BDHS Students Tour Berlin, Krakow, Vienna, and Budapest


Stephanie Camarda

Mr. Macdonald stands with the BDHS tour group outside the Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam, Germany.

Alannah Post, Editor-in-Chief

July 2018 marked the third year the Brentsville Travel Abroad Program (BTAP) has toured Europe. This year, social studies teacher Mr. Jeff MacDonald and two former BDHS staff took 20 students to visit Central Europe. Their destinations took them through six countries over 13 days.

They started their trip in Berlin, Germany, where they saw the Brandenberg Gate and remains of the Berlin Wall. Many of the cities this group visited have a rich and vibrant history, one that many American students learn about in their sophomore year history classes, Berlin included. Similarly, they also visited Krakow, Poland, and toured the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. Created in 1947, the museum spans both of the death camps and serves as a memorial to the 1.1 million people whose lives were taken there as well as a space to educate visitors on the horrors that helped shape postwar-Europe. They also visited the Schindler factory and saw various locations where the movie, which won seven Academy Awards and three Golden Globes, was filmed. After Krakow, the group moved on to the Hungarian capital of Budapest, where they got to take a boat cruise on the Danube River at night. Budapest is Macdonald’s professed favorite city, next to Florence, Italy, and Prague, Czechia – the latter being another stop on the nearly two-week tour.

While the cities they visited may not have been the most popular tourist destinations, as compared to places like Paris or Rome, Macdonald credits the group members as being especially great. The BDHS crew traveled with two other groups – one from Florida and the other from Texas – to fill a personal tour bus. A few particularly funny moments include a “Party in the USA” karaoke-slash-singalong or Macdonald “stumbling into another concert in a church.”

“I was just walking around the streets and then it’s like, oh, cool! It’s a concert!” he says. Additionally, there was an add-on activity in Vienna where they got to see samplings of Viennese ballet and opera.

“My favorite part of the trip was going to Berlin and seeing the wall,” said junior Eliza Moore. “It was really sad but inspiring as these people literally rose up from the ashes and overcame oppression.” She and her sister, senior Charlotte Moore, both went on the trip.

The training for the tour was spaced over around five meetings in the prior months, where students went over what to bring and wear, as well as learning certain differences in culture that they would encounter across the Atlantic or wearing comfortable shoes since they did a good deal of walking. For example, many public restrooms are not free in parts of Europe, so travelers must remember to bring coins for that purpose. Furthermore, not every country they visited uses the same currency. Germany and Austria both use the euro, with Czechia and Poland expected to be joining soon. Hungary’s economy is struggling too much to join the European Union because of the damage done during Soviet occupation but is greatly improving because of tourism.

Macdonald is planning to chaperone a trip to Italy and Greece in July 2019, which will include stops in Rome and Athens.