Traveling Tegs: Flying Jayhawks embark on ‘Great Journey Through Europe’

Posted on Jul 27, 2017 in Alumni News and News

A group of Jayhawks from across the U.S. took on the “Great Journey Through Europe“, an eleven-day trip from June 15-25. Included in the group was Tegan Thornberry, director of membership and business development. Here’s her account of the cross-country trip.Matterhorn

Day 1 & 2

We arrived in Geneva, Switzerland and enjoyed a scenic transfer to Zermatt. The afternoon was spent settling into the Hotel Alex and meeting everyone at our first group dinner. The next day was open for us to explore at our leisure and take the Gornergrat Bahn railway up to view the Matterhorn. We lucked out with a beautiful clear view of the peaks of the Swiss Alps and the Matterhorn. Some of our more adventurous passengers even hiked down from one of the last rail stops back to town.

Day 3

Off to Lucerne! We loaded up to Andermatt on the Glacial Express, the slowest high-speed train i’ve ever seen. A quick lunch break at the Hotel Drei Konig before loading on the buses to check into the beautiful Hotel Schweizerhof in Lucerne. For dinner, a group of KanBraska (we combined with the group from the Nebraska Alumni Association frequently) enjoyed a traditional Swiss fondue outing.

Day 4

The 14th century wooden Chapel Bridge highlighted today during our morning walking tour of Lucerne. Armed with two sets of Gondolas, we reached our next stop: the top of Mt. Pilatus. We enjoyed a three-course lunch with a view and some free time to explore before heading back down the mountain via the world’s steepest cogwheel railway.Germany

Day 5

We continued our trip to Basel to board our Rhine River cruise, but not before a scenic stop in Bern at the botanical gardens high above the city. Lunch was at the Kornhaus Keller Restaurant followed by a walking tour of Bern. It was a hot day for sure, but it was an interesting city and the number of fountains with potable water came in handy: not a given in Europe!

Day 6

This morning at breakfast, we were surprised by a ransom note. Some of our cutout Jayhawks had gone missing! They were being held captive by one of our Nebraska neighbors, but which one? We continued our day with a walking tour in Strasbourg, France. That evening we had a number of Jayhawks living aboard join us on the ship for a reception. We had three alumni who attended graduate school at KU: g’68, g’90, and g’08 graduates. The hours flew by sharing stories of our time on the Hill. I’m not sure which group enjoyed it more, the Flying Jayhawks travelers, or the Jayhawks living in Germany! We love being able to connect Jayhawks around the world.

Day 7

Today was all about a city tour of the Heidelberg and its landmark castle. The fortress is 700 years old, sits 70 meters above the Neckar river, and houses the biggest wine barrel in the world. At night, we set sail to Rudesheim. Before our day ended, we got our Jayhawks returned to us along with another note! It would take me a couple of more days to figure out who exactly was behind the capture.

Day 8

All aboard the Winzerexpress! We loaded up on two trains and went through town and through the vineyard, ending at the tasting cellar. Prost! It was an entertaining demonstration by the Vineyard owner. As fun as the vineyard was, we had to get to Koblenz for a tour. Much of the city was closed off for a charity race that day with over 7,000 runners. We still enjoyed the walking tour and took advantage of some free time before sailing to Cologne.

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Day 9

Day 9 marked our last day on the ship. Our stops included a walking tour of Cologne, and small group visit to its famous Cathedral. This evening we gathered for the Captain’s Farewell reception and dinner. On this last day, we found out the culprit behind the hostage Jayhawks was a sweet woman from Nebraska named Nancy. She celebrated her 80th birthday on the trip and was the last person I would guess to be behind the mischief.

A number of our passengers participated in the Amsterdam extension, but it was time for me to head home and back to work. It was a great journey full of laughs with great Jayhawks. Thanks to all who came, and I hope you can join us on our next adventure!

Our Flying Jayhawks!

—Tegan Thornberry, or “Traveling Tegs” as she’s affectionately known around the office, serves as director of membership and business development and hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip “Timeless Treasures.” She also brings cookies to the office every Tuesday. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the new 2018 schedule, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.

Watch our slideshow below to see more pictures from this trip, or view them on Flickr.

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Shenanigans abound when former rivals travel abroad

Posted on Jun 22, 2017 in Alumni News and News

An old rivalry was renewed as Jayhawks made the “Great Journey through Europe.”

