 2016 schedule, or to sign up to receive emails or brochures about future adventures, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.
When Meggan Holt, f’02, was a senior in high school, she had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Germany. Fast forward to 2001: An opportunity to study abroad arose during her fifth year at KU; three months later, she was on a plane to Frankfurt.
Meggan says she never planned to stay in Germany. “On the contrary, I had interviewed for a graphic design position at Hallmark in Kansas City. They said, ‘Give us a call when you get back from Germany.'” That day never came. “Since I had no obligations in the states, I decided to stay in Germany as long as it was possible. Twelve years later, I’m still here!” she explains.
Although she teaches English to business professionals, Meggan is still involved in music and design. She joined the Symphonic Choir of Hamburg in 2010 and has also designed the concert promotional materials since 2012.
What made you decide to attend KU?
I decided to attend KU for many reasons, including the reputation of the design and music departments, and I wanted to be involved in activities outside of my program of study. Since I have such a variety of interests, I wanted to be at a university that would allow me to study design, be involved in the different bands, continue improving my German, as well as other extracurricular programs.
What is your favorite KU tradition or KU memory?
Waving the wheat, although, to be honest, I think I was always in the band playing during those times! When I catch a game online now, though, one can see me waving the wheat with the best of them!
What groups or activities were you involved with while at KU?
I was involved in many activities while I was at KU, including marching, concert and women’s basketball bands, Tau Beta Sigma (honorary band sorority) Campus Christians, and AIGA.
What’s your favorite thing about Lawrence?
The sense of community. I felt there was definitely a relationship between the city and the university; something that is not present in all college towns. And who couldn’t love Mass Street?!
What do you love most about KU Homecoming?
ALUMNI BAND! Unfortunately, I’ve only been able to participate once. But I will be attending Homecoming again this year! I planned my visit to the states around it. I knew that I would have fun being part of Alumni Band and seeing old friends again. However, I had no idea just how much fun it would be! The best part about it is how the alumni and current band members are integrated.
What advice would you give to incoming students?
Find a way to study abroad for a semester or year. Yes, I am definitely an exception to the rule because I stayed abroad! But I hope this will encourage students to not give up on dreams that seem impossible. I didn’t think I would be able to come back to Germany, other than possibly for vacation, let alone live here. What an amazing adventure!
This year’s Homecoming theme, Jayhawks Around the World, celebrates the University’s global reach in terms of international students and faculty, research discoveries that change the world and the achievements of KU alumni, who live in 150 countries around the globe. Visit www.kualumni.org/homecoming for a schedule of events and to learn more about KU’s Homecoming tradition.