Eagles in Europe
On June 28, 2012 high school Social Studies teacher Mr. Ermish and seven students from Wall High School took off from Rapid City for Paris France. Traveling on the eleven day tour of France and Italy where seniors Cheyenne Deering, Heidi Huether, Anna Kitterman, junior Kailey Rae Sawvell, sophomore Kaden Eisenbraun, freshmen Tayah Huether, and Autumn Deering. Cheyenne and Kaden also traveled to China in 2011 with Mr. Ermish.
In Paris the group toured the city with specific tours of the Louve Museum and The Royal Palace at Versailles. The Eifel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral were of course highlights of their time in Paris. While not having enough time to see the entire Louve Museum, something that would take days if not weeks to do, they did have a good game plan to see the most important and famous works of art and history. Each member of the group viewed da’Vinci’s Mona Lisa, The Winged Victory of Samathrace, and the Venus de Milo. In addition, they toured the Egyptian antiquities, Greek antiquities, and Roman art exhibits. At Louis XIV Palace of Versailles, the group received a fully guided tour of the royal apartments and the famed Hall of Mirrors before touring the spectacular gardens.
The group traveled by train through the Alps into Italy and their next stop on the tour, Milan, also known as the fashion capital of the world. However, they learned that Milan had played a large role in the unification of Italy and was one of the cultural and science centers of the renaissance. In addition to touring the Cathedral of Milan, the group also toured the city castle.
On the tour, the students and Mr. Ermish toured several cathedrals and dozens of churches. Each cathedral had its own feel and one seemed to be more spectacular than the last. Those specifically toured by the group included Notre Dame in Paris, The Cathedral of Milan, The Cathedral of Florence, The Cathedral at Pisa, and St. Peters Basilica at the Vatican. In Italy, each of the cathedrals is known as a “duomo”. The word duomo is commonly misunderstood to mean cathedral but the group came to learn that it is actually the name given to the largest or most prestigious place of worship in a town or city.
While in Florence, Mr. Ermish and Kailey Rae made the grueling but spectacular climb to the top the cathedral dome. They moved through tight, winding, and sometimes very steep stairways to get a view of Florence only a few get to see. While Pisa is more famous for its bell tower, the leaning tower, the group discovered that the cathedral served by the bell tower was magnificent and built from materials recycled from ancient Roman ruins in the area.
In Milan the group met up with our bus and driver for the rest of their time in Italy. The driver Leandro was a big hit with the students who learned even with a language barrier that friends can be made. Leandro loved the book given to the tour director as a gift from the group. It contained pictures of South Dakota and specifically the Badlands and the Black Hills. Look for Leandro coming through Wall Drug someday as South Dakota is now on Leandro’s must see list.
The bus ride from Milan to Florence was a great opportunity to see some of the Italian country side including fields of ripening wheat, grapes orchards, and olive tree plantations. Florence was perhaps the favorite city visited by the group. The students and Mr. Ermish really got a sense of the renaissance in Florence as they viewed works of art by Michelangelo, including his famed statue of David. The group also learned the Florence is the birth place of the Pinocchio story. The architecture of the city was amazing and the pace of life seemed a bit slower as the group walked around the cathedral square, shops, and of course sampled the gelato. Gelato is a rich ice cream sold on just about every street corner and it is safe to say the kids became a bit addicted to gelato and the seemingly endless flavor choices. Pisa and leaning tower where on the second day of our time in Florence. Pisa today is actually a very quiet city centered on tourism. The group found it very relaxing strolling around the cathedral and the famous leaning tower before having pizza for lunch at one of the local street side restaurants.
The drive to Rome from Florence was very enjoyable with stops in the village of San Giamano, famous for its towers; Siena, famous for its horse racing which takes place in the streets; and lunch at winery in Tuscany that is set in the center of their grape and olive tree fields, very beautiful.
Our group found Rome and the Vatican to be amazing. To be suddenly standing in the Coliseum, the ruins of the Roman Forum, and the Sistine Chapel brought those historical sites out of the text books and to real life. Students from Wall, SD stood on the very spot Julies Caesar’s body was brought following his assassination. The Vatican was something all in the group had been looking forward too. While it was very crowded in the Vatican Museum the group did have a guided tour that spent nearly one-half hour in the Sistine Chapel looking at the ceiling with amazement.
The group then traveled by bus from Rome to Pompeii for a tour of the city buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. The city was buried so fast by the falling ash that it was preserved perfectly for twentieth century excavations. Again, it is amazing to think these students walked the streets of a Roman city just as they would have nearly 2000 years ago.
The Eagles to Europe tour concluded with two days on the Mediterranean sea in Sorrento and the island of Capri where the group spent some time on the beach and took a boat tour of the island.
All in all it was a very educational and fun experience for all. Mr. Ermish was very appreciative to the students for once again being the most attentive, well mannered, and mature students in our very large group. “I think they all benefited from the experience they had and will never forget the cultural and historical lessons they learned.”
In 2013 Mr. Ermish plans to take a group of student to England, Ireland, and Wales. There is still time for students and parents to sign up for that trip if they wish.