Participants on the Flying Jayhawks tour found themselves traveling with some Nebraska Cornhuskers, who pranked the KU crew by holding Jayhawk decorations hostage.

But, our friendly neighbors to the north quickly returned the beloved birds.

Do the Jayhawks have plans to play any tricks of their own? The Huskers are anxiously awaiting any good-natured retaliation, and in the meantime, the groups are no doubt trading stories about the good old days when the two schools belonged to the same conference.

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Jayhawks explore ‘Timeless Treasures’ of the Mediterranean

Posted on Jun 6, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Scenery from the Timeless Treasures cruise in the Mediterranean Sea | Flying Jayhawks
A group of 30 Jayhawks from across the U.S. explored the Mediterranean on a seven-day cruise from April 28-May 6.

We began our journey in Athens, Greece– embarking on the ship headed to two of the Cyclades group of islands. First stop, Mykonos.

Travelers selected from a number of excursions this day. More than half the group explored the ruins on the small island of Delos, just off the island of Mykonos. The lions of Apollo guard this island, and a number of intricate mosaics are still intact.

The rest of the group explored Mykonos, famous for white homes with blue shutters and the iconic windmills. The maze-like streets, originally designed to ward of pirate attacks, offered a variety of shops and restaurants.

Mosaic in Delos, from the Timeless Treasures Flying Jayhawks cruise in the Mediterranean

Our next port of call was the island of Santorini, which offered picturesque views of the white cave homes and blue domes. We visited the quieter town of Oia before heading to the more well-known capital of Fira. Cobblestone streets wind between shops and cafes with stunning views.

After cruising a day at sea, we made it to our next destination. Malta is a small island nestled to the south of Sicily and north of Africa. The Dingli cliffs provided breath-taking views. Tours included visiting catacombs and the village of Rabat, and we spent our free time in the capital of Valletta, accessible by elevator from the harbor.

Sicily means “Land of the Godfather.” The largest island in Mediterranean is notable serving as the backdrop of a number of scenes in the “Godfather” movies. Sicily was its own country for centuries before the Italian unification in 1860. It is still home to a proud culture, and residents identify more strongly as Sicilian rather than Italian.

Scenery from the Timeless Treasures cruise in the Mediterranean | Flying Jayhawks

Our last stop was Sorrento, Italy. My high school Latin teacher, Mr. Wilson, would be so proud and excited I was able to visit Pompeii! It was fascinating to walk around a town that has been uncovered after being preserved by the volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius. I found it so interesting to see how Roman life was frozen in time.

We disembarked in Rome. A number of our passengers stayed on in Rome, but it was time for me to travel home. It was a fantastic week with some amazing people. Some I have traveled with in the past, and others I hope travel with us again in the future.

Until next time, arrivederci!

—Tegan Thornberry, or “Traveling Tegs” as she’s affectionately known around the office, serves as director of membership and business development and hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip “Timeless Treasures.” She also brings cookies to the office every Tuesday. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the new 2018 schedule, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.

PHOTOS:
Watch the slideshow below to see photos from the trip, or click here to view the pictures on Flickr. Photos may be downloaded for personal use.

Flying Jayhawks 2017: Timeless Treasures

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Jayhawks venture to world’s largest rainforest ecosystem

Posted on May 9, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Amazon River Expedition Flying Jayhawks group, photo courtesy of Steve Pennington

A group of Jayhawks cruised the Amazon River, the longest navigable river in the world, from Feb. 24-Mar. 5, 2017. The travelers sailed on the M.V. Zafiro, one of the newest small expedition river vessels specifically designed to navigate the upper Amazon and its tributaries. The vessel carries 36 guests.

The trip included two nights in Lima, Peru; one night in Iquitos; and a five-night cruise.

Steve Pennington, c’72, g’75, shared the above photo taken during the trip, his eighth Flying Jayhawks adventure.

Pictured left to right: a naturalist from the cruise ship, Rick Miller, Pat Louden, Pennington, John Louden, Susan Miller, and the Gohagan tour guide.

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Flying Jayhawks not the only birds in Antarctica

Posted on Apr 5, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Flying Jayhawks in AntarcticaA group of seven Jayhawks traveled to Antarctica for the trip of a lifetime Feb. 9-22, 2017.

