The Heart of Europe
• June 24 – July 3, 2017
• July 22 – July 31, 2017
• August 26 – September 4, 2017
Countries: Holland(Netherlands), Belgium and Germany
The beating Heart of Europe, according to many insiders, is located around the ancient Roman Route that was later named Via Belgica. It stretched from Boulogne sur Mer in Northern France to the most eastern defense capital Colonia Agripina (Cologne these days) on the Rhine River. The villages and cities along the 400 km road show even today a much better picture of the essence of daily life in what the Romas called Gaul, the outskirts of the Roman Empire than typical famous Roman Cities like Lutetia Parisiorum (Paris) or even Rome itself. During the Roman Empire reign more than 130,000 miles (200.000km) were constructed to connect the world from today’s India to England. The road infra-structures in this part of the Roman Empire put the economy in place for millenia to come, as 2,000 years ago it allowed local farmers, soldiers, travelers and traders to move relatively quickly to and from the borders of the empire.
When Europe decided to move forward as one union of nation states in 1992, officials decided that there was no better city to sign the agreement, than the 2,000 year old city of Maastricht. The site had been a river crossing settlement since the Neanderthals, but was definitively settled during the Roman Empire as Mosa Trajectum, when the first bridge was built across the Maas River. Today the city is the capital of the Dutch Province Limburg, located on the border with Belgium and a 20 minute car ride from Germany; a landmark of fine arts and cultures, languages and epicurian delights.
Maastricht’s rich history shows from the fact that in this town no less than 1677 national heritage sites (Rijksmonumenten) are located, which is the second highest amount in a Dutch town, after Amsterdam. Furthermore, it has become known, by way of the Maastricht Treaty, as the birthplace of the European Union, European citizenship, and the single European currency, the euro. The town is popular with tourists for shopping and recreation, and has a large growing international student population. Maastricht is a member of the Most Ancient European Towns Network and is part of the Meuse-Rhine Euroregion, which includes nearby cities Aachen, Eupen, Hasselt, Liège and Tongeren.
Today’s Heart of Europe is mainly situated around a 2000 year old Roman Heirbaan, a long distance road build to move armies quickly across the Empire to keep the Pax Romana. Mostly build by Roman soldiers, these roads became social, cultural, religious and economic connections in an infra-structure that was thousands of miles long at the height of the empire. The most important Roman Heirbaan in the Northern Empire was what was later named the Via Belgica with a string of cities that over the centuries have succeeded in successfully combining ancient history and architecture with modern day demands.
The Heart of Europe itinerary takes you from Cologne (Colonia Agripina) and Aachen (Aquis Granum) in Germany, to Heerlen (Coriovallum) and Maastricht (Mosa Trajectum) to Tongeren (Atuatuca Tongrorum) in Belgium, a corridor of some of the finest nature, architecture, culture and culinary treats in the world, while only between one and three hours by car or train away from Brussels, Paris, Luxembourg, Amsterdam and Dusseldorf. The lifestyle in the Heart of Europe reflects millennia of developing and improving the finest standards of foods, beverages, culture, art, education and entertainment.
Distances are so minimal that we only need one hotel for accommodations, which gives you the pleasure of just one time settling in.
This Heart of Europe Trip is for travelers that appreciate true human history, art & architecture, a burgundian lifestyle and epicurean delights, fine music, antique markets, and lush nature. One of our partners was born and raised in the near the city of Maastricht and is intimately familiar with all the attractions offered in our itinerary, as well as new attractions coming on line.
Welcome to the Heart of Europe.
For your air travel information there are 2 International Airport options we recommend for your Heart of Europe Experience
• Brussels Belgium – Zaventhem International which hosts direct flights from Kennedy Airport, New York – Newark International, Philadelphia, Washington Dulles, Toronto Pearson, (all arrivals between 7am and 8am European Time Zone), Atlanta Hartsfield, Montreal (between 8am and 9am arrival), Chicago O’Hare and New York Kennedy (between 9am and 9:30am arrival).
• Düsseldorf International – Germany which hosts direct flights from New York-Kennedy (11:05am A), Chicago O’Hare (8:50am A), Atlanta (7:45am A), Miami (7:00am A), Chicago (7:00am A), New York-Kennedy 6:55am A), New York-Newark 6:05am A)
Ground Transportation Options:
• Brussels Belgium – Zaventhem International: Our tour guide will take you from the airport to your hotel in Maastricht (approx travel time 1 hr. 15 min)
• Düsseldorf International – Our tour guide will will take you from the airport to the Hotel in Maastricht.(approx travel time 1 hr. 15 min)
NOTE: Should you decide that Schiphol International in Amsterdam, Maastricht•Aachen Airport or Findel International in Luxembourg fit your travel itinerary better, please contact us for alternative transportation service.
