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During the Easter break, a group of students in Years 10 to 12 travelled across Europe to visit key historical sites and deepen their understanding of their HSC study units. Our group visited sites in Italy, Germany, Belgium and France over 18 days, including WWI battlefields, the Colosseum and famous museums.
Here we follow their adventure of learning well beyond the bounds of the classroom.
Year 10 student Georgia and her History companions basked in a Paris Spring day - their last on the tour - and followed in Voltaire's footsteps at night.
"After a long and eventful Thursday night, we had a good sleep in ahead of our last day in Paris. We were happy to say goodbye to those 6.30 am wake ups! While we had a slightly altered schedule for our last day, it ended up a bit of a bonus for us. Martina, our lovely guide from Versailles the day before, met us in the lobby at 10am and took us off on a beautiful walking tour of the Marais District and the old Jewish Quarter.
"We walked through to gorgeous little streets and passed through local squares filled with children playing together. Most importantly, we took the opportunity to stop at a number of patisseries and boulangeries to indulge in our last day of French desserts and cakes! Needing the exercise, we walked towards the Latin quarter and made a quick stop at the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral.
"We farewelled our charming guide Martina, and stopped for a the mandatory lunch/shopping break in the Latin Quarter. Here we explored a few shops, ate crepes and gelato and even made some purchases from the famous ‘Shakespeare and Company’ bookshop. After lunch we jumped on a river cruise of the Seine and enjoyed the sights and the sunshine of a beautiful Paris Spring Day. Finishing the river cruise, we explored further down smaller streets until we ended up a beautiful little laneway.
"We had arrived at our fancy final dinner spot at Le Procope, one of the top 10 restaurants on trip advisor in Paris! We soon discovered that this was one of the oldest restaurants in Europe and had once been the hangout of such French notables as Voltaire, Rousseau and Robespierre! After a beautiful dinner we walked back to the hotel with our stomachs full of chicken and creme brûlée. Even though we had an amazing last night, we were a little sad to say ‘Au revoir Paris’."
A journey from the Somme through to Paris took Wenona's 2017 Ancient and Modern History Tour students to their final destination.Year 10 student Ella reports on the day's events, including time to explore Versailles.
"On our first day in Paris we drove from Somme to Versailles, the previous palace of the French kings before the French Revolution in the 1700’s. Extravagant was not a word that would completely describe Versailles. The gates alone were enough to ‘wow’. First made as a residence for Louis the XIV hunting grounds, the Sun King' eventually established it as the Royal palace, replacing the old residence in what is now the Louvre In Paris.
"Our lovely guide Martina took us for a tour through Versailles and explained some of the incredible artwork found on the walls or roof of the palace. She explained that some of the furniture still there was the original furniture from before the French revolution. We saw some of the Kings Chambers, the entry halls and most of the original palace before it was extended. The most extravagant room was of course the Hall of Mirrors. The gilded mirrors reflected most of the garden outside and created an amazing atmosphere inside a very simple room.
"We then had time to explore the famous gardens of Versailles. The lawns were perfectly sculpted, fountains and sculptures decorating the gardens amazingly. Unlike Australian gardens everything was pruned to perfection much the way it would have been in the 1700’s.
"After the tour we boarded the bus and made our way into the heart of Paris, driving along the beautiful river Seine, getting an amazing view of the Eiffel tower. Once we had settled we went from a small walk along the river, seeing the boats long it and the Parisian style houses along it. We then stopped for hot chocolate and mandatory crepes. Once we had done that we went back for dinner at the hotel before setting out for the Eiffel tower.
"We rode first up to the first level getting an amazing view of Paris from above, seeing the Notre Dame, the Parisian houses and the river Seine cutting through it. Then we rode in the elevator up tot the top floor. Dizzyingly high, we got some amazing selfies (of course) and had a beautiful view of the sunset. When we touched back to the ground we saw the Eiffel tower putting on a light show - just for us of course!
"A ride on a merry-go-round and crepes capped off a perfect day as an introduction to Paris, the City of Light."
