European Science Trek by the numbers:
13 countries
31 days
11,950 miles traveled
195 miles walked
49 train trips
20 hours of airline flights
3688 digital pictures taken (three 8Gb flash cards)
1 hour 45 minutes of video footage (two 32Gb flash cards)
6 private home stays
1 guest room
5 hostels
3 hotels
1 sleeper car on the train
15 museums visited
4 different monetary currencies
7 different languages (fluent in one)

In the coming months, I will be editing video into podcasts and posting them on this site. There will be a link off of the home page. Karen has several thousand pictures to turn into scrapbooks…we’ll see how long that takes!

The last month has been a truly incredible experience. We have seen and experienced so many things that our minds are still swimming with the myriad of sights, sounds, and smells of Europe. We learned many new customs, how to navigate the public transit systems of Europe, experienced the ease of train travel, but yet appreciate the independence (and dependence) that having a car gives us in the States. We learned to know many people who graciously opened their homes to us. The proprietors of hostels and innkeepers were overwhelmingly welcoming and eager to please us. We got to experience European fervor for soccer during the World Cup. We even picked up a few Facebook friends.

Things went amazingly well…we didn’t get sick or injured, we only boarded one wrong train, and only got totally lost once. The damage to the rental car was inconsequential, and we did not fall prey to any pickpockets or scams that visitors can fall victim to.

I would like to publicly acknowledge a few individuals who were instrumental in making this trip possible. Jeremy Wegner provided the inspiration for this trip and introduced me to the Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship program, and provided suggestions for site visits. I would like to thank Allan Dueck, John Poirier, and John Yordy for writing recommendations. Irene Gross and Ayold Fanoy were instrumental in helping arrange some last-minute housing arrangements. In Holland, Arno Thimm and Jan Kanis gave portions of their days to accompany us weary travelers and show us around Amsterdam. Jan Gleysteen was invaluable in providing advice, information, and contact information throughout Europe. We would have loved to have taken him with us to be our personal guide, but that was not an option.

Finally, I would like to thank my faithful companion and wife, Karen. She endured hours of boring science museums, held the camera for my on-camera segments, and had to catch up with me when I started walking too fast. Together, we experienced the trip of a lifetime. I must also acknowledge the Eli Lilly Charitable Trust that provided the funding that made this trip possible, through the Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship program. And last, but not least, thanks to those of you that read this blog and commented publicly or sent private notes. Thanks for following along!

July 2

Dublin, Ireland airport

Dublin, Ireland airport

Wednesday was an early morning, as our flight out of Amsterdam left at 9:25am.  A one-hour flight to Dublin put us there at 10:30, and the fight to Chicago left at 11:30.  Normally, an hour of connecting time would be sufficient, but at Dublin, passengers bound for the United States clear U.S. customs in Dublin before even leaving.  Before we could even get to U.S. Customs Pre-Clearance, we had to have our bags X-rayed by Irish Immigration, even though we were in a secure area of the airport.  There was an inevitable delay, but we quickly went to U.S. Customs Pre-Clearance.  The first order of business…have our carry-on bags X-rayed again!  This was the third our bags have been checked.

Then it was into the long lines for a passport agent.  By this time it was 11:00, and our flight was already boarding.  Fortunately, the lines moved fast.  I was curious how they would handle our checked bags…in the old days, with a domestic connection prior to going to the U.S., one would have to claim their checked bags and potentially have them inspected.  With pre-clearance, I wasn’t sure how it would happen, since our bags were checked through all the way to Chicago.  When we got to the passport agent, he asked about the food we were bringing back (no problems), then click on his mouse and a picture of our bags popped up on his monitor.  He asked if these were ours, we said, “yes”, and he said were were all set and to have a good trip.  That was easy!  D- for for repeated X-raying of our bags, C- for the long lines to the passport check, but they moved fast, A+ for the one-minute stop with the passport agent and U.S. government technology that worked perfectly.

We arrived at the Are Lingus gate during the final boarding call at 11:20, but were surprised to find there were still at least 50 people waiting to board.  It was clear we wouldn’t be leaving on time.  We ended up leaving 20 minutes late.  The flight was long (8 hours, 15 minutes), but we were glad to see 3 of our 4 kids (Logan had to work), my father, and Dori (who watched the kids while we were gone) waiting for us in Terminal 5 at O’Hare airport in Chicago.  When we return home, we will leave the next morning for a wedding in Kansas, so we won’t have much time to cool our wheels.

In the next few days, I will post an Epilogue, which will include a few highlights and some statistics of our travels.  Thanks for following!

July 1

imageAfter breakfast with Arno, he drove us to Zanse Schans, where we met Jan Kanis, who is a local Mennonite and also happens to be a tour guide at Zanse Schans. Zaanse Schans is an open air Dutch museum that showcases various aspects of traditional Dutch culture. There we saw how wooden shoes we made, baking bread and cookies, cheese-making, clock-building, coffee roasting, raising goats, building boats and wooden barrels, and of course, then use of windmills to power a sawmill, press peanuts into peanut oil, mill mustard seed, and grind chalk into powder.
After souvenier shopping and lunch in the pancake house, Jan took us to see some Dutch Mennonite and others sites around Zandaam. An old peoples’ home started by Mennonites was first on the list, as well as the Mennonite church in Zandaam. One curious thing we noticed in this church…I jinni
We also saw the house in which Peter the Great from Russia stayed in while he was studying shipbuilding in Zaandam. We said goodbye to Jan and went into Amsterdam where we me Arno for some sightseeing around Amstedam. Several of the places we visited included the Singelkirk church, which is the big Mennonite church in Amsterdam, the house that Rembrant lived in, and several other notable buildings. We took a boat cruise throught the canals of Amsterdam, which has more visages than Venice, Italy.
Our last evening in Europe has come to an end, and it was time to head back to the guest room and repackage our suitcase and backpacks. We leave from Amsterdam Schipol airport at 9:25 am, with a transfer in Dublin, Ireland, before heading back to Chicago O’Hare.

