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Group Tours to Europe: Get Cultured

 image source: wikimedia commons

After two weeks of constant student group travel, the thought of having classes begin this week sounded slightly heavenly. That sleep-deprived thought was quickly put to rest as “student” duties unfortunately overtook my mind.

This semester, I am taking Dutch Art History, History from 1500 to Present, Political Science, and an independent study course for anthropology.

Last week, my Dutch Art History course held class at the Basilica of Saint Servatius in Maastricht. At the cathedral, we learned some of the differences between Gothic and Romanesque architecture. We were also able to witness medieval art and hear the story of Saint Servatius.

My favorite part of this trip was seeing all the relics this church has accumulated throughout the years. This church housed many religious relics ranging from wood from Jesus’ cross to St. Thomas’ arm bone.

During the middle ages, these “relics” were mainly sold by the church to acquire wealth for religious projects. This quickly led to the question of if relics here and around the world are truly “the wood from Jesus’ cross,” because if all the wood from the all the cross relics were combined in Europe, there would be over eight crucifixes. If I remember correctly, Jesus only died on one cross; so, it truly takes eyes of faith when viewing and believing in these items.

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Outside of classes and homework, I spent the past week becoming a true European.

If you ask any friends or family, I am a huge football fanatic—American football that is. However, this week I experienced true “futbol,” and I must say this sport is fascinating. I have never been a huge fan of soccer.

This sudden change of heart can be attributed to my desire of becoming an authentic European, or my enticement of watching cute European boys battle it out in the rain and mud; I’ll let you decide my motive.

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No matter what drew me to that soccer match, I left with a greater respect for a sport that I never gave much thought. I thoroughly enjoyed cheering on Maastricht as they defeated Luxemburg in the freezing rain.

As the weekend approached, my friends and I were overjoyed when we realized it was going to be a long one since Monday was a holiday. Still feeling the ramifications of our Italy trip, we decided to stay close to Maastricht. However, we were conflicted about what we wanted to do.

Ultimately, we let our stomachs make the decision as we ventured to Eupen, Belgium for a chocolate factory and Gouda, Netherlands for a cheese museum.

small group tour museum

The Jacques Chocolate Factory is amazing. I believe I bought over 10 pounds of chocolate. Now before you start judging my healthy decision, you should know that you only encounter a true chocolate “outlet” once in your lifetime. How was I supposed to pass this opportunity?

There was also a little divine intervention. Walking from the train station to the chocolate factory was supposed to take 15 minutes. However, our appointed GPS person, who was a male I might add, took us on a very “scenic” route of Belgium.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely consider an hour walk to the factory as a sufficient work out for all the pounds of chocolate that I purchased.Therefore, I took this extra-long journey to the factory as a sign from God that I was allowed to indulge in my chocolate desires.

group tours to europe

Proficient in my futbol and chocolate-tasting abilities, the other European trait I had to fine tune was my knowledge about cheese.

Unbeknownst to me, Gouda is one of the cheese capitals of the world. On Saturday, my friends and I ventured by train to find the cheese museum. We arrived in the quaint town of Gouda to find a market taking place in the town square. We shopped around the square, trying to get as many free samples as we could, before finally purchasing our own “small” block of cheese.

Group Tours To the Netherlands

Just kidding. While I do admit that I might have overindulged in chocolate, I restrained myself and bought only a sliver of the cheese wheel pictured above.

After this transaction, we ventured to the museum where I don’t think I have ever been more captivated in my life.

We learned the history of Gouda and the cheese-making process. While we had our own tour guide, the most fascinating part of this museum was the video that showed how cheese, milk, and butter are made on a farm. Our jaws dropped in shock as we learned how milk was drawn, churned, and heated.

Now, I can officially say that I am a cheese expert: Did you know that cheese can be up to three years old and STILL be sold? It is even a delicacy then because the older the cheese, the MORE taste it is supposed to have. My mind and taste buds were blown away.

Full of information, cheese, and chocolate, I ended this weekend happy—and in dire need of run.


 

Mary Kujak is participating in a student group travel tour with Baylor University arranged by Millennium Tours. This summer, group travel takes her all over Europe, while she calls Maastricht, Netherlands “home.” Want to follow Mary’s educational travel tours? Sign up below, and never miss an update!

Get cultured! Cuisine, sports, history, art—culture is all around us, and experiencing cross-cultural relations really changes the way we see the world. Trust group travel planners with contacts worldwide and over 40 years experience to arrange a unique cultural experience for your custom group travel tour. Go with Millennium Tours.

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