Rev. C. Hanko – Chapter 30: Trip to Europe (continued)

Editor’s Notes—In this chapter, the author takes up the story of his European tour once again. He had first traveled the Netherlands with family, and then joined a tour group to visit various places of interest in other European countries.

We joined a tour group now, and headed into Germany. We first exchanged some of our money for German currency. Before long we were traveling along the autobahn, the freeway built by Hitler to speed up the transport of war supplies. We came to Cologne and had a coffee break. We passed through Bonn, the birthplace of Beethoven, and soon saw the Rhine River next to us. In the afternoon we took a cruise down the Rhine, seeing all the beautiful vineyards, castles, the Lorelei, and other points of interest. Soon we transferred to the bus again and by 8:15 we were ready for supper in a hotel in Manheim, where we spent the night.

There was no doubt that our driver, Alberito, was a capable, experienced driver who seriously minded his business. He brought us to Heidelberg where we took a tour of Heidelberg castle. Here we stood on a hill overlooking the city and the university. Here, the Heidelberg Catechism, which we still cherish today, was written by Caspar Olevianus and Zacharias Ursinus.

At noon we were in Ulm. This brought back memories to Rich, who stayed here for some time during World War II. The Catholic Church had the highest steeple of any in Europe (529 feet high).

At 3 o’clock in the afternoon we crossed the border of Austria and entered the Bavarian Alps. The pass was 3,350 feet high, which would have been enjoyed much more if it had not been raining, with the clouds covering the lofty peaks. Arriving at Innsbruck, we attended a Tyrol festival with all sorts of Bavarian music from various unique instruments, such as a ten foot long horn. This was an old building, the room was packed, a real firetrap. But all went well. We retired at 11:15.

In the morning, the sun was shining brightly, so we took the opportunity to see Innsbruck. Soon we reached the border of Italy, where our German money was exchanged for Italian lira. We got a whole fist full. One would think we could really go on a spree with all that money, but soon we discovered that a cup of coffee already took a good bit out of our fortune. We traveled through the Dolomites, the mountain range in Northern Italy. We stopped at Crystal Mt. and to our surprise we saw the landscape depicted on the mural we have in the dinette in our condo. We crossed the Bremer Pass and awhile later arrived at the Villa Fiorita, about 25 miles from Venice, where we intended to spend the night.

In the evening, we took a boat ride to Venice to see the city by night. We walked around St. Mark’s Square, were served champagne, and then got a ride back to our hotel. I think the ride would have been a bit more enjoyable if the “water bus” had not been so packed that you had someone breathing down your neck.

Thursday, August 20, we toured Venice. At 8:30 the water bus left to take us to the city. Here we saw water, water, every where. Even the main streets were canals. We passed a funeral procession in boats. We saw how high the water reached at times, seeping into the first floor of the buildings. We arrived at St. Mark’s Square and had a tour of the church. Then our group split up to wander around. Some took a gondola ride. Some shopped. In the afternoon the rest shopped while I rested by sitting in St. Mark’s Square, unable to avoid the droppings of the many doves that flew about. We took a ride up the Bell Tower to see the other islands, and also the island where President Reagan met with other foreign bigwigs. After dinner we were ready to call it a day.

The next day we set out for Rome. We passed fields of sunflowers with their brown faces to the sun, also sugar beets and peach groves. We passed over the Apennine Mountains. As I looked around me at the rest of our tour group, I saw an elderly couple toward the front. They both were married for the second time. He was German and she was Dutch. Since I also could speak Dutch, she liked to talk to me. They were from Australia and had with them a daughter Lorraine. Then there was Tina, who joined up with Lorraine. She had been doing mission work in Germany and was about to return to Ontario. And in front of me were Mr. and Mrs. Larson who came from Minnesota and were traveling with their daughters Suzie and Mary. On the other side was a lone traveler Lynn who kept herself quite aloof. She was from California and was a Communist.

This made up quite a motley group, but you have not met all of them yet. Behind me were two couples, still quite young, who had recently moved from Australia to New Zealand. Two fellows sat across the aisle, who bought T-shirts at every stop. Besides, on that side of the aisle were four Orientals, brothers and sisters, from an island off Africa. The girls were accompanying their brothers, who were on their way to school in France. Nor could I forget the two schoolteachers, ladies from India, who wore a different sarong every day. Poor Alberito, who had to carry out their baggage very day! But they did know how to push their way through a crowd. There were a few more, but they rode along almost unnoticed.