June 30

Hotel on the site of the old Schwartzendruber farm.

Hotel on the site of the old Schwartzendruber farm.

After leaving Switzerland in the 1600s due to religious persecution, my Swartzendruber ancestors moved north to Germany. In the town of Mengerinhausen, they set up a mill and also farmed the area. The area was originally known as “The Gallows” (Galgen), so the mill and subsequently the farm earned the name Galgenmüehle (literally Mill of the Gallows). In 1833, the Jacob Schwarzendruber and his extended family left first by horse-drawn carriage, then a river boat, and finally an ocean-going sailboat for America. They would eventually settle in eastern Iowa.
It was apparently a large group of family that emigrated, and the account is accurately recorded in a diary that begins at Galgenmüehle and ends in the port of Baltimore nearly four months later. There is a modest collection of photos of the old mill and homestead from the 1800s near the time at which the Schwartzendrubers emmigrated. The farmstead and mill subsequently went through several owners and fell into disrepair, though in 1969 a family purchased the site, restored some of the buildings, and opened a restaurant and hotel. They renamed the location Lüisen-müehle.
Currently the daughter of the founder of Lüisen-müehle owns and operates the location, which has a nice restaurant, about 16 guest rooms, conference facilities, and small swimming pool.
It was thus a pilgrimage of sorts to visit the site of the Galgenmüehle, eat in the restaurant, sleep in the hotel, and walk the grounds, which are on the edge of town, just east of a beautiful railroad viaduct.
Since the train connections from Köln were less than ideal, we rented a car and drove the two hours on the Autobahn system. Yes, it is correct that there are no speed limits, but only in some places. There are sections that are limited to 120, 80, or 60 km/hr. But for much of the drive, I was routinely cruising along at 140-150 km/hr (88-94 mph), even hitting 160 km/hr (100 mph) for a stretch…and still getting passed.
Thank goodness for the GPS on board the car, though it took us 30 minutes to how to figure out how to program the route; the display and voice prompts were all in German. Our German vocabulary: about 10 words. The female voice giving us dirctions in


Since our tour guide in Amsterdam can’t accommodate us until Tuesday, there wasn’t a pressing need to get there early. We got up at a leisurely (for this trip!) 7:30am, had breakfast, and checked out. Earlier, while Karen was getting ready, I went and explored the hotel and the grounds a bit more. The owners have decorated parts of the restaurant and lobby with old photos, some of which would pertain to the Schwartzendrubers. I also found a house across the street, much newer, that sports a sign on the front gate that says “Galgenmüehle”.
Behind the restaurant/hotel is some rich farmland, and also a few streams and a channel that looked as if it could have been a part of the old mill. We drove through Mengerinhausen and took a few pictures as well.
The traffic going into Köln was pretty heavy, and mixed with periods of torrential downpours, there were some accidents that slowed traffic down. The end result is that we missed the 12:46 pm train we were hoping to catch, and instead had to take the 2:46 train.
Arriving in Amsterdam at 5:27, we were trying to catch the 5:36 train to Bloemendaal, which is where we are staying the last two nights. Bloemendaal is several kilometers west of Amsterdam, almost to the North Sea. So far throughout Europe, we have managed to catch dozens of the correct trains by 1) finding the departure time on the information board in the train station, 2) finding the name of the city at the end of the line that the train is going to, 3) verifying that the train number is correct (they don’t always show the train number), and 4) going to the correct platform shown for the desired train. This method has worked well…until this time. Bloemendaal is on the way to Uitsgeet. It turns out two trains left Amsterdam at 5:36, both bound for Uitsgeet; one by way of Bloemendaal, the other by way of Zaandam. The train number was not displayed, making it even more confusing. You guessed it, we got on the wrong train. By time we realized we were on the wrong train, and we back-tracked and caught the correct train, it had added another hour the our travels. By the time we had arrived at our host’s, it was after 7pm.
Arno is a retired Mennonite minister who lives in a retirement community. The community has several guest rooms, one of which we are staying in. We had a light supper with Arno, and then he took us on a short tour of Bloemendaal and Haarlem. We went out the the beach and stuck our toes in the North Sea, and then went in to Haarlem to see several “hidden” churches. After severe persecution in the 17th and 18th centuries, Mennonite churches were tolerated by the early 19th century but their buildings could not be visible from the street, so the entrance was usually through a non-descript street front door, which then after passing down a long alley opened up into the full church.
Our host formerly pastored the Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente te Haarlem church, and he took us there to visit. Afterwards,we went and visited with the sisters of Jan Gleysteen, whom some of you may know from Mennonite circles in the Goshen area.
Tuesday, our last full day on Europe, will be spent at Zaanse Schans, an open-air Dutch museum, and then later in downtown Amsterdam.
ections in German we referred to as “Helga.”