"Today was another bright start, as we packed on the coach heading towards the Somme Valley, visiting the sites of Pozieres, Beaumont-Hamel and Thiepval. Our guide, war historian John Anderson, was a fantastic asset to the day as he gave us quite a bit of historical knowledge. We also visited the Le Hamel, Villers-Bretonneux which was predominantly featured Australian lives. The cemetery itself spoke of great deaths of another battle in the war that took too many lives.
"Our final stop of the day was at the Franco-Australian Museum, above the Victorian school. This once thriving town had been left in ruins and to rebuild it the Australians and French helped one another in an international show of solidarity that was primarily demonstrated by the reconstruction of the school. From that moment onwards, a firm and lasting friendship was established between the people of the area and Australia."
- Sarine and Talia, Year 12
A tour of West Flanders took on extra significance ahead of ANZAC Day for our tour group including Year 12 students Talia and Sarine, who share the events of their day in north Belgium.
"Starting the day off bright and early we met our fantastic tour guide Simon, who took us around the significant battle sites of West Flanders. We first visited the top of Hill 60, a site which was captured by the German 30th Division on 11 November 1914, during the First Battle of Ypres. It was here that we ran through battle tactics and logistics with the assistance of a few maps, the landscape spread before us.
"As the day continued, we visited the Passchendaele Memorial museum, where we were exposed to the surreal experience of the realistic trench system built under the museum, which continued outside for the ‘front line’.This impressive system of trenches was supported by in-depth and fascinating information and a film that reiterated the events and lives lost in the fields surrounding the museum.
"We then continued to the the Polygon Wood and Tyne Cot Cemeteries, which were deeply moving as we all reflected on the number of men of whom were victims of the Great War. Our tour guide, Simon, really moved us, as he had each individual stand in front of the headstone of a soldier, so we would be able to have a moment to connect with the lost soldiers of the war. This was meant to create more of a personal connection with the individual soldier, rather than the statistics of lives lost.
"Our journey continued to Talbot House, a recreational and rest centre behind allied lines for the soldiers during the Great War, acting as a home away from home. Today the house, as real as then, offers a welcoming and friendly stop in Flanders fields. While there, we participated in service by making baked goods to sell at the museum café. It was an extremely enjoyable afternoon as we were able to connect with those who still volunteer at the house through cooking, music and piano playing, allowing us to get a personal insight to this historical home, turned museum.
"That evening we attended the last post ceremony at Menin Gate, where three students (Isabel, Talia and Sarine) participated in the laying of the wreath. This was a moving ceremony, which all Wenona girls were proud to be a part of."
Cooking at Talbot House, now a museum. Thousands of British soldiers passed through it's doors in the years from 1915.
The group met a morning of challenges at the airport with patience and were rewarded with a hands-on assignment and Belgian chocolate. Year 10 students Ruby and Holly share their eventful trip from Germany to Belgium.
"Today was a day that highlighted the joys and challenges of travel! We had an early start as we had to head out to Tegel Airport in Berlin at 5am for an 8.30am flight to Brussels. However when we arrived, we were too early to check in so we decided to kill time with a much appreciated trip to the Airport Starbucks. It was not going to be our morning, as after a rather long and bumpy check in procedure which took much longer than expected, we were told the baggage carousel was not working so had to sprint to another part of the airport to drop off our bags in order to make it to the gate in time!
"Just to add to the challenge one of the students had been listed incorrectly and was not allowed to board the plane! Stoic Ms Collier stayed behind and she and the very calm and patient student organised to take a later flight and re-join the group later in the day. By this stage, Ms. Clarke, Ms. Collier and Mr. Gooley were just holding it together!
"For those of us that made the plane, there was much laughter when the pilot announced ‘The good news is that about half of your luggage is on the plane. The other half is somewhere in the airport!’ We were all philosophical, realising that we would be playing baggage roulette when we reached Brussels. We were laying bets: 'whose luggage would make it, and whose wouldn’t?' Sure enough, when we reached the baggage reclaim in Brussels about half of the bags were there and half of them were not! Still, everyone was relaxed and patient about it, realising that in a few weeks it would make a funny travel story!
