2019 was an exciting year for travel and connections. In May, we shared memorable experiences in Germany and the Czech Republic as it was around the time of celebration related to the liberation of Czechoslovakia from Nazi rule at the end of WWII in May 1945. American forces pushed into the country as far as Pilsen where General Patton and his Army were told to hold and not go further.
It was wonderful to experience the heartfelt gratitude the Czech People have for Americans in the Western half of the country. Every year in Plzen, there is a huge parade with over 200 authentic WWII American military vehicles fully restored and operational with everyone in real military uniforms.
It was moving to see former soldiers making the trip back to the country and being honored for their sacrifices. There were also very emotional commemorations to the people who lost their lives in this great fight for freedom.
Summer time was very busy with an awesome family tour as we traveled through southern Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria. It was fun to have people of all ages from 10 on up sharing the experiences together.
It is also great to lead small groups to the places where their ancestors originated and to see the excitement in peoples faces as they see for the first time the homes and villages of these immigrant ancestors.
Fall was a time to experience the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and the Czech Republic. There were some many interesting, historic and exciting places to see related to the early middle ages, through WWII and the Battle of the Bulge, to current times.
It was also special to participate in a family reunion uniting distant relatives from across the ocean. There were relatives from many parts of Germany, and Austria who share German ancestry from former Bohemia which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1919. The former kingdom of Bohemia makes up a large part of what is the Czech Republic today. (also known as Czechia)
I love exploring and learning about new places and it is very interesting to spend more time in places and dig deeper to gain a better understanding of the many layers of history throughout Europe.
Every year brings me to places I am familiar with and the thrill of exploring new ones.
At the end of May, we returned to Germany and explored the Nuremberg area. It is an intriguing place as an Imperial City at the time of the Holy Roman Empire to a prominent place leading up to WWII, and the Nuremberg Trials provided a stage for the world to see people being brought to justice for crimes against humanity.
Next we, traveled into the German-Bohemian (Sudeten areas) of the Czech Republic. It is always exciting to bring travelers to the places their ancestors once lived before emigrating to the United States and beyond.
It always fills my heart with joy attending a mass in an ancestral church. Many of the people are families of expellees returning to the places they and their ancestors once lived. We share a common bond with the place and the land. Although the stories are different as my ancestors chose to leave in the nineteenth century seeking land and better economic opportunities.
No matter the reason to attend, everyone is happy to see one and other and it is a nourishing time of reflection. We cannot dwell on the past and must be thankful for what we have today while preparing for the future.
June was a very busy month starting with a personal tour exploring a colleague’s ancestral history and making connections with those who live in these places today. I was honored to have played a role in making these connections.
After a one on one personal tour, we met a larger group to continue exploring places in the western Czech Republic where participants’ ancestors once lived. Experiences can be surprising, especially when one stumbles on a war memorial and learn about how American forces accidently played a role in the demise of prisoners buried in the hallowed ground. These experiences can be uplifting when we meet a Czech man who invites us all into his yard to see the garden and barn which once belonged to ancestors of people in our group. It creates a sense on community even when we do not speak the same language and live on different continents.
Karlstein Castle and Prague are always a wonder to explore and it is recommended to try new things on every visit. Passau, Salzburg and the Bavarian Alps are sites to behold and it is always fun to visit Munich, the Capital of Bavaria.
July and August included a TBEX conference in Ostrava on the Eastern side of the Czech Republic. It is a beautiful country to explore and I look forward to bring more to the eastern side of the country in what was Moravia. Both the history and the natural beauty are captivating. And I was impressed with the warm people I met.
Autumn is a beautiful time to travel. We cruised on the Rhine, explored the Black Forest, visited enchanting castles in the Alps, walked the Roman and medieval streets of Regensburg and discovered the Eagles nest and the Berchtesgaden.
Highlights included meeting local people, mayors and dignitaries in both Michelstadt and Ulm. Everyone felt welcome and we made new friendships and lasting connections.
Every year brings new connections and friends. It is wonderful sharing experiences and building memories that will last a lifetime.
Every season has something to offer as one explores Europe. Summer is a great time to experience nature and ones heritage.
In June, we explored the borderlands between Germany and the Czech Republic. Crisscrossing the landscape as we wound our way from Passau on the Danube, through the Bohemian and Bavarian Forests, through the mountain ranges in North Western Czech Republic, through famous Spa towns to Prague. It was a fun event filled tour exploring the history of the regions and the family heritage of all who participated.
Sudetenland history and heritage was studied and celebrated while participating in the Bischhofteinitz Heimat Treffen. It is a homeland meeting for those who once lived in the western region of what is the Czech Republic today.
As a Genealogist, Wade presented two presentations about central European history and German-Bohemian Immigration at the first ever International German Genealogy Partnership Convention (IGGP). It was held in Minneapolis and had over 700 attendees from all over the world.
The year will be rounded out with a Christmas Market Tour beginning in Berlin and concluding in Munich. It also includes visits to Dresden, Prague, Regensburg, Salzburg Austria and the Berchtesgaden in the shadow of the Alps.