AND THEN YOU ARRIVE AT YOUR HOTEL: The Kruisheren Hotel, designed inside a 15th Century Cloisters and Gothic Church in the Heart of Maastricht. 60 spacious modern suites, all with their own signature design! How modern and antique work together. The Restaurant and Wine Bar are located in the former Church. We’ll see you at the bar after 5PM for cocktails and dinner.
After breakfast you are invited to join a Photography Walking Tour with a guided narrative explaining the early Roman influence, the history of the Frankish Era, the tumultuous Middle Ages, the Renaissance and today’s importance of Maastricht as a focal point in the European Community. At the end of the tour, lunch is served.
After lunch continue the walking tour through the inner city, and by mid afternoon you’ll descend into a 500 hundred year old wine cellar in caves directly underneath the city. The cellars hold more than 100,000 bottles of the best wines ever produced as well as many 3,000 liter oak barrels (foudres) and casks, aging many top wines to perfection.
Enjoy a very exclusive wine tasting event in these Cellars of Thiessen – Wine Merchants since 1740, the size of several city blocks. The oldest part of the cellars dates back to the 14th century, and started being used for commercial wine storage in the late 1600s. Today the oldest bottles stored in the cellars date back to 1810, while the Merchant’s world famous Vinotheque holds very rare bottles such as a 1953 Chateau Pétrus (>$10,000).
An ironic story detail about the cellars is that some of the huge 3,000 liter oak barrels or foudres during World War II hid British and American Paratroopers from the Germans, while German officers were partying and drinking upstairs. The brick and marl used for the cellars make for an ideal climate to store these old wines.
The Tasting includes:
• Champagne Welcome
• A selection of 5 wines
• A expert guided tour through the cellars, bottling chambers and wine gardens
• Water, bread and a fine selection of quality cheeses and cold cuts (charcuterie)
On the Second Day
after breakfast take a trip to check out more of the Roman lifestyle and visit to the only settlement that received actual city rights from the rulers in Rome, the Belgian city of Tongeren (Tongres) or in Roman times Attuaca Tongrorum. The city still has a substantial Roman presence these days, accentuated by strong Medieval and Renaissance architecture and walled city planning.
Not only is the city famous for its inner city weekend antique and curiosities markets, which stretch throughout the heart, but it is also reportedly the birthplace of the world famous Belgian Waffle. For a late lunch we recommend the French speaking city of Liege, 20 miles to the south of Maastricht, the Heart of Belgium’s Industrial Past, which in recent decades has metarmophosized into a city of Light. Its idyllic setting on the Maas River offers spectacular panoramas. After lunch take the opportunity for an afternoon sight seeing drive through the (in)famous Ardennes Hills of Battle of the Bulge and the Ardenne Offensive.
Day Four should be enjoyed on the water with a Boat-ride through Maastricht’s’s oldest parts on the Maas river, walled in first by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago, then again by the Franks and over the last 1000 years by Spaniards, Napolean and the Germans. Today the walls ‘protect dozens of squares, hundreds of cafés and outdoor brasseries and a cobblestoned past, that has kept a Burgundian charm unmatched anywhere else.
In the afternoon plan to visit a historic brewery for you to experience the history of making beer in brewery De Keyzer (the Emperor), one of the best preserved treasures of Maastricht. The brewery, which was founded in 1758, is part of a rich industrial archaeological heritage. In the year 1900 about 30 town breweries still existed in Maastricht. In the end, only one could be preserved: Steam Brewery De Keyzer in the part of the town called Wyck. Here the Bosch family brewed beer according to traditional methods until 1970. The brewery has remained entirely intact and is classified as a historical industrial monument. In an authentic atmosphere the original equipment, dating from the years 1885-1930, is displayed.
In a guided tour you will visit the malt house plus the brewery with the mashing tun, the wort boiler, the fermentation tanks, the bottling plant and the cooperage.
The English speaking guides will explain all the aspects of making beer, while at the end of the tour, the visitors can taste two of Maastricht’s special beers accompanied by regional cheese in the cozy barroom.