We stopped for lunch at Assisi. I did not accompany the group, since they had to climb a steep hill to visit the Basilica of Assisi. I do know that there were pay toilets there that were not very clean.

Arriving at Rome, we went to our hotel, cleaned up a bit, and then went on a tour to see Rome by night. This was quite an impressive sight! We had a special dinner with pop and wine. Each could have as much as desired.

Saturday morning. 8 o’clock the group started for St. Peter’s Square. As the others went on a tour, Rich, Elaine, Ed, Bob, Allie and I went on our own to the Sistine Chapel. We saw all the works of art of the Roman Catholic Church that are collected there. That church is inestimably rich with all its possessions. While the countries of the world go bankrupt, the RCC wallows in its riches. Besides a lot of the other artwork, we saw Michelangelo’s painting “The Final Judgment.” We spent some time admiring this great work.

The others walked, but Elaine, Allie and I took the bus to St. Peter’s Square. Even the Square with all its steps was very impressive, but the cathedral was even more so. Here was the center of Roman Catholic idolatry. We went in and admired the walls with their Latin inscriptions, the high ceiling, and all the decorations. We paused a moment at what is presumed to be Peter’s grave. Then we saw a mass being celebrated in the far end of the building. We watched for a little while, and then went our way.

At noon we met our tour group and took a tour with a special guide, who showed us the ruins of the old city and the entire city from another vantage point. We passed the Vatican with its huge walls. No wonder the Pope at one time called himself “the prisoner of the Vatican.” But he is not anymore.

Upon our return the group made a trip to the Fountains of Tivoli. For this they had to pay extra. Rich and Elaine decided that they could go on their own at a very small cost. So while I rested at the hotel, they went by bus to Tivoli.

Another day dawned and we rode along the beautiful countryside to Naples. There we took a boat to the famous island of Capri. We were given time to look around on our own, so our little group took a ride on the tram to the top of the hill to overlook the sea and the cliffs of Sorento. Later we went back to a boat to go to Sorento where we spent the night.

Sorento was not only a very hilly city, but the streets were very narrow. Here we could only admire the skill of Alberito as he steered his bus through what looked like impossible gaps. I tended to hold my breath and draw away from the window as he crept along these narrow streets. Then it was discovered that we had left two of our traveling companions behind. Back to the hotel. They had not been called, so they had a good excuse. Once more we wended our way carefully to the highway.

We rode along the pleasant countryside to the ruins of Pompeii. As I was reading all about the sudden eruption that poured burning lava over the people of Pompeii, the others were having a closer look at the ruins. Our guide Shabon thought it was better that, because of my bad leg, I did not attempt to stumble over these ruins. We were given opportunity to roam around on our own, and soon we found ourselves in the center of the town, where an excavation was being carried out since, in digging for a sewer, ruins of an earlier city were discovered. After more sightseeing, we returned to our bus.

Our next stop was Pisa with it leaning tower. Ed took a picture here that we have hanging in our breakfast nook as a reminder of our walking about and taking in all the sights of Pisa.

Now we started on a long trek, not over, but through the mountains. It is interesting to note that we passed through 168 tunnels before we reached the other side of the mountain. This brought us to the Italian Riviera.

We left Italy with all its attractions and arrived at Monaco, where we saw the palace of Prince Rainier, who was married to Grace Kelly. This is an attractive city, built on the hillside overlooking the sea. From here our churches sent a broadcast through Transworld Radio, which was focused on England, but spread to Germany, and was even heard on short wave in Tasmania. This broadcast brought us a splendid response, and it is through the station that we came into contact with the churches of Jamaica.

We rode along the French Riviera to the city of Nice. It was raining as we crossed the French Alps, so we failed to see the towering peaks. But the sun soon broke through, giving a beautiful double rainbow and a splendid view of the mountains and plains.