Exploring former East Germany with its vast history through recent times behind the Iron Curtain. 2016 was the eve of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation and a great time to walk in the footsteps of Martin Luther as the historic sites were being prepared for the 2017 Anniversary Celebrations.
Experiencing the places where Martin Luther was born, baptized and grew up was eye opening to learn about his life and how his thinking and ideas took shape. Erfurt, where Martin Luther went to the University and then changed his plans to become a monk and priest, is a delightful city well worth the time to tour and visit. It is a historic and vibrant place where you can feel the texture of the history as you traverse the streets and alleys.
It was pleasantly surprising to see the towns and cities in Northern and Eastern Germany celebrating the holiday season. Many travelers have the impression it is only in the southern regions of the country with Christmas Markets (Christkindl Markt’s and Weinachts Markt’s) and it was great to experience wonderful markets throughout the country where each is proclaiming to be the best.
Advent Season (4 weeks before Christmas) is a wonderful time to explore the country and share the wonderful cultural practices in each separate location.
Visiting Berlin, Potsdam, Erfurt, Eisenach, Eisleben, Dresden, Nürnberg, Bavarian Forest, Regensburg and Munich each have wonderful markets in addition to all the sites to see outside of the seasonal festivities.
Denmark, Northern and Eastern Germany were explored starting with time in the port city of Hamburg, Germany.
Some of the highlights were Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Flensburg, Lubbeck, Hannover, Nuremburg, Gotha and Eastern regions of Germany, Southern Germany including Passau, the Bavarian Forest.
Extensive travels across the entire length of the Czech Republic and into Poland including a visit to Auschwitz Concentration Camp Museum.
Great connections were made at a DAGV Genealogentag Conference in Gotha Germany. In 2015 there was a formation of a partnership between German American Genealogical Societies and those in Germany. It is a great opportunity for better genealogical research and connections to distant family members.
In addition, many improbable connections were made in these travels related to WWII, the Holocaust, and the Expulsion of Ethnic Germans, (German-Bohemians) following WWII. Look for more in my blog and news events.
June was a wonderful experience guiding an extended family to Europe. The best part about it is arranging transportation for everyone to share experiences as they traveled together.
Starting in Amsterdam some of the highlights were, Kalkriese and the Varusschlucht Museum. It is the site of a huge battle defeating three Roman Legions in 9AD. In addition the highlights were, Detmold, Hannover, Wine growing region near Wurzburg, the Bavarian Forest, German Bohemian Ancestral Villages in the Czech Republic, Regensburg, Munich, Austrian Alps, the Zugspitze (tallest peak in Germany) and Ulm, Germany.
It was an eventful trip and great connections were made with old and new friends and family. It was a fun and memorable tour for a family group with a span of ages of 86 to 27.
September included another Heritage Tour starting in Munich, Germany.
The highlights were Munich, Nuremberg, Bavarian forest, Bavarian and German Bohemian ancestral villages covering a wider region in Bavaria, the western and southern regions of the Czech Republic. We spent time in Prague, visited a crystal glass company, visited the charming town of Cesky Krumlov and then traveled through Austria to Vienna. It was a great way to celebrate our time together sampling new wines and sharing a great meal at the local Wineries Heurigen Events.
Heurige is where local wineries sell their new latest wines at the end of the growing season. Often held in beautiful gardens with a fun festive atmosphere. (Gemutlichkeit)
Additional travel brought us through, Graz, Hallstatt, Tyrol region, Innsbruck experiencing much of Austria a beautiful Alpine nation. More German sites visited including Ulm, Stuttgart and Nuremberg, Germany. Next was a German-Bohemian
research trip to the Czech Republic. Following we visited Wurzburg and Bremerhaven Germany. Bremerhaven has an excellent Emigration Museum called the Deutsches Auswandererhaus Bremerhaven. It is one of the best exhibits showing what is was like for millions stepping off this port for new lands. It is a highlight on the 2016 Fall Germany Tour.
Started out in London. What a wonderful city. It is very current, vibrant and alive with an ancient past. It is interesting learning about the new historical finds being uncovered as they dig new subway lines and excavating for new construction. Many artifacts have been uncovered dating to the middle ages and back to Roman times.
Some of the highlights were Westminster Abbey, the Winston Churchill Museum, Tower of London, the Eye, and Buckingham Palace. At the time there was a Munchen versus Dortmund Soccer Match. German fans were everywhere creating a very festive atmosphere.
2013 was my first time at a German-Bohemian Heimat Treffen in Furth im Wald, Bavaria, Germany. These are meetings held every two years of ethnic Germans who were residents of Czechoslovakia now the Czech Republic. These families lived in the western regions of Bohemia and were expelled from their homes following WWII. The Treffens (meetings) were started for former residents to gather and celebrate their culture and heritage lost to the ravages of war and the loss of their homeland.
