The Continental Vaderland - July & August, 2017


Vaderland Trip Statistics:

Dates: July 7 to August 2, 2018; 8 nations in 28 days


Areas Explored: Iceland then Western continental Europe, specifically Southern Spain, Northern France, the Rhine, and Benelux

Transportation: Myriad! Planes run by Icelandair, Wow Airlines, & Vueling, Thalys train, the Metros of Paris, Barcelona, and Amsterdam, and rental cars included one Renault and two Volkswagons

New Frontiers: First time in the Old World and Europe specifically for Scott and kids

Cast: Scott, Jessica, Andrew, Ana (with special guest star Rene)

Roots! In 1909 the last person directly related to anyone in our family left Europe for America aboard a Red Star Line ship appropriately called the Vaderland, the German word for "fatherland." In the summer of 2017, after 25 years of genealogical and historical study, we returned to the Vaderlands of Luxembourg and Trier. But the trip also explored places that are the roots of the American culture we swim through everyday. Spain was the launching point for Columbus' misadventure that became America, while France was the home of Voltaire, Montesquieu, and the idea of the people's republic.


Trip Notes: Days 1-2: Plane from ORD to Iceland for layover then to Madrid. Days 2-4: Getting over jetlag and seeing the great city of Madrid. Days 8-11: Exploring La Mancha due south. Days 12-15: Andalucia, includng Grenada, the Sierra Nevadas, and Gibraltar. Days 15-20:  The Valencian and Catalonian Meditteranean. Days 20-23: Urban and spectacular Paris. Days 24-27: East through the Ardennes to Luxembourg. Days 28-31: The Rhineland and Limburg. Days 31-35: The beaches of Normandy. Days 35-38: Amsterdam, then back to ORD.

Click the pages below to read raw diaries written on the road, learn from my many mistakes and few successes, read maps detailing our routes, and see the wonders that I saw.
Page 1: Days 1-2 Halfway across the Ocean to Iceland
Due to to a pretty bitter airfare war between carriers, we were able to secure cheap tickets to Europe. The hitch was no hitch to us: a long layover in Iceland. We had only a few hours and zero energy, but managed to see the alien sulfuric landscape where the ocean floor reaches above the sea's surface.

Page 2: Days 3-4 Exploring the former capital of the world: Madrid
Madrid is everything a city should be: cultured, dangerous, and alive in every way and at every moment. Ham and churros and fine art and people viciously arguing politics well into the night. Madrid is both a city of blood sport and grace. It is no wonder that they celebrate the matadores and that I fell in love with the place.

Page 3: Days 5-6 Across La Mancha in the footsteps of Quixote
South of Madrid via Toledo and Jaen, we explored the dry, fabled hills and valleys of La Mancha, home to the legendary hero in his own mind: Don Quixote. It is here where I first felt the medieval in Toledo and the Latin hospitality of Orguz.

Page 4: Days 7-9 The romance and mystery of Andalusia
The romance of Andalusia is not easy to express in only a few words. For a sample, imagine people riding their horses past the narrow alleys of whitewashed villages in the middle of a desert. The mountains and Moorish castles stand tall over the dry, hot plains. We also stopped by Gibraltar for a taste of England in the South and got harassed by its famous apes.

Page 5: Days 10-12 Through Valencian and Murcian Mediterranean
The busy Mediterranean ports and beach resorts of Murcia and Valencia were surprises we did not plan for or count on before leaving home. I expected it to be drive through country, but instead we stayed an extra night. The beauty of this region was the result of a combination of history, nature, and refreshing sandy beaches.

Page 6: Days 13-15 Catalonia and Barcelona on the rise
We visited Catalonia as the rumblings for independence began, rumblings that culminated (so far) into violence six months after we left. Catalonia is not Spain. I was not too excited about visiting the area, but found Barcelona and vicinity to be full of wonders and spectacle. It is no wonder it is home to so many artists.

Page 7: Days 16-18 The cradle of freedom: Paris & Reims
It is easy to overhype Paris, so much so that there is such a thing as the Paris Syndrome, when the modern lived-in metropolis doesn't meet the expectations of tourists. So I did not enter the "City of Lights" with high expectations, but decided to soak it in as it is. What I found was a contrast of frenetic chaos and ordered serenity all in one place.

Page 8: Days 19-20 Moselle home away from home: Luxembourg & Trier
We wound our way up into the dark, cold, and wet woods of the Ardennes and into the birthplaces of my ancestors along the Moselle River, a stream that cuts through steep walls draped in vineyards and guarded by castles. Everywhere I went I saw my name and my face and heard the accordian music being played by Aunt Adele.

Page 9: Days 21-23 Flanders & Normandy
Traveling west through Limburg we crossed the friendliest country in Europe: Belgium. The canals and flatness hinted at our last stops in Holland, but first we visited the chalky cliffs along the English Channel where WW2 was won by what some call "the greatest generation" of my countrymen.

Page 10: Days 24-27 Amsterdam
Last stop before we headed home was the lively and busy metropolis of Amsterdam, filled with the hustle and bustle of its bankers, bikes, pigeons, prostitutes, pickpockets and peddlers. After a few days the place began to feel like home, but it was not home. After our flight back home it was time to get free refills and sing the Star-Spangled Banner.
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