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  • Writer's pictureKristin Wenger

Heritage Travel: The not-so-secret meaning of "Wings" (#52Ancestors week 22: So Far Away)

Updated: Jul 30, 2018

I’ll let you in on a secret.

When I selected the name Roots & Wings for my family history research endeavor, my husband and I had a long-term dream up our sleeves.

Yes, discovering and understanding your roots gives you metaphorical wings to inspire your journey through life. I absolutely believe that is true and that is my focus…for now. Eventually, Eric and I hope to make those wings literal.

Looking into the future when a new season of life gives us an empty nest, Roots & Wings will be able to take flight into heritage travel. That stage of life seems so far away, but if the next ten years fly by as quickly as the past decade has, it will be here before we know it.

I think it will be the perfect fit for our interests and skills as a couple. I can geek out doing all of the family history research and use my teaching background to provide the educational component on tours. Eric, in my humble opinion, is somewhat of a travel planning genius, able to incorporate meaningful experiences into a smooth, detailed itinerary at a fraction of what it should cost. (I’m not kidding when I say he took our family of five on a two-week California road trip for almost nothing.)

So, what does heritage travel look like?

"So Far Away"

3 June 2013

Eric, Dean, Janelle, Alma, and Nelson Wenger traveled to Switzerland to visit the homestead of their Swiss ancestor, Christian Wenger, who immigrated in 1727.

Exactly five years ago this very week, Eric guided his parents, Nelson and Alma (Becker) Wenger, on their lifetime dream trip to Switzerland and Germany, home of their ancestors. Eric’s older brother Dean and his wife Janelle (Frey) Wenger were able to go along. (I, unfortunately, was not. At the time, our kids were only 11, 9, and 7 years old and the other set of grandparents were still working full-time. No worries. Hopefully many trips to come!)

To give you a taste of heritage travel, I selected just a few of the hundreds of photos from their trip to share with you below. If you’d like to see more, we each have a copy of a much more detailed Shutterfly photo book that Alma made and would be happy to share. Enjoy!

The trip began with a scenic journey on the Rhine River, which was part of the route Anabaptists took when leaving Switzerland for Germany and then the Netherlands before making the trans-Atlantic voyage to the colony of Pennsylvania.

The next stop was specially selected for Nelson. How could a lifelong dairy farmer from Manheim, Pennsylvania who drives only John Deere tractors resist a tour of the John Deere manufacturing facility in Mannheim, Germany?

Rothenburg ob der Tauber featured a stay at the Hotel Hornburg and well-preserved medieval architecture. (Yes, Hornberger is my maiden name.)

One of the first stops in Switzerland was the Täuferhöhle in Bäretswil, a cave where Anabaptists worshipped in secret because of persecution.

The Emmental region was the home of many Mennonite ancestors.

They happened to visit on a Sunday when the church service included an outdoor portion featuring traditional alphorn music.

Eric arranged a visit to a few dairy farms for his parents.

A visit to Langnau Mennonite Church, the oldest continuously meeting Mennonite congregation in the world. At right is Joanne Blakely, who was also researching her Wenger and Leaman heritage, and joined them for the day.

Staying at Berghaus Eggiwil, Eric enjoyed the beautiful views and the fresh-baked challah bread made by their hosts!

The Wenger homestead near Schallenburg Pass and Schinegg.

Trachselwald Castle - many Anabaptists were imprisoned and tortured for their faith in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Ballenberg Open Air Museum in Brienz (for local friends, Alma compared it to a much larger version of Landis Valley Farm Museum.)

The Swiss capital, Bern.

Lauterbrunnen is a beautiful valley with gorgeous waterfalls located between Wengen and Mürren. Eric chose it as their home base for alpine adventures.

Driving from Interlaken to Lucerne, they marveled at the shade of water in Lake Brienz.

Lititz friends: Does the Lion of Lucerne look familiar? There is a replica of this lion carved into stone at the Lititz Springs Park.

Chapel Bridge in Lucerne

Switzerland. "So far away" for the Wenger family, but after ten generations, it still feels like home.


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