"Determined not to let the setbacks ruin our day, we headed on a bus to Ypres, a town at the centre of the fighting on the Western Front in World War I. In the afternoon, we attended a sculpture workshop, in which we all got an opportunity to make a sculpture representing a soldier from the war taking shelter from fire. Our sculptures would form part of a much bigger display representing the sacrifice and tragedy of war. Georgia in Year 12 claimed she was a natural and we joked that she would be giving the great Italian sculptor Bernini (who we learnt about in Rome) a real run for his money! We found the workshop a lot of fun and really enjoyed being involved.
"We then headed to the wonderful Belgian chocolate shop Leonidas, where they laid out a special welcome for the Wenona crew and were ready to do us a fantastic deal! Some major purchases were made and we all left stocked up, happy and ready to consume serious chocolate over the next week. The more energetic among us then continued on to the Flanders Museum to enjoy the wonderful interactive display on Belgium’s experiences in World War I. After a yummy dinner and a good laugh over what a day it had been, we went to bed happy to all be together again and safe in the knowledge that our bags had been found and were on their way."
(P.S. The bags arrived in Ypres safe and sound the next morning!)
History teacher David Gooley shares the sites students walked and learnt from while in Berlin for Day 11 of the tour.
"On a cold Easter Sunday morning we made our way to the German Reichstag or parliament building. The building is significant for modern historians as it was burnt down in early 1933 by a young communist. This was used as an excuse by Hitler to pass dictatorial powers and was the beginning of the end of democracy in Germany before the war. The building has been beautifully redesigned to represent the new flourishing democracy in unified Germany.
"We then met our colourful and entertaining guide Berkhart who took us on a walking tour of the city. He covered fascinating sites that related to the Nazi era and Cold War Berlin. Berkhart told stories about visiting relatives in East Berlin and of being detained in prison by East German police for two days as a sixteen years old for not making it back to the checkpoint in time! He also took us to very moving sites such as the striking Holocaust Memorial in central Berlin and the Memorial to the murdered Roma and Sinti.
"We said goodbye to Berkhart and stopped for lunch around the area housing the old Checkpoint Charlie. Ms Clarke and Ms Collier made sure they sampled the local delicacy kurrywoorst while the girls engaged in some serious souvenir shopping! At this stage, the group spilt into two.
"The Modern Historians visited the Topography of Terror. This is a museum built on the grounds of the old Gestapo headquarters. Here the girls were able to walk through old detention cells and view compelling photographic displays and videos about life under the Nazi Police state. The Ancient History Girls visited the wonderful Museum Island to view the fabulous antiquities at the Altes Museum. We finished the day with a fabulous dinner and a German beer hall complete with a rousing oomp-pa-pa band! It was a great way to end a rewarding day and to say goodbye to Berlin."
Though a difficult part of history to reflect on, a visit to Dachau concentration camp on Day 8 and the Nuremberg Rally grounds on Day 9 of the tour proved invaluable to Year 12 Modern History students studying Nazism and its propaganda.
Student Sammy, in Year 12, shares details of the experience on the tour's first stops in Germany.
"The group landed in Munich and went to Dachau concentration camp. Dachau was the first concentration camp established in 1933 for Hitler’s political opponents, particularly communists and socialists and was the only camp that existed throughout the entire 12 years of Nazi rule. By the end of the war, the camp covered over 1.5 square kilometres. The camp now consists of a self-guided museum where we learnt about why it was established, what type of prisoners were there, the living conditions for prisoners and the set up of the camp.This was very useful for the Year 12’s study of Germany and Nazism in power. We then had a chance to walk around the grounds of the camp, which consisted of several memorials.
"One of the memorials was impactful with the statement “May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933 and 1945 because they resited Nazism help to unite the living for the defence of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men.” This was a very difficult afternoon but incredibly important for the girls to understand.
Students outside Courtroom 600 in Nuremberg.