Discover the Roman transportation infra structure to support quick moves of its northern armies and how the Roman soldiers and traders relaxed while traveling Morning: Day Four starts out with breakfast at the hotel, followed by a 30 minute scenic tour in a luxury coach to the city of Heerlen, an important crossroads rest stop for travelers and warriors in the era of the Roman Empire. In those ancient days the crossroad settlement was named Coriovallum.
First in 1941 Roman artifacts were found while farming the land, but nothing could be done since World War II was in full force. But when again in the early 1970s, during excavations for the foundation of a city apartment complex, more Roman Artifacts were found, the excavation work was stopped and archeologists called in. Over the course of the next two years, the site turned out to be the well preserved remnants of an entire Roman Spa, Bath house and adjacent settlement, the size of several city blocks. The quality of the find was so immaculate that the city decided to build a museum over the entire spa, which today is called “The Thermen Museum”.
A guided tour through the Roman Spa will amaze you.
Lunch: For lunch we suggest the small resort town of Valkenburg, less than 15 minutes away. Take ample time to walk the streets and have lunch in one of the many restaurants or sidewalk cafes, and visit the famous ancient caves for a Cave Experience that tells the story of 1200 generations of human life ending with a sensational modern music audio visual extravaganza.
Today we have a relaxed coach ride east down the Roman Heirbaan, which leads us from Maastricht past Margraten with a quick stop at the American World War II Cemetery and Memorial to the highest point in the Netherlands on top of the Vaalser Mountain (abt. 1,059ft alt.) This is the only point where 3 countries; the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium meet. We will take a break and stop for morning coffee and a delicious local pastry called “Limburgse vlaai”.
Three Country Point – Vaals. From the Three Country Point we will descend into the foothills of the Eifel Mountains for a visit to the ancient Carolingian city of Aachen, which was Charles the Great’s capital city in the 7th century AD. The City’s wells have made it a famous health retreat.
A German lunch will be awaiting you, followed by an inner city walking tour that includes the magnificent Dom Cathedral and afternoon coffee with a local delicacy called Aachener Printen.
The day is yours to do whatever you would like to do. Roam the country side, walk or bike the famous Mergel Land Route, sit on a sidewalk café and watch people, go shopping. It’s yours to follow your heart’s desire.
But…..For dinner we will leave the hotel at 6pm in a luxury coach which will take us to Chateau Neercanne, a Michelin Star restaurant in a castle built in 1698 just south of Maastricht. It is the only terrace castle in the Netherlands and has had an established Guide Michelin epicurean reputation since the days I was a grade schooler in the 1950s.
Prepare for a very special evening of gourmand dining.
Today we are going to visit Cologne, a city that magnificently represents the old and new on the banks of the Rhine River.
The trip, which took the old Romans between two and three days, takes no more than 90 minutes by luxury coach. We will also visit The Römisch-Germanisches Museum(Roman-German Museum), which opened in 1974, near the Cathedral on the site of a 3rd-century villa. The villa was discovered in 1941 during the construction of an air-raid shelter. On the floor of the main room of the villa is the renowned Dionysus mosaic.
Since the mosaic could not be moved easily, the architects Klaus Renner and Heinz Röcke designed the museum around the mosaic. The inner courtyards of the museum mimic the layout of the ancient villa.
In addition to the Dionysus mosaic, which dates from around A.D. 220/230, there is the reconstructed sepulcher of legionary Poblicius (about A.D. 40). There is also an extensive collection of Roman glassware as well as an array of Roman and medieval jewellery. Many artifacts of everyday life in Roman Cologne — including portraits (e.g., of Roman emperor Augustus and his wife Livia Drusilla), inscriptions, pottery, and architectural fragments — round out the displays. Make sure to have your cameras charged, this will be a highlight. Especially the Segway tour through the old town center and along the river.Note to yourself. Driving a Segway is easy and everyone can do it. If you want to make sure you can enjoy this, you may want to try this mode of transportation at home before leaving on this trip.
In the September program itinerary we take a coach trip (75 minutes) for a wonderful day trip to Antwerp and its new Red Star Lines Museum with a very personal experience of how early immigration to the USA was executed. More than 2 million immigrants to the US were ‘processed’ through Red Star Lines and their terminal on Ellis Island. In the brandnew museum, you will get a close-up insight in what all was involved. Plus you can check for your ancestors names!
After lunch we’ll visit Brussels, Belgium’s and the European Community capital, for a great walking tour of the city’s center. Travelers who use Brussels as their point of departure, have the option to stay at a hotel near Brussels Airport for their next day departure. Contact us for details.
For More Information
Call 904 775 8684