In the past, I read about them and visited with others who have attended since the late 1970’s. It was a much smaller venue as many in the older generation are passing on and younger generations are not attending such events. For me it was a very meaningful event and even with a language barrier, I was able to make many new connections both for others and myself. It was great to even meet distant relatives sharing different branches of the family and who once lived in the homes of my ancestors.
Following the Heimat Treffen, I met a new tour group in Munich. It was the beginning of new friendships and another great adventure connecting participants with regions of their ancestors.
Every trip has opportunities forcing one to think fast and solve problems. Our first day was rainy and the ground was already saturated so it didn’t take much for some places to flood. The second day was beautiful and ten minutes before meeting at the bus, the bus driver came in and informed me the Danube River went up over night and flooded a number of roads and we could not get to a Monastery on the river and the boat tours were closed. He asked, “What are we going to do today?”
Breakfast was over and I had to hurry and grab my suitcase, pay the hotel bill and create a plan for the day in 10 minutes when I met the group on the bus. Initially, it
was a stressful challenge and it became fun as I had a new destination previously considered. By the end of the day people were telling me I am really good with creating plan B’s. Everyone had a good time and we enjoyed our time together.
Some of the highlights in Germany were Ulm, Regensburg, Valhalla, Nuremberg, Historic Old Town and some of the WWII sites around town, and the Bavarian Forest and a Glass making museum and factory. In the Czech Republic we enjoyed the Bohemian forest (Böhmerwald) regions, Ancestral villages of the participants in the western regions of the Czech Republic and some the historic places normally not in the tour books. We stayed in Stribro, visited Plzen and enjoyed a tour, on a very hot day, of the Pilsner Urquel Brewery, and enjoyed summer weather in the beautiful city of Prague.
A very successful first tour! It is amazing how much detail goes into each step of a trip. The main goal for the participants or travelers is to enjoy and not worry about the details of the day.
I was nervous and I figured if I could lead 49 High School Students and Adult leaders across the United States I could handle 18 people traveling in Germany and the Czech Republic.
Starting with the first trip, I have been blessed with wonderful hosts and partners at hotels, bus drivers, local tour guides, restaurants, museums and local tourist information centers. It takes a while to sort it all out and the best ones are very proactive and willing to help you out in many ways.
Some of the tour highlights in Germany were Nürnberg, Regensburg, Bavarian Country Side, Villages and a family operated spa resort in the Bavarian Forest. In the Czech Republic, formerly Bohemia and under Austrian rule when the participants ancestors lived there, we relished the ancestral villages in Western and Southern Bohemia, Sumava (Bohemian) mountains and forest, Cesky Krumlov and Prague.
Planning and running a heritage type tour is tricky, as one needs to make sure everyone gets to the places which are most important to them. It is crucial to have great team of local people to take smaller groups to their ancestor villages. Everyone was very satisfied with places visited and unexpected connections made with local inhabitants.
In addition, Wade set out to do more research on places to visit and stay in the Czech Republic. A visit to Nepomuk to review old Land records was also in the itinerary. It was amazing to handle and read through very old land records with information about ones ancestors. The oldest records I have searched in started in 1570. Some of the families, who later immigrated to Minnesota, were living in these German Bohemian villages in the Sixteenth century.
There was also time to make new connections in Germany before exploring Denmark, and the Netherlands.
In 2011, Wade spent six weeks exploring central Europe meeting tour guides, trying hotels, selecting meaningful sites and planning a tour to Germany, Bavaria and the Czech Republic. It was a great experience to learn about each area in preparation for guiding a group.
Since that time, Wade has been designing tours for groups, families and organizations traveling to Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. Many of these tours have included participant’s unique heritage and genealogical perspectives. Participants have had the opportunity to visit some of the sites their ancestors once lived. It is rewarding developing relationships with the people who live in these places today. Often travelers are able to meet distant relatives still living in these areas.
Future tours will include many more places throughout Europe and Wade has been visiting a number of countries spanning from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean. It is always exciting to design unique personalized tours for individuals, groups’ organizations and families. Everyone has there own priorities of what they would like to see and it is inspiring to build upon those ideas to provide a unique memorable experience.
Wade and his family set out on a life changing adventure to visit their oldest daughter studying abroad in France.
On the first day after landing in Amsterdam, the Olsen family faced many obstacles making the trip difficult as major snowstorms had grounded all connecting flights in Europe and clogged up all trains and public transportation. A positive attitude and a lot of patience were required to quickly learn options and make decisions in order to continue the journey. The challenge of dealing with difficult situations and creating solutions came naturally which inspired Wade to get out of his comfort zone in order make the experience enjoyable no matter the obstacles.
After Kathleen and their two youngest children returned home for the beginning of the school session, Wade and his oldest daughter explored Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic including villages where ancestors had lived prior to immigration the United States. While exploring ancestral villages they met a number of local people, which lead to more connections with distant relatives back in the States.
After one trip, Wade was inspired to learn more to become an expert in central European history and genealogical research. While sharing information with others and helping people plan their own travels, the idea of being their tour guide was presented.