The seventh continent is truly the most remarkable of all. Every view is magnificent and no two are similar. Since the Jayhawk flock traveled during the Antarctic summer, it was not as cold as one might think, and thanks to the suggestions of the tour company, they were well prepared.

If you have forgotten what serenity means in this world of constant communication, you will find it in Antarctica. With no telephone, television, or internet connection available, the group took time to watch seals float by on ice patches and see 2000-pound “adolescent” seals yawn in the sunshine. They meet another kind of bird—the famous penguins— and saw birds fishing and gliding during sunrise and sunset. Whales helped guide the ship through narrow passages.

According to Kay Brada, c’61, it was the trip of a lifetime. “But if you are into museums, churches, coffee shops and gift shops, this isn’t the trip for you,” she said, adding that travelers should put this trip at the top of the bucket list.

The trip was hosted by Tegan Thornberry, assistant director of membership and business development. Watch the slideshow below to see photos of Antarctica’s breathtaking beauty, or click here to view the pictures on Flickr. Travelers are welcome to download photos for personal use.

Flying Jayhawks 2017: Antarctica

Travel the world with fellow Jayhawks! For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks. The 2018 travel schedule will be available soon.

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Alumni travelers explore Cuban culture

Posted on Feb 7, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Flying Jayhawks | Cuba | 2017

As 14 Flying Jayhawks prepared for our trip to Cuba Jan. 6, tour director Antoinette Ford of Gohagan & Company wisely urged us to “be flexible and have open minds and hearts” during our visit to the island nation, which is struggling to accommodate the dramatic influx of tourists from the United States. We soon learned that the Cuban people welcome Americans with open arms, eagerly sharing their extraordinary culture and history. But Cuba’s aging infrastructure, dual currencies and years of isolation from the United States make for an unpredictable, challenging adventure.  One of our local guides joked that the unofficial motto of Cuba is, “It’s complicated.”

Joining us on our journey were 26 Traveling Owls from Rice University and 12 alumni of Vassar College. In addition to making new friends from across the United States, we treasured the opportunities to meet and talk with Cuba’s citizens, including our local guides, musicians, dancers, artists, community leaders, farmers and the owners of several paladars, local Cuban homes that have become restaurants.

Our adventure began with six nights on the majestic M.Y. Le Ponant, a three-masted French sailing ship making its first Cuban voyage. For three nights, the ship remained in Santiago Bay, on the southeast coast of the island, as we enjoyed daily excursions. We visited San Juan Hill, the pivotal site of the Spanish-American War (known to Cubans as the Spanish-Cuban-American War). A lively performance by local musicians and dancers  provided the perfect introduction to Cuban culture. We also toured the magnificent Cementerio Santa Ifigenia, which includes the mausoleum of José Marti, Cuba’s national hero and a literary legend in Latin America, as well as the grave of Fidel Castro. We were fortunate to witness the changing of the guard.

Flying Jayhawks | Cuba | 2017

Other sites in Santiago included the cathedral and shrine of Our Lady of Charity, the patron saint of Cuba. Outside the city, we visited the 16th-century Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro, a Spanish fort more commonly known as The Morro. Brilliant sunshine made up for the buffeting winds as we enjoyed the breathtaking views of Santiago Bay and an exquisite a cappella concert in the fort’s chapel by four Cuban women, Vocal Vidas.

As Le Ponant sailed from Santiago, the ship’s crew hoisted the KU flag and we enjoyed a glorious day at sea before arriving in Cienfuegos. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city features a picturesque square bordered by the historic Teatro Tomas Terry, where famed tenor Enrico Caruso and other legendary stars performed. We also visited Santa Clara, where we learned the danzon, a traditional Cuban dance, from senior citizens at Abuelos de Fiesta, and toured the Che Guevara Monument and the History Museum of the Revolution.

After leaving the ship, we traveled by bus to Havana, the highlight of the first day was a visit to Finca Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s stunning home, which boasts lush gardens and spectacular views. While our guide enjoyed telling us that actress Ava Gardner once skinny-dipped in Hemingway’s pool, most of us were more interested in seeing the famed author’s retreat, with its hunting lodge décor, historic photos and, of course, his typewriter.

