During the April school holidays, 18 students, 2 teachers and our school principal, travelled to Europe for our first ever WCCS History Study Tour! For two weeks we travelled through Germany and Italy, learning about 20th century Germany and Ancient Rome. Each day was filled with excitement, new experiences and unforgettable insights into the past. The trip was a culmination of 1 ½ years of planning, without the assistance of Academy Travel, the trip wouldn’t have been possible.
We flew out from Sydney on the first day of the school holidays and after a very long but turbulent-free flight we arrived at Munich early on Sunday morning. There was no time to stop and sleep as we met our tour director Brad, dropped our bags off at the hotel and did a walking tour of Munich. Lunch was had in the Marienplatz city centre; enjoying pretzels, sauerkraut and schnitzel. A visit to the Munich Documentation Centre followed, providing the students with a glimpse at the very important role that Munich played in the rise of the Nazi Party.
Day Two involved a visit to the Dachau Concentration camp, the first camp opened by the Nazis in 1933. The camps housed prominent opponents of the Nazi regime, like Martin Niemöller, over 41,000 died while within its walls. During the tour we visited the prison cells, where individuals like Martin Niemoller were held, and other buildings on the site. The most emotional part of the tour was walking through the gas chambers, where many Jews were murdered, and then seeing the crematorium.
Following Dachau we hopped on the bus to Nuremberg, where we spent the next two days in Old Nuremberg. Nuremberg is a stunning town filled with quaint medieval houses and cathedrals. While in Nuremberg, we toured Nazu rally grounds and Courtroom 600 where the famous Nuremberg Trials were held. Our last two days were spent in Berlin where highlights included a visit to a Cold War bunker, a twilight tour of Berlin, Hitler’s bunker, the Holocaust Memorial, the Brandenburg Gate and the East Side Gallery.
Day Six involved us biding Germany farewell with an ‘Auf Wiedersehen’, we flew from Berlin to Naples, Italy. From the moment we landed we hit the ground running, visiting the Naples National Archaeological museum in the afternoon. We were able to view 2000 year old statutes, mosaics and frescoes from Pompeii, in addition to being awestruck at the beautiful architecture of Italy. Our home in Naples for three nights was at the stunning Vico Equense, a village perched on the cliffs of the Amafi Coast.
The following day was spent at Pompeii where our tour guides for the day were Dr Estelle Lazer and Dr Jo Berry. Dr Lazer is an Australian archaeologist who has spent years working in Pompeii. She has conducted a great amount of research on skeletal remains and what they tell us about the inhabitants of the town. In the afternoon, we caught the train to scenic Sorrento and spent the afternoon shopping, enjoying the views of the coastline and eating gelato.
Day Eight involved climbing Mount Vesuvius. At the summit we were rewarded with an awesome view of the Bay of Naples, despite the smog, the view was breathtaking. Mount Vesuvius is a fraction of the size it was in 79AD and so we were all a little awed at how horrific the original explosion would have been for the Romans. In the afternoon we visited the archaeological sites of Herculaneum and Oplontis and finished the day with ‘all you can eat’ Italian pizza at a local restaurant.
The last leg of our tour was in Rome where we stayed at a hotel run by nuns, located right in the heart of Rome. After a quick lunch in the Campo de’ Fiori, the field of flowers square, we were then met by our local guide, Natalie, who led us on a tour of the main sites of Rome. We visited the Piazza Navona, a couple of basilicas, the Pantheon (a Roman temple) and the Trevi Fountain where we tossed coins over our shoulders to ensure that we will all come back to Rome. Day Ten involved a visit to the Vatican museums, as well as the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica; both bucket list items that all the students ticked off.
Our last full day in Italy involved a tour of the Colosseum, the Palatine Hill and the Roman forum. Although we were only in Rome for three days, the students visited many monuments, had time to shop and eat copious amounts of gelato! Our trip back to Sydney via Abu Dhabi passed very quickly as we were beyond exhausted from the non-stop two week tour. Most of us slept for the majority of the flight back.
This trip was an amazing experience for both staff and students, filled with many once-in-a lifetime experiences. We hope to run another similar trip in 2020, so stay tuned for information regarding this tour in Term 4!