Friday 14 April: Propaganda and power
"The following day the group went to the Nuremburg Rally grounds, where annual Nazi rallies were held for propaganda purposes to showcase the strength and power of the regime. The rallies were first held in 1927, and the grounds covered an area of 11 square kilometres. Most of the buildings were still under construction and never used as construction was stopped due to the outbreak of war. One of the most important areas of the grounds was the Zeppelin field where military marches and Hitler’s infamous speeches were held.
"A significant part of the Zeppelin fields had been deconstructed, including the large golden Swastika, during the Allied victory parade in 1945, to make the world aware of the end of Nationalism Socialism (Nazism). We then went to the Documentation Centre within the rally grounds where we learnt about the rise of Nazism and Nazism in power. This was incredibly useful for the Year 12s studying Germany and Hitler’s film propagandist Leni Riefenstahl.
"The group then went to the Palace of Justice and visited Courtroom 600 where the Nuremburg Trials were held after the war. In the courtroom museum we learnt about the impact of these trials on the development of international law, particularly war crimes and crimes against humanity. We also learnt about the trial process and were able to examine the effectiveness of the trials in achieving justice."
The Zeppelin Tribune.
The gate at Dachau.
Year 12 students Georgia and Isabel share their appreciation on Day 7 of the tour for the town rich in ancient Roman history preserved by the volcanic matter that spelled tragedy for its inhabitants in 79 AD.
"Today we went to Pompeii, which for all the Ancient girls was the most exciting stop of the trip. We were lucky enough to have Dr Berry, an archaeologist who had worked on the site, take us around the ruins of the ancient city.
"We started at the paleastra, the sports grounds of Pompeii, which had a temporary exhibition of the finds of a villa near Pompeii. We learnt about the four styles of paintings from this, which help date the construction and decorations of villas in Pompeii. We then visited the Pompeii amphitheatre, significant as it is the oldest in Ancient Rome, where a multitude of gladiator games took place as often as every few weeks.
"After lunch, we had the chance to walk down the street of tombs and ended with an exploration of the Pompeii Forum, the social hub of the society that played an important economic, political, legal and religious role in society. We saw the Temple of Apollo, the oldest temple in Pompeii and saw a warehouse with tens of thousands of artefacts discovered onsite.
"After the amazing insight into Pompeii and exploring the site, we took a train to Sorrento for the afternoon. Here we had time to get gelato and do a bit of shopping for presents. Afterwards, we had dinner at a pretty restaurant with a garden and fairy lights. Ms Clarke described this as her favourite dinner yet! We then hopped back on the bus to Vico ready for our next day of travel."
The head of a statue at the Pompeii Archaeological Site.
Ancient History students in the group found great value in their Pompeii visit.
Year 12 student Isabel shares some of the highlights of the group's visit to Herculaneum on Day 6.
"After breakfast, we set off to explore the ancient ruins of Herculaneum, the prequel to every ancient historian's dream site. According to Ms Clarke, this is the “Noosa” of Ancient Rome, and following the earthquake of 62AD experienced some growth and change before the eruption of 79AD.
"We saw the boat sheds that marked the start of an exciting new process of excavation within Herculaneum, which holds models of the 300 lost lives that were discovered here, alongside a significant wooden hull of a boat from this sea-port town.
"We were able to witness the pyroclastic surge layers in the rocks, alongside the meeting point of the shoreline pre 79AD eruption. Moving further into the town, we headed to the house of the Telephus Relief, which evoked a sense of awe in all the keen historians and teachers. We continued to explore the villas and latrines with some model demonstrations from students - Our personal favorite being the villa of the mosaic of Neptune and Amphitrite which is extremely beautiful and well known throughout the archaeological community.
"From Herculaneum we stopped for lunch and received delicious fresh pasta and a nutella dessert that was to die for. We then moved onto the Villa of Oplontis which is thought to have been inhabited by Poppaea, Nero’s 2nd wife. This is also the largest villa found since the excavation began in this area. Witnessing this in person was an amazing experience as we saw the beautiful atrium, the enormous garden and also the swimming pool, which as our guide told us, is sometimes transformed into a concert venue during the summertime.