The next morning began with a tour of the city in the vintage U.S. cars that local drivers have carefully and painstakingly preserved. Riding in a ’57 pink convertible Chrysler New Yorker sure beats a tour bus. We then walked the cobblestone streets of Old Havana, including the Plaza de la Cathedral and other squares where restoration of the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s colonial structures will continue for years to come. In a Havana suburb, we marveled at the wondrous, whimsical mosaics by artist Jose Rodriquez Fuster, who has adorned not only his home and studio but also his neighborhood with joyous, colorful sculptures in all shapes and sizes. Fuster’s eye-popping art lifts the spirits of residents and tourists.

Flying Jayhawks | Cuba | 2017

From Havana we ventured to the Vinales Valley, which sits amid dramatic hill formations that are part of the Sierra de los Organos mountains. A local organic farm has become a favorite tourists’ lunch spot, known for tasty all-natural smoothies (rum optional) and delicious family-style meals. Our last stop was a tobacco farm, where Senor Benito explained the process for growing, drying and rolling the leaves that become Cuba’s famous cigars. A few travelers shared a smoke with Benito, who also welcomed us into his home for coffee.

After a long day, a few of us rallied for an evening at La Tropicana, the famous night club where extravagant (and decadent) entertainment first flourished in the 1940s during Havana’s heyday as the forerunner of Las Vegas.

As U.S. tourism continues to soar, Cuba no doubt will change drastically in the years to come. The Flying Jayhawks counted ourselves fortunate to visit the island as a new era begins.

—Jennifer Jackson Sanner

Jennifer Jackson Sanner is senior vice president of strategic communications and advocacy and editor of Kansas Alumni magazine. View more pictures from the trip on Flickr.

This marks the third trip to Cuba through the program: Danny Lewis, director of donor relations, hosted a trip in 2013, and Michelle Lang, director of alumni programs, hosted a trip in 2015.

 

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Flying Jayhawks Guest Post: Trade Routes of Coastal Iberia

Posted on Nov 18, 2016 in Alumni News and News

The nine-day “Trade Routes of Coastal Iberia” Flying Jayhawks trip showcased the coastal jewels of the Iberian Peninsula between Barcelona, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal.  John Wilson shared his memories and photos of the trip.

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Barcelona
Those of us on the pre-cruise extension enjoyed Barcelona, where we explored the Gothic Quarter and visited Sagrada Familia Basilica, originally designed by Gaudi and still under construction. The following day we traveled to the Codorniu vineyard, a leading producer of Spanish cava (sparkling wine). We drove up Montserrat Mountain to take in the scenery and visited the Benedictine abbey with its venerated Black Madonna.

We then returned to Barcelona, boarded our ship, Le Lyrial, and sailed overnight to Mallorca. The Flying Jayhawks got together for a fine welcome dinner.

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Mallorca
The next day dawned clear and bright on the sunny island of Mallorca. We first traveled to the stunning west coast, and then to the picturesque village of Valldemossa, where we toured the former Carthusian monastery and enjoyed a brief Chopin recital. In the afternoon we visited the Bellver Castle and the Palma Cathedral, one of tallest in the world.

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Valencia
We awoke the next morning in Valencia, Spain’s third largest city. Our tour included the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences as well as a sampling of horchata, a local beverage. That evening, we enjoyed a Flying Jayhawks cocktail reception and dinner.

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Granada
The next day we journeyed inland to Granada to explore the world famous Alhambra Palace, originally established by the Moors and conquered by the Spanish in 1492. Highlights included the Court of the Myrtles and the Generalife Gardens.

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Gibraltar
Sunday found us in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. We toured the Rock, including Europa Point, St. Michael’s Cave, and the Great Siege Tunnels. We also got up close and personal with the resident Barbary Apes. We sailed at twilight through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Atlantic Ocean.

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Seville
Our KU flag was flying proudly the next morning as Le Lyrial cruised up the Guadalquivir River into Seville. We had a full day visiting the Plaza de Espana, the Jewish Quarter, the Seville Cathedral, and the Alcazar.

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Portimao
Our next stop was Portimao, Portugal. We visited the Castle of Silves, the Algarve Coast, and the port city of Lagos. That evening, en route to Lisbon, the Flying Jayhawks enjoyed a festive farewell dinner.