We stopped at Calvin’s city, Geneva, Switzerland. We paid a short visit to a garden of flowers there, but our chief interest was in the university. There we spent considerably more time viewing the wall with its carvings of the four Reformers, Farel, Calvin, Knox and Beza. We would have liked to see Calvin’s church also, but that was not included in this tour. What we did see brought back a strong appreciation for what God has wrought through these Reformers, having preserved the truth for us even to this day. The guide made the remark that the followers of Calvin are called “Calvinists,” who never have any fun. We disagreed.

We traveled through the Swiss Alps with their attractive chalets nestled on the hillsides. We admired the trim roofs and the numerous flower boxes at the windows. We made a stop at the city of Berne, where we saw the bears, after which this capital of the Swiss Confederation was named, and we also had time to walk about the town. We saw, among other attractions, the glockenspiel, from which appeared a crowing rooster and also men marching about blowing their horns as the clock struck the hour. There was also a huge chess game board painted on the sidewalk.

Our next stop was Paris. We were privileged to take a ride through Paris, in order to see the city in the lights at night. After we spent a night at our hotel, our group went to meet the rest of the party at a restaurant in downtown Paris. Rich and Elaine, Ed and Bob, Allie and I walked to the subway, the Metro, to take us downtown. There we met the rest of the party and visited the Champs Elysee, the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Eiffel Tower was extremely interesting not only for its structure, but much more for its visitors. Parisians seem to be entirely indifferent toward tourists. Here people do as they please without asking what others may think. One man was lying flat on his back, taking a picture straight up into the tower. Another young man was entertaining his fiancée with a long, drawn out speech, to which she attentively listened.

We stopped briefly at the Arch of Triumph. We had come to the parting of the ways. Some would leave us at this point, while we went on to London. We had a farewell party that night.

We left Paris with all its points of interest. So often we heard of these things and saw pictures of them, but it is far more interesting to see them as they are. The trip through Belgium was very scenic and pleasant. We rode through “Flanders Fields, where the poppies bloom”1 made famous in World War I. This does not look like a war torn battlefield any more, but then France and Germany do not either.

We took a boat across the North Sea. This could have been a pleasant trip, if it were not for the fact that the boat was packed. Most of the party was eager to get across. But we did see the White Cliffs of Dover. Upon landing, we had to go through customs.

The trip through the countryside in England is nothing less than spectacular. This was one of the most scenic routes of our entire trip. I could not keep my eyes from the passing scenery.

London! Yes, I was glad to see Rome and Paris, but I think I was more eager to see London.

Since it was late afternoon, we found ourselves now completely on our own. We decided to head for the hotel where we have our reservations. So the thing to do was to look for the subway. This was not too difficult to find. Only a slight delay and we were on our way at fast speed. But then the train came to a halt and we were told that this was as far as we could go for the present because there was an obstruction on the tracks ahead. We got out of the car, and soon there came another train, which took us a short distance further. Then we stopped again, since a suicide had been committed on the tracks ahead. We stepped out of the car to the platform to wait. After awhile, we were able to continue on our way.

It was late when we stepped off the train at our destination. In fact, it was close to midnight. Most of us were so tired that we went off to bed without supper.

The next morning we were ready to go sightseeing. Back we went by subway to the heart of London. At the subway we purchased tickets that could be used on the Underground and the buses in the city at least for the day. London has its own attractions. We stopped at the Tower of London and saw a Beefeater guarding the tower. We saw Big Ben and the Thames River. We also saw Clarence House, where the Queen mother lived.

We took a bus to Westminster Abbey where we saw a bobby on guard. From there we went to No. 10 Downing Street, where Margaret Thatcher, the then current Prime minister of England had her home. There we saw the changing of the guard. All the men and horses were neat and trim.

The next morning, we started out with pack and baggage. There was plenty of room in the train so we nicely stacked all our luggage at the entrance. As we traveled along the car filled up to a point where there was standing room only. At our station we had to get out, but we also needed our luggage. Rich was struggling between people’s legs trying to retrieve all our possessions. In the meantime I held the door. We did retrieve everything and headed for the airport.

Our trip home was without incident, except that we were informed that this plane must make a landing in Philadelphia because it was needed in New York. This meant a delay for us. We had to pass through customs and board an old decrepit plane that took us to Detroit. We arrived in the wee hours of the morning, tired but thankful that we made the trip under God’s watchful care.


1The author refers to a poem written by Major Mc Crae who fought in WWI. Flanders Fields refers generally to the site of many WWI battlefields.