"After the tour of this villa, we travelled to the Antiquarian at Boscorelae, which was a farmhouse in ancient times. This was also attached to a museum, full of archaeological finds and revelations on life in the ancient cities, such as an oil press, a grain processor and even carbonized bread. Today was such an amazing insight into the lives of those who lived in the cities, alongside the impact of the eruption on the towns. We can’t wait to explore Pompeii tomorrow."
Days 4 and 5 of the tour take students including Sarine and Talia, both in Year 12, from Vatican City to Naples.
"On Day 4 we visited the beautiful Galleria Borghese and viewed an amazing collection of art by masters such as Bernini. We also learnt that the word 'nepotism' comes from the fact that the Pope at the time arranged positions of influence for all of his 'nephews'!
"After a walk through the lovely gardens of the Villa Borghese we made our way to the Spanish steps for a spot of people watching. We even found some time to squeeze in some all-important shopping!
"After a dose of retail therapy we headed to Vatican, stopping at Augustus' Altar of Peace and the imposing Castel Sant Angelo along the way. Upon reaching the Vatican, we joined the crowds to jostle our way towards St. Peter's Basilica in what sometimes felt like a full contact sport! However, the effort was made well worth it as St. Peter's Basilica was simply breathtaking."
Naples 'allowed us to view the artefacts we had talked so much about in class'
"After such a busy Day 4, we were quite relieved to rest the legs and start Day 5 with a four-hour bus trip to Naples. It also gave us a chance to test out the pipes with a repertoire ranging from Queen to Britney Spears. Ilaria, our tour manager, complemented us on our singing voices. However, Ms Clarke remained unconvinced.
"We finally arrived in Naples to visit the amazing National Archaeological Museum. This was a particular treat for the Year 12 Ancient girls as it allowed us to view up close many of the artefacts we had talked so much about in class. These included the beautiful frescoes taken from the villas of Pompeii.
"We then made our way to our home for the next few nights, the charming Vico Equense (despite Mr Gooley being convinced we were in Sorrento). After viewing a beautiful seaside sunset we rounded of the day by having dinner at the 'University of Pizza'. And yes, it was as good as it sounds! We are all excited about our visit to Herculaneum tomorrow, which should be one of the highlights of the tour!"
Rose and Caitlin, of Year 11, share their impressions of day three of the tour which included a look at ancient architecture.
"Today mainly focused on Ancient Rome. This morning we set out for the Colosseum. We had a guided tour with Agnes and among the many things we were taught, we learnt that the Colosseum is actually a nickname from a statue that used to be outside of it called the 'Colossus'. We then went to the Roman Forum and gained a greater insight into life in Ancient Rome through its ever evolving architecture. We also observed the change throughout Roman history through this architecture - the removal of marble and demolition of old temples into Christian churches.
"We also went to the Santa Maria Degli Angeli Church. Here we saw the beginnings of the preservation of Ancient Roman buildings through Michelangelo. This was one of the first buildings that was repurposed rather than completely destroyed and rebuilt. We then walked to the Palazzo Massimo, a museum dedicated to Ancient Rome. Overall, the day was busy but fascinating and the food as always was fantastic. Gelato three times a day is bound to make any tour good!"
Photo time in the Colosseum.
The group took in the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and other sights on an evening walking tour on April 7.
A view of the Roman Forum.
Crowds gather outside the Colosseum.
Inside the Colosseum, which served as Rome's entertainment centre for more than 450 years.
The Wenona History tour hit the ground running upon its arrival in Rome, says History teacher David Gooley.
"After dropping our bags off at the hotel, we undertook a walking tour of the city. This involved passing through the colourful markets of Campo de Fiori and the magnificent Piazza Novana. Two of the real highlights of Day Two were the visits to the awesome and inspiring Panthenon and the beautiful Trevi Fountain. By the end of the day we had 22 tired, but very happy girls returning to the hotel, geared up for Day Three."
This afternoon, our team of history students caught a flight to Rome to begin their European history tour. Buon viaggio!