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Lisbon
Those of us on the post-cruise extension enjoyed a day trip to the Portuguese royal palaces of Queluz and Sintra, returning to Lisbon via the coastal resort of Cascais. The next day our tour of Lisbon included stops at the National Coach Museum and the Jeronimos Monastery. We then had time to explore central Lisbon on our own.

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View more photos from Mollie Mitchell, j’83, d’85, g’88, and John Wilson’s journey. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the 2017 schedule, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.

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Traveling Tegs takes on the Grand Danube Passage

Posted on Nov 2, 2016 in Alumni News and News

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.
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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.

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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.
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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.
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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!

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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.

Watch our slideshow below to see more pictures from this trip, or view them on Flickr.

Flying Jayhawks 2016: Danube

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Flying Jayhawks | The Changing Tides of History: Cruising the Baltic Sea

Posted on Aug 24, 2016 in Alumni News and News

The nine-day “Changing Tides of History: Cruising the Baltic Sea” journey took 23 eager Flying Jayhawks, including Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and her husband Shade, to fascinating cities and historic sites in six countries.  The cruise also featured interesting talks from historical and political figures of the region including Lech Walsea, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former Polish President; and Sergei Khrushchev, distinguished author and scholar and son of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Brad Eland, vice president of alumni and student programs, shared the memories of his trip.

Day 1
The group arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark for an afternoon to meet our fellow travelers, stretch our legs from the long flight(s), and try to adjust to our new time zone.  The weather was cool and cloudy, a big change from the Kansas heat and humidity that is normal in June! Several Jayhawks set off on foot to explore the city and see Copenhagen’s modern rail station in the heart of the city and Tivoli Gardens, which opened in 1843 and is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world.

After a stroll through Copenhagen, it was time to board our floating home for the next 10 days, Le Boreal.

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Day 2
The city of Visby is on the small island of Gotland in the middle of the Baltic Sea and has been controlled by several countries over time. It is currently part of Sweden, but feels nothing like the bustling mainland that we visited later in the trip. Visby is a charming little town featuring a 13th-century rock wall with original gates, towers, churches and warehouses from medieval times. The museum even featured a grave with remains that are more than 9,000 years old. It truly felt like stepping back in time.

That evening we enjoyed the Captain’s Welcome Reception on board the ship and were able to meet a good majority of our fellow passengers traveling with several schools from across the country. We even played nice with alumni from fellow basketball powerhouse Duke University.

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Day 3
After a night of sailing on the Baltic Sea, we arrived in the port city of Gdansk, Poland. The architecture was stunning and highlighted by the city’s restored mansions that served as the homes for the aristocracy in the 14th century. Our group was also treated to a demonstration about how amber is harvested and made into precious jewelry, and we were tested on how to spot the difference between fake and real samples. It proved to be a hard distinction but a valuable lesson for the shoppers in our group.

Former Polish President Lech Walesa was one of the founders of the solidarity movement, along with Polish workers who established the first independent trade union in Eastern Europe which was a key factor in winning the Polish struggle against Communism. His speech to our travelers left us all inspired by his leadership, vision, and passion for making his country and the entire Eastern European region better.

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Day 4
Our fourth day of the trip was spent entirely at sea. The sunny skies and smooth sailing made for an ideal time to enjoy the sun deck on the ship with a good book or get to know fellow passengers better over a meal or coffee. It also provided our feet a respite from all of the walking we had done.

Day 5
The city of Tallin, Estonia, was one that most of us on the trip had not heard of before, but it ended up being one that most of us will never forget. It blew us all away with its charming architecture and unique history. Tallin’s medieval town hall is the only intact Gothic-style hall in Northern Europe. The fantastic weather that day with sunshine and clear skies certainly left an impression on us as we enjoyed some fantastic views from high points over the entire city.

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Day 6
Halfway through the trip, we awoke in St. Petersburg, Russia, which was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great. While Russians view Moscow as a very “natural” city with winding roads built in the heart of the country and into the natural landscape, St. Petersburg is their “engineered” city that was built completely from scratch on swampland to provide Russia with a key port to the Baltic Sea. The city is laid out in a perfect grid and was designed to be much more western and serve as a gateway to Europe.

Our day began at the incredible State Hermitage Museum, which was originally a czarist palace of Catherine the Great. This museum is so large and its collection so vast, it would take months or even years to see everything they have that highlights Russian history, art and culture. From there we saw the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood and St. Isaac’s Cathedral, which featured the famous dome and spire architecture that Russia is known for.

