Day 1: Depart USA
Overnight flight to Milan, Italy.
Day 2: Arrive Milan
We at the Milan airport and transfer to the historic section of downtown for free time. After lunch we take a guided walking tour including the famous Duomo, one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world. This afternoon we view Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous fresco – The Last Supper. From here we transfer to the Sordevolo area and our lodging for the next two nights.
Day 3: Free Time, Sordevolo Passion Play
We have free time to relax and explore the village today. This afternoon we attend the Passion Play. Since the early 1800’s residents of the tiny hamlet of Sordevolo in northwest Italy’s Biella province – with a population around 1,200 – have joined together to stage their own grand production of the Passion of Christ. This production pays close attention to every detail and encompasses the Passion of the Christ from the moment Jesus enters Jerusalem to the Resurrection. It is a major production by local residents who live normal lives, but every fifth year the townspeople transform themselves and the town itself to reenact the Passion of Christ.
Day 4: Waldensian Museum & Beautiful Stresa
Today we enjoy an excursion to nearby Waldensian sites – Torre Pellice, Chanforan and Angragna Valley. This beautiful remote region in northwestern Italy will bring to life the history of the Waldensian Christians and the struggles they encountered. We will visit the church, the rural museum, and for those who wish, a walk to the cave where they hid for fear of martyrdom. This afternoon we travel to the beautiful lakeside village of Stresa, our home for the next three nights. Stroll along the lakefront promenade overlooking the Italian Alps and visit the quaint shops around the square before dinner.
Day 5: Lake Maggiore Island Tour
This morning we take an excursion from Stresa through the Borromean Islands with a visit to Borromean Palace, will lead through a 17th-century palace with opulent displays of baroque architecture to fragrance-filled gardens, where the scent of jasmine lingers in the air. The remainder of the day is at your leisure with many things to do and see. There are two other island tours also available as options.
Day 6: Swiss Alpine Train & Lake Cruise
A special alpine mountain excursion from Stresa is planned today beginning in the charming little town of Domodossoa where you will board your mountain train ride to the panoramic village of Locarno, Switzerland. You will enjoy the gorgeous scenery along the way, taking the vineyards, farms, homes and chestnut forests, including free time in Locarno. To top off our experience today, we will board a Hydrofoil ferry for a relaxing cruise along Lake Maggiore to our hotel.
Day 7: Arrive Frankfurt, Worms, Mannheim
Arrive in Frankfurt this morning and begin sightseeing in nearby Worms. It was here, during the Imperial Diet in 1521, that Martin Luther challenged the entire Roman Catholic establishment by his refusal to recant the great doctrines of Protestantism. It was also here that William Tyndale completed the printing of his English version of the New Testament in 1525 which he had begun in Cologne. After seeing St. Peter's Church and the symbolic Luther Memorial near the town square, we will stop in nearby Mainz for commentary and a picture of the Gutenberg Monument dedicated the German printing of the Bible. Our lodging this evening will be in Manheim.
Day 8: Heidelberg, Rothenburg, Romantic Road
This morning, we travel on to one of the most charming cities in all of the world - Heidelberg, ancient capital of the Palatinate and home of Germany's oldest university. But most importantly, it was a stronghold of German Reformed Protestants beginning in 1560. One of the great confessional statements of the Reformation, the Heidelberg Catechism was produced here in 1563. Heidelberg Castle, a most impressive historic landmark of Germany, stands majestically overlooking the Neckar River. The structure, now largely in ruins, preserves numerous examples of Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque German architecture. The afternoon adventure includes the panoramic "Romantic Road" with a visit to the best preserved medieval town in all of Europe, Rothenburg. We see the quaint Rathaus (town hall) with its tower and have free time for coffee and shopping in the many delightful shops. You may choose to visit on your own the Kriminal-museum, housing all manner of medieval instruments of torture. Our lodging for the next two evenings will be in Augsburg.
Day 9: Neuschwanstein Castle, Augsburg
This morning we travel into the Alpine region of Bavaria to the Rococo-style chapel in the Meadow and Ludwig II’s most luxurious former residence, the Neuschwanstein Castle. In the afternoon, a walking tour of Augsburg, site of the Augsburg Confession, will bring to light the history behind much of our doctrine today. It was here in 1518 at St. Anne's Church that Luther met the papal legate, Cardinal Cajetan, who demanded that Luther submit to the pope. Augsburg was also the site of another Imperial Diet (1530) and in the town hall the Peace of Augsburg was signed in 1555 ending for a time the religious wars in Germany between the Catholics and the Protestants.
Day 10: Coburg, Erfurt
This morning we travel northward to view the fortress of Coburg known as Veste, the place of Luther's imprisonment in 1530. We visit the apartment where he stayed and continued his translation work, a chapel where he spoke and worshiped, and a gallery of period paintings. This afternoon we spend time in nearby Erfurt, where Luther attended the university. A highlight will be the Augustinian Monastery where he spent his early years as a monk and the famed doors that he closed on his protesting friends after saying "You can see me today, but never again." You will find it interesting and uplifting to hear how the studies here brought him to his understanding of scripture. Our lodging this evening will be in Erfurt.
Day 11: Erfurt, Eisleben, Leipzig
Leaving Erfurt, we visit Eisleben which is noted among the most significant in Luther's history; he was born here in 1483, died here in 1546 and old manuscripts indicate that he felt a special affinity to Eisleben. We will see the house of his birth and death, St. Andrews Church where he preached his last sermon, the Luther Monument, and St. Anne's Church with the famous Biblical scenes hewn in stone and many other sites. This afternoon we travel to the beautiful city of Leipzig, Bach's city, with free time and a visit to St. Thomas Church where Bach was choir master and organist. Our lodging this evening will be in Leipzig.
Day 12: Leipzig, Wittenberg, Berlin
We continue on the Reformation Trail today with a visit to Wittenberg where Martin Luther lived and taught for 36 years. You will see the Castle Church door area where Luther posted his 95 Theses, giving birth to the Reformation. This beautiful church is also the burial site of Luther. We see the university where Luther taught and the Luther House which is the greatest museum of Reformation History in the world with a detailed history display of his life and accomplishments, historical documents and an outstanding collection of period paintings of his life and family members. Our lodging for the next two evenings will be in Berlin.
Day 13: Berlin
We enjoy an inspirational guided tour of this fascinating city including the “East Side Gallery”, the longest continuous and still standing section of the Berlin Wall, the infamous “Checkpoint Charlie”, the majestic main gate the “Brandenburger Tor” and nearby “Holocaust Memorial,” a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. We continue on to the German Parliament (Reichstag) with a visit to the roof terrace, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, the refurbished city center and Gendarmenmarkt, Alexanderplatz, the famous boulevard “Unter den Linden”. In the afternoon you will have time at leisure or the opportunity to visit the GDR Museum to find out more about life under socialism or visit the world-famous Pergamon Museum with its many treasures including the Ishtar Gate and the Market Gate of Miletus.
Note: During the current stage of renovations in the Pergamon Museum, the hall containing the Pergamon Altar will be closed to the public for five years, due for reopening in 2019. The South Wing featuring the Market Gate of Miletus, the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way from Babylon, as well as the Museum of Islamic Art, remains unaffected and will be open to the public during this time.
Day 14: Departure
We transfer to the airport early this morning for our flight home.