That evening, we were treated to a Russian folklore show at a local art center that included dancing, singing and comedy (with a smidge of vodka mixed in).

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Day 7
Our second day in St. Petersburg was highlighted by a visit to another of Catherine the Great’s palaces featuring the Amber Room with walls composed entirely of decorative amber. It is considered the Eighth Wonder of the World. The city has nearly 50 palaces and the opulence of the czars was truly unbelievable. You started to take the amount of gold for granted, by the end!

Our evening featured a fascinating lecture from Sergei Khrushchev, who talked about his family’s major role in Russian history as well as his views on current events in the region from his perspective while living and working in America. He had a front row seat to history and a very unique viewpoint as someone who clearly loves Russia, but has spent much of his later life in America. We all walked away with a new outlook on how Russian people view the world and current events.

The Russian people, particularly those who work in the tourism industry, blew us away with their kindness and humor. They were legitimately excited to welcome us to their country and showcase their history and culture, which made the trip that much more fun.

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Day 8
Our ship’s approach into Helsinki was certainly a sight to behold as we all were easily able to discern why the city has won so many recent awards for design in an urban environment. The city had an incredible modern feel to it all while we were visiting some of the city’s historic sites. A major highlight for our group was a visit to the Church of the Rock, which was impressively built directly into natural bedrock.

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Day 9
The final day of our trip landed us in Stockholm, Sweden.  We had a light rain to deal with on our last day in Europe, but no one seemed to mind as we had a city tour by bus on the schedule. Stockholm proved to again have its own unique flair for architecture and design. This part of the world certainly has made its mark on that front melding the modern with all of the history they have as well. That, along with the “white nights” we experienced during summer in the Baltic Region, will certainly be unforgettable. Thankfully our ship was well prepared with blackout shades—we were far enough north that we only had 3-4 hours of darkness per night.

As the 23 Flying Jayhawks departed for home or for more European adventures without the group, everyone was thankful for what we had experienced and eager for the next trip with fellow Jayhawks.

—Brad Eland, vice president of alumni and student programs, hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip “Changing Tides of History: Cruising the Baltic Sea” from June 15-24, 2016. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the 2017 schedule, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.

See pictures from the trip in the slideshow below, or view the photos on Flickr

Flying Jayhawks 2016: Baltic Sea

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Flying Jayhawks Guest Post: Fifty Shades of Green

Posted on Aug 18, 2016 in Alumni News and News

The eight-night “Celtic Lands” Flying Jayhawks voyage took passengers to historic sites in France, Ireland and Scotland. Dwight David Eisenhower II, grandson of General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower, hosted several educational talks aboard the ship. Jean Kerich, ’60, shared her memories and photos of the trip.

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It’s no mystery why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle.  That description becomes immediately obvious the moment you sight land. The landscape featured the green hills, more often than not squared off by ancient rock fences, but also spectacular cliffs and barren rock expanses.  During our ‘Celtic Lands’ Flying Jayhawks trip we were treated with ample opportunity to enjoy all of Ireland’s beautiful scenery as well as many other uniquely Irish experiences.

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For example, we had a taste of mead, one of the oldest alcoholic drinks known to man. Meade is made from honey and water via fermented yeast. We also sampled Irish whisky and Guinness (perhaps more than just a taste!)

We had a look at castles, extraordinary manor houses, churches and thatched roof huts.  We enjoyed a pair of Irish dancers (who provided a lesson for two of the younger members of our group), a whistling cook, and a demonstration of sheep herding by two unbelievably clever dogs.

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Our tour guides taught us about the ecology of the island, the history, the politics, and the origins along with the uses and gathering techniques of peat, a type of vegetation natural to the area. There was talk (and a brief lesson) of hurling, one of the national sports of Ireland, and of rugby and horse racing. We traveled impossibly narrow roads while our extremely knowledgeable bus driver and tour guide gave us the lessons of the land. Additionally, the food, the accommodations and the other passengers in the group were all excellent! This was truly an unforgettable trip.

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Read a diary of the Celtic Lands trip by Heather Hawkins, j’06, and see more pictures from the group’s adventures. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the 2017 schedule, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.

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